The Dallas Cowboys were preparing for a manageable stretch without star runner Ezekiel 0Elliott until another delay extended the soap opera.
When Elliott’s blocked suspension was overruled last week, the Cowboys were in a reasonable position to prepare for a mid-season stretch without their star back.
Dallas (2-3) was entering a bye week which afforded extra time to tweak the offense around it’s new backfield pieces and design a game plan to spread the load.
Furthermore, Zeke’s missing games 6-11 was not likely to result in a death sentence. Only two of those games are against NFC East opponents.
Not to mention the winless 49ers and Chargers (2-4) are very beatable teams even without an elite runner.
Scratch out another win somewhere and Dallas escapes with a 5-6 record and five games left to make a final playoff push at full steam.
TEMPORARY RESTRAINT, PERMANENT CONSEQUENCES
Now that Elliott has received a 2-game reprieve, it likely only shifts the burden back to the more daunting games 8-13.
While Zeke may receive another suspension block and finish the season, it’s just as likely the New York judge will side with the NFL and start the suspension.
Let’s say Dallas wins the next two games and his absence begins with a 4-3 record. Here are the grueling opponents in that gauntlet…
Kansas City (5-1), Atlanta (3-2), Philadelphia (5-1), Los Angeles (2-4), Washington (3-2), New York (1-5).
Among those are four playoff contenders (three in NFC) and three divisional games. Aside from the Chargers, five of those games will be dogfights.
Let’s assume Dallas gets by with two wins bringing the record to 7-6. Already trailing the Eagles, two losses in three NFC East games would dent division title hopes.
Three of the losses could be to NFC contenders which further harms wildcard chances. Dallas already faces a deficit with NFC losses to the Rams and Packers.
Upon Zeke’s return and only three games remaining, Dallas could easily face a final stretch of must win football.
These do-or-die games would come against the Raiders (2-4), Seahawks (3-2), and Eagles (5-1). With the last two being guaranteed must-win for wildcard position.
No six-game stretch without Elliott is ideal this deep into the season. But a 2-game delay after the bye week will be a much steeper hill to climb in his absence.
Cowboys fans must hope and pray for a second win in a New York courtroom. Without it 2017 could easily be known as the season that Zeke stole.