Ezekiel Elliott (21) avoids tackle and suspension
Ezekiel Elliott (21)
Ezekiel Elliott (21)
GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-1) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (2-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, AT&T Stadium. TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 28th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 14-13. The Packers have won four of the past five, including a 37-36 barnburner the last time they played in Dallas. This is a rematch of the NFC divisional playoff from last season, which Green Bay won, 34-31.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Packers appear to be finding their rhythm early in the season, although RB Ty Montgomery (broken ribs) and WR Davante Adams (concussion) are questionable for this one.
Aaron Rodgers and his band of wide receivers will likely determine Green Bay’s fate. Dallas ranks 20th in passing defense and 26th in points allowed (24.3).
The Cowboys lost three starters — CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr and SS Barry Church — in free agency and their secondary remains a work in progress. Rodgers has had a field day against the Cowboys for much of his career, and he could do the same again Sunday.
Dallas looked like it was on its way to the same 3-1 record until an 11-point lead late in the third quarter melted away to a 35-30 defeat against the Rams.
The Cowboys will try to get to a familiar formula against the Packers: Control the ball with the running game and keep the defense off the field.
Dak Prescott has to be more accurate from the pocket and convert third downs. Defensively, the Cowboys are focused on keeping Rodgers in the pocket and not letting him beat them on the edge.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Packers CB Damarious Randall. Bryant has struggled to start the season, but he has a chance to get well against the Packers, who lack an elite cornerback. Bryant’s best game last season came in the playoffs against the Packers when he exploited Randall for nine catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He will be chomping at the bit for a repeat performance on Sunday.
–Packers OT Lane Taylor vs. Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence. Taylor was moved from guard to left tackle last week due to an injury. He survived against a Bears defense that lacks a premier rusher. He won’t be so lucky if he is forced to play tackle again. Lawrence is rushing as well as any league in the league with 7.5 sacks. The Packers will need to double him, possibly opening up things for David Irving and Maliek Collins on the inside.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
GREEN BAY PACKERS
–Out: LB Joe Thomas (ankle)
–Doubtful: RB Ty Montgomery (ribs)
–Questionable: WR Davante Adams (concussion), T David Bakhtiari (hamstring), LB Ahmad Brooks (back), T Bryan Bulaga (ankle), DT Mike Daniels (hip), CB Davon House (quadricep), CB Quinten Rollins (ankle)
–Out: DE Charles Tapper (foot)
–Questionable: CB Anthony Brown (ankle), CB Nolan Carroll (concussion), T La’el Collins (ankle), LB Sean Lee (hamstring), DT Stephen Paea (knee), T Tyron Smith (back)
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cowboys S Xavier Woods. Woods has impressed every time he has been on the field. The rookie is demanding more playing time and will get it. He spotted starters Byron Jones and Jeff Heath a series each against the Rams in addition to sub packages. Look for him to soak up more of Heath’s snaps in the regular defense.
FAST FACTS: In eight meetings (including playoffs), Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has averaged 269 passing yards per game and thrown 13 TD passes vs. two interceptions. He has surpassed 300 yards in five of the past six road games. … Packers WR Jordy Nelson had 75 receiving yards and two TDs in Week 4 and is going for his third straight game with at least two TDs. He leads the NFL with five receiving TDs. … Packers LB Clay Matthews notched a sack last week to give him the team record. His 75 surpassed Kareem Gbaja-Biamila’s 74.5. In five games vs. Dallas, Matthews has 3.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a pick-six. … Dallas QB Dak Prescott has 549 passing yards, six TDs and two interceptions in two games vs. Green Bay. … Dallas TE Jason Witten has scored in his past two home games vs. Green Bay. He is tied for second among NFC tight ends with 19 receptions. … Dallas DE DeMarcus Lawrence leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks.
PREDICTION: Rodgers is tough to rattle anywhere. If the Cowboys can’t get the running game going, they won’t be able to beat him.
