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Week 9 NFL Preview: The Patriots Get Their First Test in Lamar Jackson

The historically great New England defense matches up with the historically great rushing QB. Plus, all the injuries, point spreads, and story lines you need to know for every matchup.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Christmas Day is when the NBA season truly starts. Players shake off rust, teams begin to jell, and it becomes clear who is for real and who is not. Halloween is similar in football. The next two months will tell us who teams are. “Starting” lineups are now filled with depth players, coaches have enough film to scout opposing tendencies, and the playoff picture begins to narrow. As much as we’ve learned about teams in the first half of the season, their play over the final half will be more relevant in deciding who will celebrate Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

Plan Your Weekend Around This Game

New England Patriots (8-0) @ Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

Kickoff time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Channel: NBC
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter)
Opening line: New England -6.5
Over/under: 46.5
Key Patriots injuries and absences: Receiver Josh Gordon (released), guard Shaq Mason (ankle), receiver Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), safety Patrick Chung (heel/chest)
Key Ravens injuries and absences: Safety Earl Thomas (knee), receiver Marquise Brown (ankle), linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee), cornerback Maurice Canady (thigh)
What to watch: What the Patriots take away from Lamar Jackson

We’re halfway through the season, and the undefeated Patriots have what looks like one of the best defenses ever. The biggest knock against them is their schedule. They have gone 8-0 against a pathetic collection of teams: Pittsburgh with a possibly injured Ben Roethlisberger, the Dolphins with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen, the Jets with Luke Falk, the Bills with Josh Allen and Matt Barkley, Washington with Colt McCoy, the Giants with Daniel Jones, the Jets again with Sam Darnold, and the Browns with Baker Mayfield. The combined record of those teams is 14-37. Three of those teams are in the bottom three in points per game, and none rank higher than 19th. Still, the goal of sports is to outscore the opponent, and New England has outscored these teams by the second-biggest margin since World War II. We can hold two things to be true at the same time: the Patriots defense could not have performed better, and also they have faced a remarkably easy slate.

The latter truth changes on Sunday Night Football, and we’ll see whether the former does too. None of New England’s opponents thus far have been even league average in yards per drive, plays per drive, points per drive, or time of possession per drive. This week, the Patriots will play the Ravens, who lead the league in all four. Their 30.6 points per game are second only to New England.

Baltimore’s strength is running. The Ravens have run roughly 37 times for 204 yards per game, by far the most rushing yards of any team, and they’re the second-best team in yards per attempt (5.5). Lamar Jackson is already one of the most versatile players ever to play quarterback. He has also shown the remarkable strides he’s taken since his rookie season. He is more efficient on his throws this year despite passing more often, and he’s far more efficient on his runs. Jackson has 576 rushing yards this season on 83 carries, 20 more yards than he had in his seven starts last year on 36 fewer carries. His 6.9 yards per rushing attempt leads all players. He ranks ninth in rushing yards per game, with more than Saquon Barkley.

A major piece of the Ravens’ success has been their offensive line. With left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right tackle Orlando Brown, they have one of the best combinations on the outside in the league. Right guard Marshal Yanda is a potential Hall of Famer. Their offensive line is in the top 10 in run blocking statistically and by the eye test. The Ravens’ run game lets them bleed the clock when they have a lead, but is also so effective they don’t abandon it when they are behind. New England’s defense has been historically great, but nobody cares less about past performance than Bill Belichick, and this is their first real test.

Belichick is famous for taking away the opposing offense’s strengths. His team’s past seven opponents didn’t really have any, but Baltimore obviously does. From the outside looking in, it seems clear the Patriots will try to take away the Ravens’ running game and force them to do one of the few things Lamar Jackson does not do well—throw passes outside the hash marks. Coming out of college, the knock on Jackson was he would struggle with throws toward the sideline like out routes and comeback routes that need to be delivered accurately on a receiver’s outside shoulder and quickly enough that a cornerback can’t jump the ball for a pick-six. Jackson has more than proved that the teams who passed on him in the first round were mistaken (even the Ravens drafted tight end Hayden Hurst before Jackson), but he has still not consistently excelled at making passes that need to get to the boundary quickly. It would make sense for the Patriots to do their best to clog the Ravens run game to force them to throw. In pass coverage, they could gum up the seams over the middle of the field, where tight end Mark Andrews thrives, let the Ravens receivers get open along the sideline, and dare Jackson to find them.

The other way to attack Jackson is focusing on his ball security. Last year, Jackson tied the league lead with 12 fumbles despite starting just seven games. He focused on ball security this offseason and has only four fumbles through the same number of starts this year, but the Patriots defense leads the league in takeaways and has a strange knack for knocking the ball out of players’ hands in weird ways.

If the Patriots can’t stop the Ravens, they may have trouble keeping up. New England has been one of the seven most efficient offenses per play every season since 2004, according to Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders. This year, they are 15th.

Fun Games

Minnesota Vikings (6-2) @ Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Kansas City -3.5
Over/under: 46
Key Vikings injuries and absences: Receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring)
Key Chiefs injuries and absences: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee), left tackle Eric Fisher (groin), guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle), defensive end Frank Clark (neck), defensive end Alex Okafor (ankle), cornerback Kendall Fuller (thumb), cornerback Bashaud Breeland (shoulder)
What to watch: Kansas City’s mounting injuries

Here are two quarterbacks along with some stats and where those numbers rank among all QBs:

Quarterback 1

  • 115.2 passer rating (no. 2)
  • 9.3 yards per pass attempt (no. 1)
  • 6.0 percent of passes go for a touchdown (no. 6)

Quarterback 2

  • 113.1 passer rating (no. 3)
  • 9.0 yards per pass attempt (no. 2)
  • 6.2 percent of passes go for a touchdown (no. 4)

Quarterback 1 is Kirk Cousins. Quarterback 2 is Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has thrown more passes despite playing fewer games than Cousins, so his cumulative numbers are better. But on a per-throw basis, Cousins has been shockingly close to Mahomes’s efficiency.

Mahomes, who dislocated his kneecap in Week 7 but was somehow not ruled out of last week’s matchup with the Packers until last Friday, will likely not play on Sunday. The Chiefs would be wise not to rush him back, especially with injuries at other key positions. Kansas City is hurting on both sides of the ball and not just at quarterback. Even if Mahomes does play, Cousins may outduel him on Sunday.

Houston Texans (5-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4)

Kickoff time: 9:30 a.m. ET
Channel: NFL Network
Announcers: Rich Eisen, Kurt Warner, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin, Melissa Stark (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Houston -3
Over/under: 47
Key Texans injuries and absences: Quarterback Deshaun Watson (eye), defensive end J.J. Watt (torn pectoral), receiver Will Fuller (hamstring), receiver DeAndre Hopkins (thumb), left tackle Laremy Tunsil (shoulder), offensive lineman Tytus Howard (knee)
Key Jaguars injuries and absences: Defensive lineman Calais Campbell (back), receiver Dede Westbrook (neck/shoulder), receiver DJ Chark (quad), cornerback D.J. Hayden (neck/shoulder), offensive lineman Brandon Linder (shoulder)
What to watch: Sunday Morning Football

This game kicks off early, but unlike most London games, this is a fun matchup between two charismatic, playmaking quarterbacks. (Crucially, this will be the 28th NFL game in London, but none of them have ever been between winning teams.) There’s a chance this ends up as the best game the British have ever seen, but that may depend on how well the Texans quarterback can see.

Deshaun Watson was set to yell “play ball” before Game 7 of the World Series in Houston on Wednesday, but he was a late scratch. The eye he injured when Raiders pass rusher Arden Key kicked him in the face last week (which did not stop Watson from blindly throwing a touchdown pass on the same play) was swollen and bloodshot, and the “bright lights” were reportedly too much for him (he has said he will play on Sunday).

It’s just the latest injury Watson has suffered around Halloween. Two years ago Friday, Watson tore his ACL in practice on November 2, ending his rookie season. In Week 7 last year, Watson had a partially collapsed lung that kept him from boarding a team flight to Jacksonville. Still, Watson rode 12 hours on a bus and beat the Jaguars 20-7. Watson is once again not 100 percent for Houston’s first game in November, and this matchup against the Jaguars has big implications in the AFC South. The Texans are in second place at 5-3, behind the 5-2 Colts. A Jacksonville win would put the Jags at 5-4 with the head-to-head win over Houston, vaulting them into second place and the last wild-card spot in the AFC. Whether Jacksonville’s best pass rusher, Calais Campbell, and Houston’s best blocker, Laremy Tunsil, can play will go a long way toward determining whether the Texans can protect Watson in this one, and by extension whether the Londoners finally get a good football match.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) @ Seattle Seahawks (6-2)

