Commanders taught Cowboys valuable lesson in Week 18 last season

The Cowboys are just one win away from locking in the No. 2 seed and gaining homefield advantage through, at the very least, two rounds of the postseason. Current lines have the Cowboys as heavy favorites over the 4-12 Commanders, making the NFC East crown seemingly a forgone conclusion.

While the confidence of the Cowboys in Week 18 is certainly warranted, overconfidence is a legitimate concern. Luckily for the Cowboys, they have a recent reminder of what a less-than-full effort can do.

It was nearly a year ago to the day the Cowboys were in a similar situation to this one. Dallas was fighting for the division title and needed to win Week 18 in order to keep hopes alive. Opening as heavy favorites over the Commanders last season, the Cowboys appeared to give a half-hearted effort in the season finale. The result was an embarrassing performance which resulted in an upset loss and ended the regular season on a rather sour note.

Ultimately, the Eagles won their own game, so the Dallas loss didn’t mean anything, but at the time the stakes were real, and the Cowboys never gave themselves a chance. It’s a lesson they can use today as they try to stay focused on an inferior opponent this Sunday.

In last season’s Week 18 game, the Cowboys came in with an ultra-vanilla gameplan and underwhelming effort in all three phases of the game. Dallas lost 26-6 and after only passing for 128 yards, Dak Prescott was ultimately replaced with Cooper Rush as Mike McCarthy admitted defeat.

The Cowboys showed they weren’t good enough to just show up and win. If they wanted a restful afternoon, they should have taken care of business early. Instead, they acted entitled and paid the price.

This season, the Cowboys completely control their own destiny and aren’t reliant on another team’s misstep for them to claim the No. 2 seed. If they want to protect starters and not show too much of their playbook, the best way is to go all out from the start. Only after gaining a big lead should they deepen their rotations, vanilla their play-calling and rest their starters.

Starting with a conservative gameplan is not the answer. Last season proved it. If the Cowboys show they learned from last season’s embarrassment, that Week 18 letdown could go down in the books as a good thing. But if they repeat the same pompous mistake, the ramifications figure to be significantly worse.


Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire