Ezekiel Elliott returned to the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday. His teammates at their facility were going on about how much slimmer the NFL’s rushing champion looks now that he’s back from a six-game NFL suspension.
He apparently spent much of that in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The first team Elliott runs at coming out of exile? As my News Tribune colleague Todd Milles detailed in Wednesday’s TNT, the Seahawks that have allowed Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley to rampage through them in the last two games. Those losses have put Seattle is as desperate a situation trying to make the playoffs as Dallas.
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The Seahawks have had easier, more promising Christmas Eves than this.
SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT
DALLAS COWBOYS (8-6)
1:25 p.m. Sunday, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Ch. 13
Line: Cowboys by 5.
Against the Seahawks: Dallas leads the regular-season series 10-6. Seattle won the only playoff meeting on Jan. 6, 2007, when Tony Romo dropped the ball trying to hold for the game-winning field-goal attempt. The Cowboys have won four of the previous six meetings, but lost the last game in this series 13-12 at home on Nov. 1, 2015. That was the last game Seattle’s Ricardo Lockette played. He sustained a career-ending neck injury getting hit by Dallas’ Jeff Heath while the Seahawks were covering a punt.
What to know: An elimination game for both teams. The loser is officially finished in the NFC’s playoff race. … The Cowboys have rejoined that by winning three consecutive games. And now Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL’s 2016 rushing champion as a rookie, is coming off his six-game league suspension to play the Seahawks, who have allowed Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley to romp through them for 100-yard rushing days the last two weeks. “Oh, yeah,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Elliott, “he’s going to be all fired up.” … Dallas went 3-3 without Elliott, who was suspended because of a domestic-violence incident. The Cowboys scored seven, nine and six points in the losses, to the Falcons, Eagles and Chargers. They scored 38, 30 and 20 in beating the Redskins, Giants and Raiders the last three weeks. … The Raiders game could have been a loss without referee Gene Steratore pulling out an index card to measure and grant the Cowboys a first down on a fourth-down scoring drive late, or if Oakland quarterback Derek Carr hadn’t dropped the ball through the side of the end zone trying to stretch for the goal-line pylon on a scramble run with seconds remaining. … Even with missing the six games Elliott remains Dallas’ leading rusher (783 yards, seven touchdowns. The Cowboys are third in the NFL in rushing offense (136.6 yards per game). They are 24th in passing with second-year man Dak Prescott throwing for about 200 yards per game, with 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 89.6 passer rating. … The Cowboys’ offensive line full of blue-chip draft choices has protected Prescott mostly well, allowing 27 sacks in 14 games. That’s the seventh-fewest sacks allowed in the NFL. … Left tackle Tyron Smith, named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, is iffy to play because of an injured right knee from the Oakland game. … Dallas is 15th in total offense and 11th in scoring. … Dez Bryant’s 63 catches with six touchdowns leads Cowboys receivers. His pace of 72 catches and seven touchdowns for the season would be his lowest such totals while playing a full season in his eight-year career, all with Dallas. …More than one in every four throws by Prescott goes to Bryant. Bryant’s 118 targets are 11th-most in the league. … Tight end Jason Witten, 35, continues to get it done in his 15th season. He has 56 receptions, and his five touchdowns are his most since 2014. … Witten is catching 75 percent of the passes thrown his way (56 of his 75 targets). … He is a reason the Cowboys are good on third downs, fifth in the NFL converting 43.4 percent. … The defense is ranked 18th overall, 12th against the run, 18th against the pass and 17th in points allowed. … Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has 13½ sacks, third-most in the league. He had nine sacks total in his first three NFL seasons. He usually plays at left end. That means Seahawks’ right tackle Germain Ifedi is in for a huge test. … Dallas is just plus-1 in turnover margin, 16th in the NFL. The Cowboys have fumbled only nine times this season, second-fewest in the league. They’ve lost seven of those. … The Cowboys don’t kick many field goals but when they do, Dan Bailey makes them. He’s 11 for 13.
Quotable: "He looks slimmer. He does look slimmer. It makes his head look even bigger. He looks damn good. I know he is going to be ready to play. It's was exciting just to see him. … He gives us extra boost." – Bryant, to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, on Elliott’s return to the team Tuesday after spending most of his six-week suspension training in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: