ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A third consecutive game as a double-digit favorite is a chance for the Dallas Cowboys to extend their longest home winning streak since the franchise was in the middle of an NFL-record 20 straight winning seasons four decades ago.
There’s a little something else to keep America’s Team motivated before the opponents get more difficult in the stretch run: the most traditional of Thanksgiving opponents with an 11th visit on the holiday from Washington on Thursday.
Something about the time of year helps as well.
“I think a lot of people feel like the season’s kinda winding down,” six-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin said. “It’s like, ‘Nah, we still got the meat of our season left.’ The real football starts at Thanksgiving.”
Dallas (7-3) has won 12 games in a row at AT&T Stadium, the longest streak at home since an 18-game run at old Texas Stadium from 1979-81.
The Cowboys beat the first two double-digit underdogs from the past two weeks handily, giving them six victories of at least 20 points this season, one shy of the franchise record.
Washington (4-7) faces a 10 1/2-point spread, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, after committing six turnovers in a 31-19 loss to the New York Giants.
The Commanders are just a game out of last place in the NFC East with plenty of talk about the future of fourth-year coach Ron Rivera.
“The biggest thing I can control is every day,” Rivera said Monday. “That’s it. After that, the future, I can’t tell you what the future’s going to be, but I can tell you today we came in, we had a good meeting and now we’re getting started with the installation meetings.”
The Cowboys have been good in games they were supposed to win, except for a Week 3 loss at Arizona that was one of just two victories for the Cardinals this season.
Dallas is gearing up for a season-defining stretch after Thanksgiving, with five consecutive opponents that currently have winning records. Washington is by far the most common visitor on the holiday, with Miami next at five.
“It’s a division game,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “There is history, tradition that goes into this game. It’s Thanksgiving. All of those things just bring more energy to the field. That’s what we’re preparing for.”
Losing at home to the Giants the way Washington did might have been a new low under Rivera. Since this is the first season under new ownership with Josh Harris’ group, changes were expected, barring a surprise playoff run. But losing seven of nine after a 2-0 start put Rivera’s status in the spotlight.
“Everyone knows the business we’re in and at the end of the day, if you’re not doing your job, things will happen,” quarterback Sam Howell said. “I don’t think anyone’s really worried about it. We’re just trying to do everything we can on a daily basis and the results are the results.”
If owners decide on an in-season change, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, a former head coach, are the most logical options for the interim role.
Martin paused for several seconds when asked about his favorite Thanksgiving memories going into his 10th game on the holiday with the Cowboys.
“I got pulled over one time on the way to the game on Thanksgiving. Got a ticket,” said Martin, who was driving with center Travis Frederick, who has since retired, and former strength coach Mike Woicik.
Other than that, how did the game go?
“I got a concussion that game,” said Martin, who turned 33 Monday. “It was against the Chargers. Yeah, 2017 Chargers game.”
Hey, at least he remembered most things about that day, and the 28-6 loss to Los Angeles.
“Put a bow on the holiday,” Martin said to continuing laughter from reporters who did him the courtesy of not asking how fast he was driving. “I’m not a fast driver, either.”
Howell threw three interceptions among six Commanders turnovers against the Giants, including the game-sealer in the final minute when Isaiah Simmons returned his pick 54 yards for a touchdown. Rivera expects Howell, a second-year pro making just his 13th NFL start, to bounce back.
Howell leads the league with 295 completions, 442 attempts and 3,038 yards passing. He also has the experience of beating the Cowboys in Week 18 last season in his debut, though Dallas was on cruise control with its playoff situation mostly set.
“Obviously same defense, a lot of the same players,” Howell said. “From a preparation standpoint, you have to change some things up as far as different things you look at. And we’ll go into the game with kind of a different plan than what we had last year, just because it’s a different offense.”
BACK TO BUSINESS
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s three-game streak of 300-yard passing games is over, as is receiver CeeDee Lamb’s NFL-record run of three in a row with at least 10 catches and 150 yards.
The numbers were pedestrian but largely efficient in the 33-10 victory over Carolina, with Lamb getting a touchdown for the third time in four games and nine players catching at least two passes.
Prescott has a shot at a fifth consecutive game with at least two touchdown passes, which would be one shy of his career best.
“Just stand on the same timing, always believing in each other, that I’ll win my matchup, that he’s gonna see,” Lamb said. “It’s clicking right now.”
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