The Washington Commanders are celebrating Thanksgiving with an NFC East matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Here are five things to know about their Week 12 opponent.
1. QB Dak Prescott isn't gonna make things easy for Washington.
The Cowboys will be showing up full force with Dak Prescott, who threw for 404 yards just two weeks ago against the Giants.
After a disappointing season in 2022, when he led the league with 15 interceptions, Prescott is on track for one of the best campaigns of his career. He's currently projected to finish the season with 4,427 yards, but what's most impressive is his completion rate of 70.1%, which is the second best in the league.
Prescott's 19 touchdowns tie him for the third most in the league, falling only behind Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa. But it's more than just his ability to put points on the board. Prescott has been calm under pressure, helping the Cowboys earn the fifth-best offense in the NFL.
Considering that the Commanders allow more explosive players than any team in the league and have given up strong outings to a variety of quarterbacks, from Jalen Hurts to Tommy DeVito, facing a surging Prescott is going to be a challenge. It will be up to the defensive front to make him uncomfortable while working against the Cowboys' offensive line -- another daunting task. The Commanders are coming off a nine-sack performance against the Giants, so perhaps they have started to figure out how to rush the passer without the likes of Chase Young and Montez Sweat.
2. A questionable CeeDee Lamb.
The Commanders have had problems with No. 1 receivers this season. They'll see one of this year's best pass-catchers on Thanksgiving in CeeDee Lamb.
Lamb has been the catalyst for the Cowboys' fifth-ranked passing offense. With a catch rate of 77.9%, he's on a tear unlike any other point in his professional career with 74 catches on 95 targets. He's hit the 100-yard mark in four of his last five games, including 191 on 11 catches against the Eagles. He's on pace to hit career highs in every major statistical category for a receiver.
Lamb is going to be a problem for the Commanders that they desperately need to solve. They lead the league in explosive plays, and they have allowed a receiver to eclipse 100 yards in six of 11 games.
If the Commanders, who have the third worst passing defense in the league, want to stop Lamb from carving them up on Thanksgiving, improving communication in the secondary will be paramount. Lapses in that area have been one of group's biggest issues with examples being the 40-yard touchdown by Darius Slayton last week and several others that won't get mentioned here to prevent driving that point home even further. At this point, we get it.
Of course, Lamb isn't the Cowboys' only weapon. Tony Pollard is dynamic with the ball in his hands, and Michael Gallup has the size to work against any defensive back. But if the Commanders can stop Lamb from hitting the home run, it will take away arguably the Cowboys' best tool.
3. Blue star edge.
Unlike Washington, Dallas has a serious positive streak regarding home games being 4-0 at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys took down the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, and the New York Giants all at AT&T stadium this season.
Not only will Washington be heading into a game against a 7-3 team, but they'll also be playing a team that's yet to let up on their home turf. The Cowboys have outscored opponents at home this year, 160-50.
The Commanders have not consistently played well against the Cowboys as of late. While they did take down Dallas in the 2022 season finale at FedExField, they also lost the previous three matchups, including a 25-10 defeat the last time they were at AT&T Stadium.
The last time Washington and Dallas met was Sam Howell's first NFL start, and he's come a long way since that startup win. He's moved up to the consistent starting quarterback position and is leading the NFL in passing yards.
4. Record setting defense.
Cornerbacks are known for their quick action and corner-cut running, and Dallas cornerback Daron Bland has got both of those down.
Bland has tied an NFL record after getting his fourth pick-six of the season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Howell has also struggled with throwing interceptions at times, throwing three against the Giants last week. The recipe of Bland's picks and Howell's occasional shaky passes does not look good for Washington.
Bland is quick and incredibly skilled at reading a quarterback's eyes. Commanders will need to offensive work with a cleaner aim and less scrambling on Howell's end to find cleaner passes. Plain and simple. If not, the Cowboys' offense will be putting points on the board, and the defense will, too.
Bland is one of many parts of the defensive lineup that will give Washington a tough time. Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence are a dynamic duo with great pass rushing and an ability to rise to the skill level of whichever quarterback they're up against. So even if Howell comes in on a good day, he will need to pay special attention to the quickness of a release.
Check out the Washington Commanders getting on the plane for their thanksgiving matchup with the Cowboys.
5. The red zone isn't Dallas's stage.
Dallas is stacked with Prescott making precise throws and a receiver like Lamb in the end zone. But Dallas has still been challenging to take full advantage of their red zone opportunities, and it's been cutting some games incredibly close for them.
There's a long list of things in terms of what Dallas is doing right this season, and aside from a slip of loss to the Arizona Cardinals, they are riding a sound wave this season. But one thing the Commanders have over the Cowboys is their ability to take advantage of opportunities in the red zone and turn them into touchdowns.
Dallas does an excellent job of moving the ball downfield, with a fantastic rhythm between Prescott and Lamb. However, the team only converts red zone opportunities into touchdowns 51.6% of the time, which ranks 18th in the league. Washington has been able to do so 58.2% of the time -- 10th in the league. Washington needs to keep that trend against a Cowboys defense that's fifth in points allowed.