Thanks to a temporary stay granted by a federal court Friday morning, Dallas will have star running back Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday for its home game against Kansas City in the latest development involving his on-again, off-again six-game suspension. That could be bad news for the Chiefs, who are tied for the best record in the AFC at 6-2 but haven’t looked as dominant recently as they did during their 5-0 start.
With Elliott in the backfield, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott proving his stellar rookie season was no fluke, and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Dallas should be able to move the ball against a defense that ranks 28th in the NFL against both the run and the pass and 30th in yards allowed per game.
The Cowboys’ defense has the task of trying to slow down a Kansas City offense that ranks third in both scoring and total offense and is averaging 34.5 points per game on the road this season. But the way both the Chiefs' offense and the Cowboys' defense are trending indicates things may swing the home team’s way.
Kansas City at Dallas
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 5 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Chiefs -1
Three Things to Watch
1. After fast start, the Chiefs have slowed
Over the first five weeks of the season, the Chiefs' offense looked so good that some were wondering if they would ever lose. But then the Steelers held them to 251 total yards and 13 points at Arrowhead. Last week, the Chiefs totaled only 276 yards against Denver and scored only one offensive touchdown. They won 29–19, thanks in part to their defense forcing five turnovers. In between those games was a 31–30 loss to Oakland, but even in that shootout there was a red flag: only 94 yards rushing against a defense that just got gashed for 166 by the Bills. Some of the drop-off can certainly be attributed to injuries along the offensive line, but there’s no denying the Chiefs need to find a way to get Kareem Hunt (above, right) going again. The rookie back topped 100 yards rushing in four of his first five games but has only 154 total in the last three. He’s also gone five weeks without a touchdown after scoring six times in his first three NFL games.
2. Will Ezekiel Elliott make the most of his latest reprieve?
At the start of the season, Elliott was making more headlines for what was happening off of the field involving his appeal of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s six-game suspension rather than what he was doing on it. But that’s what happens when you run for a total of 173 yards in Weeks 2-4 combined. Since then, however, Elliott has picked things up considerably. In his last three games, Elliott has piled up 413 yards and four touchdowns. He enters this game third in the league in rushing at 690 yards, just 73 behind Hunt for the league lead. Kansas City is near the bottom of the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 131.1 yards per game (28th). Every team that the Chiefs have faced except one (Oakland in Week 7) has gained at least 107 yards on the ground. That’s not a good sign considering Elliott’s recent performances, as he seems to be approaching every game lately as it could be his last.
3. Dallas must take care of the ball
Obviously this could be a key for every NFL game, but it’s even more important when facing a team like the Chiefs that rarely turns the ball over (tied for fewest giveaways in the NFL with three). The Cowboys have also been pretty good at avoiding turnovers (eight so far, 10th-best in the NFL), but they have given the ball away seven times in their three losses. While the Dallas defense has tightened up since the bye, allowed fewer than 300 yards in back-to-back wins, it has also forced six turnovers in those two games. The Cowboys can’t count on gifts like that from Kansas City.
Prior to Friday, it appeared that Kansas City would catch a break and not have to worry about facing Ezekiel Elliott. A federal court changed that, however, and now the Chiefs must adjust their defensive game plans on short notice. This team also is pretty banged up (wideouts Dee Ford and Albert Wilson both hadn’t practiced as of Thursday, and leading sacker Justin Houston has been limited) right now. Besides having Elliott for at least one more game, it feels like the Cowboys are some bad turnover luck from being 6-1 right now; before the bye they lost back-to-back home games despite scoring 30 and 31 points thanks to five giveaways. As long as Dallas takes care of the ball, the home team should be able to take care of business.