DALLAS COWBOYS (1-1) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (1-1)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, University of Phoenix Stadium. TV: ESPN, Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 88th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 55-31-1. The Cardinals have won the past four meetings, including once in the Bruce Arians’ era as Arizona defeated Dallas 28-17 on Nov. 2, 2014, at AT&T Stadium. It was the first time in Arizona’s four-game win streak over Dallas that the win didn’t come on the final play of the game. Each of those three wins came at University of Phoenix Stadium. Two of the three wins came in overtime.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott gets a chance for redemption after his effort during Dallas’ humbling 42-17 loss last Sunday in Denver. Coach Jason Garrett wasn’t pleased when the tailback showed no interest in turning into a defensive player after two Dak Prescott interceptions.
Elliott had more carries (nine) than yards (eight) against the Broncos, but Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn’t see a player that suddenly has lost his way or forgot how to break tackles and squirt through holes.
The Cardinals hope they have similar success to the Broncos, who held the Cowboys to 268 yards.
If the Cardinals stack the box to try and contain Elliott, the Cowboys will have to rely on Prescott beating Arizona to the outside, and that could prove difficult since their best receiver, Dez Bryant, will be shadowed throughout the game by All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson.
The Cardinals could turn to their second new starting running back in two weeks since losing star David Johnson to a left wrist injury in Week 1 at Detroit. Kerwynn Williams was the starter against the Colts last week and it appears veteran Chris Johnson could be the guy against the Cowboys.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Cardinals LT John Wetzel vs. Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence. Keep an eye on the inexperienced Wetzel against Lawrence, who is tied for the league lead with four sacks. Wetzel played better this week than he did in the opener, but he likely will require extra help to keep Lawrence at bay. Against the Colts without an injured Jermaine Gresham, Arizona used rookie tackle Will Holden as an extra blocker next to Wetzel. Gresham should be back this week to help out on the left side after missing a week with sore ribs.
–Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Cardinals SS Antoine Bethea. Last week against the Colts, Arizona had great difficulty trying to contain TE Jack Doyle, who caught eight passes for 79 yards. This week, they get Witten, who leads the league with 17 receptions and has two touchdowns. It will be up to multiple defenders to try to slow him down; but, if Witten gets matchups against smallish safeties such as Bethea and Tyrann Mathieu, he could have a huge game. Outside linebackers Markus Golden and Chandler Jones will have to lend a hand when Witten floats their way.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones. With three sacks in his first two games, Jones has 26.5 since 2015, which is tied with Denver’s Von Miller for the second-highest total in the league. Oakland’s Khalil Mack has the most with 27. Jones’ two-sack performance Sunday at the Colts gave him multiple sacks in a game for the 14th time in his career, including four as a member of the Cardinals. Dating to Jones’ second season in 2013, only Houston’s J.J. Watt (16) has more multi-sack games. Coach Bruce Arians this week called Jones one of the top five pass rushers in the game today.
FAST FACTS: Dallas QB Dak Prescott passed for 238 yards and two TDs last week. He has 14 TDs vs. five INTs in nine career road games. … Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott has 785 rushing yards and eight TDs in eight road games. He has just 112 rushing yards in the first two games, though, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. … Dallas TE Jason Witten led the team with 10 catches for 97 yards in Week 2, his 11th career game with 10 receptions. He has 1,106 career receptions, passing Cris Carter (1,101) and Marvin Harrison (1,102) for fourth in NFL history. … Arizona QB Carson Palmer threw for 332 yards last week, surpassing Drew Bledsoe (44,611) for 13th on the NFL’s all-time passing list. Palmer has 44,869 passing yards. … Arizona WR J.J. Nelson led the team with five catches for 120 yards and a TD last week. He has seven TDs in his past seven games. Since 2015, he leads the NFL with 18.7 yards per catch. … Arizona LB Chandler Jones had two sacks and a forced fumble last week. He has eight sacks, three forced fumbles and two recoveries in his past nine home games.
PREDICTION: Turnovers figure to be the decisive factor in this game, and the Cowboys have been better in that department (Palmer has thrown four picks for Arizona).
DALLAS COWBOYS (1-0) AT DENVER BRONCOS (1-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Sports Authority Field at Mile High. TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews.
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 7-4. The Broncos have won five straight. The most historic meeting was in Super Bowl XII, when the Cowboys defeated the Broncos 27-10.
KEYS TO THE GAME: For Denver, it starts with stopping the run. The old clich� rings true. After allowing a 21-yard gallop to Melvin Gordon on Monday night, the Broncos’ run defense tightened up, limiting Gordon and the Chargers to just 2.0 yards per carry the rest of the game. A similar effort might be difficult to put together against the Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott; but, if the Broncos can pull that off, they will put the game into the hands of Dak Prescott.
