Dak Prescott understands the moment. The second-year quarterback for America’s Team will be sitting squarely under the heat lamp on Thursday night when the Dallas Cowboys host arch-rival Washington Redskins. Standing at 5-6, a loss will all but doom for the Cowboys 2017 season. He knows it’s not all his fault. Coming off a spectacular rookie season that saw him pilot the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, number one seed in the playoffs, and a gut-wrenching loss to the Packers in the divisional round, expectations were sky high for 2017. But for Prescott and the Cowboys, things have not gone as planned. Now, only a steady Prescott can save the turbulent Dallas Cowboys.

Three Wild Events

First, there was the complete overhaul in the defensive backfield. Gone were safety’s Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox along with cornerback’s Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Only Orlando Scandrick returned as a player with starting experience for 2017.

Next, Prescott and the rest of the team has had to endure an entire off-season of uncertainty regarding workhorse running back Ezekiel Elliott, who found himself accused of domestic violence stemming from an incident in July of 2016.  After months of investigating by the NFL, Elliott was tagged with a six-game suspension, something the team, and it’s owner, would not be taking lightly.

Fast forward to week nine of the season, despite exhausting every angle of appeal the Cowboys legal team could muster, the NFL prevailed, and Elliott was forced serve his six games beginning with week 10 against the Atlanta Falcons. This could not come at a worse time for the Cowboys, as the defense was just starting to jell, and the Cowboys were riding a three-game winning streak.

Finally, the outspoken owner of the Cowboys, Mr. Jerry Jones, began waging his own personal and very public war of the roses with the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  Since the Elliott suspension was announced in August, speculation was rampant that Jones felt Goodell used Elliott as a scapegoat and an example of how the NFL would enforce their domestic violence policy, something that was questioned with the minimal two-game penalty handed down to the Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

The Losses Piling On

Since Elliott was shelved, the Cowboys have lost three in a row, mostly due to the lack of a serious running threat, leading to increased pressure and responsibility heaped on young Prescott. During the three-game slide, Prescott has amassed zero touchdown passes against five interceptions, while getting sacked 14 times. He only threw four picks during all of 2017.

Things bottomed out on Thanksgiving with a 28-6 thrashing at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers, punctuated by a brutal pick-six by Prescott on an ill-advised throw returned by Desmond King 90 yards to pay dirt. Additionally, the loss of Pro Bowl linebacker Sean Lee to a hamstring injury in the Atlanta game only served to compound defensive issues. In the three-game losing streak, the Cowboys have been outscored 72-6 in the second half of those games.

When asked Monday about his confidence level, Prescott quipped, “If your questioning me, you don’t know me.”  A lot more about Prescott will be known following the divisional showdown on Thursday.

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