Broncos’ Paxton Lynch out 2-4 weeks with ankle sprain

The slumping Broncos have suffered yet another blow.

Coach Vance Joseph on Monday announced that second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch will miss 2-4 weeks after sustaining a high ankle sprain Sunday in the team’s 21-14 loss to the Raiders.

Joseph confirmed that Trevor Siemian will start under center in Lynch’s absence for the Broncos’ Week 13 matchup against the Dolphins.

Lynch suffered the non-contact injury late in the second quarter and was visibly upset on the sideline. He already had been inactive for Denver’s first nine games as he nursed a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason. Despite trying to play through the pain, Lynch was done after completing 9 of 14 passes for 41 yards with an interception.

Siemian, who started the first seven games of the season after beating out Lynch to earn the starting job in August, entered the game in relief and led the Broncos to 14 unanswered points as he completed 11 of 21 passes for 149 yards with the two touchdowns. Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome Oakland, and Denver was dealt its seventh straight defeat.

The Broncos (3-8) will look to get their first win since Oct. 1 when they visit the Dolphins (4-7) at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Patriots’ Martellus Bennett, Nate Ebner land on injured reserve

Martellus Bennett is being shut down for the season after just two games with the Patriots.

The team announced Monday that the veteran tight end has been placed on injured reserve along with special teams standout Nate Ebner.

Bennett was released from the Packers earlier this month after he failed “to disclose a physical condition.” However, he was quick to dispute this claim, saying the team doctor knew he had a torn rotator cuff and was “trying to cover his own ass.”

It didn’t take long for the Patriots to claim Bennett off waivers and bring him back to New England for his second stint with the team.

Bennett, 30, had six catches for 53 yards in his two games with the Patriots.

Ebner injured his knee on a fake punt Sunday. He was a second-team All-Pro selection for his special teams work last season.

Kelvin Benjamin injury update: Bills WR has torn meniscus

Bills wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin missed Sunday’s 16-10 win over the Chiefs with what has been confirmed as a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Coach Sean McDermott told reporters Monday that Benjamin is day-to-day while dismissing a report from ESPN that their newly acquired wide receiver would miss several weeks.

Benjamin does have a torn meniscus, confirmed by Bills PR. McDermott thought he heard torn “ligament” when he was asked today.

— Bucky Gleason (@ByBuckyGleason) November 27, 2017

Benjamin has not practiced since injuring his knee on Nov. 19 against the Chargers.

It’s not the first time Benjamin has faced a serious injury. The wide receiver missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL in his left knee, which he suffered in the preseason. In Week 3 of this season, Benjamin also injured the same knee.

The Bills acquired Benjamin in an Oct. 31 trade from the Panthers. After playing two games for Buffalo, Benjamin has four catches for 62 yards.

Winless Browns have ‘big plans’ for Josh Gordon’s return vs. Chargers

Expect Josh Gordon to take the field Sunday in Los Angeles.

The Browns are ready to play the wide receiver in his first regular season game since December 2014, coach Hue Jackson said during his Monday press conference.

“My plans for him? Oh boy, let me tell you,” Jackson said. “I got big plans for him. I plan for him to play and play as much as he can handle.”

Gordon has been suspended for the past 43 of the Browns’ 48 games due to repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. He returned to practice for the first time Wednesday, and Friday he said he was “feeling good.”

“I think he is a very talented player,” Jackson said. “He needs to play, needs to get out there and play, but we have to see where he is and make sure how much can he handle, how much can he do.”

Gordon can be activated at any time this week to play Sunday, but Jackson said he will wait a couple of days.

The winless Browns will try to secure their first win of the season Sunday, when they take on the Chargers (5-6).

Packers’ playoff scenarios line up well with Aaron Rodgers’ possible return

The Packers lost a 31-28 heartbreaker to the Steelers on Sunday night. But in the process of dropping a close game to the AFC’s top team in the standings, Green Bay gained a glimmer of hope that it still has a shot at making the NFC playoffs.

That’s because backup QB Brett Hundley (17-of-26, 243 yards, 3 TDs, 134.3 passer rating) had his breakout game filling in for Aaron Rodgers against a tough Pittsburgh pass defense on the road. The path to a ninth consecutive postseason berth for the Packers remains difficult, but it now feels at least possible.

MORE: Updated NFL playoff picture

Green Bay with Sunday’s loss fell to 5-6, two games behind 7-4 Atlanta for the final NFC wild-card spot. Also in between are two more teams, 7-4 Seattle and 6-5 Detroit. But with five games left to play and a lot of matchups featuring NFC contenders, nothing is certain until official elimination and/or clinching.

