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Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Matchups, prediction ahead of potential Super Bowl preview

What is our prediction for Sunday as Patrick Mahomes and the resurgent Chiefs host Dak Prescott and the first-place Cowboys?

What if the season of unpredictability concludes with the Super Bowl matchup many expected? The Dallas Cowboys (7-2) and Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) have had their ups and downs, but both would host first-round playoff games if the season ended today. And there’s reason to believe that the Chiefs’ best football is still ahead of them. Their Week 11 matchup isn’t in prime time but will air during FOX’s 4:25 PM ET slot. What is the prediction for what is just the 12th meeting all-time between the Cowboys and Chiefs?

Dallas Cowboys offense vs. Kansas City Chiefs defense

The poor Atlanta Falcons. They had absolutely no chance in Week 10, not after the egg the Cowboys laid the previous Sunday. A focused and angry Cowboys offense absolutely blitzed the Falcons’ defense, ringing up 43 points and 431 yards. Dallas scored touchdowns on all five red-zone possessions. The Cowboys now enter Week 11 leading the NFL in points (31.6), yards (433.9), and yards per play (6.3).

The Chiefs have won four out of their last five games, and a defensive turnaround is a big reason why. After allowing an average of 32.6 points in their first five games of the season, they’ve surrendered just 15.6 per game since then. In a sign of just how bad things were to start, the Chiefs even now rank 31st in yards per play allowed (6.2), 30th in sack rate (4.2%), and 26th in red-zone defense (68.8%).

Dak Prescott vs. Chiefs defense

The Dak Prescott MVP drumbeat got a little louder Sunday after Dak fileted the Falcons for 296 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24-of-31 passing. Prescott is now first in passer rating (110.8), third in EPA+CPOE (0.16), sixth in yards per pass (8.2), and ninth in QBR (58.7). He’s a big reason the Cowboys have scored over 30 points five times this year and rank fourth in passing yards per game (294.3).

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Only four teams have allowed more passing touchdowns than the Chiefs (18). The 11 pass plays of 40 or more yards they have given up are the most in the NFL. They rank 30th in yards per pass (7.7), 29th in pass plays of 20+ yards surrendered (39), and 23rd in passer rating against (99.5).

But they may have turned the corner. The last three quarterbacks they’ve faced — Daniel Jones, Jordan Love, and Derek Carr — have combined for a passer rating of 81.8 and managed just 6.7 yards per pass.

Advantage: Prescott

Cowboys weapons vs. Chiefs defensive backs

Ezekiel Elliott had a slow start to the season and has managed two games of 100+ yards rushing, yet he is somehow the frontrunner to win the NFC rushing title. He enters Week 11 first in the conference and fourth league-wide with 663 yards. And Zeke has done that with a career-low 15.8 attempts per game.

The Cowboys could have the rare trifecta — a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers. CeeDee Lamb (47-726-6) and Amari Cooper (44-583-5) would no doubt be No. 1 receivers on nearly every other team. With that said, Cooper will be unavailable Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19. Expect to see more of Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson Jr.

The Chiefs went seven deep in the secondary in their win over the Raiders, with all seven on the field for at least half of Kansas City’s defensive snaps. Juan Thornhill, Rashad Fenton, L’Jarius Sneed (questionable with a knee), and Tyrann Mathieu are all every-down players. Meanwhile, Daniel Sorensen, Charvarius Ward, and Mike Hughes rotate in regularly.

Fenton (5.4 yards per target) and Mathieu (59.8 passer rating against) have been the best of the bunch this year. And while there’s plenty of nits to pick, the Chiefs have kept it together by holding teams to a respectable 40.5% on third downs.

Advantage: Cowboys

Cowboys offensive line vs. Chiefs front seven

The sign of an elite offensive line: The absence of a top-five left tackle had basically no impact on the offense’s production. Even without Tyron Smith against Atlanta, the Cowboys still churned out 431 yards and didn’t allow a sack. Of course, it helps to have La’el Collins coming off the bench in a pinch.

Dallas ranks in the top three in both run blocking and pass protection, per Football Outsiders. The Cowboys are sixth in yards per carry (4.6) and in yards per pass attempt (4.2%). Smith practiced on a limited basis all week and is questionable for Sunday’s game.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, rank 27th in yards per carry allowed (4.6), and only two teams have a lower sack rate (4.2%). Credit the Chiefs for holding the Raiders to 50 yards on 14 carries Sunday night, but most everyone has been able to shut down Las Vegas’ ground attack this year.

