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A positional head-to-head breakdown of the Week 18 matchup between the Cowboys and Commanders to find the strengths and weaknesses of each offensive position.
If all goes the Cowboys way in Week 18, they could win the NFC East and even get the number one seed for a first-round bye in the playoffs. This week is the final game of the regular season and the final divisional game against the Washington Commanders. Washington has failed to get in the win column since Week 12 and last week versus Cleveland, Carson Wentz threw three interceptions in yet another defeat. So how does each offensive position on both teams fare in a head-to-head battle?
Dak Prescott vs Sam Howell
Everyone will point to the three turnovers attributed to Dak Prescott in the first half of last week’s game. The fumble may have even been caused by Zack Martin, whose arm swings across at the point of the snap and knocks the ball. As for the interceptions, it’s fair to place the blame last week on Dak for one of them. It was a poorly timed decision by Dak, but the other pick was certainly not his fault when the ball is between the numbers of his receiver and bounces out into the defender’s hands. Dak will be ready to play, and with the league’s events last week, will start against the Commanders.
The Commanders have issues that run deeper than who will be the starting quarterback. Carson Wentz had been given the starting job at quarterback for Washington. But after last week’s performance head coach Ron Rivera has come out quoting “we’ll sit down and talk with the coaches and watch the tape and go from there,” referring to the fact that once again the quarterback will be changed. The team’s pick now is rookie Sam Howell and he is expected to start. This will be his first NFL action.
Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard vs Robinson/Gibson
Tony Pollard missed out last week due to a thigh injury, hopefully the week of rest will mean the Cowboys get him back at full strength. That meant last week Zeke got the full workload as the primary running back. Zeke managed to break to the endzone for another touchdown this year and now ranks third in rushing touchdowns this season. Zeke got 19 carries against the Titans last week and struggled against a good running defense, missing some big opportunities when they were offered. His 1.9 average yards per carry in this game was the lowest this year, in fact that was the third-lowest in his career.
This will be the first time the Cowboy’s defense will have to face Brian Robinson. The Alabama running back was out with an injury during the first meeting this year. This time around they may not have Antonio Gibson who’s been nursing a knee injury from Week 16. Robinson averages 3.9 yards per carry since playing in Week 5, but the last few weeks has seen him finding a groove. Since Week 12, Robinson is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and has rushed for over 100 yards once in those games. He has fumbled twice in the last three games. This Cowboys run defense will need to be on its toes as this solid running back can get behind his pads and roll downfield all day. Keep an eye on Gibson on the practice report.
Lamb/Gallup/Hilton vs McClaurin/Samuel/Dotson
CeeDee Lamb has now had a 100-yard receiving game in the last three games. That makes the first time in his NFL career he’s had three consecutive games for over 100 yards. The chemistry between Lamb and Dak is becoming more apparent, and they find each other on the field consistently. Then add how Lamb is playing with the ball in his hands by making people miss, and also being physical with the opposing defensive backs is all mounting up for him to finish the season strong. Michael Gallup has seen back-to-back games of over 30 yards, but the most exciting part of this receiver corps has to be T.Y. Hilton. After his huge third-down catch against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago, Hilton backed that up with a four-reception game for 50 yards. The threat Hilton creates going forward opens up the rest of the Cowboy’s receivers, and that is exactly what was needed heading to the playoffs. With Hilton now playing the role this offense desperately needed, James Washington has since been released.
Washington has been very inconsistent this year pushing the ball downfield. The 124 passing yards last week was the fourth-lowest in Week 17. As for the entire season, they rank 20th in passing yards per game. It’s not that they don’t have the receivers, their corps of pass catchers aren’t that bad. It’s the inconsistent quarterback play that’s holding them back. Terry McClaurin is over 1,000 yards this year, Jahan Dotson has seven touchdowns for the year and Curtis Samuel remains a solid piece of their puzzle, absorbing the second-most targets on the team. It’s just never all together at the same time with this group due to the struggles under center.
Dalton Schultz vs Logan Thomas
That’s two weeks in a row now Dalton Schultz has stepped up and played when they needed him to. In the second half of last week’s game, Schultz was the main man scoring both touchdowns, and that second one was a beautiful catch. Keeping the Titans pinned back and having to force them to throw the ball by keeping the score up was as important as ever in this game. Thanks to consecutive scoring drives from Schultz that goal was achieved.
Logan Thomas has scored once this year. He generally is kept to an average of three receptions per game and 25 yards. Last week he had his second-highest in yards versus the Cleveland Browns with 56 yards.
Conner McGovern allowed the only sack of the game. Generally though, this offensive line last week did pretty well allowing only 11 pressures. Tyler Biadasz and Dak had their mix-up during the snap that saw them lose a fumble, possibly Martin’s hand did some damage knocking the handoff, too. But apart from that and two penalties, this line did well in pass protection, it was missing a cylinder on the run-blocking however. At 12 sacks allowed, this line has now allowed the third-lowest number of sacks and fifth-fewest QB hits this season so far. Tyler Biadasz’s injury hurts their ability in Week 18.
Washington’s 28 sacks are the fourth-most in the NFL and at 187 pressures allowed, only Minnesota has allowed more. The line against the Browns allowed three sacks, and both tackles Charles Leno and Corneilus Lucas leak the most on this line.
Originally posted on Blogging The Boys