That includes the miracle that would be Green Bay catching 9-2 Minnesota in the NFC North.

From the Packers’ end, it’s simple: They must run the table to match their 10-6 finish of 2016, when they won their final six games. Hundley must play well enough to help them beat two bottom-feeders, the Buccaneers and Browns, over the next two weeks, and then Rodgers needs to return from his collarbone injury in Week 15.

Here are some of things that need to happen with other teams ahead of them to give the Packers a realistic shot.

Lions lose before Week 17

Detroit has its toughest game in Baltimore in Week 13, but it also finishes with Green Bay. Otherwise, it has favorable games at Tampa Bay, vs. Chicago and at Cincinnati.

The bottom line is nine wins aren’t going to get it done in the NFC. The Packers can’t really move up until the Lions, who won at Lambeau Field earlier this season, are in position to finish one game behind.

Seahawks also finish 10-6

One game that could come into play nicely for the Packers is their season-opening victory over the Seahawks. Seattle has been inconsistent of late, losing two at home and winning two on the road. This scenario would require the Seahawks to go 3-2 and finish second in the NFC West. It’s plausible given their remaining schedule: vs. Eagles, at Jaguars, vs. Rams, at Cowboys, vs. Cardinals.

The Packers don’t want to see the Seahawks get hot to the point of taking back the division from the 8-3 Rams. That would probably mean both Seattle and Los Angeles finish 11-5, a mark Green Bay can’t reach.

Panthers or Falcons fade hard in NFC South

The Packers have no chance to make the playoffs over the 8-3 Saints should New Orleans fall from first to third in the NFL’s toughest division. The Saints have strong three-game advantage over the Packers that includes a win at Lambeau in Week 7.

That means Green Bay should root for New Orleans to beat Carolina next week and/or Atlanta twice. The Packers are set to play the 8-3 Panthers in Week 15, making it a critical time for Rodgers’ return. The Packers already lost to the Falcons in Week 2 with Rodgers.

The Panthers need to go 2-2 in their other four games, and/or the Falcons need to go 2-3 overall to give the Packers a chance over either team.

Carolina goes to New Orleans in Week 13 and to Atlanta in Week 17. In between, in addition to hosting Green Bay, it also hosts Minnesota and plays at Tampa Bay. Atlanta hosts Minnesota and New Orleans next, then travels to Tampa Bay and New Orleans before closing vs. Carolina.

The Panthers have the harder slate, and the Packers have some control of their fate there. So it probably makes sense for the Packers to root for the Falcons, too, so Atlanta can rise to No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5. Then Green Bay can try to beat out Carolina for No. 6.

WATCH: Packers-Steelers highlights

Vikings collapse in NFC North

This is the most unlikely of scenarios, but then again, we’ve seen it happen before with the Lions free-falling in the Packers’ favor. At 9-2, however, Minnesota would need to finish 1-4.

If the Falcons or Panthers don’t plan to oblige for the Packers in the wild-card race, Green Bay should root for both to beat Minnesota over the next two weeks. That would suddenly cut the division lead to two games before Rodgers’ possible return — the exact 9-4 vs. 7-6 situation that burned Detroit last season.

Because of the conference record tiebreaker, the only win the Packers can afford the Vikings getting is their Week 15 home game against the Bengals. Based on the assumption Green Bay needs to get revenge on Minnesota with Rodgers at Lambeau in Week 16, it comes down to trusting Chicago to pull off an upset at Minnesota in Week 17 while Green Bay dispatches Detroit on the road.

The Packers can’t be ruled out thanks to an improving Hundley and a revved-up Rodgers, but it will take a lot of proper permutations beyond what’s in their control to sneak back into the postseason as a wild card or division winner.

Everything you missed from an exciting NFL Sunday in Week 12

NFL scores 2017: Live results, highlights, and more from Week 12

The bye weeks are over and the playoff races have officially begun.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Thanksgiving is over, but we still had a busy Sunday in the NFL. Although there was only one matchup between teams with winning records — the Saints vs. Rams — that just meant we got to enjoy a lot of silliness from today’s games.

Such as:

Catch up with the best highlights and biggest news from Sunday.


Dolphins CB Bobby McCain was ejected vs. Patriots for punching Danny Amendola.

A fight between Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib started a full-on Raiders vs. Broncos brawl. And after both were ejected, Marshawn Lynch personally escorted Talib out of the stadium.

