- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Dak Prescott will likely have Tony Romo watching from the sideline in uniform for the first time as the backup to Dallas’ surprising rookie quarterback.

Baltimore’s Joe Flacco will be an interested observer as well Sunday when the Ravens visit the Cowboys, eight years after he had a similar rookie rise from third-stringer to starter and playoff qualifier.

Prescott doesn’t have the Cowboys (8-1) in the postseason yet. But they can break the franchise season record with a ninth straight win, a streak that has vaulted Dallas to the best record in the NFL.

Because of that success, Romo won’t be the Dallas starter for the first time in 10 years now that the franchise leader in passing yards and touchdowns has recovered from a preseason back injury that gave Prescott the opportunity he seized. The 23-year-old said it won’t be any different.

“Not for me,” said Prescott, who was No. 3 in training camp before backup Kellen Moore broke an ankle in practice. “I go in there and I worry about my game plan, just as I said - whatever I can do to give this team a chance to win. I’m sure Tony is going to be right there helping me, as he’s done all year long.”

When the cameras aren’t on all three quarterbacks, they’ll be on another Dallas rookie, running back Ezekiel Elliott. The NFL rushing leader with 1,005 yards is facing the league’s best rushing - and overall - defense. In October, Elliott faced the top rushing defense at the time in Green Bay and had a career-high 157 yards.

The AFC North-leading Ravens (5-4) allow 71 yards per game. Elliott hasn’t had that few since the opener, when he had 51 in Dallas’ only loss, 20-19 to the New York Giants. The Cowboys average a league-best 161 yards rushing per game.

“I think we are a lot more disciplined than teams they have played,” Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. “I am just putting it out there. I think we are more disciplined up front. It is going to be a different kind of challenge for them.”

Things to consider in the third straight game against an AFC North opponent for the Cowboys, who haven’t faced three straight opponents from the same division since 2007 against all three NFC East rivals:

UNFAMILIAR SIGHT: Although he has missed 36 games with various injuries, Romo has never been the backup since Dallas coach Jason Garrett joined the staff as offensive coordinator in 2007. That prompted a reporter to ask Garrett what he expects of Romo in an unfamiliar role. “Prepare to play,” Garrett said. “That’s job No. 1. And obviously be a positive influence on our football team, which he will be.”

SMITH 1K: Baltimore receiver Steve Smith needs three catches to become the 14th player with at least 1,000 career receptions. The 16-year veteran was reminded this week of an offseason comment that he might drive straight home to Charlotte immediately after making his 1,000th catch. “Not from Dallas. That is a long drive,” he said. “I would have to rent a car and all that stuff.”

BRINGING THE LUMBER: The overshadowed Dallas defense faltered late in a 35-30 win over Pittsburgh after steady improvement most of the season. But one thing stood out to the Ravens: Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox and a number of punishing hits he delivered, especially to running backs. “Just seeing all that, it is going to be a tough, physical game, and I think that we are built for it,” Smith said.

OFFENSIVE MOMENTUM: The Ravens are hoping to build on their 22-point second half in a 28-7 win over Cleveland. Baltimore is 25th in offense (Dallas is third), and Flacco has thrown as many interceptions as touchdown passes (9). “You have to find a way to make that stuff continue to work and continue to get better at the stuff that made us go off there a little bit in the second half,” Flacco said.

RESPECT THE KICKERS: Dan Bailey of Dallas and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker rank 1-2 in NFL history for field goal accuracy. Tucker has made all 22 kicks this season, and Bailey is 17 for 19.

Not that Smith cares. “I would rather go to a circus, a carnival, a fair or even a medieval festival and watch cotton candy be made before I watch Justin Tucker and the other guy practice kicking,” Smith joked.

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For more NFL coverage: https://www.pro32.ap.org and https://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

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