Ezekiel Elliott

Khalil Mack says Dak Prescott will be huge challenge for Bears defense

Khalil Mack says Dak Prescott will be huge challenge for Bears defense

As the Bears prepare to welcome the Dallas Cowboys to Soldier Field for Week 14's Thursday night showdown, star edge rusher Khalil Mack knows his defense will face a tough challenge against quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

“The guy knows how to put his team in a position to win games," Mack said of Prescott on Tuesday. "He’s a hell of a ballplayer. He plays with a lot of heart, and you see it. You see it reflected in the film. It’s going to be a big challenge for us this week.”

Despite Dallas' 6-6 record, Prescott has been in the discussion as one of the top candidates for 2019 NFL MVP. He's completed nearly 67% of his passes for 3,788 yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this year which is nearly 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns more than Mitch Trubisky has thrown for.

Part of what makes Prescott so dangerous is the Cowboys' running game. Opposing defenses can't focus their attention solely on stopping wide receiver Amari Cooper and the rest of Dallas' weapons on the outside. If that's the strategy the Bears take, Elliott is likely to carve them up.

“He’s one of the most physical running backs in the league," Mack said of Elliott. "It’s going to be a huge task. He’s a guy who runs the ball like he’s angry. It’s going to be our job to make sure he feels us.”

Elliot's physical between-the-tackles running style has him sixth in the NFL in rushing yards (990) this season. And while he hasn't made many splash plays in 2019, he's still churning out 4.4 yards per carry.

Mack knows there's an even bigger challenge facing the Bears than just the Cowboys' offense this week. Chicago needs to win out to make the playoffs and with the Packers, Chiefs and Vikings remaining on their schedule in Weeks 15-17, it may take a small miracle for the Bears to play in January.

“We love this," Mack said of the pressure on his team. "If you play this game and you love this game, you can’t wait to do the impossible, in a sense. You can’t wait to go out and prove yourself.”

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Chuck Pagano on Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott: 'He's as good as they get'

Chuck Pagano on Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott: 'He's as good as they get'

The Bears' 2019 season still has a pulse because of their win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day coupled with losses by the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers in Week 13, two teams also jockeying for the sixth and final NFC playoff seed.

But if Chicago wants to avoid flatlining Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys, they'll have to stop All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott, who defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano hinted will be as challenging of a test the team has faced all year.

“He’s a great, great back," Pagano said Monday from Halas Hall. "He’s big. He’s strong. He’s got great vision. He can run. He can take it inside, bounce outside, run through you; run around you; jump over you. He’s a threat out of the backfield as a receiver. He’s good in pass [protection]. He’s as good as they get.”

Through 12 games this season, Elliott has 227 carries for 990 yards and seven touchdowns. His rushing yards rank sixth in the NFL and trails the league's leading rusher, Nick Chubb (Browns), by less than 200 yards.

Matt Nagy expanded on Chicago's scouting report for the Cowboys' bellcow.

“He has great contact balance. But the other thing they do well with him too is they are able to dump the ball out to him in the flat and he can make guys miss. He’s a hard tackle one-on-one for a DB, linebacker at times. He’s versatile.”

If the Bears are to have any chance at upsetting the Cowboys in front of a national audience on Thursday night, it starts with stopping Elliott. It's a task much easier said than done, but if there's any defense with the talent to do it, it's Chicago.

“We’re extremely excited for the matchup," linebacker Roquan Smith said, "and I think it’ll be good for us.”

Fantasy Football: 11 targets after a nutty NFL trade deadline

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USA TODAY

Fantasy Football: 11 targets after a nutty NFL trade deadline

Finally: An NFL trade deadline with some action!

Before the 2017 deadline, the league made several impactful moves after years of mostly-boring inaction. 

Everybody loves a good trade and the league did not disappoint, with guys like Jay Ajayi, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kelvin Benjamin on the move while the Seattle Seahawks bolstered their offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott was suspended (again). 

Here are the fantasy implications of a nutty week in the NFL:

Jay Ajayi, RB, PHI

While it's impossible to predict exactly how Ajayi will be utilized in Doug Pederson's notoriously-fickle backfield, this trade is a clear win for Ajayi's fantasy owners. Even if he doesn't get 25 touches a game like he did in Miami, Ajayi is running behind a much better offensive line on the best team in football that figures to be running to close out leads late in games as opposed to passing to try to eliminate deficits (like the Dolphins). Ajayi should be able to have much more of an impact in Philadelphia even if he sees a noticeable decline in snaps and touches. (Tony Andracki)

