CHIEFS (6-2) VS. COW­BOYS (4-3)


USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - LEADING OFF - Andy Fried­lan­der

About the Chiefs: The Chiefs are among the AFC’s elite thanks to their top-five of­fense. The cat­a­lyst is QB Alex Smith, in the midst of un­ques­tion­ably the best sea­son of his 13-year ca­reer. Af­ter years as a “bus driver” quar­ter­back, he’s mak­ing plays down the field, rank­ing sec­ond be­hind Brady in pass­ing yards with 2,181.

About the Cow­boys: Af­ter a shaky start, Dal­las is com­ing off a road vic­tory over Washington. The Cow­boys have won two in a row for the first time this sea­son, and they’re do­ing it the way they won 11 in a row in 2016 — dom­i­nat­ing the clock with the run game and get­ting enough de­fense. How­ever, the six-game sus­pen­sion over do­mes­tic vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions against RB Ezekiel El­liott was set to go into ef­fect at press time. El­liott has topped 100 rush­ing yards in his last three games. Dar­ren

McFad­den and Al­fred Mor­ris fig­ure to fill in for him.

Matchup to watch: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Cow­boys FS By­ron Jones. At 6-5, 260 pounds, Kelce has pro­to­typ­i­cal tight end size, but he adds the big-play abil­ity of a wide re­ceiver. The vet­eran put to­gether a 133-yard re­ceiv­ing ef­fort against Den­ver in Week 8, his third-100 yard game of the sea­son. He has one other with 98 yards. Jones’ play has been up and down, but he has the ath­leti­cism to pro­vide a chal­lenge for Kelce down the mid­dle of the field. Player to watch: Cow­boys WR Dez Bryant. He’s be­come hard to spot in the Dal­las of­fense. The same guy who posted three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of 1,200-plus yards and dou­ble-digit touch­downs has now gone 14 con­sec­u­tive games with­out reach­ing 100 yards. He’s av­er­aged less than 10 yards per catch in four of his last six games.

Num­ber crunch­ing: 1. Kansas City is an im­pres­sive +10 in turnover mar­gin, but it isn’t be­cause its de­fense is mak­ing big plays. In fact, five of its 13 take­aways came in Week 8. It’s be­cause the Chiefs have turned the ball over only three times this sea­son. That record will be tested by a Dal­las de­fense that has sud­denly be­gun forc­ing turnovers — four by the de­fense and two by spe­cial teams in the last two games — af­ter go­ing more than a month with­out a take­away. KEYS TO THE GAME 1. Re­place El­liott: Stop­ping the run is im­per­a­tive against Dal­las with in the back­field, and with­out him the Chiefs get a break. The Chiefs rank near the bot­tom of the league against the run. That’s prob­lem­atic against against most teams, but per­haps not Dal­las any­more. 2. Con­trol the clock: RB Ka­reem Hunt leads the league in rush­ing (763 yards,). But win­ning the time of pos­ses­sion bat­tle will be tough against the Cow­boys, who have topped 32:00 in each of their last three games.

3. No big plays: While the Chiefs can chew up clock with the run, they can also score quickly with it, hav­ing reeled off a league-high 10 runs of 20 or more yards — eight by Hunt en­ter­ing the week — and three of 40 or more, all by Hunt. Kansas City also has the game­break­ing WR-PR Tyreek Hill and Kelce. LB

Sean Lee, CB Orlando Scan­drick and the rest of Dal­las de­fense have a tough task.

4. Get to Smith: Dal­las DE DeMar­cus Lawrence and DT David Irv­ing have emerged as the NFL’s pre­mier pass-rush duo. Lawrence leads the league with 10½ sacks, and he has at least one sack in ev­ery game this sea­son. Irv­ing had two sacks last week to give him five in his three games since re­turn­ing from a PED sus­pen­sion. They’ll try to put the heat on K.C.’s Smith, a strong run­ner with the abil­ity to es­cape trou­ble and ex­tend plays.


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