Dallas Cowboys

Five things to watch in Monday’s Cowboys-Redskins game

The Cowboys need Darren McFadden to jump-start the running game after he gained only 11 yards on 10 carries on Thanksgiving against the Panthers.
The Cowboys need Darren McFadden to jump-start the running game after he gained only 11 yards on 10 carries on Thanksgiving against the Panthers. Star-Telegram

The Dallas Cowboys (3-8) will face NFC East rival and leader Washington (5-6) twice in their final five games. The first matchup is Monday at FedExField. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. They meet again in the season finale on Jan. 3 at AT&T Stadium. The game will mark the teams’ 17th all-time meeting on Monday Night Football, tying Denver and Oakland for the most matchups.

1. Keep hope alive

The Cowboys have lost eight of their past nine games. Yet, they remain alive and only two games back in the NFC East. They’re even keeping quarterback Tony Romo off injured reserve in case they make a miracle run. But they have to get going in Washington, where the Redskins have won five straight. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has a 121.2 passer rating in the five home wins.

2. Hello, Cassel … again

Matt Cassel is back in the starting lineup at quarterback, and the Cowboys have to believe he’ll be better the second time around. Cassel went 0-4 in his first stint replacing Romo, but is getting more comfortable in Scott Linehan’s offense. He has to show strides in order to keep the Cowboys in the hunt. For the record, Cassel is 3-1 in four career appearances on MNF.

3. Running game, please

The Cowboys must establish their running game to take some pressure off Cassel and the passing game. That means Darren McFadden needs to have a rebound game after gaining only 11 yards on 10 carries against the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving.

4. Takeaways, pretty please

The Cowboys rank last in takeaways in the league, and it continues to be a pressing issue for the defense. They have to create turnovers down the stretch, and everybody knows it. This is a good opportunity to get things going in the right direction, too, as the Redskins have 19 giveaways, including nine lost fumbles, this season.

5. Milestone watch

Tight end Jason Witten is two receptions shy of joining the 1,000-catch club. He would become only the second tight end to reach the milestone, joining Tony Gonzalez. And there’s a good chance Witten will do it in Washington. He has had at least two receptions in 184 of 202 career games, and has 108 career receptions against the Redskins.

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

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