It's Dallas Week for the Washington Football Team, which means it's time to "throw out the records," and all the other cliches that come with rivalry.
In all seriousness, the NFC East battle is one of the bigger rivalries in the sport and an important game for both sides. That won't change in 2020, but the atmosphere and hype around the game may take a little hit.
With the season being played amid the coronavirus pandemic, the entire campaign feels a little off. A majority of that is due to the lack of fans in attendance. Washington will have a limited number there for support, but the environment won't be anywhere close to the craziness that fills FedExField when Dallas comes to town.
For those in Washington who are experiencing their first game against the Cowboys, the build-up won't reach the level it typically would. Head coach Ron Rivera knows all about rivalries, but he knows something will be missing on Sunday.
"This might be one of those things that I feel once I walk into the stadium on Sunday. There’s not going to be any fans in the stands. It’ll be a limited number, actually. A very limited number of friends and family, and that’s about it," Rivera said. "It’s going to be a little bit different than what I thought."
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner is going into his first Dallas Week as well. During his time with the Panthers, he learned just how important the fans are to a rivalry game. During the week, preparation remains the same no matter who is on the other side.
Come Sunday, those watching are the ones who provide the extra juice and excitement. Turner and the offense are spending the week going about business as usual, but the Sunday bump may not arrive.
"That kind of thing being in this league, the time you really feel the rivalries is just on game day," Turner said. "I think the fans bring a lot of that into it. It’s just kind of a different energy."
"I think we’re so caught up in the plan and how we’re going to attack these guys and their specific players," Turner said. "I think COVID does kind of give you a little bit different feel.”
Even if the rivalry won't feel the same as it has in the past, no one in Washington is overlooking the importance of the game. Quarterback Kyle Allen didn't watch the Dallas-Washington games growing up, but he's aware of the intense nature the contests involve.
Moreso, he understands the game is a battle between two divisional opponents who are trying to take hold of a wide-open NFC East. Rivalry aside, the circumstances of the Week 7 game are enough to get everyone fired up.
"I think all the NFC East teams have a great rivalry against each other, in my opinion. But I think this Dallas game is big in that fact. I think for us, this division is so tight right now and it’s very volatile," Allen said. "I know we’ve been in a tough position and we’ve lost some in a row, but it’s all in front of us. I think we’re hopeful this week, we’re working hard this week and it’s going to be a really good matchup.”
Whether there are 40 or 40,0000 fans on Sunday, Washington wants to beat the Cowboys. For bragging rights, but also for their playoff hopes in 2020. In the end, the win is the only thing that truly matters in any game and that's no different even in a season that feels "off."
Still, Rivera and others who are new to the rivalry are hoping they can experience the real deal soon.
"I can’t wait for some normalcy to really be able to experience it. Again, this is one of the original franchises. This is one of the really good rivalries in the NFL, the Cowboys and the Washington Football Team," Rivera said. "I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s just, unfortunately, the part of it right now is a little bit weird.”