SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ NFL specialists inform you who’s going to win the most important matchups of Week 10.
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Dallas Cowboys operating again Alfred Morris (46) runs with the ball within the second quarter towards Los Angeles Rams linebacker Connor Barwin (98) at AT&T Stadium.(Photo: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports)
The day the Dallas Cowboys hoped by no means to see has arrived.
With Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension setting in after the operating again was denied an injunction, an offense centered on his contributions now must look elsewhere throughout an important stretch. Starting with a matchup towards the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the Cowboys’ subsequent 4 video games (all earlier than Elliott’s expedited attraction listening to on Dec. 1) might decide whether or not the staff can safe a second consecutive playoff berth for the primary time since 2007.
Quarterback Dak Prescott undoubtedly will shoulder a number of the extra offensive burden, however coaches mentioned they do not plan to divert from their ground-focused badault. Yet there’s little precedent for changing Elliott, who has 191 of the 215 carries by Dallas operating backs this season.
Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden are all in line for work in a possible committee method. Morris, nevertheless, appears to be like like one of the best match to take over a bulk of the motion, as his one-cut operating type interprets nicely to the Cowboys’ zone method.
The potential absence of all-pro left sort out Tyron Smith, who didn’t observe all week with a groin harm, might function one other important impediment in establishing a rhythm for the run recreation.
At Four-Four and fading within the NFC playoff image, the Falcons are in a equally precarious spot. Atlanta’s run protection ranks in the course of the pack, but it surely gave up 201 dashing yards to the Carolina Panthers final week. Defensive sort out Grady Jarrett’s statistics belie how disruptive he has been, however he and Dontari Poe might have a tricky day going up towards two all-pros in heart Travis Frederick and proper guard Zack Martin.
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Here are 4 different matchups that might outline Week 10 within the NFL:
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell vs. Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers
With a league-high 11 sacks, Campbell has paved the way in which for the NFL’s greatest cross rush in “Sacksonville.” The 31-year-old is proving to be one in all free company’s greatest signings, as the previous Arizona Cardinals standout has the 5-Three Jaguars within the hunt for his or her first playoff berth since 2007.
But the Chargers have received the final six video games within the collection, all by a mean of 19 factors. In his seven profession video games towards the Jaguars, Rivers has accomplished 71.1% of his pbades with 19 touchdowns and simply 4 interceptions.
Los Angeles has supplied Rivers with improved safety this yr, with its 11 sacks allowed tied for sixth fewest. Campbell needs to be a tough matchup for the Chargers offensive tackles, however he might do essentially the most harm towards an inexperienced inside line when he kicks inside on third downs.
Minnesota Vikings DE Everson Griffen vs. Washington Redskins offensive line
With 10 sacks, Griffen trails solely Campbell for the NFL lead this season. If he tallies one other towards the Redskins, he’ll break the Vikings franchise file for consecutive video games with a sack at 9.
Griffen is listed as questionable with a foot harm, however coach Mike Zimmer mentioned he’ll play Sunday. Emerging as a defensive participant of the yr candidate, Griffen has made life tough on opposing offenses whereas serving to push Minnesota to the highest of the NFC North pecking order. And he might set the tone in what’s shaping as much as be a good matchup for the Vikings’ protection.
Four starters on Washington’s offensive line have missed the final two video games. The accidents have left undue stress on Kirk Cousins, who took six sacks and 11 hits in final week’s win over the Seattle Seahawks. The outlook might be much more imposing if the Redskins are with out tight finish Jordan Reed, who’s listed as questionable with a hamstring harm.
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New England Patriots TEs Rob Gronkowski vs. Denver Broncos DBs Darian Stewart and Justin Simmons
Despite giving up 51 factors to the Philadelphia Eagles final week, the Broncos’ protection waved off questions of an imminent demise. No matter what the end result, going through the rival Patriots and the top-ranked offense ought to function a proving floor for Denver.
The Broncos have struggled to defend proficient tight ends, and so they want no reminder of the hazard Gronkowski poses. Ranking second on the Patriots in catches (34) and receiving yards (509) this yr, Gronkowski has three 100-yard video games towards Denver and 7 touchdowns.
Stewart and Simmons might be counted on to patch up the issues Denver has had in giving up large performs. The Broncos have given up 20 pbading performs of 20 yards or extra, and letting Gronkowski rip by way of the center of the protection might show deadly.
More: Broncos’ vaunted protection going through uncommon ridicule forward of Patriots matchup
New Orleans Saints RBs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara vs. Buffalo Bills’ entrance seven
Riding a six-game successful streak, the Saints have proven they are not the identical staff as in earlier years. After three straight 7-9 seasons, Sean Payton has shifted the offense to a extra even-handed method. Ingram and Kamara have thrived in consequence, with the duo combining for 231 whole yards final week towards the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
That’s troublesome information for Buffalo, which gave up 194 dashing yards and three touchdowns on the bottom to the New York Jets in a Thursday night time thrashing in Week 9. After the time to regroup, the Bills want to indicate Sean McDermott’s protection is constructed for the stretch run. If Buffalo is to finish the NFL’s longest energetic playoff drought, it must have a solution for offenses just like the one it faces Sunday.
With frigid situations Sunday and the Bills rating second with 17 takeaways, Payton might tilt the badault towards the operating recreation once more. But Drew Brees additionally may look to Kamara to raise the pbading recreation early. The third-round rookie from Tennessee has the third-most receiving yards (341) of any operating again, and his skill to evade defenders within the open area might problem the Bills’ linebacking corps.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
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