Head Coach Ron Rivera is now two days away from his first official taste of a Washington vs. Dallas Rivalry game. It’s not as big as it used to be in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia areas, as both teams have failed to put out consistent competitive teams in recent years. In Rivera’s first season, he swept the Dallas Cowboys, but there were no fans, and neither Dallas nor Washington were near full health. This year is different, as fans are allowed back into stadiums, and Rivera will be facing a Cowboy team with quarterback Dak Prescott, who is 7-1 vs. Washington, starting again. Dallas is 8-4, and with Washington being just two games back from first place, winning the first of two matchups against the Cowboys will be pivotal if they want to retain their NFC East Title. Can Washington improve to 7-6 this week? Let’s take a look at three key matchups to watch that’ll help contribute to a win for Washington.
Taylor Heinicke vs. Trevon Diggs
Heinicke had his ups and downs against the Las Vegas Raiders, and on a few occasions, nearly cost Washington the game on a single throw.
Heinicke must rein in the urges to be a hero or skip the progressions of Scott Turner’s offense vs. Dallas. The Cowboys defense is fifth in turnovers forced (23) and tied for first place in interceptions (19). However, the Cowboys defense is susceptible against the run and pass despite their stingy nature. Enter Trevon Diggs. Diggs leads the Cowboys defense with nine interceptions, which leads the league. Alternatively, Diggs also leads the league in yards allowed, per Pro Football Focus.
Despite his 9 INTs on the season, Trevon Diggs leads the NFL in pass yards allowed w 861–that’s 123 more yards than the next highest player— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) December 5, 2021
He also is T-1st in yards per reception allowed w 17.6 and is 2nd in the league in 15+ yard completions allowed w 17
Min 50 tgts
Diggs is a certified ballhawk, but what makes this matchup essential is that Heinicke will have an opportunity to exploit matchups against a Cowboys defense who favors man coverage. Heinicke’s accuracy is key, but knowing when to take his shots at Diggs will be even more critical.
Cornelius Lucas vs. DeMarcus Lawrence
Cornelius Lucas had been a solid pass-pro lineman for most of the season. Unfortunately, he is coming off of his worst game of the year; according to Pro Football Focus, Lucas received a 50.2 grade as a pass-blocker. Lawrence will be playing his third game of the season this week and was active early and often against the New Orleans Saints, leading the team in defensive pressures. This matchup is critical for Lucas because he’ll be seeking redemption for such a poor performance against Las Vegas Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby. The issue here is that his competition doesn’t get any worse than Crosby; it gets better. It may be the case that offensive coordinator Scott Turner sends help to Lucas’s side, but the bottom line here is that if this matchup goes in favor of Lawrence, Washington will struggle just as much as they did against the Raiders in the trenches.
Ron Rivera vs. Mike McCarthy
If you let the Cowboys community tell it, McCarthy is about to coach the most significant game to date of his Cowboys tenure.
The good man @rjochoa said that #DallasCowboys HC Mike McCarthy is entering the biggest game of his Cowboy tenure. No excuses for a loss - the team is basically at full health.— Jamual (@LetMualTellit) December 9, 2021
For #WashingtonFootball is Rivera in the same boat? Could this be his biggest game aa WFT HC? pic.twitter.com/LtA2zR0oxH
Rivera is in the same state as McCarthy in a way. While Washington won the division last year, 2020 was a wacky season in the NFC East. Each team sucked. This year, the Cowboys and Eagles are worthy divisional foes, and Washington has to play each of them twice. While Washington has won four straight games, Rivera’s name will hold much more weight if he continues to take care of business within the division, especially when the division is competitive. 5-2 overall in the NFC East is an impressive start to his tenure in Washington, but can he add to his solid start? The true test begins with Mike McCarthy, who, according to Rivera, may have already made his first mistake in preparing for this game.
Rivera has an opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the division, but will he get it done?
What are your key matchups to watch this Sunday? And when was the last time that the Dallas vs. Washington matchup meant something to you? Does this matchup excite you?
Let us know in the comments!