Seahawks’ wild-card matchup: 3 Dallas Cowboys to watch

Jan 1, 2019, 11:22 PM | Updated: 11:24 pm
The Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards this season. (AP)...
The Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards this season. (AP)

The Seattle Seahawks (10-6) and Dallas Cowboys (10-6) will face off this Saturday, Jan. 5 in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.

Moore: Don’t expect a repeat of Week 3 with Seahawks-Cowboys

The Seahawks beat the Cowboys 24-13 in Week 3, but a lot has changed for these two teams since their September meeting. For starters, safety Earl Thomas had a pair of interceptions in that game and was one of the Seahawks’ brightest performers, but he saw his season end with a broken leg the following week. The Cowboys, meanwhile, were uneven through the first few weeks of the season, but went on to win seven of their last eight games. And this time, they’ll be facing the Seahawks not in Seattle but at AT&T Stadium.

This Saturday, the Seahawks will need to keep an eye on two perpetual difference-makers and one new addition. Here are three Cowboys to watch:

WR Amari Cooper

One of the biggest differences for Dallas this time around is wide receiver Amari Cooper, who the Cowboys acquired in a trade with the Raiders in October. He’s made an impact in his nine weeks with Dallas with 725 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Cooper’s arrival marked a swift change for Dallas. The Cowboys were 3-4 before acquiring Cooper and – after a loss to the Titans in Week 8 – saw a five-game win streak with him as part of their offense.

To be fair, Cooper isn’t solely responsible for that momentum shift. The Cowboys’ defense forced seven turnovers during those five weeks and Ezekiel Elliott had three consecutive games of 100 or more rushing yards. But Cooper did have 584 yards and five touchdowns during a stretch that included one game of 180 receiving yards and another of 217.

Cooper has seen a dip in his production over the last three games, with less than 33 yards in each contest and no touchdowns. Still, he remains Dallas’ number one receiver and will be healthy heading into Saturday’s matchup.

RB Ezekiel Elliott

Elliott has been the Cowboys’ best weapon since joining the league and furthered his cause this season by leading the league with 1,434 rushing yards. And even though Dallas lost to Seattle earlier this season, Elliott still finished the day with 127 yards.

Unlike the last meeting, the Seahawks will have both K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner heading the linebacker group this time around. Even so, containing Elliott is, and always will be, a challenge for any defense.

DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence earned his second Pro Bowl nod after leading the team in sacks (10.5) this season. That total isn’t as high as the 14.5 sacks he recorded last season, but that’s not for a lack of play-making ability – Lawrence saw a career-high in tackles (64) in 2018 and finished with 23 quarterback hits.

Lawrence and the rest of Dallas’ D-line will be facing a Seattle offensive line that could be short starting guard J.R. Sweezy (foot). The Seahawks’ offensive line has seen quite the turnaround this season, but until recently they had all five starters healthy every week. Sweezy and right guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) have been inactive or limited due to injury the last couple weeks, but the team is expecting the return of Fluker, which would also allow Germain Ifedi to resume his regular role at right tackle. Head coach Pete Carroll said Monday that Sweezy will likely be a game-day decision, however.

Listen: 710’s Playoff Roundtable previews Seahawks vs Cowboys

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Seahawks’ wild-card matchup: 3 Dallas Cowboys to watch