Now that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot has thrown in the towel and accepted his six-game suspension, Dallas has to fill his vacancy during the most crucial stretch of the NFL season.
It should be noted that Elliot’s agents stated that although he accepted his fate, the move “is in no way an admission of wrongdoing,” according to the Associated Press.
Weeks 11-16 are often when divisions are won and playoff dreams are born and crushed. In short, this is time when a team needs to get hot.
Although Dallas had plenty of time to prepare for Elliot’s absence, they were lost without the threat of his skill-set against the Atlanta Falcons during Week 10.
Missing another key cog in offensive tackle Tyron Smith, the Cowboys struggled to execute their offensive gameplan with confidence.
At post time, Smith had yet to practice as the team prepares for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas apparently will be without linebacker/heartbeat Sean Lee.
Lee is dealing with a hamstring injury that took him out of the Falcons contest in the first quarter.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett stated that Lee’s return might not be imminent.
“We’ll take it day by day,” Garrett told the team’s website. “Don’t anticipate him practicing certainly immediately this week. It might be some time. We’ll see.”
So let’s assess the damage. Their Pro Bowl running back is out for five weeks. Their defensive leader is most likely done for the time being with his second hamstring injury of 2017. And there is no immediate timetable for the return of their best offensive lineman.
Figure in that receiver Dez Bryant is not at 100-percent and it’s hard to pencil the Cowboys in for the postseason.
At 5-4, Dallas has absolutely zero cushion to play with. Looking at their schedule while Elliot is away, it becomes crystal clear that they won’t win the NFC East.
On Sunday, they have a date with the Eagles at the worst possible time. At 8-1, the Eagles can run way with the division lead with a win.
Week 12 brings the Los Angeles Chargers to town. This is the game that Smith absolutely, positively needs to return for.
Despite their record, the Chargers have a strong pass rush and without proper blindside protection, the destruction of quarterback Dak Prescott will continue.
Week 13 is a winnable game again the Washington Redskins, so it can safely be said that headed into Week 14, Dallas will be 6-6.
Dallas can start their practice squad against the New York Giants during Week 14 and get the duke.
Week 15 is hard to call because you never know which Oakland Raiders team will show up, but the game is in Oakland, so odds are Dallas will be 7-7 when Elliot returns.
This means that to even have a shot at the playoffs, Dallas will have to win their last two games against Seattle and Philadelphia.
The final Philly game might be a give-me as the Eagles most likely won’t have much to play for.
Can they get in at 9-7? In this year’s field, that’s doubtful. But as they say, the games have to be played.