Kickoff time: 4:05 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber (former Buccaneer), Sara Walsh (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Seattle -5.5
Over/under: 53.5
Key Buccaneers injuries and absences: Tight end O.J. Howard (hamstring), tight end Cameron Brate (ribs), cornerback Carlton Davis (shoulder)
Key Seahawks injuries and absences: Safety Tedric Thompson (shoulder), defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson (oblique), linebacker K.J. Wright (knee), offensive lineman Justin Britt (torn ACL)
What to watch: Whether Seattle puts it in Russell Wilson’s hands (or not)

The Seahawks may have the favorite for MVP and the highest-paid player by average salary at quarterback, but head coach Pete Carroll likes to run. Seattle is fourth in rushing attempts and 17th in pass attempts, which is an improvement over last year when they were dead last in pass attempts and second in rushing attempts. But the Buccaneers present a vexing problem: They are the league’s most efficient run defense, per Football Outsiders, but the 26th-most efficient pass defense. The Seahawks could let Wilson air it out, but they often go against the obvious solution when it comes to giving Wilson free rein, despite their financial and emotional investment in him. Most likely, they’ll stubbornly try to establish the run and eke out a close win.

Chicago Bears (3-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Jennifer Hale (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Philadelphia -3
Over/under: 45
Key Bears injuries and absences: defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (elbow)
Key injuries and absences: Receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), left tackle Jason Peters (knee), running back Miles Sanders (shoulder), linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion/neck)
What to watch: Déjà Doink

The last time these teams met was the Double Doink game. The rematch comes at a funny time. Last week, the Bears lost to the Chargers when new kicker Eddy Piñeiro missed an even shorter field goal. Yet kicking has been a scapegoat for the Bears, whose true problem is at quarterback. The Bears have used the third-most cap space at quarterback, receiver, and tight end combined this year, but have the 28th-most-efficient per-play offense according to Football Outsiders. The main culprit is Mitchell Trubisky, and if he can’t execute against a weakened Eagles defense this week and Chicago drops to 3-5, there will be real questions about whether the team needs to replace him next year. Of course, if the Bears win or lose this game by a field goal, Trubisky will be able to skate by another week without confronting these questions.

Green Bay Packers (7-1) @ Los Angeles Chargers (3-5)

Kickoff time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Green Bay -4
Over/under: 46
Key Packers injuries and absences: Receiver Davante Adams (toe), running back Aaron Jones (shoulder), receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle/knee), tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (finger), cornerback Tramon Williams (knee)
Key Chargers injuries and absences: Left tackle Russell Okung (calf), receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring), center Mike Pouncey (neck), safety Derwin James (foot), safety Adrian Phillips (broken arm), safety Nasir Adderley (hamstring)
What to watch: The Chargers try to run in front of a Packed crowd

There have been 85 times in the century of NFL football that a team has had four games in a row with fewer than 40 yards rushing. Of those 85, 84 of them were in 1946 or earlier. The 85th is ongoing with the Chargers, who have 142 rushing yards in the month of October (to put that in perspective, Christian McCaffrey has 324 rushing yards this month despite the Panthers having had a bye week). Perhaps that is why head coach Anthony Lynn, who came up as a running backs coach, fired offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt this week despite coming off of a win against the Chicago Bears. The team’s running game has been abysmal since Melvin Gordon returned from his holdout. It’s partially because of Gordon’s rust (he asked for more touches two weeks ago and then fumbled the ball at the goal line to essentially lose the game), partially because of injuries to their offensive line (including center Mike Pouncey), and partially because this offense is just bad.

The Chargers will likely try to revive their run game on Sunday, but they’ll be doing it against a roaring crowd. Steelers fans invaded the Chargers’ home stadium in Week 6, and the Packers have the fan base to stage a similar takeover. Expect a lot of green and gold on Sunday and another round of “Can you find a Chargers fan in this photo of the seats at a Chargers home game?

There is a deep irony in the fact that the Chargers are based in Los Angeles, the second-biggest city in America, but have so few fans that they will be completely overrun by supporters of a team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the 295th-most populated city in America.

New York Jets (1-6) @ Miami Dolphins (0-7)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta, AJ Ross (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Jets -6.5
Over/under: 41
Key Jets injuries and absences: Linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), cornerback Trumaine Johnson (ankles), tackle Kelvin Beachum (ankle), center Ryan Kalil (knee/elbow), tight end Chris Herndon (hamstring)
Key Dolphins injuries and absences: Cornerback Xavien Howard (knee), cornerback Aqib Talib (ribs), safety Reshad Jones (chest), receiver Albert Wilson (ankle/hip)
What to watch: The Dolphins’ first victory?

