Whelp. It's here. Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. Right or wrong, it was bound to happen eventually, and now the Cowboys must face the Falcons in Atlanta without arguably the biggest piece of their offense. Are they up to the task?
Right now it's a toss-up figuring out who will be given the bulk of the carries. Alfred Morris seems to be the favorite among the coaching staff, though I have my doubts. I've said it all year, Darren McFadden has earned the second spot behind Elliott. He's answered every call for this team and stayed healthy, a big surprise considering his history. But McFadden has been inactive all season.
Rod Smith is a guy many know about, thanks to his brother Jaylon Smith and the journey he's had up to this point. He's a monster on special teams and the few times he's been given the ball during a game, he's been quite explosive. His level of energy alone is enough to say he should be given a solid chance to do something over these next six weeks.
Last week against the Kansas City Chiefs... I don't know about you but that was a fun game. Maybe it was hearing Tony Romo's play-by-play, but that whole game was just fun. So fun that the injuries during the game didn't really even register, especially not the two late injuries to Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant. Bryant says he's going to play this week, while Brian price, who was also hurt last week, is now on IR.
But perhaps the bigger injury story right now is left tackle Tyron Smith. He's been battling back issues for a couple of years now, even missing time last year, and he's out for this contest as well.
The discussion surrounding Chaz Green this season has been all about left guard, not tackle, even though he was drafted as a swing tackle and projected at that position until Ronald Leary left for Denver. Green recently lost the starting LG job to Jonathan Cooper, who seems to be an integral part of the Cowboys' surging running game of late. Now it looks as though Green will get the nod in Smith's absence.
ITS Junior Writer Mauricio Rodriguez broke down Chaz Green's play at left tackle in the NFL to give us an idea of how he'll do tomorrow. Check it out if you missed it this morning.
The Cowboys are healthy across the rest of the offense. Yes, Geoff Swaim is injured, but he isn't a big part of the game plan, even with an increased role these last few weeks. Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, Zack Martin, all healthy and ready to go. Zeke is a special runner, no doubt, but it's time for the next man up.
What about the defense? They've strung together an impressive set of performances lately, surpassing I'd imagine even the coaching staff's expectations. Are they great? Nah. But they're getting the job done. They'll need to be on top of their game to stop Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, not to mention Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
As always, I encourage you to add your own predictions for the game in our comments section below.
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No Zeke, No Problem
The Cowboys are getting ready to play their first game without Ezekiel Elliott since 2015. It's going to be a challenge. Fortunately, the Falcons are not the threat we expected at the beginning of the season and I'm confident in Dak Prescott's ability to lead the Cowboys to victory as he scores three touchdowns. Mauricio Rodriguez – @PepoR99
Cowboys 24 – Falcons 20
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Never had a chance
Bottom line? The chances of winning without Zeke and Tyron are greatly diminished and if Dez is limited at all, those odds shrink closer to zero. Goodell cackles wildly in the distance as the Cowboys are completely dominated by the Atlanta Falcons who are back on the playoff track. The combination of Freeman and Coleman wreak havoc in the second level of this Cowboys defense that stayed on the field way too long; looking as tired as us fans are of the seemingly unlimited legal proceedings and this awful CBA. Brace yourselves for panic in big D. Christopher Wätjen – @SingForTheDay
Cowboys 17 – Falcons 35
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Cowboys March Through Atlanta
It'd be easy to dismiss the Cowboys now that Ezekiel Elliott is out, but the Falcons are just 18th against the run. However the carries are distributed between Dallas' three RBs, they should be effective. Jason Garrett is a master motivator, and I predict the Cowboys will rally behind Zeke's absence. Jess Haynie – @CowboysAddicts
Cowboys 34 – Falcons 28
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Dak Prescott Carries Cowboys on His Back in Offensive Shootout
