As was revealed yesterday, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott lost his injunction against the NFL's suspension and will now have to seek new legal remedies to keep playing. Elliott and the NFLPA will likely file for a new injunction as their lawsuit moves from Texas to New York, meaning nothing is certain yet about when or even if Elliott will ever have to sit out the six games.
To be clear, I want Elliott to keep fighting.
I want Zeke to win this war. But if his camp believes they're only delaying the inevitable and have little chance of true victory, then the outcome may ultimately hurt the Cowboys and Zeke himself. If the six games will be missed at some point, then right now appears to be the best time for it.
Consider where we are in the Cowboys' season. They still have 11 games to go and then hopefully the playoffs.
Here is what's left of the Cowboys' 2017 schedule:
- @ San Francisco
- @ Washington
- Kansas City
- @ Atlanta
- L.A. Chargers
- @ N.Y. Giants
- @ Oakland
If Ezekiel Elliott serves the suspension immediately, he will miss weeks 7-12.
There are a couple of very beatable teams there in the 49ers and Chargers; teams that Dallas should be able to handle even with Alfred Morris at running back. There are two games that Dallas might have trouble winning even with Zeke; the undefeated Chiefs and a road game against the Falcons.
A Big Consideration Here is Division Games
Zeke would miss the first 2017 meetings with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, which hurts, but he'd be back for the rematches against all three NFC East opponents in the later part of the season. He'd also be back for tough games against the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks.
Perhaps the most important issue, though, is that this would ensure Elliott would not miss any playoff games.
The threat of Elliott delaying this suspension just to end up missing postseason action has hung over this entire legal process. There is little way to control when the courts hear and decide cases, meaning you could wind up only pushing the suspension back until the worst possible time.
Again, I want for Zeke to continue to defend his reputation and rights. I want the NFL to pay for their corruption. But I also would hate to see the ultimate outcome of this fight only hurt Elliott and the Cowboys even more than it already has.
As far as I see it, Elliott has already won whatever he's going to in the court of public opinion. What happens in court now isn't going to move the needle on the people who support him or believe he was guilty. There is no new evidence to discuss when it comes to Tiffany Thompson's accusation. People have already decided how they feel about the domestic violence side of this issue.
Even if Elliott decides to stop the fight and accept the suspension, very few are going to take that as an admission of guilt. At this point, the NFL has turned itself into the bad guy.
It'll look more like Zeke simply couldn't fight the corrupt system and decided to take his losses.
Something else to consider is does anyone, including Ezekiel Elliott, want this issue to continue into 2018?
Maybe he and the union can keep fighting and eventually push his suspension all the way to weeks 1-6 of the 2018 season. Do we really want another offseason of this cloud hanging over Zeke and the Cowboys?
2018 projects as a major opportunity for the Cowboys to contend for a championship. The young pieces on the defense--who are currently having growing pains--will be in a much better position to compete. Dak Prescott will be in his third season and likely better than ever. The same goes for Elliott.
This ultimately comes down to risk versus reward and the likelihood of victory.
If Elliott's lawyers and the union truly believe they can win this fight and Zeke never has to miss games, then go ahead and keep fighting. But again, if all we're doing is delaying the inevitable, then it seems like there is no better time to serve the suspension than now.
Jaguars Waive Barry Church; Could Cowboys Bring Him Back?
Veteran safety Barry Church was released today by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Could he return home to the Dallas Cowboys, where he spent his first seven seasons?
Despite his leadership and consistency on defense, Dallas allowed Church to leave in free agency when Jacksonville gave him a lucrative deal. But if he clears waivers, could the Cowboys consider bring him back for depth and support during their likely playoff run?
Jane Slater of the NFL Network reported on this potential reunion:
Cowboys haven't reached out to S Barry Church but I'm told they are discussing the possibility of bringing him back to Dallas according to a source informed. Church, 30, was released by the Jags today and is familiar with the system having played there from 2010-2016.
The Cowboys have had solid play from their current starting safeties, Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. Neither is a star, but the duo has not been a liability during the team's current five-game winning streak.
Church was a similar player, reliable if never exceptional, during his time in Dallas. He could be a nice insurance policy for the playoffs if something happened to one of the starters.
Barry knows the system. He never played for Kris Richard, but he was with Rod Marinelli for three seasons before leaving in free agency.
According to reports out of Jacksonville, Church is being released because the team wants to go with younger, cheaper players now that their season is over. There is no known injury keeping Barry from playing.
Of course, Dallas would have to make room on the roster to pick Church up. They could third-year prospect Darian Thompson, who is the current fourth man at safety.
Barry Church must now go through the 24-hour waiver process. A team may claim him, including the Cowboys. We'll see what the future holds.
How the Dallas Cowboys Can Win the NFC East This Week
It's only Week 15, but the Dallas Cowboys could become the 2018 NFC East Champions this week through a couple of scenarios. I thought we'd take a moment today to break down how the Boys can win their division and assure their spot in the playoffs.
With three weeks left in the regular season, most of the divisional games have already been played. The only two left to play are the Week 17 finales; Cowboys at Giants and Eagles at Redskins.
Here are the current standings:
- Dallas Cowboys 8-5 (4-1 in division)
- Philadelphia Eagles 6-7 (3-2 in division)
- Washington Redskins 6-7 (2-3 in division)
- New York Giants 5-8 (1-4 in division)
The Giants have been scrappy lately, winning four of their last five, but it's too late for them to try to win the division. Even if the Cowboys were to fall to 8-8, the best New York could do is tie them in overall record. They would have also split their head-to-head series, negating that tiebreaker.
At that point, it would come down to the record within the division. New York would improve to 2-4 with a win over Dallas in Week 17, but the Cowboys would still be 4-2 against the NFC East. Dallas would still be the division champion.
So, that knocks out New York. Technically, the Eagles and Redskins are still alive. But their margin is about as slim as it gets.
Both Philadelphia and Washington need the Cowboys to lose their last three games, and then to also win out themselves, to steal the NFC East crown.
For the Redskins, it's about their record against division opponents. The best they can finish is 3-3, assuming they'd win their last game against the Eagles. With the head-to-head series against Dallas split this year, they would have to finish 9-7 overall and have the Cowboys drop to 8-8 to become NFC East Champions.
The Eagles also need to finish one game ahead of Dallas, but for a different reason. Philadelphia lost both their games with the Cowboys this year, so Dallas has the head-to-head tiebreaker.
So that really makes thing simple for Dallas; win just one of your last three games and you're the division champion.
Not only that, but even if Dallas were to fall this week against the Indianapolis Colts, they could still clinch the division with losses by the Eagles (@ Rams) and Redskins (@ Jaguars).
It would certainly behoove the Cowboys to get the division locked up now. They could then use the last two weeks of the season to get ready for the playoffs.
Dallas would have the freedom rest banged up players like Ezekiel Elliott and Zack Martin. It would also allow them to work in returning players such as Sean Lee and Tavon Austin and figure out their new rotations without pressure to win.
Beating the Colts on Sunday isn't a given; they're at home and desperate to stay alive in the AFC playoff picture. They are the toughest opponent Dallas has left until January.
But despite that, with the Eagles facing a juggernaut team and Washington trying to play football without a quarterback, there's a great chance that the Cowboys will be the NFC East Champions by Sunday night.
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
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