With no Zeke, is arrow pointing up for Dallas?
The arrow was pointing up for the Cowboys, sideways or down for the Falcons.
Then a federal court on Thursday upheld the sixgame league suspension for Ezekiel Elliott, a damaging blow to Dallas.
When they meet Sunday in a critical NFC match, the winner will be in decent position for a run toward the playoffs, hardly what either 2016 conference power projected.
The loser, particularly if it is Dallas with NFC East leader Philadelphia already 2½ games in front and Elliott presumably gone for much of the remainder of the schedule, will have used up significant margin for error.
“We know as a team what we’re capable of,” safety Ricardo Allen said of his 4-4 Falcons . “Just go out there and do our job. Just give a little more, take it to another level.
“We have another whole half of the season. Get it rolling. Get the small things right.”
Dallas (5-3) has done a lot of big things right after a 2-3 start. Somehow, the Cowboys managed through all the distractions from their star running back’s on-again, off-again suspension, and they handled Kansas City quite well last Sunday.
Now comes a huge inconference test at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Atlanta is only 1-2, but plays four of its next five games.
“We’ve just got to keep on pushing,” says receiver Dez Bryant, who is bothered by knee and ankle woes. “We know exactly who we are. We’re going to show everybody. This is a real team that sticks together and fights for one another. We’ve been through a lot of adversity, and we’re just showing you how to get out of it. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep on fighting and see where it takes us.”
The action began Thursday night with Seattle’s 22-16 victory in Arizona.
Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes to Jimmy Graham for Seattle. The Seahawks (6-3) limited Adrian Peterson to 29 yards in 21 carries in a game marred by a host of injuries and penalties, most of them against Seattle, to improve to 4-0-1 in Arizona in Bruce Arians’ five seasons as coach of the Cardinals (4-5).
Off this week are Kansas City (6-3), Philadelphia (8-1), Baltimore (4-5), and Oakland (4-5).
The Saints are one of the league’s main surprises.
We all expect Drew Brees to load up on passing yards and touchdowns, but New Orleans’ ground game has been formidable with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. As for the defense, it’s been just as responsible for a sixgame win streak.
“It’s just great to see young players bring the Saints back up, because a lot of people just wrote the Saints off and said that we were a bad team and everything,” says firstround cornerback Marshon Lattimore, a strong contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year.