FRISCO, Texas – Most Fridays, it feels like the hay is in the barn, so to speak. The majority of the heavy lifting has been done by Friday afternoon, and it's just time to sit back and wait.
That's hardly the case here in Week 9, as we all found out simultaneously that Ezekiel Elliott would be able to play in this game against Kansas City. The Cowboys' young running back was at home, serving his suspension when this morning started. By afternoon he was practicing with the team and getting himself up to speed on the Chiefs.
So that's where I'm starting my notebook today. We'll take a look at Zeke and what his availability means – especially in a week where Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith were preparing to carry the load.
There's also plenty of other aspects of this game to look at – from game planning to injuries and more. So let's get into it.
- With Ezekiel Elliott back in the mix, look for the running back rotation to look like it did these first seven games. Alfred Morris will be the primary backup with Rod Smith in a supporting role. Just as a side note, if Elliott would not have been available in this game or subsequent ones I believe that Morris would have been the starter with Smith playing a significant role. I believe the coaches were splitting snaps with both in preparation for this game.
- Look for Cole Beasley to be good to go for the Chiefs. He was able to practice Thursday and Friday without issues. I would even go as far as to say that Beasley will be a big part of the offensive attack despite missing practice on Wednesday. Ryan Switzer took Beasley's snaps while he was out, but I understand that he also picked up a few more snaps with the first offense in the practices that Beasley was available for.
- The Chiefs' corners don't generally travel with receivers. Marcus Peters plays on the left and Terrance Mitchell on the right. I would expect Scott Linehan to scheme Dez Bryant away from Peters and see if the Chiefs change their philosophy. I also expect that we will see Bryant involved in more of those plays like we saw in Washington where they get the ball in his hands quickly.
- It will be an interesting matchup between DeMarcus Lawrence and Mitchell Schwartz this week. Schwartz is one of the better tackles that Lawrence has faced this season. The Chiefs play "12" and "13" personnel, much like the Cowboys do. I could see Andy Reid relying on Schwartz to handle Lawrence one-on-one, but if there is the slightest bit of problem there, don't be surprised if Reid keeps a tight end like Demetrius Harris or Ross Travis in to help with protection when throwing the ball.
- We need to keep an eye on this foot injury for Maliek Collins. It has caused him to miss some practice time this week, and if he is compromised in any way, that would be a huge blow to the line. The staff moved him back to nose tackle with David Irving playing as the under-tackle. The Chiefs are going to run the ball with Kareem Hunt, so having Collins inside is an absolute must. If Collins is unavailable or struggles, Brian Price and Richard Ash would have to pick up his slack. Ash has actually played well in his limited snaps since coming off the practice squad.
- We all know how important it is for teams to operate in the Red Zone both offensively and defensively. The Cowboys have been one of the best when it comes to 3rd down conversions in that area at 47%. It's been that ability to keep drives going that's allowed them to score touchdowns 62% of the time. On the flip side of that the Chiefs might struggle defensively in several areas but that's not one of them. Opponents have only converted an incredible 9% of the time on 3rd down in the Red Zone. It appears that when the field shrinks the Chiefs are able to tighten up their defense and force their opponents to settle for field goals. For the Cowboys to win this game, they're going to need those four point plays and hope for stops on defensive of their own.
- Here's a strange stat for the Cowboys: on the road, their average starting field position is the 35-yard line, which is best in the league. At home, that number drops to the 25-yard line, which ranks them 28th.
- My weekly guess at the Cowboys' inactives: K Dan Bailey, RB Darren McFadden, CB Chidobe Awuzie, LB Justin Durant, LB Justin March-Lillard, OG Byron Bell, TE Blake Jarwin.