Here’s a brief history of the Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib beef.

The Bears got stuck in Philadelphia because their plane broke down.


The Bears and Eagles turned the ball over to each other on the same play.

The Patriots ran a fake punt for the 1st time in 13 years and it worked perfectly.

Two Chiefs players tried to catch the same screen pass. It failed miserably.

Julio Jones caught a 51-yard TD pass … from WR Mohamed Sanu. Jones’ second touchdown came after he took a Bucs defender’s ankles.

Cam Newton slapped away Jamal Adams when he tried to interrupt the Superman celebration.

The Browns had to turn to emergency punter Zane Gonzalez, who shanked his first try.

Alshon Jeffery made $250,000 with a touchdown against the Bears, his old team.

The Eagles executed a perfect group bowling celebration after Alshon Jeffery’s TD.

Delanie Walker performed CPR on a football and Fox announcer Chris Myers thought he was burping a baby.

The Eagles didn’t just beat the Bears — they did the “Electric Slide” on them.

A creative Bears fan holds up Firefox logo while calling for John Fox’s job.

It took 11 games, but the Raiders finally got their first INT of the season.

The Rams celebrated a TD by recreating Simba’s birth from The Lion King.

Alvin Kamara shows why he’s so special with this flawless hurdle over a Rams defender.

Steelers LB Vince Williams and Packers WR Geronimo Allison butted heads, then got their facemasks stuck together.

Mike McCarthy helped the Steelers tie the game with an unrealistic 57-yard FG attempt.

Antonio Brown’s incredible toe-tapping catch was the only reason the Steelers beat the Packers.

Why T.J. Watt wasn’t flagged for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Brett Hundley before the Steelers beat the Packers.


Patriots special teams ace Nate Ebner picked up a first down with a fake punt against the Dolphins. Unfortunately for Ebner, he injured his knee and was ruled out for the rest of the game.

DeShone Kizer left to be evaluated for a possible concussion. Cody Kessler took over against the Bengals briefly, until Kizer was cleared and returned.

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen left in the third quarter against the Jets with a foot injury. It was his first game back since he broke his foot in Week 2.

Amari Cooper was taken to locker room after a hit to the head vs. the Broncos. He was later ruled out with a concussion.

Paxton Lynch, in his first start of the season for the Broncos, left with an ankle injury and did not return. Trevor Siemian replaced Lynch and played pretty well.

C.J. Beathard injured his knee late against the Seahawks, and some 49ers players weren’t happy fans cheered for Jimmy Garoppolo while Beathard was done.

Week 12 scores and schedule (all times Eastern)

Atlanta Falcons 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Cincinnati Bengals 30, Cleveland Browns 16

Tennessee Titans 20, Indianapolis Colts 16

Buffalo Bills 16, Kansas City Chiefs 10

New England Patriots 35, Miami Dolphins 17

Carolina Panthers 35, New York Jets 27

Philadelphia Eagles 31, Chicago Bears 3

Seattle Seahawks 24, San Francisco 49ers 13

Arizona Cardinals 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 24

Los Angeles Rams 26, New Orleans Saints 20

Oakland Raiders 21, Denver Broncos 14

Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Green Bay Packers 28

The top stories from Sunday’s NFL action

Before the games

With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, the rest of Week 12 gets underway Sunday. We got some important matchups and potential playoff previews as the postseason race reaches critical mass.

The biggest game of the early window features a suddenly cold Chiefs team against the Bills. Buffalo got headlines for all the wrong reasons last week, when Sean McDermott’s quarterback gambit backfired spectacularly. Tyrod Taylor is back in after Nathan Peterman’s five-interception disaster, but has the damage already been done? The Bills are clinging to playoff hopes at this point.

The late afternoon has by far the biggest game of the week, with the 7-3 Rams hosting the 8-2 Saints. It would not be surprising if they met again in January. New Orleans has a winning combination of a strong running game and surprisingly good defense (oh, and Drew Brees is still really good). Jared Goff has cooled off after a strong start to he year, and he’s now without Robert Woods for a few weeks. Sean McVay might be looking at his first real test with injuries starting to pile up.

Sunday Night Football features a Steelers vs. Packers matchup that could’ve been a Super Bowl preview in an alternate timeline. Unfortunately, Aaron Rodgers is out with a broken collarbone and the Packers have struggled badly without him. Brett Hundley could have his hands full against a resurgent Steelers defense.

