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Cowboys News: Why Ezekiel Elliott Is Frontrunner For League MVP

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Elliott earns two more weekly awards; Dez Bryant added to Cowboys injury report; Cowboys are cure-all for NFL's flagging TV ratings.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

NFL MVP tracker: Ezekiel Elliott knocks Matt Ryan from pedestal - Nate Davis, USA Today
Elliott moves up into the top spot of USA Today's NFL staff MVP tracker.

Elliott ends Matt Ryan's seven-week run as our frontrunner. But Elliott, who could join legendary Jim Brown as the only rookie to be anointed MVP, deserves the acclaim. He leads the NFL with 1,005 rushing yards and is on pace for 1,787, which would be 21 yards shy of matching Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson's rookie record. But Elliott, the offensive engine of the Cowboys and their league-best 8-1 record, showed Sunday that he's much more than a runner, providing stellar pass protection for fellow frosh Dak Prescott while taking a screen pass 83 yards to the house.

Stud.

Eric Dickerson: Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott won't break my rookie rushing record - Michael Schwartz, USA Today
I don't know where exactly Dickerson is getting his confidence from, but he's pretty sure his record is safe.

Appearing on SportsCenter on Wednesday, Dickerson said he felt that number was safe.

"Zeke does a great job of picking and choosing his holes, he really does," Dickerson said. "And the offensive line, they stopped everybody at the line of scrimmage. But is he gonna break that record? No, he ain't gonna break that record. That record's safe."

"I'd be happy for him, I really would," Dickerson said. "But that's not gonna happen. ... I'm not gonna throw a party either way."

"(Elliott is) rookie of the year for sure, I think no doubt right now," Dickerson said. "You know, the MVP thing: He's on pace to be MVP, too. People are looking at Zeke. Look at Dak Prescott. Don't forget about him. They could have co-MVPs. It would be the greatest thing in the world if they had co-MVPs on the Dallas Cowboys."

Elliott’s Heroics Earns Him Two More Weekly Awards - Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys
The awards keep coming in for the Cowboys, perhaps an early sign of what the fan vote for the Pro Bowl will look like.

Elliott became the third straight Cowboys player to win Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week as quarterback Dak Prescott won each of the past two weeks.

Elliott also won the vote for the Castrol Edge Clutch Performer of the Week, thanks to the two touchdown runs in the final two minutes.

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NFL teams where the future suddenly looks a lot better or a lot worse - Bill Barnwell, ESPN
A Barnwell article warrants almost automatic inclusion in out News post. This time, Barnwell looks to pick out teams for which the future looks either dramatically better or worse than it did when the season started. The Cowboys predictably are in the "dramatically better" section.

I probably don't need to explain this one, right? Dak Prescott didn't just save the Cowboys this season; he fundamentally changes their next decade. Dallas was going to need to seriously try to find a replacement for Tony Romo as soon as this upcoming offseason. Now, they don't have to use a first-round pick on a quarterback and can instead apply that to upgrade a perennially overachieving defensive line. With Prescott due to make a total of just under $2.2 million over the next three seasons, the Cowboys also can trade Romo and create a modest amount of cap space next year before freeing things up dramatically in 2018 and 2019, a move that will allow them to re-sign their own talent or go after top-level contributors in free agency for the first time in years. Finding a franchise quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft cures a lot of ills very quickly. The last two teams to do it were the Seahawks with Russell Wilson and the Patriots with Tom Brady. Worked out well for those teams, right?

Scott Linehan among 5 NFL coordinators who will become head coaches in 2017 - Cameron DaSilva, FOX Sports
Linehan is one of the five coordinators DaSilva suggests to keep an eye on for next season.

The Cowboys are third in yards, fourth in points, first in rushing and are 8-1 – all of this with rookies at quarterback and running back. Linehan has done a remarkable job devising a game plan and scheme that suits Dak Prescott’s game. While he’s certainly great in the pocket, Linehan has drawn up more moving pockets, more read-option, and simpler reads for Prescott than he would have with Tony Romo under center. He took a seemingly disastrous situation with Romo and Bryant injured yet again and turned Dallas into the league’s best team.

