Few could have seen it coming at the beginning of the 2016 NFL season, but the Dallas Cowboys have emerged as the best team in the NFC. Dallas has made a case to be considered even better than the Super Bowl favorite New England Patriots, and they should continue to roll in Week 11 when they host the Baltimore Ravens.
Leading the NFL with an 8-1 record, Dallas is two games better than any other team in the conference. They’ve successfully faced every challenge that’s been put in front of them, and “America’s Team” has shown no signs of slowing down.
Quarterback Dak Prescott might not finish the season ranked in the top five in passer rating, yards per attempt and touchdown-to-interception ratio, as he is now. But it seems clear that he’ll be one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks for the foreseeable future, and he should have another strong game against Baltimore.
When it comes to running the ball, no team does it better than Dallas. The Cowboys have the league’s best offensive line, and rookie Ezekiel Elliott is the top player at his position. He leads the league with 1,005 yards on the ground, and he’s Tom Brady’s biggest competition to win the MVP award.
The first-place Ravens sit atop the AFC North in large part because of their defense. Baltimore ranks first in total defense, allowing just 281.6 yards per game. The strength of the unit is its ability to stop the run, surrendering just 3.3 yards per carry.
In a battle of the two teams' strengths, the home Cowboys have the edge. Elliott totaled 157 rushing yards against Green Bay’s No.4 run defense, and he ran for 140 yards against Chicago, who ranks 11th in run defense and seventh in yards allowed per carry. The Ravens allowed 100 yards on the ground the only time they faced a top-five rusher (Matt Forte).
Baltimore’s defense has been much better at home than it’s been on the road. The Ravens have allowed 17 points or more in each of their four road games, while they’ve held four of the five visitors to M&T Bank Stadium to 16 points or fewer. The Cowboys have scored at least 24 points in each contest (29.9 ppg) since losing in the season opener, and the Ravens could have trouble moving the ball against a tough Dallas defense.
Joe Flacco has been among the league’s worst quarterbacks in 2016. He ranks 29th with a 78.3 passer rating, and he’s thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions for a 66.4 passer rating on the road. Ben Roethlisberger had success against the Cowboys’ secondary in Week 10, but Dallas should be able to regroup on Sunday.
The Ravens have taken advantage of an easy schedule, going 0-3 against teams that have a .500 record or better. They have yet to face a team in the same class as Dallas, and Baltimore could be in for a rude awakening in Week 11.
The Cowboys are seven-point favorites at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks, via OddsShark. The over/under is 45.
Prediction: Dallas over Baltimore, 27-17