Vikings' Dalvin Cook 'trying to outrush' Ezekiel Elliott on SNF, but Cowboys' star has bigger goals

Two of the best running backs in all of football will square off when the Dallas Cowboys host the visiting Minnesota Vikings on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 10. Ezekiel Elliott, the reigning and two-time NFL rushing champ has truly found his footing as of late, rattling off 355 yards rushing in this last three games -- pushing his total on the year to 741 rushing yards to go along with six touchdowns in eight games.

On pace to rack up 1,482 rushing yards this season -- second-most of his career -- and having already matched his touchdown output from all of last season, Elliott has reaffirmed himself as arguably the best in the business after holding out to land a six-year, $90 million extension in late August that includes $50 million guaranteed, but there are other halfbacks in hot pursuit for his throne, and Dalvin Cook is one of them. The former second-round pick has battled back from a torn ACL suffered in his rookie 2017 season to deliver a breakout year in 2019, having already rushed for a career-high 894 yards and nine touchdowns in nine games.

That makes Cook the leading rusher in the league heading into his clash with the Cowboys, in a matchup that will cast a blazing-hot spotlight on both him and Elliott -- to help determine if the challenger is truly ready to become the champion.

"I'm trying to go outrush him," Cook told media this week, via USA Today. "And I know he's trying to do the same thing. It all comes back to this game is going to be won in the trenches."

For his part, Elliott loves what Cook is doing for the Vikings in 2019.

"Just his speed, his ability to stretch and cut and make guys miss," Elliott said of Cook, speaking after Thursday's practice. "He's definitely a special guy."

Truth be told, they both are, but while Cook is outwardly willing to admit his goal of outperforming Elliott on Sunday, Elliott is more keyed in on the performance of the Cowboys as a whole. At this point in the season, and despite his aforementioned numbers over the past three games, the All-Pro halfback doesn't believe his performance in 2019 makes him the best in the NFL at the position -- at least not right now.

"I think there's been running backs that have played better than me this year," Elliott said, going on to note how he uses it as extra motivation to level up. "I don't think it bothers me. It just kind of adds a little fuel to the fire. I've got some more work to do, that's all."

That's a statement that should send a very real chill down the spine of opposing offenses, considering what Elliott has done over the course of his short career. Even with the Cowboys creating more balance by way of an at times lethal passing attack, the threat of Elliott taking over a game always looms large, and that makes it difficult for defensive coordinators. The dual-threat nature of the offense -- led by a much-improved Dak Prescott and more creative mind in new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore -- simply takes what opposing defenses give them on any given Sunday.

That could ultimately cost Elliott the rushing crown for only the second time in four seasons, but being on pace for nearly 1,500 yards and 12 rushing TDs is nothing to shake a stick at; and in the end, while Elliott wouldn't mind retaining his title, he has bigger aspirations in mind after having already won it twice since 2016. 

"We love it -- but it's like, if it happens, it happens," he said. "What's important to us is the Super Bowl, you know what I mean? Everything else will handle itself along the way."

The outcome of "Sunday Night Football" will send waves throughout the NFC, and the likely absence of wide receiver Adam Thielen for the Vikings could make them depend that much more on Cook to help their odds, particularly if Kirk Cousins is having a night where he's not firing on all cylinders. Contrarily, despite requiring an MRI on his knee, Amari Cooper is expected to take the field for the Cowboys, which takes a bit of the load off of Elliott's shoulders.

That said, he's always ready to be fed a full course meal with all the fixings.

As long as the Cowboys end the day at 6-3 to remain atop the NFC East, though, Elliott will be a happy camper and doesn't really care if Cook gains more yards -- as long as that small victory is attached to the larger defeat.

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