The Washington Redskins didn’t catch a break with Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension -- at least not directly. After all, the Redskins will face him twice even if he fails to win his appeal. Then again, if Dallas stumbles in its first six games minus Elliott, it could be enough to vault the Redskins back into contention in the NFC East.
Elliott was suspended for six games under the league's personal conduct policy, the result of a year-long investigation into allegations of domestic violence. He can appeal, but regardless he will face the Redskins twice. As of now, his first game back will be against the Redskins on Oct. 29.
We’re looking at what this news means from a football perspective and what it means for the Redskins.
For those who think Elliott's success was simply about the Dallas offensive line, think again. Yes, the Cowboys' front was outstanding last season, as Elliott averaged 5.1 yards per carry. The other top running backs -- Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden -- averaged 3.5 and 3.2 yards, respectively. Elliott's presence mattered.
As well as quarterback Dak Prescott played, it was Elliott who powered that offense -- and was the guy Washington's defense feared most. He’s quick to the hole and runs with power and speed. It also set up Prescott for play-action throws, an area he thrived in last season.
The only NFC East team that directly benefits from Elliott's suspension will be the Giants, who play Dallas in the opener.
If the Redskins don't start out strong, it won't matter that Elliott didn't play in the first six games.
The question will be, how effective can Elliott be in his first game back (assuming he loses his appeal, and the suspension remains six games)? Last season against Washington, Elliott rushed for 180 yards on 41 carries and scored three touchdowns.
With Dallas' defense having undergone more changes -- the secondary could be an issue -- the Cowboys need their ball-control offense to operate at peak efficiency, the way they did in 2014 and '16. Otherwise, it will put more pressure on a defense whose weaknesses often have been masked.
On the same day Elliott was suspended, Philadelphia tried to solidify its secondary by trading for corner Ronald Darby, who had one good year and one inconsistent year in Buffalo -- he was benched during one game last season. But the Eagles' secondary was a weakness and the NFC East is full of good receivers.
Still, the race is impacted much more by Elliott. Losing him doesn't mean the Cowboys will fade away. But it does make their season much harder. The Redskins will be helped by his absence, but only if they help themselves first.