Ezekiel Elliott isn’t buying the hype.
The Dallas Cowboys running back is excited about Sunday’s game between his Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs, but not because the Chiefs used to play in Dallas and the Hunt family, which owns the Chiefs but still lives in Dallas, moved the team to Kansas City and thinks it’s a big rivalry game.
Elliott, you see, played at Ohio State so he knows what a big rivalry game actually is — like Michigan vs. Ohio State.
“Yeah,” Elliott said, “that’s the greatest rivalry in football.”
Kansas City versus Dallas?
“We play Kansas City once every four years,” Ezekiel said, unimpressed.
So rivalry isn’t the reason this is a big game. Kansas City versus Dallas also isn’t important because it will decide a division championship. These two play in different conferences.
But important game? Yes.
Statement game? Absolutely.
Even Elliott acknowledges that.
“I feel like we need to win Sunday because it’s the next game, not because they won the Super Bowl recently,” Elliott said. “We need to win Sunday because that’s the next stop on our journey to win a championship.”
Ding, ding, ding!
The Chiefs and Cowboys are two of the NFL’s best teams, and their game will serve as a measure of where each team stands in its chase for postseason success.
No, the winner isn’t punching a ticket to the Super Bowl and the loser isn’t eliminated from anything. But when good teams play each other this late in the regular season, the result speaks to each team’s prospects of playoff success.
“I mean, it’s important,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think they’re playing very well the past month. We want to build off what we accomplished in our last victory. So that’s really keeping the focus tight. We want to make sure we’re focused on playing our game, our play style, and those types of things.
“I think when you get to the end of the journey, you may look back on this game and there may definitely be some relevance to it.”
This game will be a referendum on where the two teams are generally and where the two offenses are specifically. And that’s important because if these teams are going to factor in the Super Bowl race, their offenses are going to lead the charge.
The Cowboys enter Week 11 as the top offense in the league, averaging 433.9 yards and a league-high 31.6 points per game.
So will Dallas, which scored 43 points last week in a victory over Atlanta, be able to maintain its current pace against a middle-of-the-pack defense?
For Kansas City the question is whether their offense has truly emerged from their early season fog. Or was last week’s clarity in a 45-14 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders merely a temporary lifting?
This week, you should know, Kansas City coach Andy Reid was asked whether the Chiefs are back, and his answer didn’t suggest he’s confident the fog is definitely gone because his answer was not, “Yes.”
“I think you see it in this league every Sunday that there are teams that get beat that aren’t favored to get beat. So, from my standpoint as a coach, every day is important for you and your preparation, how you handle it mentally.
“Do you let yourself get carried away with what went on against the Raiders, or do you bear down and get yourself right for a good Cowboys team coming in, starting today and one day at a time, one play at a time?
“That whole thing there becomes so important, so that’s where we’re at. We look forward to people coming to Arrowhead. I’m not going to sit here and tell you we don’t want them excited — we like that. That’s a great thing, but as a football team, we’ve got to make sure we take care of our business. That’s most important for us right now.”
The Chiefs’ focus is seemingly always on their offense first, and that makes sense. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and company have battled some well chronicled issues this year.
But this week they also have to figure out some things on defense because, well, the Chiefs have been kind of a middling unit on that side of the ball this year, allowing 24.1 points per game which is 21st in the league.
And now this is going to sound strange and perhaps heretical:
The Chiefs are about to play a game in which they don’t have the best quarterback on the field. At least not statistically.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott leads qualified passers with a 110.8 passer rating through 10 weeks. Mahomes has more TD passes (25 to 20), but Prescott has played two fewer games because he was injured. Prescott’s completion percentage of 70.3 is higher than that of Mahomes (65.8).
And while McCarthy made the point his quarterback is actually not facing off against Mahomes, the two are obviously competing on the same field.
“I would just say he’s looking forward to it,” McCarthy said of Prescott. “This is a big challenge. We look at this as two excellent teams coming together. I mean, if I was a fan, this is a game I’d watch on Sunday, especially with both quarterbacks.
“So he’s dialed in to the game plan part of it today … But I know come Sunday, he’ll be excited to get out there and compete.”
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