The Cowboys got through the first six games of the 2017 season without Ezekiel Elliott serving any of his NFL-imposed suspension. But after the running back plays in Dallas’ seventh game, Sunday’s Week 8 matchup at Washington, the team will regret the timing if his six-game ban goes into effect.
Whether Elliott will “win” a so-far successful appeals process comes down to his latest injunction hearing, scheduled for Monday. If the presiding judge sides with the league, the question must be asked:
Would the Cowboys have been better off had Elliott just accepted his six-game punishment in the first place?
The Cowboys are 3-3 going into Week 8. Their losses have come to the Packers and Rams at home, and to the Broncos on the road, with Elliott being a non-factor in Denver. Their wins have come in comfortable fashion against the Giants, Cardinals and 49ers.
Based on that schedule and with a few twists (like Los Angeles being much better and New York being much worse than expected), Dallas’ record through six games seems about right. The Cowboys probably would have paved a path to .500 without Elliott given they were projected to go 4-2 with him.
In this case in particular, it’s easier to survive a near half-season suspension earlier in the year rather than later. Elliott is an indispensable asset for the Cowboys, but he will be even more critical for them in November and December, when weather becomes more of a factor in their status as road warriors.
The Eagles — not the Cowboys, Giants or Redskins — have emerged as the team to beat in the NFC East. Elliott is now in line to miss one game each against Philadelphia, New York and Washington. The other three games in the six-week stretch beginning in Week 9 include the mighty Chiefs (5-2), the dangerous Falcons (3-3) and the rising Chargers (3-4).
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SOURCE: Sporting News, Vinnie Iyer