While Prescott has been extremely effective and accurate in his career, throwing just four interceptions in 17 starts, he hasn’t faced a defense with two Pro Bowl cornerbacks like the one Denver boasts with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. If the Broncos force Prescott to throw deep and outside, they’ll have the Cowboys where they want them.
While the big matchup is Dallas’ offense against Denver’s defense, the Broncos will need to keep Trevor Siemian clean and try to maintain a running game with C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Cowboys OTs Tyron Smith and La’el Collins vs. Broncos OLBs Von Miller and Shaquil Barrett. Barrett had the only sack between the Broncos’ two edge rushers last Monday, but both generated plenty of pressure on Philip Rivers and forced the Chargers to chip and double-team on a regular basis, often limiting Rivers’ intermediate options under pressure. Smith and Collins are generally capable of succeeding in one-on-one matchups, but if they need help against Miller and Barrett, this will change the Cowboys’ equation drastically.
–Broncos OTs Garett Bolles and Menelik Watson vs. Cowboys DEs Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Taco Charlton and Benson Mayowa. While Dallas’ edge rushers don’t offer the same stern challenge as Chargers defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram did on Monday night, they can cause issues. And that could be troublesome after the Broncos allowed too much pressure from the edge. Watson, in particular, struggled, allowing three sacks.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Broncos DE Adam Gotsis. He made the most of his 31 snaps Monday night, posting five tackles and repeatedly bursting into the backfield. The 2016 second-round pick struggled as a rookie, in part because he was still recovering from a torn ACL suffered as a senior at Georgia Tech. But, against the Chargers, he displayed the tenacity and athleticism that caught the Broncos’ eye.
FAST FACTS: Dallas QB Dak Prescott passed for 268 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Giants last week. He has 12 passing TDs and just three interceptions in eight career road games. He also is 4-0 with nine TDs and no INTs in four games vs. the AFC. … Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott gained 140 scrimmage yards (104 rushing) in Week 1. He has hit 100 in 12 of 16 career games. In four games vs. the AFC, he has 437 rushing yards and seven TDs. … In Week 1, Dallas TE Jason Witten (11,947) surpassed Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (11,904) for most receiving yards in franchise history. … Denver QB Trevor Siemian passed for two TDs and recorded his first career rushing TD in Week 1. … Denver WR Demaryius Thomas aims for his fourth game in a row vs. the NFC with a TD catch. His 497 catches and 6,937 yards are second in the NFL since 2012.
PREDICTION: As long as Prescott and Elliott are protected by an All-Pro wall, the Cowboys will be tough to beat.
NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, AT&T Stadium. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya.
SERIES HISTORY: 110th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 62-45-2. The Giants and Cowboys have opened the season against each other in four of the last five years. This will be the third consecutive opener for the teams in Dallas. The Giants are 21-28-1 in Sunday night games, including 10-16-1 in road games.
ekiel Elliott, fighting a six-game suspension, will play in the opener. And the Cowboys will hope to do better this year against a Giants run defense that last year allowed 88.6 yards per game and held Elliott, the league’s top rusher, to 157 yards in two games.
KEYS TO THE GAME: U.S. District Court judge Amos Mazzant III granted a request by the NFL Players Association for a temporary restraining order to prevent the implementation of the six-game suspension for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. With the injunction, Elliott likely will be able to continue playing as the legal process plays out.
The Giants’ offensive line is hoping to gain some momentum against a Dallas defensive front that will be missing defensive linemen Damontre Moore, Randy Gregory and David Irving as a result of league-imposed suspensions.
The Giants, who are looking to uncork their running game, didn’t have much success running behind the starting offensive line in preseason, but there is hope that the additional practice reps will have running backs Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman a lot more comfortable with their timing in hitting the hole.
In the passing game, there appears to be optimism that receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has been nursing an ankle sprain, will be ready to go.