Eli Manning is just the 8th quarterback in NFL history with 100 regular season losses

Eli Manning is just the 8th quarterback in NFL history with 100 regular season losses

It’s kind of a badge of honor when you think about it.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Finding a way to lose 100 regular season games as an NFL quarterback isn’t a black mark — it’s a testament to durability. On Thanksgiving night, Eli Manning joined a list of passers that includes Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Fran Tarkenton, and even his own father in the triple-digit failure club.

The Giants’ 20-10 loss to Washington brought Manning’s career record down to 110-100, making him just the eighth quarterback in league history to lose 100 games or more. Despite the ignominious honor, he can at least take solace that he’s had nearly three times as many NFL wins as his father:

NFL QBs with the most regular season losses, all-time

Quarterback Regular season wins Regular season losses
Quarterback Regular season wins Regular season losses
Vinny Testaverde 90 123
Brett Favre 186 112
Fran Tarkenton 124 109
Drew Brees 138 103
Warren Moon 102 101
Archie Manning 35 101
Eli Manning 109 100
Norm Snead 52 100
Kerry Collins 81 99
Drew Bledsoe 98 95

Manning will likely pass Moon and gain some ground on Brees before 2017 is over — New York is in the midst of a 2-9 season. With New Orleans trending upward, it’s possible Manning and Brees will head into 2018 all tied up and ready to take aim at Brett Favre at No. 2.

Despite Manning’s fiery speech last week that helped the Giants upset the Chiefs in overtime, the team couldn’t carry that momentum to Thursday night. The Giants will have the opportunity to add to their QB’s record-nearing total next Sunday when they face the Raiders.

9 things we loved from the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day games

9 things we loved from the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day games

The Vikings had the most appropriate group celebration of the day, and a kid dressed like Ben McAdoo.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL on Thanksgiving Day is a time-honored tradition. But we also understand if you were too wrapped up in family obligations to watch Thursday’s slate featuring Vikings vs. Lions, Chargers vs. Cowboys, and Giants vs. Washington.

So let us catch you up.

The Vikings put a damper on the Lions’ playoff hopes with a 30-23 win in the early game. It looked like Matthew Stafford might lead the Lions to one of his signature late-game comeback wins. But he threw a fourth-down interception on the Lions’ last possession, handing the win to Minnesota.

The other two games weren’t nearly as interesting. Dallas watched any chance of the postseason circle the drain in a 28-6 blowout loss at the hands of the Chargers. Philip Rivers racked up 434 passing yards and three touchdowns, while the entire Cowboys offense combined for 247 yards.

Then Washington beat the Giants in a 20-10 dud in the nation’s capital.

Here are the big moments you missed while you were eating turkey and spending time with your family on Thanksgiving Day.

The Vikings Thanksgiving dinner celebration

You probably sat down with your family to enjoy a lovely meal on Thanksgiving. Case Keenum didn’t want to wait until after the game to enjoy the holiday.

Keenum ran in a 9-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Then he had his teammates join him in the end zone for the most perfect celebration of the day.

The Vikings never disappoint with their celebrations, but this one may be their best of the season.

Kyle Rudolph had himself a day

The Vikings tight end had only four targets all day. He caught all four of them, and he took two of them in for touchdowns.

Rudolph racked up 56 of his 63 yards on a single touchdown drive. First Keenum hit him with a dime for 34 yards. And then he found him in the end zone to give the Vikings a 20-3 lead late in the second quarter.


It’s @CaseKeenum7 to @KyleRudolph82 for the @Vikings TOUCHDOWN!

— NFL (@NFL) November 23, 2017

You should feel bad for anyone who had Rudolph on their fantasy team’s bench. That probably put a damper on their Thanksgiving.

Everson Griffen requested help in naming his son

Vikings DE Everson Griffen’s son was born on Thanksgiving morning. While he had to go play a football game in Detroit, Griffen had a message requesting help:

.@EversonGriffen celebrated Thanksgiving with the birth of his son.

Now he’s wearing a shirt that says “I just had a baby boy. What should we name him?”

— SB Nation (@SBNation) November 23, 2017

Griffen pulled up his jersey to reveal the question on his shirt after sacking Stafford. The sack and the newborn are certainly things to be thankful for, if you’re Griffen. That’s a good Thanksgiving.

Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen have the Chargers in the playoff hunt

The only team to ever make the playoffs under the current format after an 0-4 start was the 1992 Chargers. Twenty-five years later, the Chargers have a chance to repeat history and become the second.

