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The Dallas Cowboys finished the season Sunday with a win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Here’s a look back at how I predicted their season would unfold.

My prediction: 9-7

Cowboys’ actual record: 9-7

How I fared: I guess I should play Mega Millions more often. The premise for my 9-7 pick was not having Ezekiel Elliott for six games. At the time, I didn’t know if it would be the first six games or not. In the first nine weeks I got only two games wrong, with the Cowboys winning at Arizona and losing at home to the Los Angeles Rams. Much like the Cowboys, my predictions took a turn after the loss to Atlanta, when I got four straight picks wrong. I thought they would beat Philadelphia and the Chargers at home, but they lost both games. I thought they would lose to Washington and the Giants and they won both. Of course, I thought Elliott would have been on hand for those games and he wasn’t, as the suspension did not begin until the ninth game. A playoff spot wasn’t on the line for the finale against the Eagles, but the Cowboys have now won seven of their last eight games at Lincoln Financial Field.

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Ezekiel Elliott can return to The Star next Monday with his six-game suspension coming to an end following the Dallas Cowboys’ game on Sunday night in Oakland, but the coaches have not yet finalized a plan on how to get the running back up to speed.

“That’s like so far away in our mind right now, getting ready for this Oakland game is what we’re focusing on,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.

Perhaps the long flight to Oakland on Saturday will give the coaches a chance to work through the issues. Elliott has not been around the team since the Cowboys beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 5. He lost a legal ruling that would have kept him on the field and later dropped another appeal of the penalty for violating the league’s personal conduct policy in July of 2016.

By rule, the coaches and front office cannot have contact with Elliott. He can speak with the athletic training staff and teammates.

“I know he’s excited,” tight end Jason Witten said. “I’ve kept up with him, text, and if there’s one thing you know about Zeke through the first year and a half I’ve been around him is that he loves football. He loves being around. He loves the locker room. So from that standpoint I know he’s missed it. And we’ve missed him. I know he’s going to be really excited.”

Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have replaced Elliott as the Cowboys’ main ballcarriers. The Cowboys have averaged 120.4 yards per game on the ground without Elliott, compared to 148.3 yards per game with him.

In the first eight games, Elliott ran 191 times for 783 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He had more than 80 percent of the Cowboys rushes before his absence.

Linehan does not believe conditioning will be an issue when Elliott returns.

“He’s really a world-class athlete. He stays in shape and he trains. I’m sure he’s been doing that,” Linehan said. “In a lot of ways it’s probably the break he’ll feel a little bit like he feels when he comes to training camp. He’s got a little break between OTAs and training camp now. So he’ll probably have those fresh legs and I’m sure he’ll be ready to go. I don’t know that there’s any model to go by with a guy being gone for a length of time, but a lot of times if you do it right you stay in shape, it can be a benefit for you just as far as how you feel at the end of the year versus if you’re playing every game.”

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The NFL Players Association has filed a request for a temporary restraining order that again would put the six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott on hold, a source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

The request will be argued Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, according to the source.

The move comes as the Cowboys, coming off their bye week, prepare to return to practice before next Sunday’s game at San Francisco.

A federal appeals court last Thursday lifted an injunction that blocked Elliott’s six-game suspension, clearing the way for the NFL’s punishment over domestic violence allegations.

That ruling, by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, reversed the order last month of a federal judge in Texas.

That judge had issued an injunction that blocked the suspension, agreeing with NFL players’ union attorneys who argued that the investigation of the allegations in Ohio and subsequent appeal were unfair to Elliott.

The NFLPA said after last Thursday’s ruling that it will request an en banc hearing — a hearing of the full panel of judges within the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans — on behalf of Elliott.


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In the back of their minds the Dallas Cowboys had to know this was coming with Ezekiel Elliott.

With the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday vacating the injunction that had allowed the Dallas Cowboys running back to play, Elliott is facing the six-game suspension that was handed down by the NFL in August for violating the personal conduct policy. And the Cowboys are facing life as a sub-.500 team trying to win games without their top offensive threat until the Nov. 30 meeting against the Washington Redskins.

Replacing Elliott will not be easy.

