SERIES HISTORY: 114th meeting. Dallas leads the series 67-44-2. Dallas has won five of the last seven. Dallas won the earlier meting 27-23. The Cowboys' 67 wins over the Redskins are the franchise's most victories over any team in the league. The Cowboys have faced the Redskins seven times on Thanksgiving, more than any other opponent.
KEYS TO THE GAME: For your Thanksgiving treat, the folks at FOX television will have former great Cowboys QB Troy Aikman as the analyst to offer insight into the play of rookie QB Dak Prescott, the surprise successor to Tony Romo, who is now dressing as a backup. Prescott pairs with rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott and the best offensive line in football to beat up and beat down opponents.
Aikman may also have words of wisdom to analyze Washington QB Kirk Cousins, also a surprise in that he made Robert Griffin III expendable after last season and last week won a dramatic duel in a windstorm against Green Bay's mighty Aaron Rodgers. Cousins completed 21 of 30 for 375 yards, three TDs against the Packers for a 145.8 rating.
There is no secret to the Dallas game plan, which calls for that big offensive line to usher Elliott all over the field and make life less stressful for Prescott, who will see if his great wide receiver, Dez Bryant, can get open against Washington's disruptive CB Josh Norman.
Meanwhile, the Redskins hope to take advantage of a Cowboys secondary struggling with injuries. Safety Barry Church (fractured right forearm) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin) won't play again this week.
The key for the Redskins will be to hog the ball as long as possible to keep the Cowboys' unstoppable offensive machine off the field.
Cousins may get opportunity to stay on the field because Dallas records a sack on only 5.25 percent of opponents' pass attempts. That ranks 24th of 32 teams. And Washington is fourth in sacks allowed per pass attempt percentage (3.64), so the edge appears to be with the Redskins there.
However, there may be concern at left tackle, where Ty Nsekhe is a major surprise as an emergency starter salvaged from an itinerant life in minor and Arena league football. The 6-foot-8 inch, 325-pound Nsekhe played through an ankle injury vs. Green Bay but could not practice Tuesday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Redskins CB Josh Norman. This is a high-level duel between two of the most gifted players in the NFL. Bryant finished with seven catches for 102 yards in the Cowboys' 27-23 victory over the Redskins in Week 2. Washington chose not to cover Bryant with Norman, their $75 million free agent purchase, and left the job to Bashaud Breeland, who allowed Bryant to catch four passes for 56 yards in the first half. For the season, Norman has 44 tackles, an interception, 11 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. These two played against each other last Thanksgiving when Norman was with the Panthers, and Bryant made only two catches for 26 yards on eight targets.
--Redskins TE Jordan Reed vs. Cowboys FS Byron Jones. In this intriguing pairing, Jones is one of the few safeties in the league with the athleticism to keep up with Reed, who leads Washington in targets (68) and receptions (49) and is eight receptions from moving into 13th place on the franchise's all-time catch list. However, Reed caught only seven passes in two games vs. Dallas last season thanks in part to Jones.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Redskins C Spencer Long. After taking over for injured Kory Lichtensteiger (calf) in Week 4, Long has owned the job. The third-year pro from Nebraska started 13 games last year at left guard after Shawn Lauvao (torn knee ligaments) was hurt. But with Lauvao returning in 2016, Long took all of the backup repetitions at center during OTAs and training camp. When he eventually lost the left guard battle to Lauvao, as expected, Long was ready to step in at center. Long's physical style has meshed well with Lauvao and right guard Brandon Scherff on the interior of the offensive line.
FAST FACTS: Redskins rookie RB Robert Kelley rushed for career-high 137 yards, 3 TDs in Week 11. WR Jamison Crowder aims for 5th consecutive game with TD vs. NFC East opponent. He has 23 receptions, 354 yards, 3 TDs in past 4 games. WR Pierre Garcon caught 6 passes for 116 yards, TD last Sunday. WR De Sean Jackson is averaging 101.7 yards per game. ... Cowboys rookie RB Rookie RB Eziekel Elliott leads NFL with 1,102 yards rushing. Jason Witten ranks second all-time among NFL TEs with 1,069 receptions, 11,735 yards receiving. LB Sean Lee has 43 tackles (10.8 per game) in past 4 meetings.
PREDICTION: While too many NFC East games are more sound than fury, this should be one worth taking time from that turkey to watch. The Cowboys are rightfully believed to be the toughest team in the NFL, but this is one holiday they should not be able to relax. Gather the kids, this should be a display of interesting football.