ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The spotlight will be on the running backs this Sunday night when Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys take on current rushing leader Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota Vikings.
The 5-3 Cowboys will look to keep themselves in the playoff hunt in a stacked NFC division by getting a win over a Vikings team that’s currently in the Wild Card hunt. It’s going to be a matchup of top running games between the two NFC teams.
Two months after becoming the highest-paid back by ending a preseason-long holdout and signing a $90 million extension, Elliott is sixth in the rushing race with 741 yards, 153 behind Cook in one fewer game.
Elliott is also on one of his best rolls, looking to match a career best with a fourth straight 100-yard game at home against the Vikings on Sunday night, the third straight prime-time game for the Cowboys.
“I think there have been running backs that have played better this year,” Elliott said.
And that suggestion doesn’t bother a two-time Pro Bowler who was an All-Pro as a rookie in 2016.
“It just kind of adds a little fuel to the fire,” said Elliott, whose 4,789 yards rushing since entering the league are almost 1,000 yards more than anyone else. “I’ve got some more work to do, that’s all.”
Cook needs 106 yards to become Minnesota’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Adrian Peterson in 2015, when Peterson won the last of his three rushing titles for the Vikings.
“Any time you can be mentioned with a guy like that is awesome,” said Cook, who is second in the NFL to Christian McCaffrey with 1,232 scrimmage yards. “It’s a guy that’s highly recommended in this organization and I’m just proud of being in the conversation.”
But for Cook, the conversation is really more about Elliott. Born 23 days after the former Ohio State star in the summer of 1995, Cook came out of Florida State a year later than Elliott and was drafted in the second round.
So next summer, Cook could be going into the final year of his contract because Minnesota doesn’t have a fifth-year option on him. The Cowboys had that with Elliott, the fourth overall pick in 2016, so there were two years left on his contract when he held out this past summer.
“Everybody’s different,” Cook said. “Zeke’s been putting in the work since Day One since he walked in. I just think that’s what it all comes back to. Just putting in the work and not looking for a payday. Just looking to get wins and looking to do good things for the organization and it’ll pay itself off.”
To Cook’s point, the first meeting between the teams since Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott were rookie sensations in 2016 is important in what is shaping up to be a difficult playoff chase in the NFC.
The defending NFC East champion Cowboys lead Philadelphia by half a game. The Vikings trail Green Bay by a game in the NFC North and currently hold the last playoff spot in the conference. Plus, the offenses and defenses of both teams are all ranked in the top 10.
“This is the toughest test we’ve had as an offense going against this defense,” said Dallas tight end Jason Witten, back for a club record 16th season after a year in retirement as a broadcaster. “So I think it would be foolish to be thinking about something down the road.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)