There's one thing the Week 14 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team won't lack, and that's drama. One of the longest and most toxic rivalries in the NFL reignites for 2021 when the former takes their talents to FedEx Field on Sunday, and amid a fiery public exchange of words between the team's head coaches. Mike McCarthy expressed the ultimate "confidence" in his gameplan to go into Maryland and win, his comments meeting the ire of Ron Rivera, who labeled them a "big mistake."
That was far from the end of their exchange though, the media serving as a messenger service between Dallas and Greater Landover this week. On Friday, McCarthy was asked about Rivera's distaste for his initial comment, and he didn't pull any punches.
"The conversation we had in [Thursday's press conference], we were talking about a number of different things," said McCarthy. "I think when you come out of a bye weekend, just like comments that are made, context is important. And I think sometimes that gets lost. But it's irrelevant what anybody thinks, anybody thinks about what I said in here yesterday. I was talking about my team.
"I can always coach my own team. And that's where I'm at with it."
The temperature between the two rivals spiked further when owner Jerry Jones tagged in and jumped off of the top rope.
"We have always sold more Cowboys hats, caps, T-shirts, we've always had our greatest fan support positive coming from Washington," Jones told 105.3FM the Fan. "That's outside the Dallas area -- outside the Texas area -- Washington is where we have the most support of all when it comes to all the things you might count."
Despite there being a large element of fact in what Jones said, it sparked an even taller storm surge during what's labeled as "Dallas week" in the nation's capital, but it's what Jones did two days later that's truly turning the screws. The Hall of Fame owner flew in the Cowboys benches to have them placed on Dallas' sideline on Sunday, a first time for any opponent entering FedEx Field.
Let the games begin.
Now, it's entirely possible this wasn't merely intended to be a slight from Jones to a franchise that, if they had their way, wouldn't have allowed the Cowboys into the NFL in the first place (back in the late 1950s). Apparently, the Seattle Seahawks (who lost to Washington at FedEx Field in Week 12) tipped off Jones to issues with the hotseat benches on the visitor's sideline in the stadium, per Todd Archer of ESPN, detailing how they'd routinely go out during the game, so Jones decided to ship his own to prevent that from being an issue.
Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s at kickoff, per Weather.com, so Jones made the call.
The Cowboys are 8-4 after stumbling mightily in November and then handing the New Orleans Saints a loss at Caesars Superdome to begin the all-important month of December, but Rivera has Washington on a red-hot four-game win streak that puts them at 6-6 and back in the playoff hunt. Their battle on Sunday will be the first of the season and is not only critical for both clubs, but will also set the tone for their second matchup to come in two weeks from today. Rivera is hoping to upset the Cowboys and not only send a message to the NFL that his team could make waves going forward, but also as a means of shoving McCarthy's and Jones' foot into their respective mouths.
Of course, the latter two want nothing more than to do the same to Rivera, who has also reportedly held a meeting to advise his players to not fall for any perceived psychological tactics being deployed this week by the Cowboys, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. It could be argued that Rivera having that conversation means they've already allowed the Cowboys into their mental space, but ultimately it'll come down to what happens on the field that decides this game, and the NFC East.
To that point, the Cowboys are seeing a surge of reinforcements return in Week 14 while Washington is forced to be without a slew of key players due to a combination of injury and COVID-19. If Rivera is going to stun Dallas, he's going to have to hope they're not on their best game -- i.e., overconfident -- and that his squad steps up to show McCarthy and Jones why words and flown-in benches don't matter.
As for the Cowboys, well, the benches can't be the only thing on their sideline that heats up on Sunday.