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5 bold predictions for Chiefs-Cowboys

The Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys have met three times since the turn of the century, with the Dallas winning the first two and Kansas City the most recent one. The two teams meeting Sunday are extremely different from the ones that last met in 2013. Two potent offenses will try to stay on track and two struggling defenses will try to get off the ropes.

The Cowboys are one of the better teams in the NFC, but a rough start put their backs against the wall at 4-3 heading into Week 9. Kansas City started 5-0 before back-to-back losses, and must find a way to get ahead of New England and Pittsburgh in the battle for the top seed in the AFC. Here are five bold predictions for Sunday’s 4:25 Eastern kickoff.

1. Prepare for a shootout

Dak Prescott and Alex Smith are playing top-notch football, Ezekiel Elliott and Kareem Hunt are two of the top three backs in the league this season and weapons such as Tyreek Hill, Dez Bryant and Travis Kelce against struggling secondaries should make this game a high-scoring affair.

Against two offenses loaded with talent and the ability to hit big plays or mount 12-play drives with equal propensity, both defenses will have their hands full all game long.

NOTE: The original version of this article included the point “the Cowboys’ running game will be productive without Ezekiel Elliott,” before the news broke that Elliott would play.

2. Two quarterbacks that don’t throw interceptions are going to throw interceptions

Alex Smith has thrown zero interceptions in eight games this season, while Dak Prescott has thrown just four in 2017 and only eight in his 23-game career. Both quarterbacks are among the best in the league at protecting the football, but each player will make a mistake on Sunday that costs their team in the moment.

The Chiefs have forced 13 turnovers this season and the Cowboys have forced 10, both numbers that are in the top half of the league. Their defensively opportunistic ways will pay off on Sunday; two struggling defenses will each catch a momentary break.

3. La’el Collins will play well, but give up at least one sack to Justin Houston

Collins has done a solid job at right tackle this season for Dallas, but he will lose a rep here and there. He’s still learning to play with greater consistency, but I expect him to give Houston a good battle if the Chiefs’ star pass rusher is able to play on Sunday. Houston was limited during Wednesday and Thursday’s practice with a knee injury, which is obviously a central concern for Kansas City on Sunday.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 15: Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) in the third quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs on January 15, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. The Steelers won 18-16 to advance to the AFC Championship game. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

Few defensive players can change a game like Houston, and his importance becomes magnified with how the Chiefs’ defense has struggled against the run and how banged up Dee Ford has been as well. Houston-Collins should be a great battle, but I think Houston will get him late in the game for a big sack.

4. Both red zone offenses will click on Sunday

No team in the NFL has been worse than the Chiefs in the red zone over the past three games, with the team converting trips to touchdowns at a rate of just over 14 percent. That’s abysmal considering their run-pass balance and the amount of playmakers they can show a defense on any given play, not to mention having one of the better play-callers and offensive minds in the league, Andy Reid. I just can’t see the Chiefs’ struggles continuing, especially against a Cowboy offense that is currently 22nd in the NFL in red-zone defense.

As for Dallas, this has been a great red-zone offense all season (ranked fifth in the NFL), and was equally dominant last season. Getting Elliott for this game is huge, but even without him Prescott is such a dynamic rushing threat inside the 20, and Dez Bryant is the best jump ball receiver in the league. The Chiefs’ banged-up, struggling defense will have its hands full in what should turn out to be a high-scoring affair.

5. Mitchell Schwartz will shut out DeMarcus Lawrence

Few defensive players in the league have been better than Lawrence this season. The Cowboys’ defensive end has had at least one sack in every game this season, including three multi-sack performances. Lawrence was listed as limited on the Wednesday and Thursday injury reports, but if he plays, he’ll face by far his best matchup of the season this week in Schwartz, the top right tackle in football.

Schwartz has shut down Khalil Mack, Von Miller and Ryan Kerrigan this season, while playing probably the best football of his career. It will be a clash of two titans at their positions, but I think Schwartz will leave Lawrence with a blank in the sack column when the clock hits zeroes.

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