It is easy to suspect that Ezekiel Elliott’s off-field drama might affect his preparation for the Cowboys’ season opener Sunday night against the New York Giants. It’s not just that he only has one game to play and then is suspended. The Cowboys are actually waiting for a court ruling that could put off the suspension even further. It is conceivable that Elliott could play every game as the case between the league and the NFLPA winds through the legal system.
That has to be distracting, right?
Not this week. No true Cowboy would let anything interfere with a game against the Giants. Especially after the G-men handed Dallas a clean sweep of regular season losses in 2016. Elliott is young, but he is a true Cowboy.
According to DallasCowboys.com, the team is very pleased with Elliott’s focus and preparation. Head coach Jason Garrett says his star has done an “excellent” job and appeared “locked-in” during practice and meetings.
The Cowboys’ running back has avoided talking to the press about his situation. We have no reason to doubt that mentally, he is ready to play some football. Physically, he has not missed practices and is in step with the rest of the offense.
So is he a must-play?
Ezekiel Elliott had mixed results in the two games against the Giants last season. A touchdown saved a tough first game, when he carried 20 times for only 51 yards. In their second meeting, Elliott managed to run for 107 yards on 24 carries. He did not catch a pass and did not score a touchdown. Assuming your league offers a two-point bonus at 100 yards, Elliott’s fantasy output was 11 and 12 points in the two games.
Not bad, but not Elliott-good, either. (On the season, he averaged 100 yards rushing, 20 yards receiving and a touchdown.)
Meanwhile, the Giants finished last season as the third-best run defense in the league. They lost a big piece of that defense when Johnathan Hankins opted for free agency. But they feel Jay Bromley is a more-than-adequate replacement at defensive tackle. They also trust his backup, Dalvin Tomlinson, to handle matters sufficiently if Bromley can’t start in week one.
There are some who think the Giants could put a one-legged senior citizen next to left tackle Damon Harrison and things would be alright in the middle.
Speaking of middle, the Giants are ecstatic about the play of middle linebacker BJ Goodson. If the Giants had a weak spot last year, it was the man in the middle. The Giants defense is telling anyone who will listen that they are even better than last season and determined to take the title as best overall unit in 2017.
So… is he a must-play?
If you have Ezekiel Elliott on your NFL fantasy football roster, he is a must-play every week, regardless of opponent. Every touch is a potential big gain or touchdown. In two of his “off-games” last season, he still gave fantasy owners double-digit points. You can’t sit a player like that.
There isn’t another Cowboy I would play this week, including Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott. Elliott knows he had the most success of any Cowboy against this Giants team last season. He will come in ready to improve upon last year’s performance.
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