After winning on Monday Night over the Broncos to reach 6-2 (and a three game lead over every other AFC West opponent), the Chiefs are in Dallas to face the Cowboys. A late ruling in the case of Ezekiel Elliot will now allow him to play, which is not a good development as Kansas City maintains a terrible run defense. However, the Chiefs do boast some serious juice on their side of the ball too, and along with some new additions, might be enough to push them over the edge.
On offense, both teams have fantastic advantages. Alex Smith will try to go another week without an interception, and the Cowboys secondary is one of the worst in football. He nearly tossed a few against Denver, but as the case has been all season, the ball has bounced his way nicely. Aside from Demarcus Lawrence (more on him later), the Cowboys don’t possess any other threats in the pass rush department, so he will have plenty of time to carve up the secondary. Travis Kelce might have a hard time replicating his 7 catch/133 yard/1 TD performance, as Sean Lee is one of the league’s best middle linebackers. Andy Reid does feature Kelce as a receiver, so that may be the best way to avoid Lee. With Albert Wilson missing this week, it will be up to Demarcus Robinson and De’Anthony Thomas to pick up the slack. Robinson had 61 yards two weeks ago at Oakland, and he’s in a good position to put up a similar stat line. Reid also said it may time for Jehu Chesson, who has been featured solely on special teams so far, to get some looks in the passing game, as the Chiefs did not bring up anyone from the practice squad to take Wilson’s spot.
For the Cowboys, their offense is predicated by the ground game. From Melvin Gordon to C.J Anderson to Le’Veon Bell, the Chiefs cannot stop opponents from running. Much of that has to do with schematics, as Bob Sutton prefers to play Nickel defense. Combine that with a career-worst season from Derrick Johnson, pass defense aside, and you get another year of the Chiefs being unable to stop the run. For Ezekiel Elliot fantasy owners, you may be getting a record-setting performance this weekend. If Sutton continues his defiant play-calling, Elliot will ruin the Chiefs day with relative ease. Along with the threat of the zone read option game, Sutton can’t just play eight guys in the box and call run-blitzes. Dez Bryant also has a plus matchup this weekend. While Marcus Peters does have three interceptions, he’s also allowed three scores. If Elliot gets going, the play action game will follow suit, and the Chiefs secondary can be had for big plays.
Defensively, I’m not sure what the Chiefs can do with Dallas. Other than reverting to the legendary “46” defense and dare Dallas to throw, Chiefs fans may not want to watch this side of the ball at all. Justin Houston is once again performing at an elite level, but without Dee Ford (again), it’ll be him and Frank Zombo rushing Prescott, and maybe some Tamba Hali, but likely on a strict snap count. With Dak’s athletic ability, we may see Houston spying him as well in limit yardage on keeper plays. Jason Garrett also has the luxury of working the middle of the field with TE Jason Witten. Going against the much smaller Eric Murray, he should convert plenty of third and mediums on his patented stick and stick-nod routes. Steven Nelson returned to the secondary last week, and he did eliminate many of the short routes from slot receivers that Phillip Gaines yielded on a weekly basis, so Cole Beasley may not find much room to operate.
The Cowboys defense doesn’t have it easy either. Besides the Sean Lee/Travis Kelce battle, the ‘Boys don’t have anyone else that matches up well. Jourdan Lewis on Tyreek Hill? Kareem Hunt in space against…Anthony Hitchens? At worst, the Cowboys find themselves in the same spot the Patriots were in on opening night: having sub-par edge defenders run with Kareem Hunt in a desperate (and futile) effort to keep Kelce and Hill contained. To win on defense, they will have to hope Demarcus Lawrence turns Mitchell Schwartz (3 sacks, 21 pressures allowed this season according to PFF) into a turnstile. They’ve already surrendered a four passing touchdown game (Trevor Siemian) and a late game-winning drive (Aaron Rodgers), so if Alex Smith has the ball last, it could spell disaster for Dallas.
Prediction: As great as the matchup might be for the Chiefs offense, it won’t matter if they don’t see the field. They cannot stop anyone from running, and the Cowboys have done that better than anyone in recent years. Ezekiel Elliot rushes for 199 yards and three scores as the Cowboys win 21-17.
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