On this Thanksgiving a rivalry is renewed, history repeats and seasons are made.
The Dallas Cowboys desperately need to win this game to get back into the race for the NFC East crown. Unfortunately, the explosive Washington Redskins stand before them, and they’re no strangers to playing spoilers.
The Cowboys will need to play complete team football to secure a victory and will need huge performances from some of their star players.
Here are the players who I think will have the biggest impact on the game.
DeMarcus Ware is still an elite pass-rusher. His numbers aren’t as gaudy as they typically are this time of year, but make no mistake about it—this guy is still elite.
Ware will be key to securing a victory against a dynamic Redskins offense. Robert Griffin III has sparked the Washington Redskins and has already revived them from obscurity.
When you’re facing a dual-threat quarterback like RGIII there is only one thing you can do. Rattle him. Ware will be needed to get to RGIII early and often, hitting him hard and making him afraid.
If Ware can be consistent in pressure you have to believe that RGIII will force a lot of bad passes, putting the Cowboys in a great spot to come out victorious.
Player Prediction: 5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks
Dez Bryant has had a tough year but is finally blossoming into the receiver we knew he could be.
After some breakout games, Bryant has an opportunity to string some big ones together and it starts Thanksgiving against a Redskins pass defense that ranks 29th in the league.
Bryant is the most lethal weapon in this offense. He has breakaway speed, incredible strength and freakish ability. Once the ball is in his hands, he’s dangerous.
I expect the Cowboys to get the ball in Bryant’s hands quite often
Player Prediction: 9 receptions, 104 yards, 2 TD
I know what you’re saying, “Why is Lance Dunbar a key player?”
The answer is quite simple: Lance Dunbar is the single most important player in this game.
Cowboys running backs are asked to do a lot. They are asked to make good reads while running, run smart routes, be good receivers out of the backfield and most importantly pick up the opponent's blitz.
I'm confident that Lance Dunbar can be effective in the running game. Currently, Dunbar averages over three yards per carry. What I’ll be looking at is if he can identify the blitz and help keep Tony Romo upright.
If he can, combined with a solid day running, Lance Dunbar could be the Turkey Day MVP.
Player Prediction: 13 rushes, 62 yards, 3 receptions, 24 yards, 1 sack allowed
Morris Claiborne has had it rough the past few weeks. It isn’t because he doesn’t have shutdown corner ability, it’s merely because he’s learning the game.
We know that Brandon Carr is going to be a very good man-to-man corner every week, but Claiborne has the ability to shut down a whole side of the field with his coverage prowess.
Most of Claiborne’s mistakes have been all in zone coverage. What I do know is that Claiborne will likely get a lot of man coverage calls this week. Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson have been reliable targets for RGIII. Claiborne will have to shut them down to keep the Redskins from keeping pace in this game.
I believe that Claiborne will shine this week and force RGIII into some errors. If that belief comes to fruition, the Cowboys will win easily.
Player Prediction: 3 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 INT
Talk about a developing star.
Bruce Carter has filled in for Sean Lee more than admirably. His athleticism, strength and speed have helped him emerge as one of the best young players on this team, as well as the league.
So far in November, Carter has 25 tackles. He has been playing consistently and is growing in front of our very eyes.
Carter will be faced with three big assignments this week. Spy RGIII, stop Logan Paulsen and contain Alfred Morris.
I’d like to believe that Carter can be successful in these assignments. He’s fast enough to react to RGIII’s scrambles, athletic enough to cover Paulsen and aware enough to help his teammates corral Morris.
Carter can be the one player that decides the outcome of this game on defense. He makes all the defensive calls and is asked to execute a multitude of assignments.
He hasn’t disappointed yet, just impressed. There is no reason to believe that will stop.
Player Prediction: 10 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 pass defended