DeMarco Murray
The Dallas Cowboys lead the Washington Redskins by four games in the NFC East. Reuters/Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins will close out Week 8 of the 2014 NFL season with a matchup at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on “Monday Night Football.” While the two teams once had one of the most heated rivalries in all of football, Monday’s contest doesn’t have the same luster of past meetings between the NFC East clubs.

For Dallas, the game will determine whether or not they can maintain their spot atop the NFL standings. They have sole possession of first place, and a victory would make them the only 7-1 team in the league.

The divisional matchup is important for Washington, but in a much different way. The Redskins are looking to salvage their season after a poor start. If Washington can’t pull off the upset, they’ll fall to 2-6 on the season, and running the table over the final eight games might not even get the team into the postseason.

After four straight seasons of mediocrity, it appears that the Cowboys have finally put it all together. They are running on all cylinders with an MVP-candidate running back, a quarterback who ranks among the best in the league, and a defense that has exceeded most experts' expectations.

The future for the Redskins looked bright a short time ago, but the long-suffering organization has fallen short due in part to poor play at quarterback. Robert Griffin III is battling his second major injury in as many seasons, and backup quarterback Kirk Cousins has proven to be one of the league’s least effective signal callers when actually given extensive playing time. Colt McCoy will start on Monday.

In the first 25 years after the AFL-NFL merger, it might have been hard to imagine a contest between Dallas and Washington having such little significance. The organizations combined to win eight Super Bowls during that span, often times going head-to-head for the NFC East title.

The days of both Dallas and Washington fighting atop the division, however, are largely gone. In the last two decades, the Cowboys and Redskins have had winning records in the same season just three times.

Washington Post reporter Dan Steinberg recently pointed out how the death of the "Dallas Week" has been referenced on multiple occasions over 30 years. He offered evidence from numerous past articles that seem like they could have been written for Monday's upcoming matchup.

“It’s not like the old days, when Cowboys vs. the Redskins was a combination of crusade and hyperbole,” Redskins reporter Paul Attner wrote in the Washington Post in 1982. “This is a new era of the Dallas-Washington rivalry. The Cowboys still are the contenders. The Redskins are the pretenders. And until the teams are again on nearly the same level, the intensity won’t be the same.”

With the two teams so unevenly matched, Monday is not expected to be much of a contest. Down to their third quarterback, the Redskins were named the biggest underdogs of Week 8.

The rivalry has intermittently showed some life over in previous seasons. It saw increased interest two years ago when Dallas and Washington faced off in the final regular season game with the last playoff spot on the line. However, Griffin went on to get hurt in the Redskins’ one playoff contest and the team has been on a downward spiral ever since.

Dallas and Washington usually aren’t good at the same time, but the competitive nature of their games has prevented any love from being lost between the two fan bases. In the last six years, the Cowboys and Redskins have played each other 12 times, with just three games being decided by more than one score.

Start Time: 8:30 p.m. EST

TV Channel: ESPN

Live Online Stream Info: WatchESPN

Point Spread: Cowboys by 9.5 points

Over/Under: 49.5 points

Prediction: Dallas over Washington, 27-20