Mix one of the NFL's oldest and fiercest rivalries with huge playoff implications and you have yourself the stakes for the Week 17 matchup between Dallas and Washington.
The game is so big that NBC elected to flex into this contest for its coverage of Sunday Night Football for the last week of the regular season. Whichever team emerges victorious after the lights go out Sunday night will be the NFC East champion. That's about as high as the stakes can get this late in the season.
This is a win-or-go-home situation for Dallas and all but one for Washington. All this adds up to one epic battle for the NFC East crown in the nation's capital.
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When: Sunday, Dec. 30 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Live Stream: SNF All-Access
Radio: KTXX-FM (Dallas) or ESPN 980-AM (Washington)
Betting Line: Washington (-3), according to Bet Online
Injury Report (Via CBS Sports) *as of 12/24/12
NT Jay Ratliff, Groin
LB Ernie Sims, Concussion
LB DeMarcus Ware, Elbow
DB Cedric Griffin, Suspension
DB Tanard Jackson, Suspension
What's At Stake?
For the Cowboys, this is their only shot at making the postseason in 2012. For the Redskins, this is their best shot to qualify for the playoffs. The chance to be NFC East champion is also on the line, with Dallas last winning it in 2009 and Washington in 1999.
For the Cowboys, there is also the attempt at revenge on the line here, with their archrival defeating them back on Thanksgiving Day this season. Dallas and Detroit are the two staple teams of Turkey Day, and neither take kindly to a defeat on the national stage.
Whichever team emerges victorious here will have defeated its division foe, won the division title and secured a postseason home game all in one effort.
Dallas Cowboys: WR Dez Bryant
Some fantasy leagues elect to play out all 17 weeks of the NFL season, and for those in leagues like that, you have to start Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys' No. 1 receiver has been as Calvin Johnson-like as one wideout can be without actually being Megatron himself. Bryant has posted 11 touchdowns in the last six games and is coming off a career day against New Orleans.
In Dallas' Week 16 loss to the Saints, Bryant posted a career high in yards with 224 on nine catches and two trips to the end zone.
Bryant owners don't need to be reminded of how great he's been of late but this is more of an advisory to not get cute. Play No. 88 and just enjoy the benefits of doing so.
Washington Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III
Griffin gave Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's unit fits on Turkey Day and is likely to do so again in this upcoming meeting.
The rookie out of Baylor recorded more than 300 passing yards and executed the play-action game to perfection in his first career matchup with America's Team. The Cowboys continuously bit on Griffin's deceiving almost-handoffs to Alfred Morris and thus opened up the passing game.
In his last four games, Griffin has thrown eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. RGIII has been a fantasy darling for whichever fantasy owners rolled the dice on him in league drafts. Regardless of who else Griffin owners might have to play at quarterback, they'd be ill advised to sit the Washington QB this week.
What They Are Saying
Bryant may have had a great individual game against the Saints, but that didn't make the loss any less of a letdown in his eyes.
The high-profile wide receiver told ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon the following after the loss: "I ain't got nothing, I'm speechless, man. I'm frustrated. I know that everybody else is too."
"I'm a big RGIII fan. He reminds me of what I do. I'm the originator of everything that's transpired in the league with the style of quarterback. It makes it gratifying to me."
While the comments are a tad arrogant on the part of Vick, it's always interesting to see a player outright support another who happens to be a division rival.
Key Matchup: Dallas' linebackers vs. Washington's play-action
As noted earlier, the Redskins really had their way against Big D on offense last meeting thanks to deadly play-action plays. The Cowboys have been decimated at the inside linebacker position with season-opening starters Bruce Carter and Sean Lee on injured reserve.
Ernie Sims may not be available due to recurring concussion symptoms, which leaves Dan Connor and Brady Poppinga to step up.
New Orleans really got the better of the Dallas duo last week with plenty of underneath passes to Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas. Washington might try some of that, but it's more likely to try to take advantage of Dallas' linebacker woes via the play-action.
Connor and Poppinga likely took time out of their holiday celebrating to watch plenty of tape on the Redskins offense. Neither man can afford to be anything less than 100 percent ready for the RGIII-lead offense if they want to be in the postseason.
The Cowboys have not fared well in Sunday Night Football or "win and you're in" scenarios in recent years, but this is different Dallas squad.
The Dallas teams that failed to secure their playoff spots back in 2008 and 2011 were also the squads who were known for dropping December games and losing late in contests.
This season's Dallas Cowboys have found ways to rally in the third and fourth quarters and won all but one December bout.
Washington has beaten the expectations set by even the most hopeful of fans in both Alfred Morris and Griffin's rookie seasons. The Redskins and Cowboys always play each other close and this one will be no different.
Unfortunately for the home team, its unit is not experienced or polished enough to take down a determined and scrappy Dallas crew. The Cowboys are on a mission to make NFL fans forget the years of late-season and late-game meltdowns. They will do just that when the 'Boys get hard-earned road win against their arch rivals.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Redskins 24
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!