Can the red-hot Washington Football Team catch the stuttering Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East?

    Washing QB Taylor Heinicke and Dallas QB Dak Prescott look to steer their teams to victory.

    (CNN)When the Washington Football Team (WFT) started their season 2-6 and the Dallas Cowboys began 6-1, the race for the NFC East division title looked like a done deal.

    But, as has been the case in the 2021 NFL season, nothing is for certain.
    Since Week 8, Dallas has split its last six (3-3), while Washington has gone 4-1, including a four-game winning streak heading into the weekend.
      It now means the two teams, two of the fiercest rivals in the NFL, have just two games separating them in the standings.
        And as they face off this Sunday, it could prove a pivotal moment in both teams' seasons.

        Turning point

        For the home WFT, it's been a season of finding their feet.
        Under the relatively inexperienced and untested quarterback Taylor Heinicke, they have shown signs of potential but flattered to deceive in the big moments.
        That all changed in Week 10 against Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they put in their best performance of the season to win 29-19 and end a four-game losing skid.
        Since then, the team has gone from strength to strength, winning four in a row, including a memorable victory for head coach Ron Rivera against his former team, the Carolina Panthers.
        As his team prepares to face the Cowboys twice in the next three games, Rivera believes that victory over the Bucs was a pivotal turning point.
        "If you can get a victory off of a team like that and gain that momentum, we most certainly felt we had to get it going," Rivera said in his pre-game press conference.
        Second year running back Antonio Gibson has developed into a reliable asset, while Heinicke has cleaned up his mistakes.
        The WFT's Antonio Gibson and his teammates get ready to take the field for warm ups before the game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
        But the biggest change has come on the defensive side of the ball. Billed as one of the best outfits in the league heading into the season, they failed to impress during the first few weeks.
        However, after losing last year's No. 1 overall pick Chase Young to a torn ACL in the win against the Bucs, the defense has really tightened up, giving the team a better platform to perform.

        'We're going to win this game'

        It's been the opposite case for the Cowboys though.
        Despite an opening day loss to the Bucs, Dallas started on fire, blazing opponents with its high-flying offense led by quarterback Dak Prescott and its trio of star wide receivers -- Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb.
        However, in recent weeks, following an injury to Prescott, the Cowboys have struggled for consistency, the nadir being a 30-16 blowout loss at home to the Denver Broncos.
        All that has resulted in a potentially pivotal clash on Sunday in the race for the NFC East and a guaranteed playoff spot.
        If Washington wins, it turns up the pressure on Dallas with just one game between them, and the two facing off again on December 26.
        If Dallas wins, it could cement its place as division winners and really dent its rival's playoff hopes.
        The pressure then is very much on. Not that Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy seems to be feeling it.
        "We're comfortable with who we are and where we are," McCarthy said in his pre-game press conference.
        "I'm excited about what's in front of us. We're going to win this game, I'm confident in that."
        McCarthy's confidence was music to the ears of Prescott, who responded with "sh*t, yeah" when reporters told him of his coach's comments.
        "I don't think he's said anything different than everyone in this building's thoughts -- he just voiced it," Prescott said.
        "Now, we've got to make sure we're accountable of our words."

        'He's now made it about him'

        McCarthy's opposing number Rivera was less enthused.
        "You do that for a couple of reasons -- one, you want to get in our head," the Washington head coach told NBC Washington.
        "Secondly, he's trying to convince his team. He's now made it about him. I think it's a big mistake."
        CeeDee Lamb in action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
        If the last two meetings between the pair are anything to go by, Rivera and Washington might have an edge.
        They won both encounters last season, including a humbling 41-16 victory at Dallas on Thanksgiving.
          Although Dallas still comfortably leads the series between the two teams 73-47-2, a victory on Sunday would be Washington's first three-game winning streak against Dallas in more than 30 years, the longest drought in the NFL among longtime division rivals.
          It all adds up to a mouthwatering clash of NFC East titans on Sunday.