Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 403d

Falcons preparing to face Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliott

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Coach Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons plan to proceed with the expectation that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will play in Sunday's NFC clash at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Elliott has a six-game suspension looming for a violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy, related to domestic violence allegations. ESPN's Todd Archer reported Elliott will practice this week while awaiting word Thursday or Friday regarding a request for a preliminary injunction. Elliott played in last week's win over the Kansas City Chiefs but didn't receive clearance until two days before the game.

"As far as him playing, I'll anticipate he's playing until I've been told otherwise," Quinn said of Elliott. "I'll go down that road until I hear otherwise."

Elliott is the NFL's second-leading rusher with 783 yards on 191 carries. He has seven rushing touchdowns, tied for the league lead with Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams. Elliott also has 19 catches for 210 yards with two touchdowns, including a 72-yard score off a screen against San Francisco.

Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris are the second and third running backs on the depth chart. So how would the Cowboys look without Elliott?

"I haven't jumped into them enough to know," Quinn said. "I do know they've got good backs, including him. I'd imagine the scheme would be very similar with him in or without him."

Although Quinn hasn't faced Elliott yet, he knows a little bit about him from Elliott's college days at Ohio State. "I think the biggest thing that jumped out to me was the speed," Quinn said. "That's one of the positions where it can make a real factor, for a guy who is matched up on linebackers or safeties. ... You get a running back up to the next level in the pass game as well, it's a factor."

The Cowboys push opponents around up front with a dominating offensive line, although left tackle Tyron Smith could miss the game due to a groin injury. Dallas averages a league-best 4.82 yards per rushing play and stands second in the league with 148.1 rushing yards per game.

The Falcons, 18th in the league in allowing 114.5 rushing yards per game, just surrendered a season-high 201 rushing yards in a loss to Carolina, although a large chunk of those yards came on designed runs for quarterback Cam Newton off the read-option.

The Cowboys use the zone read with quarterback Dak Prescott, who averages 7.5 yards per carry and has four rushing touchdowns.

Prescott certainly is a run threat, but Elliott makes the Cowboys' running game elite.

"He's an athlete," Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen said. "He's a fast, a strong, and a big guy. ... If he plays or not, they're going to try and run the ball. Every team is going to try and run the ball on us. They're going to try and keep the ball out of (Matt Ryan's) hands. We know that. That's been the plan the whole year, to keep the ball out of No. 2 and No. 11 (Julio Jones') hands.''

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