For all of the attention the Dolphins have gotten, the Jets are dead last in yards, yards per play, first downs, passing touchdowns, passing yards, passing yards per pass attempt, rushing yards, and rushing yards per attempt. They are second-to-last in points; they are scoring 11.1 points per game to the Dolphins’ 11.0.

The Jets collapsed without Sam Darnold. That it happened in a year when so many teams have survived or thrived with backup quarterbacks shined a spotlight on the poor construction of the roster. An even brighter line was shone on the front office this week when safety Jamal Adams was reportedly made available at the trade deadline. He did not take it well. In comments he later clarified on Twitter, Adams said Jets GM Joe Douglas told him last Friday that he would not be traded, but then Adams saw rumors the Jets were shopping his contract.

“When my agent called me and told me what was going on, it definitely hurt me,” Adams said. “I hold myself at a high level. The Rams don’t take calls on Aaron Donald. The Patriots don’t take calls on Tom Brady. That’s where I hold myself.”

The Jets are rebuilding, and taking phone calls on trades is among the most basic aspect of a GM’s job. Adams is not Donald or Brady. Having said that, he is the best and most respected player on his team, and those are not players you want to be wishy-washy about. It sends a bad message to the rest of the players. (If that’s how they treat Jamal, what will they do to me?) That’s how players quit on teams. The Jets game last week against Jacksonville was a crucial opportunity to bounce back from a humiliating loss to the Patriots on Monday Night Football, and they came up two touchdowns short. Now the Jets have added more adversity and divided the players, including Le’Veon Bell, who had a conversation with head coach Adam Gase about his decreasing usage. The Jets could easily beat the lowly Dolphins, but if they lose, it will in part be because their front office has divided their players.

Games With Surprisingly Important Playoff Implications

Indianapolis Colts (5-2) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3-4)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Pick ’em
Over/under: 43.5
Key Steelers injuries and absences: Running back James Conner (shoulder), running back Benny Snell Jr. (knee), guard Ramon Foster (concussion), center Maurkice Pouncey (calf)
Key Colts injuries and absences: Receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf), defensive end Kemoko Turay (ankle), defensive end Denico Autry (neck), defensive end Jabaal Sheard (foot), cornerback Pierre Desir (hamstring), cornerback Kenny Moore II (knee)
What to watch: Whether the Steelers can pull themselves together

What a difference being prepared at backup quarterback makes. Indianapolis traded for Jacoby Brissett two seasons ago and now has a better record than they did at this time with Andrew Luck last season. Meanwhile, the Steelers traded one of their backup quarterbacks to Jacksonville after Week 1, lost Ben Roethlisberger after Week 2, and went multiple weeks without Mason Rudolph, who is now back. In his first game since his scary concussion in Week 5, Rudolph and Pittsburgh fell behind by two touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

Despite that turmoil and an 0-3 start, the Steelers are a win away from .500. Head coach Mike Tomlin has never finished under .500. Additionally, the playoff implications in this game are big—the difference between a win and a loss for Pittsburgh would be a 26 percent swing for their playoff hopes according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the largest of any team this week.

Tennessee Titans (4-4) @ Carolina Panthers (4-3)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Melanie Collins (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Carolina -4.5
Over/under: 40
Key Titans injuries and absences: Quarterback Cam Newton (foot), tackle Greg Little (concussion), linebacker Shaq Thompson (ankle)
Key injuries and absences: Defensive tackle Jurell Casey (shoulder), center Ben Jones (concussion), tight end Delanie Walker (ankle)
What to watch: Kyle Allen’s continued competence

The Panthers were 4-0 with backup quarterback Kyle Allen until they were chewed up and spit out by the San Francisco 49ers last week. Allen looked overwhelmed when facing pressure from Nick Bosa and the rest of San Francisco’s defense. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said that Cam Newton is not going to return this week, but whether Allen sinks or swims against a stout Titans defense could impact whether Newton returns in Week 10 against the Packers.

Detroit Lions (3-3-1) @ Oakland Raiders (3-4)

Kickoff time: 4:05 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Pick ’em
Over/under: 51
Key Lions injuries and absences: Cornerback Darius Slay (hamstring), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot), interior lineman Graham Glasgow (back)
Key Raiders injuries and absences: Running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder), receiver Tyrell Williams (foot), center Rodney Hudson (ankle), linebacker Tahir Whitehead (wrist/shoulder)
What to watch: One team’s playoff hopes be snuffed out

Both Jon Gruden and Matt Patricia are in their second season as head coach with their respective teams, and each squad is performing well but has just three wins to show for it. This matchup represents a serious fork in the road for each of them. A loss for either team would all but eliminate them from the playoffs while a win would keep them in the hunt, according ESPN’s FPI projections.

