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Cowboys Prepare Starters for Washington

Sports

Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard | Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are guaranteed no worse than the No.5 seed in the NFC playoffs, but the team is not content to rest starters for the season finale against the Washington Commanders.

The Commanders were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 17 when Green Bay defeated Minnesota, leaving the Commanders as the only NFC East team not to make the playoffs this season.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard would both practice this week, indicating the team intends to compete for a possible jump to the NFC’s No.1 seed.

The No.1 seed gets a bye in the first round of the playoffs and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“This is about winning,” McCarthy said. “This is a division game, and division games are just very similar to playoff games, so this will be a great contest for us, a great challenge to make sure we are ready for the playoffs.”

To clinch the No.1 seed, the Cowboys need to defeat the Commanders, see the Philadelphia Eagles lose to the New York Giants, and see the San Francisco 49ers lose against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Eagles have lost two consecutive games since starting quarterback Jalen Hurts went down with an injury, and will face a Giants team with little on the line. A Giants win will not change their playoff standing, as they locked themselves into the No.6 seed on Sunday, clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2016.

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera may have more to play for than his team, as he is one of the coaches considered to be in the hot seat after another disappointing season. Rivera has not indicated what his intentions are as far as player personnel for the game.

The Cowboys could also end the season as NFC East champions but still not take the No.1 seed, should Dallas defeat Washington, Philadelphia lose to New York, and San Francisco beat Arizona. If that scenario plays out, the Cowboys would win the NFC East division title over the Eagles and move to the No.2 seed, dropping Philadelphia to No.5, with San Francisco taking the No.1 seed.

Sunday’s loss by the Eagles to the New Orleans Saints likely set the stage for the Cowboys starters to get a full week of practice and play on Sunday. Speaking to 105.3 The Fan on Friday, owner and general manager Jerry Jones indicated that he planned the regular starting lineup to take the field, but he also left the door open that some second and third-string players might get an opportunity.

“We not only are going to be in the playoffs, but we want to be playing well when we get there, as healthy as we can be when we get there, and we want to be anticipating what our competition is going to be bringing at the playoff level,” Jones said. “I look at the health, but more importantly, I look at the amount of play time that a lot of our players have as we’ve gone through this season. I think that will bode us well in the playoffs.”

Should the Cowboys take the No.5 seed as things currently stand, they will face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who clinched the NFC South on Sunday in the wild-card round. The No.2 seed would see the Cowboys play at home against the eventual No.7 seed, which is currently undecided but could be Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

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