In last Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, he appeared to find his stride with 13 carries for 85 yards in the fourth quarter. He had 31 yards on 16 carries in the first three quarters, but Elliott — and maybe more importantly the coaches — found a number of runs that equaled success.

In the first four games and three quarters of the fifth game, the Cowboys’ running game was running into a wall. Their hope was the defenses would eventually wear down, but it did not happen enough.

Without Elliott, the Cowboys can’t rely on Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden to wear down a defense in the same manner.

Singularly, they don’t have Elliott’s combination of speed, power, elusiveness and strength. Collectively, they might.

The Cowboys will have to go from a one-man band in the running game — Elliott has 105 of the 115 carries by Dallas running backs so far — to a committee.

Morris has eight carries for 87 yards but 70 came on one run against the Los Angeles Rams. He has three 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, but those were back in 2012-14 with the Washington Redskins. Since signing with the Cowboys as a free agent last year, he has had more than seven carries in a game just once. He is not much of a threat in the passing game.

McFadden has been inactive for the first five games, which has been a surprise because he was groomed in the summer to be Elliott’s replacement if the suspension had taken effect immediately. He was limited to three games a year ago because of a broken elbow, but in 2015 he had five 100-yard games and two games with more than 90 yards after becoming the Cowboys’ lead back six games into the season. He is most equipped, largely because of his experience, to handle multiple roles.

Smith is the wild card. He might be best suited to handle the full-time job but he has just four carries for 13 yards in his career. He has caught three passes for 28 yards. A year ago at this time, he was a fullback for the Cowboys.

Smith, who was a teammate of Elliott’s at Ohio State, runs with power, has decent speed and can catch the ball effectively. But he has never done it before.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will have to do something he hasn’t done since coming to Dallas in 2014: mix different running backs throughout a game.

In 2014, DeMarco Murray carried 392 times to lead the NFL with 1,845 yards. Backup running back Joseph Randle’s 51 carries were the next highest total. In 2015, McFadden finished fourth in the NFL with 1,089 yards on 239 carries. Randle had 76 carries, which were second-most, but he did not have a carry after the sixth game. Last year, Elliott had 322 carries on his way to leading the league with 1,631 yards. Morris’ 69 carries were second most by a runner.

The Cowboys’ running game has not looked like what anybody expected coming into the season. Elliott has 393 yards on 105 carries, good for 3.7 yards a carry.

As they go forward likely without Elliott, the running game still won’t look like what anybody expected entering the season — but for entirely different reasons.

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When the Dallas Cowboys met the Green Bay Packers in the regular season in 2016, Ezekiel Elliott ran for a career-high 157 yards on 28 carries.

In the playoff rematch last January, Elliott ran for 125 yards on 22 carries.


As the Cowboys look to find answers to a running game that has not met expectations, perhaps sifting through last year’s meeting against the Packers will help the Cowboys prepare for Sunday’s meeting with the Packers.

“Just go back and see what worked last year, just see what plays we ran last year that were successful and see what we’re running this year and just revisit the film, see what I did well and try to build on that,” Elliott said.

Through four games, Elliott is ninth in the league in rushing with 277 yards on 76 carries. He opened the season with 104 yards against the New York Giants and has 80 and 85 yards in the last two games.

Through four games a year ago, Elliott had 412 yards on 94 carries.

“We’re taking a little bit longer to progress this year,” Elliott said. “I really don’t think it’s a bad thing. You ought to be hitting your stride mid to late season than peaking early. As long as you hit your peak, it really doesn’t matter how long it takes you. We could lose six games in this league and still go to the playoffs and as long as you’re hitting your stride at the right time then you’re good. There’s no panic in this locker room at all.”

Going into the regular-season meeting last year, the Packers were allowing fewer than 2 yards per carry. They have the 19th-ranked defense this year, giving up 111 yards a game on the ground, but they have not allowed a 100-yard rusher through four weeks.

“We’ve been making strides, but we still have a long ways to go,” Elliott said. “We haven’t played up to our capability just everywhere. Just a work in progress. We’ve got to keep working. We’ve got to keep grinding.”

