SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-6) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (8-6)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, A&T Stadium. TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 17th regular-season meeting. Cowboys leads series, 10-6. Dallas has won four of the last six. Seattle won the last meeting, 13-12 in 2015.
Ezekiel Elliott Returns Today
KEYS TO THE GAME: This is basically a playoff game for both teams, as the loser will be eliminated from the picture.
Ezekiel Elliott is the story of this game, not just because he is returning from his suspension but because he is the key to winning for both teams.
Dallas will feed him as much as possible against a Seattle defense that allowed 152 yards rushing and four total touchdowns to Rams running back Todd Gurley last week. Elliott is fresh after being suspended for the last six weeks. He should also open things up in the passing game for quarterback Dak Prescott.
If the Seahawks can’t slow down Elliott, they will have a difficult day ahead of them. Gurley took advantage of a missing K.J. Wright and hobbled Bobby Wagner last week. Both should play in this one, and Wagner’s ability to fill the run gaps will go a long way toward determining how Seattle does against Elliott.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson has to play better than he has the past two weeks (five turnovers, including a safety). Jimmy Graham needs to come out of hiding after two unproductive weeks (one catch for minus-1 yard) and it would help a lot if the line could keep a clean pocket for Wilson, who was sacked seven times by the Rams.
The Cowboys’ defense must stop the run and contain Wilson on scrambles.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham vs. Cowboys S Byron Jones. Graham has 53 catches and nine touchdowns this season. He is the primary red-zone target of Wilson, although he has just one catch the past two games. Jones is the main defender of tight ends for the Cowboys. He has six pass deflections and will need to be up to the task vs. Graham.
–Cowboys RT La’el Collins vs. Seahawks DE Michael Bennett. Bennett has 7.5 sacks and plays up and down the line. Collins has faced the best all season and had an excellent game against Oakland’s Khalil Mack. He has managed through a herniated disk, and this will be his most physical challenge.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
–Out: LB D.J. Alexander (concussion)
–Doubtful: DT Nazair Jones (ankle)
–Questionable: S Bradley McDougald (knee), TE Nick Vannett (shoulder)
–Out: DE David Irving (concussion)
–Questionable: DT Richard Ash (shoulder), WR Brice Butler (foot), T La’el Collins (back), DE Benson Mayowa (back), CB Orlando Scandrick (back), T Tyron Smith (back, knee)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott. The star running back returns from his six-game suspension, which he spent training in Los Cabos, Mexico. “He looks like he’s in good shape,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He seems mentally into it, engaged and just fell right back in with his teammates in meetings and walk-through.” Elliott has 504 scrimmage yards (126 per game) and three TDs in his past four home games, and the Cowboys will count on him to provide a boost as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive.
FAST FACTS: Seattle QB Russell Wilson ranks second in the NFL with 30 passing TDs. In his past six road games, he has 15 TD passes and five interceptions. His 18 fourth-quarter TD passes are the most in a season in NFL history. He also leads the team with 521 rushing yards, his fourth season with 500. … WR Doug Baldwin has 432 yards and three TDs in his past six road games. Since 2015, he is one of four players with 3,000 receiving yards (3,063) and 25 TDs (26). … TE Jimmy Graham is tied for third in the NFL with nine TD catches. He has five TD catches in his past five road games. … DE Michael Bennett has 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss in his past seven road games. He has three sacks in four career games vs. Dallas. … LB Bobby Wagner ranks fifth in the NFL with 122 tackles. … Dallas QB Dak Prescott has 11 TD passes and two rushing TDs in his past seven home games. Since entering the league in 2016, he leads NFL QBs with 12 rushing TDs. … RB Rod Smith has five TDs in his past four games. … TE Jason Witten has scored in two of the past three games. … DE Demarcus Lawrence ranks third in the NFL with a career-high 13.5 sacks. In his past seven games at home, he has 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. … LB Sean Lee has 28 tackles and an interception in the past two games. Since 2015, he is one of three NFL players (Bobby Wagner and Zach Brown) with 350 tackles (353) and two sacks (2.5).
PREDICTION: Wilson has never lost three straight games as Seattle’s quarterback. He also plays his best when the pressure is on, and the pressure is definitely on.