A 28-6 demolition of the Cowboys was the fifth win in seven games for Los Angeles and bumped the team to 5-6. That puts the Chargers right in the thick of the race for an AFC Wild Card berth and in reach of the 6-4 Kansas City Chiefs, who are struggling right now.

The reason for the Chargers’ success has been the strong play of their defense and an explosive offense with Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen leading the way. Rivers finished with 434 yards and three touchdowns, and Allen made the Cowboys secondary look like children as he racked up 11 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown.

Oh no he didn’t …

HE DID! @Keenan13Allen put the juke on, TWICE!

— NFL (@NFL) November 23, 2017

Up next for the Chargers are the Browns in Week 13, Washington in Week 14, and then a big AFC West matchup on the road against the Chiefs. Look out: The Chargers are coming.

The Chargers had to deal with an emergency kicker

It’s unfortunate that Nick Novak suffered a back injury early, but there’s something really fun about a team asking someone else to do such a specialized job. The Cowboys turned to a safety earlier this year when Dan Bailey got hurt, the Eagles turned to a linebacker to replace Jake Elliott last week, and the Chargers had to turn to a punter Thursday.

From a distance, that seems like a better situation than a defensive player, but nope. In warm-ups, punter Drew Kaser completely missed the kicking net.

That convinced the Chargers it was a good idea to just send a hobbled Novak back out, but he missed an extra point. So it was back to Kaser who made his first extra point but missed the next two.

It probably would’ve been smart to just go for two if the emergency option is so unreliable. Not every team can be lucky enough to have a kicking defensive tackle like Ndamukong Suh.

Ben McAdoo kid made an appearance in Washington

Ben McAdoo Kid burst onto the scene last season when McAdoo was sporting a different haircut. On Thanksgiving, he made his return with an updated look, as well as a partner who was dressed like Giants OC Mike Sullivan:

fire these kids

— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) November 24, 2017

The real McAdoo hasn’t been doing so hot lately and even got the dreaded vote of confidence from ownership within the past two weeks. The Giants won last week but came out flat in their 20-10 loss in Washington, and you have to think about how sad these two kids might be when the Giants likely clean house.

Vernon Davis reminded us of his love for SWEET POTATO YAMS

One of the internet’s favorite NFL videos every year since 2014 has been Vernon Davis saying his favorite Thanksgiving dish is “YAMS. SWEET POTATO YAMS.” He says it in a way that makes you watch it over and over again:

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2017, and Davis reminded us of his favorite dish:

Vernon Davis staying true to his #brand.

— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) November 24, 2017

It didn’t have the same zest as the first one did. But much like movies, the sequel is never as good as the original.

Also much like movies, it doesn’t mean we can’t geek out over it.

Matthew Stafford, Jason Witten, Eli Manning hit new milestones

Three different players reached new milestones on Thursday, all in losses.

First up, Stafford broke Tony Romo’s record for passing yards in Thanksgiving games.

In the second game, Jason Witten added to his Thanksgiving record collection by becoming the holiday’s all-time leader in receiving yards.

Then in the final game, the milestone was a little more ignominious: Eli Manning earned his 100th regular season loss as a starting quarterback. But there’s a silver lining for Manning. Not that many quarterbacks play long enough, or are durable enough, to find themselves on that list. And he still has more wins (110) than losses.

A happy Morgan Moses used turkey legs as drumsticks

After Washington secured its win, NBC rewarded the team with some turkey legs to celebrate. While Kirk Cousins and two other players were supposed to be showcased, other members of the team showed up.

That included Morgan Moses, who stole the show by taking a huge bite of one of the legs:

Turkey legs for everyone!!!

— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) November 24, 2017

Then, just as your parents would not like, he played with the food by using them as actual drumsticks:

Moses certainly had a happy Thanksgiving, and we hope you did too.

Thanksgiving scores

Vikings 30, Lions 23 (recap)

Chargers 28, Cowboys 6 (recap)

Washington 20, Giants 10 (recap)

The Thanksgiving Turkey Leg Award Tradition

Chargers safety Desmond King predicted his first NFL INT would be a pick-6

Chargers safety Desmond King correctly predicted his first NFL INT would be a pick-6

He fulfilled his own prophesy on Thursday against the Cowboys.

Desmond King probably didn’t know his first interception as a pro would come against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. But he apparently did know he’d run it back for a touchdown, which is exactly what happened.

King called it way back on April 20:

@blaqbadger14#Chargers (THX @tannerwootensbn!)

— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) November 24, 2017

Well, he was right. The Chargers were sitting comfortably ahead of the Cowboys with a 22-6 lead. But the Cowboys had a fresh set of downs in the red zone and were poised to score.

