Redskins vs. Cowboys preview: Battle for NFC East on Thanksgiving

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 21: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter of the game at FedExField on October 21, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 21: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter of the game at FedExField on October 21, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys meet on Thanksgiving Day in a battle for NFC East supremacy heading into the home stretch of 2018.

The Washington Redskins (6-4) meet the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) on Thanksgiving Day in a battle for first place in the NFC East. This is the second meeting of the season between the two bitter rivals as the Redskins took the first game 20-17 last month.

Much has changed since that meeting just over four weeks ago. The injury bug has once again hit Washington hard. In addition to losing both starting guards in Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao, the Redskins just lost starting quarterback Alex Smith for the season on Sunday after a gruesome leg injury.

The Redskins could also be without Chris Thompson, Jamison Crowder and Quinton Dunbar again, all of whom missed the first meeting. All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams could return on Thursday too, which would be huge for the Redskins.

For the Cowboys, that loss to the Redskins created some change. It forced owner/general manager Jerry Jones to seek some help for quarterback Dak Prescott. That led Jones to give up next year’s first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for a former top-five pick, wide receiver Amari Cooper.

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After a home loss to the Tennessee Titans coming off their bye week in Cooper’s first game, the Cowboys have won two in a row against Philadelphia and Atlanta. Both were impressive wins, although it’s clear the Eagles aren’t quite the same team as they were a year ago. Cooper’s presence has benefitted Prescott and star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The strength of this Dallas team is Elliott and its defense. With speedy linebackers like rookie Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys are a hard team to move the ball against. While the Redskins and Adrian Peterson had a big game against Dallas on the ground last month, it should be more difficult on Thanksgiving with Washington’s injuries up front. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is always a difficult matchup for the Redskins.

The biggest reason the Redskins won the last meeting was their defense. Washington frustrated Elliott, holding him to just 33 yards on 15 attempts. He was also a non-factor in the passing game, catching just two passes for six yards. The Redskins’ young defensive line dominated up front.

With Smith out for the season, that means veteran Colt McCoy takes over under center for the Redskins. McCoy has been with Washington for five years and is a high-paid backup who has performed well in the past when called upon. McCoy even led the Redskins to huge Monday night road win over the Cowboys back in 2014. Can he repeat that magic?

This game comes down to Washington’s defense against Elliott. It was the difference in last month’s game and it will be impossible to hold down Elliott again. But if the Redskins can, they will win. Another factor is McCoy. Can he manage this offense while still taking calculated risks down the field?

TV and Live Stream Info

Date: Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018
Start Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: Dallas, TX
Stadium: AT&T Stadium
TV Info: FOX
Live Stream: FuboTV

The oddsmakers are giving the Cowboys the heavy advantage in this one, most surely due to the Smith injury and McCoy being at the helm of the Redskins. However, the odds clearly also indicate that the sportsbooks believe this will be a defensive affair as the Over/Under line barely tops 40.

Betting Odds (via Odds Shark)

Point Spread: Dallas -7.5
Moneyline: Dallas -310, Washington +280
Over/Under: 40.5

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This game will be close. Smith made Washington formidable because he took care of the football and the defense was improved. However, he didn’t force things and it limited the Redskins offensively. McCoy will force things—-and that can be both good and bad. On a short week, though, the edge goes to the Cowboys with so many changes for the Redskins. Elliott will have a strong day and that will be just enough to put the Cowboys into a first-place tie with the Redskins.

Final score: Dallas Cowboys 23, Washington Redskins 20