Before every Washington Football Team game this year, Pete Hailey will identify one key number that you must know regarding that contest.
Here is his number for the Week 12 showdown with the Cowboys.
In the first six outings of the 2020 season, Dallas' defense wasn't just trash; it was the dump that you go to to throw away everything. Chairs, old TVs, tables, the electronic keyboard you bought during quarantine but haven't touched in three months — the Cowboys could take all of those items and then some.
During that opening stretch, Mike Nolan's unit gave up an average of 36.3 points per game, and that's after allowing just 20 in the opener. Here's what they ceded in the following five contests: 39, 38, 49, 34 and 38.
Somehow, Nolan kept his job despite those disgusting totals, and since then, he's cleaned things up (sort of). What was once the dump is now just one of those giant dumpsters you see outside of restaurants or apartment buildings, which can welcome quite a bit of garbage but nothing too, too crazy.
In Dallas' last four matchups, they're holding opponents to an average of 25 points per game, or 11.3 points per game less than how they started the year. That's a very notable change, even if they're still last in the league in the category overall.
Therefore, those Washington fans who are hungry both for delicious food and a lot of scoring from the Burgundy and Gold this Thanksgiving may need to dial back their expectations for the second part of that equation. The Cowboys have steadied themselves somewhat over the last month (hopefully the dump to dumpster metaphor/simile/analogy/whatever it is helped make that clear).
In fact, it might be smart for Washington supporters to basically forget the late-October clash between these two clubs, where Ron Rivera's faction won by 22, entirely.
Alex Smith will be the starting QB for Rivera this time around, as opposed to Kyle Allen. Andy Dalton, who missed a lot of the first tilt due to a concussion, will be back under center for the Cowboys. And this edition of the rivalry will take place at a fan-filled (by COVID standards, at least) AT&T Stadium instead of an empty FedEx Field.
Therefore, a lot will be new come kickoff on Thanksgiving compared to what took place in Week 7. Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is that 11-plus point differential for the hosts' defense. That group by no means is stout, but it is better, so Smith, Scott Turner and Co. have to be better as well.