Linehan had a brief head coaching stint with the Rams from 2006-08, going 11-25 in that span. He rebounded by working with Matthew Stafford and the Lions for a few years before joining the Cowboys last year. Dallas would love to have him back in 2017, but he might choose to test the waters as a head coach somewhere.

Who Has the Best Receiving Corps in the NFL? - Danny Kelly, The Ringer
They may not have gotten a lot of headlines this year, but Kelly ranks the Cowboys' receiving corps fifth overall.

5. Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Brice Butler, Vince Mayle, Lucky Whitehead

When you talk about the Cowboys’ offense, the subject is almost invariably Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and the elite offensive line, but the Dallas receiving corps has some talent too. Bryant (22 catches, 398 yards, and three touchdowns in six games) remains one of the game’s elite downfield and end zone weapons, and Beasley (48 receptions, 532 yards, four touchdowns) has emerged as one of the shiftiest and most dependable slot receivers in the league with his 83 percent catch rate (fifth in the NFL per Pro Football Focus). Terrance Williams (25 receptions at 14.4 yards per catch) remains a deep threat, and Butler (11 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns) did a fine job filling in for Bryant when he was out with a knee injury earlier this year.

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Where will Cowboys QB Tony Romo end up in 2017? - Tom Pelissario, USA Today
Pelissario asked five unnamed NFL execs to put a price on Romo. Here's what they had to offer.

One GM guessed the Cowboys could get as much as a second-round draft pick, with the caveat Romo may have trouble passing a physical. Another executive predicted the Cowboys could ask for a second or third. Another said he thought a third was the ceiling.

Several other executives predicted the compensation would be much lower — perhaps a conditional late-round pick, which could become more based on performance and playing time.

One even guessed they’d get a sixth-rounder only because somebody will be desperate.

Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott Has A Lot Of Growing Left To Do - Joey Ickes, Blogging The Boys
Ickes takes a deep dive look Dak Prescott's performance against the Steelers and concludes that all that glitters is not gold - Prescott must improve his play if he is going to lead the Cowboys where they hope to go. Great read that highlights how the tape doesn't quite match up with the spectacular stats Prescott has been putting up.

If you look at Dak's performance on a macro level, or through the lens of the type of expectations carried by a rookie chosen with the 135th pick in the draft, filling in for a stretch of games while your franchise quarterback recovers from a somewhat serious injury, he has been nothing less than absolutely outstanding.

Understanding this, it is time to take a deep look at his play at the micro level, and examine the intricacies of his game, and find the areas he MUST improve upon to be the quarterback the team will need him to be in January and February in order for them to turn their 8-1 start into the Super Bowl championship that's evaded them for so long.

Dez Bryant added to Cowboys injury report - Todd Archer, ESPN
Bryant was added to the Cowboys injury report Friday as questionable, but Archer explains there's no reason to panic.

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was added to the injury list with a back injury after he was limited in Friday's practice but given how Bryant moved around following the workout there's little doubt he will play. Tony Romo, Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence and Chaz Green are also listed as questionable but expected to be active against Baltimore.

Gavin Escobar gets final chance to show Dallas Cowboys what he can do - Todd Archer, ESPN
Escobar hasn't lived up to expectations after being taken in the second round in 2013, but injuries have afforded him another chance.

With James Hanna still on the physically unable to perform list because of knee surgery during training camp, the Cowboys have turned their attention to Escobar once again.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett praised Escobar’s work against the Steelers. He was impressed with how Escobar handled the increased work and knew his assignments.

He rehabbed hard enough to be ready for training camp, but Escobar admits he was not 100 percent.

"I didn’t feel like myself during training camp, but towards the beginning of the season I definitely felt some of that explosion and stuff coming back," Escobar said. "I’d say I’m pretty close to 100 percent if not 100 percent."

