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Ezekiel Elliott plans to play Week 17 vs. Giants

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Despite the Dallas Cowboys clinching the NFC East title and being locked into the No. 4 seed, Ezekiel Elliott plans to play in Sunday's regular season finale versus the New York Giants.

The running back believes the Cowboys offensive starters need to play Week 17 to build momentum heading into January.

"It's definitely on my mind," Elliott said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "The plan is to go out there and play and approach this week the same we have been approaching the past weeks. We got to make sure we come out there and have a lot of intensity and have some momentum going into the wild card week."

Elliott likely has the NFL rushing title sewed up, barring something outrageous happening. Zeke sits at 1,434 yards through 15 games. Todd Gurley is No. 2 at 1,251. Even if the Rams' running back were healthy (he's not), that would be a massive 183-yard day to catch Elliott. Saquon Barkley is No. 3, way back at 1,198 rushing yards.

The Cowboys faced a similar situation two years ago. Zeke had wrapped up the rushing title, and Dallas won the division. Despite dressing, Elliott did not play a single snap the game -- even though the all-time rookie rushing record was technically close enough to consider playing the running back.

Elliott believes this year is different than the makeup of the previous division champs.

"We are built a little bit different," Elliott said. "We definitely rely more on our intensity and how hard we play and be in a groove. This is the right thing to do."

It makes sense for Elliott and the starters to desire fine-tuning their approach one more time before the tournament starts. The Cowboys offense has been inconsistent and maddeningly sterile at times. There are moments in each game when it seems like handoffs to Zeke are the only plays working.

History could also be instructive for Cowboys coaches determining playing time.

In each of the previous two playoff seasons under Jason Garrett, Dallas had already clinched their division entering Week 17 and took different approaches to resting starters: In 2016 most key starters sat (Dak Prescott played one series) prior to Wild Card BYE (Lost in Divisional Round). In 2014, played starters with division clinched, went on to win in Wild Card game versus Lions (Lost in Divisional Round).

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