Even if Beckham doesn’t play, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has plenty of weapons to use against the Dallas defense. New York added wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafted tight end Evan Engram, boosting an offense that averaged 330 yards per game last season.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
NEW YORK GIANTS
–Out: LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
–Questionable: WR Odell Beckham (ankle)
–Out: LB Anthony Hitchens (ankle)
–Questionable: CB Jourdan Lewis (hamstring)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Giants WR Odell Beckham and WR Brandon Marshall vs. Cowboys CB Nolan Carroll and CB Anthony Brown. Orlando Scandrick is the Cowboys’ best cornerback, but he will be in slot on passing downs, leaving the shaky Carroll and the largely unproven Brown on the outside trying to check Beckham and Marshall. This is a decided mismatch for the Giants, especially with the Cowboys’ suspect pass rush.
–Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Giants MLB B.J. Goodson. With Keenan Robinson, the Giants’ best cover linebacker, still in the concussion protocol, Goodson has had to take on coverage responsibilities in the nickel. Safety Landon Collins said Goodson has made a lot of progress in coverage, adding it’s just a matter of matching the speed of the defense. If Goodson isn’t fully up to speed by Sunday night, chances are Collins will be there to help cover Witten, historically a major thorn in the Giants’ side.
GIANTS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Tight end Evan Engram. The first-round draft pick can play multiple positions. Engram, who finished the preseason six receptions for 75 yards, lined up in-line, in the slot, split wide, in the backfield and in motion, giving coach Ben McAdoo options to create mismatches. In his final two seasons at Ole Miss, Engram caught 10 of 17 deep balls thrown to him for 337 yards and three touchdowns — a skill the Giants need over the middle.
COWBOYS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Defensive end Taco Charlton. Charlton was the team’s top pick for a reason. They needed help at defensive end and he was the best person on the board to fill the need. He will not make a Myles Garrett-like impact, which is why he wasn’t picked at the top of the board. But he will play a lot. If he is not the team’s rookie of the year, something will have gone really, really wrong.
FAST FACTS: Giants QB Eli Manning Eli Manning will start his 200th consecutive game. Only two other QBs reached 200: Favre 287; Peyton 208. Manning passed for 4,027 yards in 2016, his franchise-record sixth 4,000-yard season. He ranks eighth in NFL history with 48,214 yards and seventh with 320 TD passes. … Giants RB Paul Perkins had 618 scrimmage yards (456 rushing) as a rookie in 2016. … Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. ranked third in the NFL in receptions (101) and yards (1,367) last season. He has 288 catches, tied for most by an NFL player in his first three seasons. … WR Brandon Marshall makes his debut with the Giants. He ranks third among active players in receptions (941) and second in receiving yards (12,061). … Dallas QB Dak Prescott set NFL rookie records for QB wins (13), interception percentage (0.9) and rating (104.9). … Dallas TE Jason Witten caught 69 passes, his 13th consecutive season with 60. His 1,089 career receptions are second all-time among TEs. … Dallas LB Sean Lee had a career-high 145 tackles in 2016, tied for third in the NFL. He has 273 tackles since 2015, second most in the NFL.
PREDICTION: The presence of Elliott and the injury to Beckham seem to shift the tide in the Cowboys’ favor at home.
Elliott’s appeal game plan includes highlighting Thompson’s already chronicled text messages encouraging a friend to lie to police about an alleged domestic assault on July 22, misleading testimony to NFL lead investigator Lisa Friel, and repeated threats to ruin his career after breaking off the relationship.Elliott has not talked to the media since the start of training camp, and was escorted from the locker room following Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams.
But he made his feelings known on Twitter on Friday, saying he was “both surprised and disappointed by the NFL’s decision” and “I strongly disagree with the league’s findings.”
His representatives also blasted the NFL in a statement Friday for their “factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions” and promised “a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light” during the appeal.
It’s unclear what role Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will play in the appeal. But a source says Jones is “angry” about the suspension after being adamant that, after reviewing all of the league’s evidence, no assault occurred and Elliott would not be disciplined.
Jones also has uncharacteristically not spoken with the media since the suspension.
Elliott’s absence will leave a massive hole in the Cowboys’ offense. He led the league in rushing a season ago as a rookie and is a home-run threat whenever the ball is in his hands.
“For us it’s very shocking,” running back Darren McFadden said. “We didn’t know what was going on exactly. To hear six games, it was definitely a surprise to us. We didn’t expect anything to happen. But they made a decision. For us as a team, we are going to rally around him and keep going forward.”