The Cowboys will be a very different challenge. The Chiefs don’t have a ton of playmakers on that side of the ball, but linebacker Nick Bolton is one of them. Of his 47 tackles, 10 have been for loss. Chris Jones leads the Chiefs in sacks (3) and quarterback hits (9).

Advantage: Cowboys

Kansas City Chiefs offense vs. Dallas Cowboys defense

The Kansas City Chiefs are back might have been the most tired trope on Twitter Sunday night. But in every cliché, there’s truth. The Chiefs we saw against the Raiders looked more like the Chiefs of 2019 and 2020 than they have at any point this season.

In Week 10, Kansas City went for 41 points, 29 first downs, and 516 yards. Even with a midseason slump, the Chiefs still rank first in third downs (53.3%), fourth in yards (405.6), and 10th in yards per play (5.9) and scoring (26.2).

The Cowboys’ offense got all the attention after Sunday’s shellacking. Still, the defense was on its game too, holding Matt Ryan to the lowest yardage output of his career in any game in which he attempted 10 or more passes (117).

Dallas’ season stats aren’t particularly impressive (26th in yards per play – 5.8), but the defense is quite good at getting off the field. The Cowboys entered Week 11 ranked third in third-down defense (32.1%) and fourth in turnovers forced (17).

Patrick Mahomes vs. Cowboys defense

When people say the Chiefs are back, they really mean Patrick Mahomes is back. He absolutely roasted the Raiders Sunday — completing 35 of 50 passes for 406 yards and 5 touchdowns. Just as importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over once.

Mahomes’ monster game made his season stats look a bit more familiar than they had been. His 25 touchdown passes on the season are second to only Tom Brady’s 27. He now ranks fifth in EPA+CPOE (0.147), and if he improves his accuracy numbers (Mahomes has the same CPOE as Baker Mayfield), there’s no reason he can’t win another MVP award.

The Cowboys rank fourth in defensive EPA per play (-.070), and a big part of that success is due to the play of their pass defense. While they’re a bottom-third unit in passing yards per game and per play allowed, the impact of the turnovers cannot be understated. They pick off passes on 4.4% of their opponents’ throws. If they can get Mahomes to throw up some howlers, they have a chance.

Advantage: Mahomes

Chiefs weapons vs. Cowboys defensive backs

It’s totally unfair that the Chiefs have two of the NFL’s top 10 players in receiving yards (Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce), a 4.7 yards-per-carry back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and can still beat you with 144 yards from scrimmage by Darrel Williams, as the Chiefs did to the Raiders on Sunday.

Hill’s 111 targets rank second league-wide behind Cooper Kupp. Kelce, meanwhile, leads all tight ends in catches (62) and receiving yards (747).

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Trevon Diggs ended his pickless slump at two whole games by intercepting his league-leading eighth pass of the season against Atlanta. Diggs is a contradiction. Very few corners can simultaneously allow 8.5 yards per target, yet give up completions on just 53.7% of attempts and hold quarterbacks to a 54.9 passer rating.

And don’t sleep on Anthony Brown, whose stats are nearly as good — interceptions aside. That’s the good of Dallas’ secondary. The bad? Damontae Kazee, who’s allowing 20.9 yards per completion and 12.2 yards per target.

Advantage: Chiefs

Chiefs offensive line vs. Cowboys front seven

The Chiefs had a near-flawless game in Week 10. Yes, you can quibble about the run efficiency (3.8 yards per carry), but the Chiefs were without CEH. The other stats were excellent: No sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hits. And they did that with Andrew Wylie starting at right tackle.

On the year, the Chiefs are third in sack rate (4%) and ninth in yards per carry (4.5). Kansas City made a huge investment in its offensive line in the offseason, and it’s paying dividends. However, Lucas Niang will miss his second straight game with injured ribs.

The Chiefs are catching a bit of a break with Randy Gregory out at least another two games and DeMarcus Lawrence still not ready to return. But those injuries have created an environment for Micah Parsons to thrive as a pass rusher. Parsons has 6 sacks, 15 quarterback hits, and 11 tackles for loss in his thoroughly impressive rookie season. The Cowboy’s front could be special if all three ever get on the field at the same time.

Advantage: Chiefs

Betting line and game prediction

The Chiefs are 2.5-point home favorites, which suggests the betting public believes they are indeed back. But the view from 30,000 feet is this: The Cowboys have a better DVOA overall, on offense and defense (substantially so). Unless they lay another egg as they did against the Broncos, we see Dallas not only covering, but winning outright.

Cowboys vs. Chiefs Prediction: Cowboys 35, Chiefs 27

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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