Elliott can appeal the suspension, which could make the situation murkier, but as it stands today the NFL's leading rusher won't return until Week 8. If the suspension holds, Zeke would miss games against the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.
Without Zeke on the field in 2016, the Cowboys' offense was worse across the board. Dallas earned 1.3 fewer yards per carry and 0.8 fewer yards per play sans Elliott. Prescott's life got harder without Zeke. The QB had a 60.1 completion percentage when Elliott wasn't on the field, compared to 72.6 with the back. In games Prescott threw the ball 35-plus times, the Cowboys scored nearly a touchdown fewer, per NFL Research.
The Giants, who beat the Cowboys twice last season with Zeke in the lineup, boast improved firepower on offense to go with an already stout defense. The Eagles upgraded their pass rush this offseason and provided Carson Wentz with more weaponry in his second season. The Redskins improved their defensive front seven and own an intriguing, if unproven, set of receivers in Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson.
The positive spin for the Cowboys -- aside from Dak's improvement in Year 2 -- is they face just one NFC East opponent during the first six games of the season (Week 1 versus New York). Dallas went 3-3 in the division last season (counting the meaningless season-finale loss to the Eagles) and still won the crown by two games. Elliott is currently slated to return for the Week 8 matchup at the Redskins, meaning he would play in five of the six pivotal divisional contests.
The NFC East is routinely one of the most unpredictable divisions in the NFL. Even with Elliott in the lineup, it looked to be again in 2017. The suspension to one of the division's best players ensures it will be a wild ride once again.