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Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Football Team: five players to watch

The Washington Football Team, who are on a run of four wins in a row, host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14 of the NFL season on Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Football Team: five players to watch
Jonathan BachmanAFP

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has said he fully expects his team to beat the Washington Football Team on Sunday, stoking up a clash that is beginning to recover its status as one of the most important rivalries in the NFL.

WFT after first three-in-a-row against Dallas since 80s

Washington swept the series between the two teams last season, when McCarthy was starting out at the helm of the Cowboys and Ron Rivera was also in his maiden campaign in charge at the team owned by the controversial Daniel Snyder.

WFT are looking to make it three successive wins over Dallas for the first time since the 1986 to 1988 seasons, when they defeated the Cowboys in four meetings in a row. The coaches then were the legendary Joe Gibbs and Tom Laundry, respectively.

Since 2016, Dallas are 22-10 against NFC East opponents, but McCarthy has a 3-5 record against Washington, his three victories coming when he was Green Bay Packers coach.

Rivera is 4-1 against the Cowboys, with two of those wins dating back to his time in charge of the Carolina Panthers.

These are the five players to watch in the Week 14 game between Dallas and Washington:

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas

Elliott has been struggling with a knee injury and looks like he’ll have be carrying the problem right through to the end of the season. McCarthy considered resting him against the Saints in Week 13, but the running back finally played in New Orleans.

Tony Pollard, who registered 71 rushing yards and one touchdown in the win over the Saints, has a foot injury and hasn’t trained all week, so it’s likely Elliott will be in a game-long battle with the WFT defence, which is the third best in the league, having allowed 91.3 rushing yards per game.

Elliott hasn’t reached 50 yards in any of his last four appearances - the longest such streak in his six-year NFL career.

Taylor Heinicke, QB, Washington

It took him time - eight weeks, to be precise - but Heinicke is now in total control of the Washington offence, following four good displays and four victories on the bounce.

On this winning run, Heinicke has completed 73.3% of his passes for 881 yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 110.

Heinicke has come up against 109 blitzes this season and it’s likely Dan Quinn, the Dallas defensive coordinator, will be aggressive on Sunday to try to force errors from the Washington quarterback.

WFT quarterback Taylor Heinicke passes the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders on 5 December.
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WFT quarterback Taylor Heinicke passes the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders on 5 December.Chris UngerAFP

Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas

In just his second year in the NFL, Diggs is enjoying a Pro Bowl-calibre season. He leads the league with nine interceptions and is level in second place with 14 passes defended.

Last week, Diggs had one of the four interceptions made by the Cowboys in New Orleans (the franchise’s first game this season with as many) and Dallas are joint-top of the NFL with 19, together with the New England Patriots.

Diggs can expect to run in himself into the ground tracking Terry McLaurin, who has 19 receptions, 244 yards and two touchdowns in three games for the Cowboys this season.

Kendall Fuller, CB, Washington

Fuller and William Jackson III face one of their stiffest tests of the season when they come up against the trio of Cowboys wide receivers made up of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.

Lamb leads the group with 57 receptions, 829 yards and six touchdowns. Washington’s starting safety Landon Collins is doubtful for Sunday with a foot problem, which would put added pressure on Fuller and Jackson III.

Fuller leads the way at the WFT with 11 passes defended.

Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas

If Parsons manages a sack against Washington, he will become the first rookie since Jevon Kearse to record at least one quarterback capture in six consecutive games. Kearse went 10 matches in a row with the Tennessee Titans in 1999.

That season, Kearse ended up with 14.5 sacks, a tally which no other rookie has matched in the NFL. Parsons leads this season’s first-years with 10, a franchise record.

Heinicke is in 14th position in the NFL with 24 sacks.