Dallas Cowboys will miss Ezekiel Elliott, but how much?

The Dallas Cowboys' road to becoming the first team to repeat as NFC East champion since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003-04 will be much harder if Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension holds, but they still should be in the division race without last year’s leading rusher. Who would have thought the Cowboys would win the division in 2016 after losing Tony Romo to a back injury in the preseason? When the schedule came out, this had the feeling of a 10-6 mark for Dallas. What about now?

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10 vs. New York Giants, 8:30 p.m. ET

Will the Cowboys miss Elliott? Undoubtedly, but in the opener emotions can carry the day and on this day Darren McFadden has a big game. He had 152 yards against the Giants in 2015 when he took over as the Cowboys' lead back. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17 at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m. ET

This would have been a much bigger game had Romo signed with the Broncos, but he chose to go to the television booth. The Broncos have some issues and a new coach, but they have talent on defense that matches up well with the Cowboys. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Monday, Sept. 25 at Arizona Cardinals, 8:30 p.m. ET

In their past three trips to University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cowboys have lost in overtime twice and once on a missed PAT. Something strange will happen in this one as well, but not a victory. Call this the first loss where Elliott’s absence is big. Record: 1-2

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1 vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m. ET

Wade Phillips will be back at AT&T Stadium as Los Angeles’ defensive coordinator. The Rams will be better than they were a year ago, but not so good they will leave with a win. Dez Bryant will torment his former head coach. Record: 2-2

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8 vs. Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET

Will the Cowboys get revenge for their playoff loss in January? Aaron Rodgers’ third-and-forever pass that set up the winning field goal still stings. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their lack of a pass rush will hurt them again in this game. Record: 2-3

Week 6: Bye

Week 7: Oct. 22 at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m. ET

A week to get ready for a team with a new coach and in the middle of a giant makeover is just what the Cowboys need coming off a bye. Record: 3-3

Week 8: Oct. 29 at Washington Redskins, 4:25 p.m. ET

Welcome back, Elliott. He fumbled twice in his first game at FedEx Field and was replaced late in the fourth quarter. His return to the game, provided his suspension is upheld, gives the Cowboys some juice and a key division win. Record: 4-3

Week 9: Nov. 5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. ET

Romo should be in the booth calling this game. He knows how difficult the Chiefs' defense can be, so he'll understand what Dak Prescott will be going through. But like he does, Prescott will rally late and get the Cowboys the win.

Record: 5-3

Week 10: Nov. 12 at Atlanta Falcons, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Falcons' offense presents a number of challenges from Devonta Freeman to Matt Ryan to Julio Jones. Especially Jones. The Cowboys will see their two-game winning streak with Elliott come to an end. Record: 5-4

Week 11: Nov. 19 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Eagles hemmed Prescott in during his one full game against the NFC East rival, but he figured it out late. This game promises to be a great one from beginning to end for Prescott, who throws three touchdown passes, including two to Bryant. Record: 6-4

Week 12: Nov. 23 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 4:30 p.m. ET

At least the Cowboys were at home for their night game leading into the Thanksgiving Day matchup. It will be ugly, but it will be a win over Philip Rivers & Co. Will this be the final time all-time great tight ends Antonio Gates and Jason Witten are on the same field? Record: 7-4

Week 13: Nov. 30 vs. Washington Redskins, 8:25 p.m. ET

The Cowboys have back-to-back Thursday games for the second straight year. Bryant against Josh Norman under the prime-time lights? It doesn’t get better than that. But will the Cowboys have a plan to slow down Kirk Cousins and Terrelle Pryor, who are primed for a big year? Record: 7-5

Week 14: Dec. 10 at New York Giants, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Cowboys will get a 10-day break leading up to a pivotal NFC East matchup, which is a good thing. They’ll need it to heal up after three games in 12 days. But Odell Beckham Jr. has a big game. So does Brandon Marshall. The lack of a pass rush will be glaring. Record: 7-6

Week 15: Dec. 17 at Oakland Raiders, 7:30 p.m. ET

A trip to the East Coast is followed by a trip to the West Coast. The Raiders are a trendy pick with Derek Carr, Marshawn Lynch and Khalil Mack. Just when you least expect it, the Cowboys pull out the win. Record: 8-6

Week 16: Dec. 24 vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Seahawks have been among the NFC’s best for the past few years. The Cowboys are trying to get there. The defense will hem in Russell Wilson, but the Seattle defense will do the same to the Cowboys. Look for this to be a low-scoring affair with the Seahawks pulling it out late. Record: 8-7

Week 17: Dec. 31 at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET

Will a playoff spot be on the line? A year ago Elliott didn’t play in the finale at Philadelphia because the Cowboys had a postseason berth sewn up. This time they will need him at his best. The Cowboys have won six of their past seven games at Lincoln Financial Field. Make it seven of eight. Record: 9-7