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Seahawks @ Cowboys expert picks: High expectations for Elliott's return

A sampling of picks made for the Seahawks @ Cowboys game suggests the Cowboys are heavy favorites at home.

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Cowboys host the Seahawks on Sunday and go into the game as 5-point favorites. The Vegas oddsmakers generally start with a base 3-point advantage for home teams in the NFL, so the current odds would suggest that on a neutral field, this game would be a pretty even match. But not according to the experts polled below, all of which like the Cowboys for the win on Sunday.

Whether or not those experts have any idea of what they are talking about remains to be seen, but here's what our panel of prominent pigskin pundits predicts for the game:

Wisconsin Post-Crescent (Kohn): Cowboys 37, Seahawks 17

The Seahawks laid a massive egg last week in getting destroyed by the Rams at home. If Seattle is to stay in the hunt for a wild-card spot, this is a must win. Ezekiel Elliott returns from his six-game suspension and no team appears as hot as the Cowboys right now. Dallas is also playing for its playoff life, but certainly has some momentum, having won three in a row.

Pro Football Talk (Florio): Cowboys 35, Seahawks 14

This would have been a great game if the Seahawks hadn’t fallen apart in recent weeks.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dulac): Cowboys 31, Seahawks 27

The Cowboys have won three in a row and get Ezekiel Elliott back from his six-game suspension. What’s happened to the Seahawks? They’ve given up 72 points in the past two games and have allowed 34, 38 and 42 points in three home games this season.

NFL (Harrison): Cowboys 30, Seahawks 23

The Cowboys win on the strength of the run game. That doesn't mean Ezekiel Elliott will trounce Seattle's front single-handedly. Elliott is fresh, for sure, but he could also come out as rusty as Aaron Rodgers did in Carolina last weekend. Dallas' offensive line is superior to the Rams' unit that just overpowered the Seahawks -- at least when the Cowboys' big boys are playing as their highest selves. (Well, not their metaphysical selves. This isn't chakra talk. I mean as offensive linemen and such.) Seattle is still trying to topple those Rams in the NFC West. Dallas is looking to grab a wild-card spot. Since Elliott's suspension started in Week 10, Dallas has boasted the NFL's 30th-ranked offense. They were eighth before he departed. Read into that what you must.

Bleacher Report (Simms): Cowboys 28, Seahawks 24

This game will see the return of Ezekiel Elliott, and that can't be underestimated. He's a guy who can take an average hole and turn it into a huge play. Eight-yard gains with Alfred Morris can become 80-yard gains with Elliott.

We've seen the Seahawks defense break against the run this season too, like it did last week against the Rams.

Russell Wilson will be able to make some plays, but Dallas' defensive line is legit. It will be able to contain Wilson to a degree and make some big plays of its own. Don't expect Wilson to create enough magic to win this week.

Miami Herald (Cote): Cowboys 27, Seahawks 23

Huge NFC fringe playoff battle will find the winner still in it, though unable to clinch here, and the loser in dire straits. This is not the Seattle of past years, its defense turned mortal, while Dak Prescott gets back his security blanket in Ezekiel Elliott, who’s finally off his six-game suspension. Still, a Seattle bounce-back win, after last week’s embarrassment, would not surprise.

CBS (Prisco): Cowboys 26, Seahawks 17

These two are still alive, which makes this a playoff game of sorts. The Seahawks are a shell of the team we've come to expect. Dallas gets Ezekiel Elliott back, and I think he runs wild. The Cowboys stay alive.

Pro Football Talk (Smith): Cowboys 24, Seahawks 14

This is a must-win game, as the team that loses will be eliminated. I think that’s going to be the Seahawks, who just haven’t been playing well of late.

Sporting News (Steele): Cowboys 17, Seahawks 15

The naysayers calling out the Cowboys for dragging out the Ezekiel Elliott appeals and delaying his suspension were premature. Here the Cowboys are now, on a three-game win streak and with Elliott back. Dak Prescott is no longer an anchor around the offense’s neck. Dez Bryant keeps popping up and resembling his old self. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have been a shadow of their old selves the last two weeks. If they’re going to find themselves, this is their last real chance.

New York Times (Hoffman): Cowboys

There are games with bigger playoff implications — the Falcons-Saints matchup chief among them — but nothing in Week 16 of the N.F.L. season can match the drama of the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys battling to remain relevant in the N.F.C.

Elliott returns to a team that is clinging to a 9 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to The Upshot’s Playoff Simulator. The Cowboys, though, expect that the reunification of Elliott and Dak Prescott will mean they will win their final two games. Even if they do, beating the Seahawks (8-6, 14 percent playoff chance) and the Eagles, a wild-card entry would require leapfrogging the Falcons and the Lions.

The Seahawks are coming off a brutal loss to the Rams that seemed like a nail in their coffin. They were trying to remain relevant after losing defensive backs Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor for the season. Coach Pete Carroll was quick to point out that while a 42-7 loss was hard to look at, two weeks before that, Seattle beat the Eagles in a dominant effort.

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