The Dallas Cowboys need a win and some help heading into Week 17 when they’ll play host to the Washington Redskins in an NFC East rivalry game. Kickoff is set for 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 29 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. A vast majority of the country will be able to watch the game on Fox.
The Cowboys are currently listed as 11-point favorites at home with an over/under of 44.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of the Week 17 NFL betting odds.
Throughout their late-season collapse, the Cowboys remained in control of their own destiny inside the NFC East. However, that changed last week when Dallas lost to the Eagles 17-9. The Dallas offense could only muster three field goals, a far cry from the 44 points the Cowboys scored against the Rams the previous week. Dallas has now lost four of their last five games, dropping them to 7-8 on the season. The Cowboys now need to win in Week 17 while hoping the Eagles lose to the Giants. That is their only path to the playoffs.
As for the Redskins, they locked up last place in the NFC East last week with their loss to the Giants. Washington rallied late, scoring 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to force overtime, only to give up a touchdown on New York’s opening possession in the extra session. At 3-12, the Redskins can take some solace in knowing that they aren’t the worst team in the NFL this year, which looked like a distinct possibility early in the season. However, they’ve lost three in a row, remain winless inside the division, and have a lot of questions to answer this offseason, starting with their head coaching vacancy.
If nothing else, the Redskins were motivated and competing last year, which should be the case again this week in a rivalry game. Washington has just one win against the Cowboys over the last four seasons, losing six of seven head-to-head meetings during that span. That includes three straight losses at AT&T Stadium, where they haven’t won since 2015. The Cowboys also took care of business 31-21 when they traveled to Washington in Week 2 earlier this year.
Dallas is surely feeling the pressure to get a win on top of having to worry about results elsewhere. They haven’t handled the pressure particularly well in recent weeks outside of that win over the Rams. Given their situation, I’m not sure I trust them to be at their best, especially with 11 points to cover. The Redskins are still playing hard and have gone five straight games without losing a game by more than 10 points. That makes me more comfortable taking Washington to beat the spread.
One problem Dallas is facing this week is a rash of injuries. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was lost placed on IR this week while quarterback Dak Prescott continues to work through a shoulder issue that could limit his practice time this week. Prescott has been far from his best in recent weeks, especially against the Eagles last week. The Cowboys will catch a break because Washington’s defense has some holes. The Dallas rushing attack is also capable of carrying them. But if the Cowboys don’t run the ball effectively, it’s questionable whether Prescott can step up.
Of course, Washington is also in the middle of another quarterback change. Just when Dwayne Haskins started to show progress, he suffered a high-ankle sprain that will keep him out of Week 17. Case Keenum took over last week and will get the start against Dallas. The silver lining is that Keenum is an experienced quarterback who is more than capable of giving Washington a fighting chance to win. He had a strong showing off the bench last week and also had a decent showing against the Dallas defense in Week 2.
It’s also worth noting that the Dallas pass defense has been a big culprit in the team’s struggles late in the season. Despite only allowing 17 points last week, the Cowboys allowed over 300 passing yards against Philadelphia’s watered-down receiving corps. This week, the Cowboys will have to slow down rookie Terry McLaurin, who has had good chemistry with Keenum this year. Some of Washington’s other receivers were also productive last week, as Keenum and Haskins combined for over 300 yards passing.
The Cowboys also have to be a little wary of the Washington rushing attack. Even with Derrius Guice hurt again, Adrian Peterson is still a capable workhorse back. He’s scored a touchdown in four straight games and is averaging close to 70 yards per game during that span. If the Redskins can get Peterson going, they can shorten the game and put more pressure on Prescott and the Dallas offense.
While I have no doubt that the Cowboys are capable of covering the 11-point spread, I don’t feel confident that they will. The Redskins aren’t going to lay down and let Dallas win, especially knowing that they can knock the Cowboys out of the playoff picture. When in doubt, it’s usually best to take the double-digit underdog, and that’s the thinking that’s pushing me toward Washington in this game.