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Wentz benched; Cowboys to face both Heinicke, intriguing rookie QB in Week 18

The Houston Texans used a two-quarterback rotation against Dallas in Week 14 and gave the Cowboys defense fits. The Tennessee Titans announced a last-minute switch under center in Week 17 and posed a bigger challenge than the silver and blue expected. The Washington Commanders look to be trying both approaches as they host their longtime division rivals in the regular-season finale.

Taylor Heinicke is expected to start Sunday versus the 12-4 Cowboys, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, with rookie Sam Howell set to also make his NFL debut.

Carson Wentz, the second overall pick of the 2016 draft now on his third team in three seasons, has been benched.

Dallas faced the 29-year-old Heinicke in both games of last year’s annual series. The undrafted product out of Old Dominion went 18-of-47 passing for 243 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions in the two contests, both of which were Cowboys wins.

This season, he started in place of the injured Wentz in Week 7 and held the job for the majority of the next nine games. Heinicke threw for 1,859 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six interceptions over that span, compiling a passer rating of 89.6.

Wentz, who had a 25-of-42 passing day for 170 yards, a score, and two picks when the Commanders visited AT&T Stadium in an early October Dallas victory, relieved Heinicke in the team’s Week 16 loss to the 49ers and played poorly last week against Cleveland.

Now Washington, having been eliminated from playoff contention, will turn back to Heinicke. They’ll also apparently add their fifth-round rookie pick from North Carolina to the mix, but it remains to be seen how the rotation will work.

Despite record-breaking numbers with the Tar Heels and a promising preseason, Howell comes with a degree of uncertainty. Former Washington tight end and current analyst Logan Paulsen voiced his doubts this week on local radio:

“From what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, Sam is not ready,” Paulsen said, according to Commanders Wire. “And from what I’ve seen in my career, when people aren’t ready, it’s not even fun to watch them play. I’ve seen that happen with O-linemen, I’ve seen that happen with receivers, I’ve seen that happen on special teams — and guys just get straight dogged.”

The highly-motivated Cowboys will visit FedEx Field with a chance at claiming the NFC East and even the conference’s No. 1 playoff seed, both of which necessitate a Dallas victory. The defense ranks third in the league in sacks and leads the NFL in takeaways.


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