The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a victory when they host the Washington Football Team on Sunday night.
Dallas (10-4) has a three-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) in the division race. The Cowboys are one of five NFC teams with at least 10 wins, so playoff seeding is very much part of the equation over the final three weeks of the regular season.
“I mean we all pay attention to it, but I just think it’s a waste of time just to go back and forth on it,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said of analyzing different scenarios. “We’re at 10 wins, and we clearly understand what 11 wins gives us. We understand what the records are in front of us. We’ll watch it like everybody else.”
The Cowboys have won three straight games after a rough November in which they lost three of four contests.
Dallas has allowed an average of 14.3 points during the winning streak, which includes last Sunday’s 21-6 road win over the New York Giants.
The Cowboys forced four turnovers on a day in which they scored just two offensive touchdowns.
Quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown just five touchdown passes over the past five games after tossing 20 over his first eight appearances.
He indicated he isn’t concerned even though the offense isn’t clicking the way it did earlier in the season. The best example of that is a four-game stretch in which the Cowboys averaged 39 points.
“When we get back to putting up points the way we want to put them up and not just settling for field goals, (we’ll have) some large wins,” Prescott said.
“But it takes playing together, playing complementary football, rewarding those guys on defense with touchdowns when they’re getting those turnovers, and peaking at the right time is the most important.”
Dallas notched a 27-20 road win over Washington on Dec. 12.
That result was the first of two straight losses for Washington (6-8), which faces long odds of getting into the playoffs after dropping a 27-17 decision to the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday night.
The Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and New Orleans Saints, all 7-7, are tied for the seventh and final NFC wild-card spot. Washington and the Atlanta Falcons are 6-8.
The game against the Eagles was pushed back two days due to a COVID-19 outbreak that hit Washington. Standout guard Brandon Scherff, starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke and backup signal caller Brandon Allen were among the players who missed the game.
Garrett Gilbert was plucked away from the practice squad of the New England Patriots last Friday and served as the starting quarterback. The 30-year-old fared well under the circumstances, completing 20 of 31 passes for 194 yards.
“Obviously, a little bit of a whirlwind. Less than ideal circumstances for all of the guys in there,” Gilbert said. “Speaking for the offense, I was very proud of the way everyone fought. We didn’t get the result we wanted, and obviously that is tough.
“Every game is important this time of year, but I was really proud of our group for fighting through everything that we faced this week and giving ourselves a chance.”
Top receiver Terry McLaurin sounded like someone who would be fine taking the field with Gilbert again if Heinicke and Allen remain unavailable.
“I have nothing but respect for Garrett,” said McLaurin, who has 63 receptions for 859 yards. “For a guy to come from another practice squad to a team where you don’t know anybody — to come here midweek and be expected to not only start at quarterback but to help us try to get into the playoffs, it’s nothing but respect for him.”
Washington leading rusher Antonio Gibson (862 yards) missed practice Wednesday with a toe injury. He had just 26 yards on 15 carries in Tuesday’s game.
Safety Landon Collins (foot) also sat out practice for Washington.
Two-time All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) sat out for the Cowboys, who have won 11 of the past 16 meetings against their longtime rivals.
–Field Level Media