You Messed Up Your Weekend If You’re Watching This Game

Washington (1-7) @ Buffalo Bills (5-2)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnson, Laura Okmin (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Buffalo -10
Over/under: 36.5
Key Washington injuries and absences: Quarterback Case Keenum (concussion), left tackle Trent Williams (scalp), running back Adrian Peterson (ankle), running back Chris Thompson (toe), tight end Vernon Davis (concussion)
Key Bills injuries and absences: Offensive tackle Cody Ford (elbow), cornerback Levi Wallace (shoulder)
What to watch: Dwayne Haskins (possibly) make his first start

Case Keenum is the starter if he is ready to go, but if not, this could be Dwayne Haskins’s first start. He’s already made two appearances against the Giants and Vikings, when he went a combined 12-of-22 for 140 yards and four interceptions with four sacks. The Bills would be a tough first matchup. They are the sixth-most efficient pass defense and allow the fifth-fewest plays per drive, the fourth-fewest yards per drive, and the third-fewest points per drive per Football Outsiders.

Cleveland Browns (2-5) @ Denver Broncos (2-6)

Kickoff time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Jay Feely (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Denver -1
Over/under: 43
Key Browns injuries and absences: Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (groin), receiver Jarvis Landry (shoulder), safety Damarious Randall (hamstring)
Key Broncos injuries and absences: Quarterback Joe Flacco (neck), tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee), tight end Jeff Heuerman (knee), outside linebacker Von Miller (knee), cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot)
What to watch: Two first-year coaches try not to lose this game

Baker Mayfield stormed out of a press conference this week after repeated questions about Freddie Kitchens. Last week, the Browns’ first-year head coach decided to intentionally take a false-start penalty on fourth-and-11. Kitchens wanted to stop the clock while preserving a timeout so the Browns could go for it on fourth-and-16. It did not work. It did not make a lot of sense. Yet Kitchens defended himself after the game and Mayfield defended him this week.

It’s the latest questionable decision from Freddie. A month ago Kitchens called a draw play on fourth-and-9 against the Rams. His in-game decision-making has been bad, but his schemes have been worse. Cleveland’s offense is 28th in yards per drive despite their talent. Even more infuriating is Cleveland’s lack of discipline. The Browns lead the league in penalties and penalty yardage despite playing seven games while many teams have played eight. Mayfield may be frustrated with reporters, but there’s also a frustration overtaking a 2-5 Browns team that was overhyped entering this year.

Meanwhile, Denver’s quarterback is criticizing his coach rather than defending him. Last Sunday, the Broncos were up up 13-12 and punted on fourth-and-5 at the Indianapolis 43-yard line with just under two minutes remaining, but the Colts drove down and kicked a game-winning field goal. Afterward, Joe Flacco said the team would have been better off going for it on fourth down.

“We’re now a 2-6 football team and we’re afraid to go for it in a two-minute drill,” Flacco said. “Who cares if you give the ball back to the guys with a minute and 40 seconds left? They obviously got the field goal anyway. Once again, we’re a 2-6 football team and it just feels like we’re kind of afraid to lose a game.”

Shortly after Flacco’s fiery comments, he was announced out for at least a month with an injury in his neck. (Hopefully the disk injury doesn’t keep him from jawing.) He will be replaced by Brandon Allen, who was a 2016 sixth-rounder and has yet to throw a pass in the NFL.

Monday Night Football

Dallas Cowboys (4-3) @ New York Giants (2-6)

Kickoff time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN
Announcers: Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland, Lisa Salters (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Dallas -9
Over/under: 47
Key Cowboys injuries and absences: Receiver Amari Cooper (ankle), left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle), right tackle La’el Collins (knee), guard Zack Martin (back/ankle), cornerback Anthony Brown (hamstring)
Key Giants injuries and absences: Receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion)
What to watch: The Cowboys get back on track

Dallas beat the Giants 35-17 in Week 1, and this week they are coming off their bye after eviscerating the Eagles 37-10. They are in first place in the NFC East despite having just four wins, but they need this game against the Giants because they have no gimmes left in the foreseeable future. Their next seven games are against the Vikings, at the Lions, at the Patriots, Bills, at the Bears, the Rams, and at the Eagles. The real test for them this week is health. Every key player on offense except Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott is hurt. Whether Tyron Smith, Amari Cooper, and La’el Collins improved over the bye week will be critical for Dallas in this crucial stretch.

Byes: Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints