The Dallas Cowboys are heading to Landover to take on the Washington soccer team in a divisional clash that has regained some of the sparkle of that long-standing rivalry. While this game won’t determine who wins the NFC East, it will be a major milestone. If the Cowboys win, they will have a three-game lead. If the soccer team wins, they’ll have reduced that to a one-game advantage for Dallas and hold a key tiebreaker for winning the first head-to-head clash between the two. Washington is on a winning streak, with four straight wins. The Cowboys are struggling a bit after going 1-3 in November. They won a big game against the New Orleans Saints, but there were still a lot of issues and issues to be worked out. With so much riding on the upcoming contest, Dallas is understandably looking for all the perks it can muster.
They have a big one right now. The list is as healthy and intact as it has ever been under Mike McCarthy. Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence returned for the Saints victory and both played notable roles. This week is expected to see Randy Gregory, Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore returning from injury and suspension. That should make Dan Quinn drool in anticipation of what he’s about to throw at Tyler Heinicke.
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The injuries are largely the result of chance. And while steps can be taken to mitigate COVID, it is still happening across the league. The Cowboys haven’t exactly been the luckiest team in the league in either category so far this season, with so many players having missed games before. The suspensions also hurt. But they may have been extremely lucky in the timing. They got through most of those issues early in the season and managed to put together a six-game winning streak that kept the November crisis from ruining their chances of winning the division crown. Now almost all of the key players are ready to go. This means Dallas is in the extremely rare position of being at its best in December with just one group of positions, the running backs, having significant issues. Most of the time, that’s when teams are at their peak.
Against Washington that should be a clear advantage. They lost Chase Young earlier in the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick fell as well, but that may have helped them as Heinicke did a great replacement job. Logan Thomas was lost in their last game. And now Montez Sweat is going to miss this game.
The Cowboys have yet to sort out a lot of the issues we’ve seen against the Saints. The offensive line just isn’t correct, Dak Prescott seems to be trying to get his rhythm back, the running game is really in trouble as Ezekiel Elliott is playing with his own injury while Tony Pollard has just popped up on the injury report and is now a time decision game, and the defense keeps dropping big games. But the way Cooper and Lawrence were able to have such positive impacts despite the fact that they matter a bit, Cooper was particularly limited, offers real hope that Gregory and Gallimore can do the same. Cooper should be more available this week, which really helps the offense. Hill should be more prepared as he already had three games under his belt before his one-game suspension. The defense already has some real firepower with Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs and Jayron Kearse. Now there is just more ammo to try and stop the attack on the football team.
The return of the coaching staff to the building should also be a boost. Everything that missed the Saints game is back, including McCarthy’s return on Thursday. With the ten day break after Thursday night’s game, there’s no excuse not to make great strides in fixing their issues.
More importantly, this week’s injury report should be very short. Dallas hasn’t had any significant new additions other than the plantar fascia injury that Tony Pollard suffers from. If their luck holds them for a few more weeks, they could make it through the season and advance to the playoffs healthier than anyone. Of course, this can always change with just one click or rep. Hopefully the trend continues. If so, that could mean this season will end on a high note.