*Note: This was written prior to Ezekiel Elliott being cleared to play
The Kansas City Chiefs got back to winning ways in Week 8 with a 29-19 win over the Denver Broncos. While Kareem Hunt never really got going, Travis Kelce was a menace all game and finished with 133 yards and the defense pulled in five takeaways for a comfortable win.
The Cowboys took their second win in a row with a 33-19 triumph over the Washington Redskins two first quarter touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliott, four Mike Nugent field goals in the second half and a late Byron Jones touchdown sealed the game for the Cowboys and pushed them to 4-3 in their pursuit of the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFC East crown.
Life without Zeke
So Elliott is finally suspended (for this week at least) and his absence will leave a massive void in the offense. Elliott has taken 87.7% of the running back carries so far this year, and while he hasn’t been as electric this year as he was last season, he was still hitting 4.2 yards a carry and making a difference in the passing game.
The Cowboys don’t have a singular player like Elliott who can do everything, and will have to make do with Alfred Morris and Rod Smith for the most part. Can the offensive line lift them up and allow them to stay balanced on offense against a run defense that can be soft at times.
The Chiefs offense has been one of the most explosive in the NFL this season. The trio of Hunt, Kelce, and Tyreek Hill have been kings of the big play this season. Hunt leads all running backs with eight plays of 20+ yards and three plays of 40+ yards, and that’s just on the ground.
Dallas’ defense has not been great this year, and they have to find a way to try and contain the Chiefs offense somehow.
Neither of these teams are profligate with the ball. Kansas’ only interception so far this season is from Tyreek Hill last week, and they have just three giveaways. The Cowboys also take care of the ball, with just eight giveaways this year.
Whichever defense can get it’s hands on the ball and swing and extra possession or two will give their team a far greater chance of winning.
Matchup to Watch: DeMarcus Lawrence vs Mitchell Schwartz
One of the few things keeping the Cowboys defense reliable this season has been DeMarcus Lawrence’s edge play. He currently leads the NFL in sacks (10.5), is third in QB hits (16), and equal-fifth in tackles for loss (9). That presence on the edge has given the Cowboys a secure platform against both run and pass, and has allowed the likes of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith to make plays in the open field against runners that have had to get vertical quickly.
How Mitchell Schwartz copes with the in-form defensive end will be very important. Kansas City love to run sweep motions, but if Lawrence isn’t fooled then Schwartz will have his hands full.
Fantasy Tip: Cowboys RB Alfred Morris
The Chiefs rank 31st in run defense DVOA at the moment, allowing 4.9 yards a carry and 122.8 yards a game. Someone has to fill in for Elliott, and I suspect most of the carries will go to Morris.
Betting Tip: Chiefs (+1)
Kansas have been one of the most versatile and unpredictable offenses all year and Dallas’ thin defense is unlikely to handle them, take the point.
Prediction: Chiefs 34 – 24 Cowboys
I think the Chiefs will end up winning fairly comfortably this week. They have too much speed on offense that is deployed too creatively for the Cowboys to handle for 60 minutes. Without Elliott to really bleed the clock and without an elite front seven it’s going to be tough for Dallas’ defense to get off the field in good time.
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