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The NFL is asking a federal appeals court to dismiss Ezekiel Elliott’s entire lawsuit in its bid to lift an injunction that blocked the star Dallas Cowboys running back’s six-game suspension over a domestic violence case in Ohio.

The league wrote in a filing Wednesday to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that the players’ union case filed on behalf of Elliott had resulted in “hopelessly doomed proceedings.”

The court requested arguments from both sides over U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant’s jurisdiction.

The Texas judge granted Elliott’s request for an injunction while the case plays out in federal court. The NFL asked the appeals court for an emergency stay of Mazzant’s ruling, and oral arguments are set for Monday.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell in August after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations last summer with his girlfriend at the time. Prosecutors in Ohio didn’t pursue the case, citing conflicting evidence.

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TEMPE, Ariz. — When the Arizona Cardinals watched the tape of the Denver Broncos’ win over the Dallas Cowboys from last Sunday, they saw a blueprint of how to slow running back Ezekiel Elliott nearly to a grinding halt.

They also saw how the second-year star reacts when that happens.

But the Cardinals are preparing for an Elliott they believe will be playing with a chip on his shoulder in front of a national TV audience Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“He’ll be ready to roll,” safety Tyrann Mathieus aid. “We just got to bring our big-boy pads. Everybody has to tackle.”

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said two main reasons the Broncos had success against the Cowboys stood out in the film study: Denver got and held on to the lead, forcing the Cowboys to pass and essentially rendering Elliott useless; and Broncos linebacker Von Miller.

“If I could have Von Miller, I’d be happy,” Arians said. “He’s special. We’ve got a pretty good one, too, [in outside linebacker Chandler Jones], so, yeah. It’s a copycat league, but you can’t change what you do.

“They have some unique stuff that they run that you have to be very aware for. Hopefully, our matchups are pretty solid.”

For a little while during the past week it wasn’t certain if Elliott would play Monday night. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Friday to not hear arguments on the stay that’s keeping Elliott on the field for at least the next two weeks until Oct. 2. Even if the courts hadn’t made that announcement Friday, Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher wasn’t planning on paying much attention to the legal proceedings.

All week, as the status of Elliott for Monday night’s game at University of Phoenix Stadium faced some uncertainty, the Cardinals’ message was the same: It didn’t matter if Elliott played or not because the Cowboys wouldn’t change how they run the ball if Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris or Rod Smith was starting instead of Elliott.

Whether that was just coachspeak is up for debate, but it didn’t matter as of Friday afternoon.

Elliott will be on the field.

That means the Cardinals will be preparing for last year’s rushing champ, who, despite showing a lack of effort during last week’s loss to the Broncos, is still one of the best running backs in the NFL.

“He’s tough to stop anyways, but if and what he’s motivated by, I have no idea,” Arians said. “But he’s a handful.”

When the potential chip on his shoulder is taken out of the equation, the Cardinals see Elliott for what he is: A quick, powerful runner.

“I think he is a pads-down runner,” Bettcher said. “Whatever’s been said about the performance last week I watched on tape, I see a guy that carries the ball 20 times a game and averaged over 100 yards rushing a game [last season] and has a lot of talent who can burst on the second level, who can make guys on the second level miss.

“You got to wrap, you got to run and we got to rally when we tackle the guy.”

Elliott has rushed for 112 yards on 33 carries this year but has been held without a touchdown.

He set career lows in 10 different rushing categories last weekend, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

When defensive tackle Frostee Rucker watched Elliott on tape, he saw similarities to one of his teammates, running back Kerwynn Williams.

“They’re hard runners, but they’re small and you can’t really see them,” Rucker said. “When you got a big O-line like [Elliott] does, he’s really explosive, and he has all the traits to be a great back for many years to come.

“I don’t have anything bad to say about the kid. I don’t really know him. I know from what you see on film, he has a lot of speed, he does turn the corner and hit the edge on you, he does run it between the tackles, which a lot of guys try to bounce it out, but he’s trying to keep it in there, and it fits what they do well.”

