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Re-scouting the Cowboys | 3 things to know ahead of the SNF matchup

Taylor Heinicke drops back for a pass during the Washington Football Team's game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Taylor Heinicke drops back for a pass during the Washington Football Team's game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The Washington Football Team is playing the Dallas Cowboys for the second time in three weeks, this time heading to AT&T Stadium for a primetime matchup.

Here's another look at the Cowboys ahead of the Burgundy & Gold's rematch with the NFC East division leader.

1. Micah Parson has emerged as one of the league's best defenders.

Any hope Washington has of making the postseason hinges on the team winning out. That starts with the Cowboys, and it will need to have an answer for Micah Parsons, who not only is the front-runner for Defensive Rookies of the Year, but is also in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.

Parsons was a problem for Washington in the Week 14 27-20 loss. He harassed Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen with two sacks, and he was disruptive in the run game with three tackles, one of which was for a loss.

The only thing that has changed for Parsons is how he's further cemented himself as one of the best young defensive stars in the league. He's the only player with 12 sacks and at least 70 tackles, and that's on top of his three pass breakups and forced fumbles.

Expect Parsons to be the driving force for a defense that is one of the most opportunistic in the league. Tackles Charles Leno and Sam Cosmi will be tasked with locking down a player who is Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded pass-rushing linebacker.

2. Dallas has embodied the term "ball-hawking secondary."

The Cowboys are in the bottom half of the standings in terms of passing yards allowed, but beware: the secondary is going to fight for the ball, and more often than not, it has won those battles.

Dallas forced four turnovers from Washington in Week 14, one of which was an interception in the first quarter. It's easy to quantify how much that crippled Washington: three of those takeaways turned into 17 points for Dallas.

Dallas has forced at least four turnovers in the past three games with the New York Giants being the latest victim. Eight of those have been interceptions, two of which have come from Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs. Ten of Dallas' 23 picks, which lead the NFL, have come from Diggs. He doesn't have the best cover grade by PFF, but his aggressive style has paid off for the second-year pro.

Diggs will likely be lined up against Terry McLaurin for most of Sunday night's game, so it will be McLaurin, who leads the league since 2020 in contested catches, to be more physical and win his matchups.

The Washington Football Team travelled to Philadelphia to take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field and was defeated, 27-17. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

3. A stalling Cowboys offense is still pacing the league.

The Cowboys have been underperforming on offense lately. That's a generally accepted fact, based on how the unit has played over the last three weeks, although to be fair, it has won all of those games.

Dallas looks like a shadow of the team that was regularly putting up 400 yards during its 6-1 start. It's technically seventh in yards per play, but over the last three games, it has ranked in the bottom half (23rd) with an average of 4.8 yards.

Much of that is credited to Dak Prescott and his current slump. His numbers during Dallas' three-game win streak haven't been atrocious -- he's completed 66% of his passes -- but he's thrown as many touchdowns as interceptions (3) in that span, two of which came against Washington.

With all that being said, the Cowboys still lead the league in yards per game by a narrow margin. Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott have become a potent duo, while the trio of CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper create problems for secondaries.

In order to give itself a chance, Washington will need to capitalize on Dallas' mistakes. Cole Holcomb gave his team a late spark in the fourth quarter with his pick-six, but Landon Collins’ early interception was followed by a three-and-out from the offense. It will need more plays like the former if it intends to come out of Arlington, Texas, still in the playoff conversation.

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