By waiting just long enough to make a decision on Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, arbitrator Harold Henderson might have shifted the NFC East race this season.
It’s very rare to see a player play in Week 1 and then disappear for a long suspension, but that’s what Elliott will do. The decision came Tuesday evening that Elliott’s six-game suspension was upheld, but the NFL ruled Elliott could play in Week 1 against the New York Giants. That was the league’s decision, feeling it was fair to let Elliott play based the timing of Henderson’s decision, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
There is a chance a court fight could keep Elliott on the field beyond Week 1, and it’s tough to predict how that will play out. But assuming Elliott serves his suspension as expected, between the Cowboys’ second and seventh games, it’s a win for the Washington Redskins. And it must leave the Giants privately upset.
The Cowboys, with Elliott, will play against the Giants in Week 1 (in a “Sunday Night Football” showcase that should draw great ratings for NBC, if you want to get cynical about the NFL’s decision to let Elliott play this week). And instead of Elliott’s suspension running out after a game against the San Francisco 49ers, it will extend through Week 8 (Dallas has a Week 6) when the Cowboys play at Washington.
The implications in the NFC East race should be clear. The Giants and Cowboys are considered the top two teams in the division after both made the playoffs last season. Elliott was the NFL’s rushing champion last season and arguably the Cowboys’ best player. Having him on the field for both games against the Giants this season is huge for Dallas. Meanwhile, it’s undeniably an edge for Washington to get the Cowboys without Elliott at home in Week 8.
Make no mistake though, if the Cowboys were picking one game this season for Elliott to play, it would probably be one of the two Giants games.
It would sound like sour grapes if the Giants were to publicly complain about missing Elliott’s suspension. So you likely won’t hear them gripe. But they have to feel like maybe Henderson shouldn’t have stalled his decision until Tuesday evening. The NFL’s decision to let Elliott play might ultimately have a huge impact on who wins the NFC East this season.
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