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Cowboys at Chiefs: Week 11 primer

The first ever showdown between Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes promises to be a good one.

NFL: NOV 05 Chiefs at Cowboys Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It may not be the Sunday Night Football primetime matchup this week, but there will still be plenty of eyeballs on the Cowboys’ road game in Kansas City when they take on the Chiefs. For the first time ever, we’ll see Dak Prescott square off against Patrick Mahomes. While Prescott’s only other game against the Chiefs did include Mahomes in his rookie year, Alex Smith was the starter in that game. Now, the two elite quarterbacks will have the chance to go toe-to-toe.

Both teams are known for their high-powered offenses, led by said star quarterbacks. Both teams are guided by their seasoned head coaches, both of whom are on their second team as a head coach. For Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, he was fired by the Eagles after going 130-93-1 but never winning a Super Bowl; he’s since done that in Kansas City, taking the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game or farther in each of the last three seasons.

On the other side is Mike McCarthy, who of course won a Super Bowl in Green Bay but ended up getting fired during the 2018 season. He took a year off from football to grow and reinvent himself, with hopes of following in Reid’s footsteps and finding great success with a new team. It was a rough first year in Dallas due to insurmountable injuries, but with the Cowboys sitting at 7-2 after a 40-point victory over the Falcons it’s clear McCarthy has this team trending in the right direction.

The Chiefs are coming off their own game in which they scored over 40 points too. Mahomes threw five touchdowns to give Kansas City a much-needed 41-14 win over the Raiders. It was so desperately needed because the Chiefs have struggled to look like themselves this year. The defense went from average to absolute liability while Mahomes suddenly developed an issue to keep the ball out of the other team’s hands.

Some of this was due to opposing defenses finally adjusting to Mahomes’ risky, swing-for-the-fences style of play. Ever since the Buccaneers had their way with Mahomes in last year’s Super Bowl, teams have been emulating their basic defensive approach: avoid blitzing and keep two safeties back deep. This helps bottle up dynamic threats like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, while the lack of blitzing allows more defenders to drop into coverage.

However, anyone assuming that this is a blueprint to beating Mahomes would be as mistaken as anyone who believed Vic Fangio had done the same for Prescott. The reality is that Mahomes is a rare talent, and players like him don’t stay down for long. The defense - one that allowed 27 or more points in six of their first seven games - was what really needed to improve.

And so far, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit has done just that. They held the Giants to 17 points for a 20-17 victory, then limited the Packers to a single touchdown for a 13-7 win, and limited the Raiders to 14 when Mahomes went off last week. But are these improvements meaningful? New York’s offense is terrible, Green Bay was playing without Aaron Rodgers, and the Raiders’ once-potent offense has failed to hit even 20 points in their last two games.

Well, the Chiefs will get some answers this week, because the Cowboys offense is a well-oiled machine capable of mowing down anyone who gets in its way. They’re currently ranked fourth in offensive DVOA. Kansas City is 30th in defensive DVOA, one spot ahead of the Falcons defense that just got obliterated by Dallas.

The Cowboys will be getting their own test defensively, though under very different circumstances. Dan Quinn’s group just had one of the most dominant games any defense has had in a while, and they’ve been playing at a high level most of the year. But Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs offense will present a challenge this bunch hasn’t seen since Week 1 against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. While it’s impossible to argue that the Dallas defense - ranked fourth in DVOA - hasn’t played great this year, facing the fifth-most efficient offense on the road in Kansas City will provide a great litmus test as to how great this unit really is.

That touches on another aspect of this game, which is the fact that Arrowhead Stadium is one of the loudest venues to play in. McCarthy stated earlier in the week that he expects the environment to be even louder than their game in Minnesota. That makes Prescott’s availability all the more valuable, as his command of the offense and connections with his teammates will come in handy in such an environment.

It should be noted that, with as hot as this Cowboys team has been this year, they’ve played their closest games on the road. Their point differential in road games this year is 104-93, which is in stark contrast to their home differential of 180-102. Anyone hoping for another blowout win will likely be disappointed, but Sunday’s matchup is likely to feature two great quarterbacks trading blows all day. Whichever defense is able to gain an edge will likely be the deciding factor in this one.

We discussed everything relating to Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs on our Dallas Cowboys Preview Show on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. You can watch it below.

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