Of course, as we all know, Ezekiel Elliott will not be on the field Sunday as the Cowboys take on the Falcons. While that is an enormous blow for the offense, Dak Prescott is playing out of his mind. I’m really starting to wonder if this offense can take it to another level when Dak Prescott is running the show. I expect a huge game from Dak Prescott, maybe his career best. Connor Livesay – @connorx147
Cowboys 38 – Falcons 35
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Pass Rush Prevails, Cowboys Win Fourth Straight
The National Football League is impossible to predict. A year ago, the Dallas Cowboys were a win away from setting up an NFC Championship game against these Falcons at AT&T Stadium. I thought all along that, should they have beaten the Packers, the Cowboys would have had a very hard time beating that Falcons team. Now, they are set to face them on the road without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith - yet I'm picking them to win against a banged up Atlanta team. I am completely sold on this pass rush being good enough to win games, and with that, Dak Prescott and Alfred Morris can score just enough to keep this momentum rolling in Dallas. Sean Martin – @SeanMartinNFL
Cowboys 21 – Falcons 17
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Cowboys Soar Over Falcons Without Ezekiel Elliott
The Atlanta Falcons aren't the same team we watched play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. They have struggled on both sides of the ball this season and I think the Dallas Cowboys can take advantage of that. Even without Ezekiel Elliott, I believe the Cowboys will lean on the running game and control time of possession. This strategy will once again lead them to victory. Brian Martin – @BrianMartinNFL
Cowboys 28 – Falcons 20
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Dak and Lee Lead the Way
When LB Sean Lee is in the game, Dallas only allows 18 points per game. If you remove the Denver game that number drops to 13. While Ezekiel Elliott's absence will be noted, Dak Prescott and the defense are the differences in this one. John Williams – @john9williams
Cowboys 28 – Falcons 17
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I think this is going to be an important game for the Cowboys going forward. If they can compete, and potentially win on the road against the Falcons, it will do wonders for their confidence without Ezekiel Elliott. It's going to be a tall task, but I think the Cowboys are just a better team than Atlanta. Kevin Brady – @KevinBrady88
Cowboys 30 – Falcons 27
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Leave Alf in the 90s, Where He Belongs
Nothing would please me more than watching the Cowboys ball out without offensive centerpiece, Ezekiel Elliott, nothing. I just don't like what I've been seeing behind Zeke. I have zero confidence in Alfred Morris to get the job done, and yet I know he'll be the lead back tomorrow. Dak looks good right now, but Alf is going to be too much for him to overcome. Players before scheme, Dallas. Bryson Treece – @BrysonTreece
Cowboys 20 – Falcons 23
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So we're mostly behind the Cowboys, going 7-2 for the win. Whatever happens tomorrow, the only thing I know for certain is that it won't go exactly as any of us expect. We've never seen this team execute a game plan without Zeke. Last time it happened, Elliott was still at Ohio State. So we've got to wait and see.
Share your game picks below and, as always, Go Cowboys!
Why The Seahawks Will Be Looking Into A Mirror Against The Cowboys Sunday
For the better part of the last decade one defense has reigned supreme over the NFC. One defense has continually put their offense and team in position to win big games, including a dominant Super Bowl win over one of the more productive offenses in recent memory.
That defense, of course, belonged to the Seattle Seahawks.
With a secondary deemed as the "Legion of Boom" and a defensive line which rotated through Pro Bowl level talent routinely, the Seahawks bolstered one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen. A defense which perfectly complimented the physical, run first philosophy their offense lived by.
Players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and Bobby Wagner will arguably be Hall of Famers one day, and they wreaked havoc on the conference for a strong 3-5 year stretch.
Now, however, things are changing.
Gone are many of the elite players which once bolstered the Seattle defense to top-tier status, and while some big names remain, the talent level simply isn't the same. The Seahawks missed the postseason a year ago, and now sit at 0-2 before their home opener today against the Cowboys.
Their window looks to be closed, while their opponent today is looking to build their defense (and team) in the mold of what once was in Seattle.
Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard has come to Dallas and brought with him a more aggressive defensive philosophy, one which he deployed successfully with the Seahawks. Under Richard the Cowboys are blitzing more often on third down than they have in the past under Rod Marinelli, they're utilizing more single high safety looks, and they are allowing their long and talented corners to do what they do best in coverage.
The Seahawks once leaned on a deep pass rush and long, physical secondary. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.
The Seahawks once leaned on a mobile quarterback to make plays with his feet while relying on a strong running game and one of the league's best backs. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.
Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie look like they were molded in a 2013-Seahawks lab as cornerbacks, and DeMarcus Lawrence is as productive as any pass rusher those defenses had. Of course, we aren't able to say the Cowboys have the consistent front four depth that those Seattle teams did or that they have the single high safety of Earl Thomas' caliber, but the preliminary pieces are clearly in place.
Today the Cowboys look to improve to 2-1 with a conference road win. But, they also look to bury the Seahawks in the past and take another step towards cementing themselves as one of the elite defenses in the NFC.
It won't happen over night, but anyone can see that the potential is there.
Cowboys, Seahawks Week 3 Injury Report
Believe it or not, Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas isn't the only guy whose playing status is in question for today's game. Other key players for Seattle and the Dallas Cowboys appear on the teams' Week 3 injury reports.
The Cowboys are looking to move to 2-1 and maintain a slim lead in the NFC East. The Seahawks are still looking for their first win of 2018, and the drama around Thomas isn't helping the fear of a locker room implosion.
What players may not be out there to help their teams to victory?
- C Travis Frederick (illness) - OUT
- DT Maliek Collins (knee) - OUT
- WR Cole Beasley (ankle) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
- S Xavier Woods (hamstring) - Questionable
Frederick remains out as he deals with his neurological disease. Dallas decided to keep him on the 53-man roster, rather than place him on injured reserve, with the hope that he could return before Week 9. There are still several weeks before we'll know if that was a good move.
Maliek Collins will be out today after a minor knee injury suffered last week against the Giants. Taking his spot will be Datone Jones, who returns from his own knee issue after missing the first two games.
You don't like seeing your quarterback's favorite receiver and your defensive leader on the same injury report. Thankfully, though, it appears both Cole Beasley and Sean Lee will be available today.
For the #Cowboys, WR Cole Beasley (ankle) is expected to play, and LB Sean Lee (hamstring) should be good to go, as well, based on how he moved around in practice on Friday, sources say.
Finally, we come to the ever-intriguing Xavier Woods. While limited in practice all week, Woods is expected to make his season debut in Seattle. We will see if Xavier gets the start at free safety, or if Dallas will ease him back in and keep Kavon Frazier starting for now.
With all of the hype around Dallas' possible acquisition of Earl Thomas, one has to hope that Xavier won't overdo it and make matters worse with his hamstring. Between the enthusiasm just to play and the threat to his starting job, the second-year stud should be pretty amped up.
- WR Doug Baldwin (knee) - OUT
- C/G Ethan Pocic (ankle) - OUT
- LB K.J. Wright (knee) - OUT
- C Justin Britt (shoulder) - Questionable
- LB Mychal Kendricks (ankle) - Questionable
- S Earl Thomas (???) - ???
Seattle remains without Baldwin, their leading receiver from 2014-2017, and it shows in their offensive play. QB Russell Wilson is currently at career lows in completion percentage and passer rating, plus has already thrown three interceptions in just two games.
The Seahawks have issues up front as well. Starting left guard Ethan Pocic will also miss today's game. With right guard D.J. Fluker returning this week after missing the first two, that will allow backup J.R. Sweezy to flip over to the other side.
If that wasn't enough, starting center Justin Britt missed the entire week of practice with a shoulder issue. He has not been ruled out, though. Regardless, those are a lot of red flags on your offensive line with the Cowboys' emerging defense coming to town.