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FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will meet with Ezekiel Elliott to discuss the running back’s lack of effort in two plays during Sunday’s 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

On Dak Prescott’s two interceptions, Elliott did not attempt to track down Broncos cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. On the Harris interception, which came after Dez Bryant could not hold on to a Prescott pass, television replays showed Elliott standing with his hands on his hips as Harris turned up field.

On Talib’s 103-yard return for a touchdown with 53 seconds to play, Elliott dove at a Denver blitzer to protect Prescott, but he was not seen in the television replays in the chase.

“One of the things we preach to our team on both sides of the ball when there is a turnover is everybody’s involved,” Garrett said. “If you’re an offensive player, you become a defensive player on a fumble or an interception. Zeke is one of the most natural competitors that I’ve ever been around. He loves to play. He loves to practice. I think we’ve seen that through his first year playing, and those two plays are not indicative of the kind of competitor that he is, and we have to get [that] addressed.”

Elliott finished with a career-low 8 yards on nine carries as the Broncos bottled up the Cowboys’ running game and forced Dallas to rely on the passing game.

Garrett said frustration could have been a reason for Elliott’s lack of effort, but that was not an excuse.

“Obviously, he had been very productive as a running back over the course of his career and certainly in the NFL up to this point,” Garrett said, “and he had a game where he carried the ball nine times for 8 yards, so there’s no question frustration could have set in.”

On NFL Network after the game, Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson said Elliott “quit on his team,” but he pointed more to Elliott’s sideline demeanor than his effort on the interceptions.

“Clearly, he didn’t have any communication with his teammates,” Tomlinson said. “But also, he didn’t want to talk to his teammates. Sometimes when things are going wrong, as a leader of that team, as a captain, you have to step up and rally the troops. You have to go to the offensive line and say, ‘I know it’s tough, but let’s keep battling, let’s keep fighting.’ You have to go to the quarterback and say, ‘Hey, man, I’m not getting it done today. You have to step it up.’ You have to rally the troops. … They need him to do that because last year, he led the league in rushing. So everybody is looking at him as the top dog. So if you want to be the top dog, you have to do it on and off the field.”

When asked about Tomlinson’s accusation, Garrett said, “I just think it’s important to be specific about the plays. You evaluate the play. Those particular plays, it was not up to our standard.”

“I think different guys get ready to play in different ways,” Garrett said, “and in a game when things aren’t going well, sometimes guys look inward and focus on what they need to do to get themselves ready for their next opportunity.”

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The Dallas Cowboys weren’t shy in how they used Ezekiel Elliott in Sunday’s season-opening win against the New York Giants.

Elliott played in 60 of the Cowboys’ 74 offensive snaps, or 81 percent.

As a rookie in 2016, Elliott played in a higher percentage of snaps on just four occasions. He played in 90.7 percent against the Green Bay Packers, 83 percent in the first matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings and 82 percent in the second meeting against the Washington Redskins.

Elliott had 24 carries for 104 yards. He had only three games as a rookie with more carries, topping out at 30 against the Chicago Bears in Week 3. Against the Giants, he caught a career-high five passes for 36 yards.

When Elliott’s suspension was announced on Aug. 11, the Cowboys weren’t sure they were going to have him for the first six games but they prepared as if he would be available for the opener and they weren’t shy about using him.

With the NFL filing for expedited appeals and asking for stays of a court’s decision, it is possible, though not likely, Elliott could serve the suspension at some point this season. Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he only expects Elliott to play Sunday against the Denver Broncos. He did not speculate whether Elliott would be available beyond that.

But if Elliott is available, Jones thinks the Giants game was a baseline of how much work the running back will get each week in 2017.

“Zeke, he just dials it up,” Jones said on The Fan. “When it’s time to go, he goes. I think that it set expectations in a way for Zeke that — I’m not implying he didn’t have — and that is that we’re going to use him on a lot of plays. He’s going to get a lot of carries. He’s going to get a lot of plays in the passing game.

“We need Zeke on the field. And so to the extent that in any way that that impacts him mentally as getting ready, conditioning, any of those things, I think this is what you’re going to see. Last year, if I had anything to add to what he did last year, I would have wanted him on the field more plays than he played even last year.”