Cowboys' Kellen Moore starting to 'feel like normal human being' - Todd Archer, ESPN
Moore, who suffered a broken fibula in August, said that he's started running again as he's found ways to help the team's QBs prepare.

"I’ve started running a little bit, all that good stuff," Moore said. "Starting to feel like a normal human being."

The Cowboys placed him on injured reserve and while he can’t practice, he has found other ways to help. He is in every meeting. He is at every game, home and away. During the week he breaks down the opposing defense. During the game he charts plays and offers suggestions.

"It keeps you around the game, keeps you around football," Moore said. "I think sometimes when you’re hurt, sometimes it gives you a different perspective on things and sometimes that can be good looking at it. You’re not out there playing as much, but you’re watching film, watching from the sidelines and you’re still being able to process things, think about it and see it at the same time."

Sean Lee on Cowboys home games: 'We want to be a team that can dominate at home' - David Moore, SportsDay
The Cowboys have won three straight at home after losing the season opener and are looking to extend that streak.

"That is something we talked about in the offseason,'' linebacker Sean Lee said. "You want to win at home and make it a hard place to play for other teams.

"I think we're getting better at that. We have to continue that.''

"It's one of those deals where we want to be a team that can dominate at home and make it really hard. We know when we're playing well at home the fans support us and it makes the games that much more fun.

"Hopefully this year we can start that tradition and keep it going.''

Defense Getting By Without Takeaways, But Determined To Do More - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
It hasn't become a game-deciding issue yet, but the Cowboys have struggled to get takeaways in recent weeks. It's something they say they're working to improve, Helman writes.

Obviously, the team is still winning, but [the number of takeaways] has dropped to just one in the last three games. In back-to-back road wins at Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the Cowboys didn’t manage one takeaway. It’s a stat that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli agreed was concerning.

"Oh, yeah. Yes, that’s who we are," Marinelli said. "We’ve got to get it to get where we want to keep going each week. You’ve got to get them."

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Ravens vs. Dallas Cowboys Week 11 coverage map - 506sports.com
Here's a look at the coverage map for Sunday's contest between the Ravens and Cowboys, via 506 Sports:

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Cowboys shape up as cure-all for NFL's flagging TV ratings - Jarrett Bell, USA Today
It's still tried and true after all these years: When the Cowboys play, America tunes in.

Led by last weekend’s thriller against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which went down to the wire and averaged nearly 29 million viewers, the Cowboys have been showcased in the three highest-rated games this season and in six of the top 15.

"Not a shock," Lee Berke, a New York-based sports media consultant, told USA TODAY Sports.

Industry experts point out that local ratings have remained strong — people in Cleveland still watch the winless Browns with fervor — but the Cowboys have picked up the national slack.

"It’s good to have teams with strong national followings winning, like the Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders," said Berke, CEO of LHB Sports Entertainment & Media. "It’s the stuff that allows you to create marquee matchups."

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Dr. Jerry Jones with an update on Jaylon Smith.

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How the NFL prevents teams from using penalties to win games - Kevin Seifert, ESPN
You may have seen this happen in the Week 9 game between the 49ers and Saints:

Four San Francisco 49ers defensive backs simultaneously -- and very intentionally -- grabbed and held the New Orleans Saints receivers they were covering. The clock showed eight seconds to halftime, and the 49ers gladly took a 5-yard penalty from referee Jerome Boger rather than give the Saints' explosive offense a real chance to score a touchdown.

Turns out, the NFL has rules that prevent the repeated use of penalties to win games, Seifert explains.

Rule 12, Section 3, Article 2 prohibits teams from committing "successive or repeated fouls to prevent a score." If they do it again after receiving the required warning, according to Article 3 of the same rule, the act is to be declared "palpably unfair."

In such instances, referees are instructed to award the yardage a player would have reasonably gained -- including a touchdown if applicable. They also return the lost time on the clock and have the option to eject the player(s) responsible.

Did not know that.