Kenyan Drake/Damien Williams, RBs, MIA

With Ajayi out, the Dolphins have announced they will roll with the guys they have going forward. Those guys are Drake and Williams, though you can forgive any football fan if they didn't know that given the two have combined for just 33 touches through seven games. Neither guy is worthy of a "must-add" and there are serious question marks about each guy moving forward: They don't have a proven track record, the Dolphins offense is a complete mess and the offensive line is a huge reason for the struggles. Williams figures to be the passing down back, but Drake is only 23 and in his second season, so he has higher upside and is the most likely of the two to break out and be a legit fantasy contributor down the stretch. (TA)

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, SF

Let's just get this out of the way first: unless your league allows you to play a quarterback in the flex spot, Garoppolo needs to remain on the waiver wire for the time being. Garoppolo is expected to be eased into action with his new club and should be up to speed to start against the Giants in Week 10. However, with a lack of options in the passing game and not being the type of quarterback who will gather points with his legs, Garoppolo will have a hard time posting high fantasy totals in San Francisco. The only thing to look forward to about this move, from a fantasy perspective, is that the 49ers may have found a quarterback who can help Pierre Garcon find the end zone for the first time in 2017. (Scott Krinch)

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, BUF

Benjamin has been one of the most frustrating fantasy players for years now and his insertion into a new offense will almost assuredly come with a learning curve. That offense also features an inconsistent passing game that has yet to promote consistent WR fantasy value given their propensity to spread the ball around and play ground control — Tyrod Taylor ranks 29th in the NFL with only 192 pass yards per game. This move does nothing to help Benjamin's value and really only hurts the value of fringe fantasy players like Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones. (TA)

Jamison Crowder, WR, WAS

The Redskins were rumored to be interested in acquiring a receiver before the NFL deadline but no deal was made. That's fine for Crowder fantasy owners or anybody else searching for a receiver (he's still available in nearly half of ESPN leagues). Crowder was a popular breakout candidate heading into 2017 and after a slew of injuries sapped his early-season potential, he tallied 123 yards on 9 catches and 13 targets in Week 8. Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have both been big-time busts, leaving the door wide open for Crowder to emerge as the clear No. 1 threat in that passing game, especially with Jordan Reed once again flashing his complete inability to stay on the field. (TA)

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT

The guy with the best name since Jim Bob Cooter is still somehow owned in less than 30 percent of leagues. He's on a Bye this week, but after exploding for 7-193-1 in Week 8, the NFL's youngest player is officially on the fantasy map. Not saying he's a must-start from here, but he absolutely needs to be owned in every format and moving forward could provide huge dividends for both your fake team and the Steelers. (TA)

Marlon Mack, RB, IND

Mack was another popular sleeper entering 2017 and despite a Week 1 touchdown was a fantasy non-factor until Week 5. In the four games since, his PPR point totals: 16, 1, 10, 14. Frank Gore is like a million years old and Mack is young, fresh, spry and showing he can be a productive NFL back. Look for more Mack as the season goes on, especially if the Colts continue to fall out of it even more and wind up looking toward 2018 and beyond. Plus, the dude is owned in only 30 percent of leagues, so go grab him on waivers or look to acquire him in a trade if you can pull it off. (TA)

Alfred Morris/Darren McFadden/Rod Smith, RBs, DAL

Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension is back on after a United States District Judge dissolved his temporary restraining order. So what does that mean going forward for the Cowboys running back situation? Your guess is as good as mine. And we probably still haven't seen the last of Elliott trying to fight the suspension. If Elliott does remain sidelined, the most likely benefactor will be Alfred Morris with Darren McFadden nipping at his heels. Both players are must-adds on the waiver wire this week. Through seven games, Morris has served as Elliott's backup, while McFadden has been inactive for every Cowboys game this season. The upside for both players running behind that offensive line is relatively high, but it's a fluid situation right now and it could vary week-to-week with even Rod Smith being a player who owners should keep an eye on in deep leagues. (SK)

Jack Doyle, TE, IND

Doyle has been a target machine this season, accumulating 55 through seven games. Doyle had his best game of the season in Sunday's loss to the Bengals as he hauled in 12 receptions on 14 targets for a season-high 121 yards and his first score of 2017. Doyle is now fantasy's seventh-highest scoring tight end and should see his numbers continue to climb on a team that will be playing from behind the majority of Sundays for the remainder of the season. (SK)

Robby Anderson, WR, NYJ

There haven't made been many positives from a fantasy football outlook when it comes to the Jets offense, but one emerging player who needs to be on your radar is Anderson. The second-year wide receiver has seen a minimum of five targets in each of his last six games. Anderson has reached in the end zone in consecutive weeks and has become a favorite target of quarterback Josh McCown. (SK)

Paul Richardson, WR, SEA

Who would've predicted that Richardson would be the Seahawks' No. 1 fantasy wide receiver through seven games? Definitely not this guy. Over the last two games, Richardson has eight receptions for 166 yards and three touchdowns. With the Seahawks showing zeo interest in running the football, Richardson is a legitimate flex option this week and the rest of the season. (SK)