The NFL regular season is rapidly approaching its conclusion and the playoff picture is starting to take shape, with a variety of sides still fighting to secure their spot in the postseason drama.
Things are particularly tight in the NFC and a huge clash between division rivals the Cowboys and the Redskins takes place on Thanksgiving evening, where the two NFC East giants collide in Texas.
The Redskins, currently ranked as 4th seed in the NFC, know a defeat would see the Cowboys pull level with a 6-5 record this season and could potentially blow the playoff chase wide open with the Jaguars, Seahawks and Vikings all keeping a close eye on proceedings.
We have broken down the key areas of the clash below.
NFC East on the line
As mentioned, the clash on Thursday evening sees the two top teams in the NFC East go toe-to-toe. For the Cowboys, victory could kickstart a charge into the playoffs as Dallas clash with the Giants, Buccaneers and Eagles over the course of the remaining weeks of the season – all of whom have losing records.
For the Redskins, it provides an opportunity to put together a run of form. Since beating the Cowboys in Washington back in October, the Redskins have lost against the Falcons and the Texans, the latter being last time out, but they also have a favourable run-in which includes clashes with the Eagles, Giants and Jaguars.
Elliott in blistering form
Cowboys running-back Ezequiel Elliott enters the clash at the AT&T Stadium on the back of two of his best games of the season, accumulating 273 yards in total from clashes against the Falcons and the Eagles – averaging 7.9 yards in the victory over the latter.
His match-winning ability has sparked the offence into life with a run-pass option, although the rushing yards are not too impressive. The addition of Amari Cooper has been vital, luring attention off of Elliott and the other receivers to hand Dak Prescott a number of options.
Colt McCoy‘s time to shine
Alex Smith‘s horrific leg break in last weekend’s defeat to the Texans caused plenty of discussion in the aftermath of the game but the attention now shifts to Colt McCoy, who harbours ambition of being more than a backup quarterback.
Nick Foles showed last season with the Eagles how injuries can create opportunities for reserve players and McCoy will hope to achieve similar feats this season. However, he may be shaky as he has not started since 2015 but he will have taken confidence from a touchdown pass in the narrow defeat last week.
Cowboys’ Turkey Day advantage
The Redskins and the Cowboys are no strangers to facing off against each other on Thanksgiving and the stats lie in favour of Dallas, who have gone 7-1 in Turkey Day clashes against the Redskins – including a 31-26 victory in the last meeting in 2016. However, the Cowboys are 3-5 under Jason Garrett.
Meanwhile, the Redskins are 3-7 on Thanksgiving and have played on Turkey Day in each of the last three seasons, beating the Giants last year. They enter Thanksgiving in first place in the NFC East for the first time since 1996 and a surprise victory against the Cowboys would mark their first Thanksgiving winning streak.