King made the read, jumped in front of Cole Beasley, and snagged the pick:

PICK-6! @blaqbadger14 with the read, the return and the touchdown!

— NFL (@NFL) November 24, 2017

But he didn’t stop there. King ran it all the way back for a 90-yard score. Dak Prescott tried to cut him off, but he misjudged the angle. There were no other Cowboys remotely nearby to try to slow King down, and he just jogged right into the end zone.

The rookie has been used as an in-the-box safety by the Chargers this season. He’s got two sacks and three pass breakups so far this year. But his first pick as a pro was pretty memorable, and he totally called it.

Jerry Jones thinks the Cowboys can turn things around

Jerry Jones thinks the Cowboys can turn things around

With Ezekiel Elliott off the field until Week 16 and the defense floundering, it’s a tall order.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Jones said what everyone else was thinking after his Cowboys got embarrassed by the Chargers on Thanksgiving Day.

“We’re not a good team right now,” Jones said.

The Cowboys are fresh off of their third brutal loss in a row. Dak Prescott’s having the worst stretch of his career, and the team is desperately missing suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas has been outscored 92-22 during this skid. Jones doesn’t think all is lost.

“We can be a good team,” the Cowboys owner said.

But several factors are standing in the way of the Cowboys bouncing back.

Some fans are calling for the team to bench Prescott and give backup Cooper Rush a look. Prescott is far from the only reason the Cowboys can’t seem to get on track, but he’s looked like a different player without the full complement of his supporting cast around him.

Dallas can’t win without Ezekiel Elliott

Prescott hasn’t thrown for more than 200 yards or a single touchdown over the past three games. He’s also taken 14 sacks over that span. He took just 10 sacks over the previous eight games.

Left tackle Tyron Smith is arguably the best in the league at that position, and he was sidelined for the Cowboys’ games against the Falcons in Week 10 and the Eagles in Week 11 with back and groin injuries. Any replacement would be a downgrade, but it was disastrous for Prescott to have Smith out for two games. Making matters worse, the Cowboys lost right guard Zack Martin in the second quarter of Thursday’s game with a concussion. But the absence of Ezekiel Elliott is an even bigger factor for Dallas.

Elliott is three games into the six-game suspension handed down by the NFL over domestic violence allegations made against him by a former girlfriend. It’s no wonder Jerry Jones is angry with the NFL about this outcome.

In 8 games with Ezekiel Elliott: 28.2 points; 370.5 yards; 148.1 rushing yards; 21.2 first downs; 1 turnover

In 3 games w/out Ezekiel Elliott: 7.3 points; 235 yards; 99.3 rushing yards; 15.3 first downs; 2.6 turnovers

— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 24, 2017

The Cowboys have averaged 134.5 yards per game on the ground this season. But they’re averaging 102.7 yards per game with Elliott out of the lineup. Removing the threat of Elliott on the ground makes it easier for defenses to pressure and attack Prescott. It’s limiting his ability to create scores and forcing him into more mistakes.

Dak needs more from his defense

Prescott needs some help from his defense, especially with Elliott off the field for the next three games.

The Cowboys gave up 434 yards and three touchdowns to Philip Rivers on Thursday. A pass rush that started out the season looking like one of the league’s best didn’t land a single sack on Rivers all day.

Last year, with a dominant line and Elliott getting things done on the ground, the Cowboys were able to control the clock and rely on the defense to do just enough. That’s changed. The Chargers had the ball for over 36 minutes in Thursday’s win.

With Elliott out especially, the Cowboys need much more from the defense than they’re getting.

The Cowboys came into this season fresh off of a 13-3 finish in 2016 and favored to win the NFC East and make some noise in the playoffs. Now they’re sitting at 5-6 and trailing the 9-1 Eagles in the division. And Jones isn’t happy.

“Candidly, I’m really not shaken,” Jones said. “I’m disappointed, but there’s no shake.”

But he’s still optimistic that the team can turn it around.

The Cowboys aren’t out of the postseason hunt, but those odds get longer with each loss. The playoff race in the NFC is a tight one. The Cowboys are currently behind the 6-4 Seahawks, the 6-5 Lions, and the 5-5 Packers, all of whom are on the outside looking in for the postseason at this time.

Elliott can’t return until Week 16 against the Seahawks. And unless the defense can slow down opponents and give Prescott a chance to get ahead, the playoffs are a pipe dream for the Cowboys this year.