Also out today will be Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright. That means we could see Mychal Kendricks, who was just recently booted from Cleveland after being charged with insider trading, playing a major role today. Kendricks knows the Cowboys well, having played with the Eagles from 2012-2017.
And lastly, Earl Thomas.
No health or injury-related reason has been given for why Thomas missed practices on Wednesday and Friday. "Personal reasons" is all you're getting from Seattle, fueling rampant speculation that a trade is in the works. Whether or not that trade is with the Dallas Cowboys is pure conjecture at this point.
What we do know is that Seattle is 0-2 and trending down this year. Holding onto Thomas and his expiring contract, only to lose him for nothing next year in free agency, would be foolish.
We'll see if Earl plays at all today. If he doesn't, the trade talk is going to explode.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks
It's week 3 of the 2018 NFL season and this match-up already feels like one of the most important ones the Dallas Cowboys will play in the season. The reason why is they need to prove they're good enough to win consistently and that they won't have another year that feels like a roller coaster of wins and losses like 2017 did. As they travel to Seattle to face the 0-2 Seahawks, the 1-1 Cowboys can't miss a perfect opportunity versus one of the weakest units in football: the Seahawks' offensive line.
As every gameday, here is my Cowboys Wishlist for this week's action. As always, I encourage you to share your wishes with me in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Brett Maher Kicks a 50+ yard FG.
Dan Bailey recently signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Cowboys Nation will experience a very odd feeling when they see their former kicker wear purple. If there's something that can make fans feel better is watching the guy who replaced Bailey nail a long field goal in Seattle.
Brett Maher showed he could kick a 47-yard FG in preseason, but we want to see him pull it off in a kick that will actually go down in the books. The decision to release Dan Bailey won't leave our minds until we see Maher do his job.
Wish #2: Rico Gathers Scores His First Career TD.
It felt like forever, but tight end Rico Gathers was activated for the first time in his career last Sunday. Rico didn't get his first catch even though he was targeted twice by Dak Prescott. The most notable moment was when Gathers seemed to be open in the endzone but Dak missed him.
Although Prescott's pass could've been better, Gathers did stumble a little bit and wasn't where he should've been to catch that touchdown. No worries, Rico's career is only beginning. I wish his first touchdown ever finally comes this week.
Wish #3: Defense Gets Its First Interception of the Year.
Through two weeks of NFL action, the Dallas Cowboys defense has been one of the most impressive units. Ranking as the third best in total points in the league, the Cowboys' defense might begin being the team's best side of the ball. At least, it has been for the first two weeks.
Last week, they limited Odell Beckham Jr. to only 51 yards. Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie have played pretty well so far, but I wish they're able to get their first interception of the year. Dallas has one takeaway from week 1 versus the Panthers, but it came in form of a fumble.
Let's get that interception from Russell Wilson, who will be pressured most of the day by a very productive Cowboys' front seven.
Wish #4: 20+ Point Performance
Despite a very exciting first drive versus the Giants last week, the Cowboys' offense still needs to prove it can be successful enough to win games. Scott Linehan's unit had some good drives but it also failed to maintain a consistent attack all game. That may seem okay, but the Cowboys will have to win against some pretty tough defenses.
Seahawks will present the team with a very interesting challenge and one that I wish they pass. As good as the defense is playing, the offense needs to show up in order to win later games.
Wish #5: Contain Russell Wilson
Wilson is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. His agility might be the best among every other signal caller in the game, becoming a very tough guy to defend. He can hurt you with his arms and legs and can throw on the run pretty well. All week we've been talking about how sacking the Seahawks' QB is a key to the victory, but it's more than that.
Wilson is good in the pocket, but when he starts scrambling or running out of the pocket only to throw the ball once the defense is out of position, he becomes a pretty painful headache. The Cowboys need to put him on the ground, but they also need to contain him all day long. He's basically his team's entire offense.
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