Prescott set to return as Cowboys face Miller-less Broncos
DENVER (4-4) at DALLAS (6-1)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, Fox
OPENING LINE: Cowboys by 8½, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Denver 4-4; Dallas 7-0.
SERIES RECORD: Broncos lead 8-5.
LAST MEETING: Broncos beat Cowboys 42-17 on Sept. 17, 2017, at Denver.
LAST WEEK: Broncos beat Washington 17-10; Cowboys beat Vikings 20-16.
BRONCOS OFFENSE: OVERALL (21), RUSH (20), PASS (10), SCORING (23).
BRONCOS DEFENSE: OVERALL (6), RUSH (9), PASS (9), SCORING (2).
COWBOYS OFFENSE: OVERALL (1), RUSH (2), PASS (3), SCORING (3).
COWBOYS DEFENSE: OVERALL (19), RUSH (6), PASS (T-28), SCORING (16).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Broncos minus-2; Cowboys plus-5.
BRONCOS PLAYERS TO WATCH: All eyes will be on the Denver pass rushers as a group after the Broncos traded Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams for draft picks. Against Washington, Malik Reed had two sacks and Dre’Mont Jones got 1½ more, along with a blocked field goal. Stephen Weatherly, acquired Oct. 23 from Minnesota, also had a sack. Look out for rookie Jonathon Cooper, who might ultimately be Miller’s successor as Denver’s top edge rusher.
COWBOYS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Ezekiel Elliott might feel like he has something to prove after probably his worst game as a pro in Denver, the second game of his second season in 2017. Elliott was an All-Pro and the NFL rushing leader as a rookie before the Broncos held him to a career-low 8 yards on 9 carries. To make matters worse, Elliott didn’t make an effort to chase Aqib Talib on a 103-yard interception return for the final points in Denver’s 42-17 victory.
KEY MATCHUP: Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater vs. Cowboys’ pass defense. Bridgewater is one of four AFC quarterbacks with an average passer rating of at least 100, while Dallas is high on the risk-reward scale. The Cowboys are tied for 28th in yards passing allowed but share the NFL lead in interceptions with three other teams at 11. That’s in large part because of Trevon Diggs, who has a league-leading seven after going without one in a game for the first time this season at Minnesota.
KEY INJURIES: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is expected to return after missing a game with a strained right calf. Coach Mike McCarthy says the “plan is for him to practice and play.” ... LT Tyron Smith is unlikely to play after injuring an ankle against the Vikings. Smith’s injury should clear the way for RT La’el Collins to start for the first time since the opener, before he was suspended five games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Terence Steele replaced Collins and kept the starting job when Collins returned last week. Now Steele is likely to slide over to Smith’s spot. ... TE Blake Jarwin might not play after injuring a hip against Minnesota. ... Broncos LT Garett Bolles (ankle) will miss just the second game of his five-year career Sunday, and Calvin Anderson will start in his place. The 2017 first-round pick missed one game (for illness) his first four seasons. ... CB Bryce Callahan, who started three of the first eight games, is going on IR with a knee injury. Coach Vic Fangio said the injury wouldn’t require surgery.
SERIES NOTES: The Broncos have won six consecutive games in the series. The last victory for Dallas was in 1995, also the last time the Cowboys reached the Super Bowl, or even the NFC championship game. Dallas won the last of its five titles that season.
STATS AND STUFF: Bridgewater needs one more game with a completion percentage of at least 70 to join Peyton Manning as the only Denver QBs with six such games in a season. In his only other start against Dallas, Bridgewater and New Orleans handed the Cowboys their first loss in 2019, winning 12-10. ... RB Melvin Gordon III had one TD each rushing and receiving against Washington, the first Denver back to do that since C.J. Anderson against the Cowboys in 2017. ... WR Courtland Sutton has two 100-yard games this season after having two in his first three seasons combined. He played at SMU, not far from the home of the Cowboys. ... Reed ranks second among undrafted players since the start of 2020 with 12 sacks. ... GM George Paton gave both Fangio and OC Pat Shurmur votes of confidence this week but he was highly critical of Denver’s offensive performance over the first two months. ... The Broncos lead the NFL with 10 fourth-down conversions. ... The Cowboys are about to play their 100th regular-season game at AT&T Stadium, which opened in 2009. Dallas has a 56-43 record. ... With 400 yards total offense, Dallas would be the sixth NFL team to reach that mark in seven of the first eight games, and the first since Indianapolis in 2014. ... Prescott has thrown at least three TD passes in four consecutive games, a club record. ... Elliott needs 45 yards rushing for 7,000 in his career. He would join Pro Football Hall of Famer and NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith as the only Cowboys to reach that mark in his first 79 games. ... DE Randy Gregory has a sack and forced fumble in each of the past two games.
FANTASY TIP: Dallas WR Amari Cooper, who caught the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute last week at Minnesota, leads the NFL with 2,358 yards receiving at home since the start of 2018. The average is 87 yards per game, and the 17 touchdowns at home in that span are tied for the fourth most.