Thu Aug 22 12:09pm ET
By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Pro Football Writer
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott throws a pass during the first half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
In this May 22, 2019 file photo Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) walks off the field after NFL football practice in Frisco, Texas. Elliott won't face criminal charges in Las Vegas stemming from a scuffle with a security guard at a music festival in May. Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, he and police concluded the results of an investigation "lacked prosecutorial merit." (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, file)
In this Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018 file photo, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL game in Arlington, Texas. The Dallas Cowboys have given young linebacker Jaylon Smith a new contract while the holdout by Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott nears a month since the team reported to training camp. Smiths extension was announced Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Jacobsohn, File)
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, center, celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
FRISCO, Texas (AP) Ezekiel Elliott has everything on hold for the Dallas Cowboys.
The running back's holdout clouds the expectations for a franchise longing to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the last of five championships nearly 25 years ago.
The Cowboys have a fourth-year quarterback already with two NFC East titles in Dak Prescott; a receiver ready to show what production for a full season looks like in Amari Cooper; and a defense with an established star in pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and two emerging ones in linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.
Oh, and tight end Jason Witten came out of retirement in part because he thought the Cowboys could make the Super Bowl run that eluded him for 15 years before he tried broadcasting for a season.
Elliott's teammates believe their two-time NFL rushing champion will return before the opener Sept. 8 at home against the New York Giants. However, the point at which his absence really matters is now measured in days instead of weeks.
''My gosh, look what he's done in his time in the NFL,'' said Witten, the franchise leader in catches and yards receiving who is about to set the club mark with his 16th season. ''And you're not the same when someone like that's not on the field. No excuses. You've got to go find ways, different ways to do it.''
Elliott wants a new contract with two years remaining on the rookie deal signed after the Cowboys drafted him fourth overall in 2016. While Prescott was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year during their remarkable first season together, Dallas has an offense built around its primary runner.
The Cowboys were a .500 team when Elliott was suspended six games over domestic violence allegations in 2017. They lost three straight to teams that finished with winning records before three straight wins over losing teams.
''The game is certainly different when Zeke is behind us,'' said center Travis Frederick, who is back after missing last season with a nerve disorder. ''But it's our job to do what we do no matter what the situation is. I think that it probably changes things a little bit, makes all our jobs a little bit harder.''
Things to consider with the Cowboys seeking a second straight season with at least 10 wins for the first time since the last of six straight in 1996:
Rookie running back Tony Pollard, a fourth-round pick, was impressive early in the preseason. The Cowboys believed they were drafting a prototypical runner even though the speedy Pollard was mostly a kickoff returner and change-of-pace back at Memphis. Sure enough, his first professional touchdown was a 14-yard run on a cut inside to cap a 97-yard drive.
Alfred Morris, Elliott's primary replacement during the suspension two years ago, is back after signing early in training camp. Dallas drafted another back in Mike Weber Jr., from Elliott's alma mater of Ohio State.
DAK'S YEAR 4
Prescott is 32-16 and coming off his first playoff victory while trying to get past the divisional round after falling short twice. He led a franchise-record 11-game winning streak as a rookie after Tony Romo got hurt. The Packers won at the top-seeded Cowboys with a remarkable play by Aaron Rodgers to set up a winning field goal. The Dallas run defense had a letdown in last season's loss at the Rams.
''Each and every year you have confidence and you say this is the year, you say that we've got a great team,'' said Prescott, whose contract is also an issue, along with Cooper, with both in the final year of their rookie deals. ''But you looking around at this team, the roster that we have, the talent, the leaders that we have, it's to win and it's to win everything.''
Kellen Moore, who just turned 30, replaced Scott Linehan as offensive coordinator a year after retiring and becoming Prescott's position coach. Even in the preseason, the offense looks more imaginative. Randall Cobb, one of Rodgers' favorite targets during eight seasons in Green Bay, is the new slot receiver. He and Cooper are good mentors for promising second-year player Michael Gallup.
Lawrence (shoulder) and cornerback Byron Jones (hip) missed the offseason following surgeries but are expected to be ready by Week 1. Lawrence came off the physically unable to perform list in the fourth week of camp. Safety Xavier Woods has had a strong camp after Dallas decided not to pay big money for free agent Earl Thomas, who went to Baltimore.
BACK ON THE HOT SEAT
Coach Jason Garrett is in the final year of his contract, just as he was five years ago coming off three straight 8-8 seasons that ended with losses that kept Dallas out of the playoffs. The Cowboys went 12-4 in 2014, won a wild-card game and lost to Green Bay in the divisional round. After another divisional loss last season, it might take a deeper run for another five-year deal for Garrett. ''I never really think about that,'' he said. ''I never thought about that as a player. I don't think about that as a coach.''
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley finds himself even more solidified as the face of the Giants franchise after the team's decision to bench quarterback Eli Manning. Although the offense already revolved around Barkley, he will be leaned on even more as a safety blanket for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. However, the Bucs defense is no longer an easy target. Under new coordinator Todd Bowles, they've allowed only 3.9 yards per carry and just held Christian McCaffrey to 37 yards on 16 carries. Hopefully Jones will include Barkley more in the passing game than Manning had been this year, which would give the second-year back more upside since you still need to run him out there as an RB1 in season-long leagues. But in another tough test for the Giants runner, it would be wise to look elsewhere in DFS.
The New York Giants will turn to Daniel Jones as their starting quarterback in Week 3. His first test will be against a Tampa Bay Bucs defense that just allowed 333 yards through the air to a banged-up and inaccurate Cam Newton. The Bucs defense has certainly improved this year, but there were many big-play opportunities for Newton and the Panthers last week, which could provide Jones with similar chances at splash plays. Still, with the Giants likely to be run-heavy on Sunday, the team's wide receiver corps banged up and this being Jones' first test not against a backup defense in the preseason, the rookie signal-caller is best left to two-quarterback leagues and ignored in DFS for the time being.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram is one of the few Giants whose value is not impacted by the change to a rookie quarterback. Engram is a matchup nightmare for most defenses and remains the Giants top receiving option. In Week 3, he'll get to face a Tampa Bay Bucs defense that just allowed Greg Olsen to put up 110 yards on six catches. Despite the fact that Engram will likely be a central focus for the defense, he can still be fired up as a locked-and-loaded TE1 in season-long leagues and an underrated pivot for DFS lineups.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard is not a recommended fantasy option in a Week 3 matchup against the Detroit Lions. Howard picked up just 18 yards on the ground in Week 2 and will only put up a decent fantasy score if he scores a touchdown. A running back that is so touchdown-dependent without any passing game upside is only worth considering in the deepest of formats. Howard could suddenly have some legitimate value if other members of the Eagles backfield were to get injured, but for now, he's little more than a bench stash just in case.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz likely won't be quite as strong a fantasy option as usual against the Detroit Lions in Week 3. Wentz watched both of his top wide receivers, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, leave the game in Week 2 with injuries. Both are officially questionable for Week 3, but most beat writers are expecting the two wide receivers to miss at least one game. Wentz will still have tight end Zach Ertz to throw to, but his top wide receiver will be drop-machine Nelson Agholor. Wentz is still a QB1 for Week 3, but he's on the lower 10-12 range instead of his usual 4-6.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders was one of the few Eagles offensive starters to escape Week 2 without an injury, but he's still not a very exciting fantasy choice for Week 3. Taking on a decent Detroit Lions run defense, Sanders is currently ranked on the RB2/3 turn. He could make for a decent FLEX play, but shouldn't be trusted as a starting running back in most lineups. Sanders has had some decent flashes and is being used in a way that could ultimately end up making him a fantasy starter, but for now he looks like he's still somewhat acclimating to the NFL game and might need some time before he becomes a set-and-forget fantasy starter.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (concussion) will not practice on Wednesday. Njoku was knocked out of the team's win over the Jets on Monday night during the first quarter when he was upended while trying to make a leaping catch. It doesn't come as a surprise that Njoku is still in the league's concussion protocol just two days after suffering the head injury. Njoku's fantasy owners will want to make alternate plans at the tight end position as he will have a tough time getting cleared on a short week. The Browns take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night in Week 3.
Free-agent QB David Fales (Lions) signed an undisclosed deal with the New York Jets Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Atlanta Falcons DE Austin Larkin and TE Carson Meier were released from the practice squad on Tuesday, Sept. 17. To fill their spots, free agents P Matt Wile (Vikings) and Nate Wozniak (Vikings) were signed. In a separate move, DT Ra'Shede Hageman (undisclosed) cleared waivers and was placed on the Reserve/Injured list.
Dallas Cowboys RB Darius X. Jackson was released from the practice squad Monday, Sept. 16; in a corresponding move, RB Jordan Chunn was re-signed.
The New England Patriots Defense have allowed only three points all season and now will go up against third-string quarterback Luke Falk and the Jets in Week 3. The Patriots have been suffocating through the first two games and picked up two defensive pick-6 touchdowns against the Dolphins. With the offense humming and perhaps their most talented defensive secondary in the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots are to a great start. The defense suddenly is a must-own in all fantasy formats and will be a top play against the Jets in Week 3.
New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown's first game with the Patriots was a rousing success, catching four passes for 56 yards and one touchdown in Week 2. Brown sat out the first offensive play but then immediately got in on the action and his quick chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady was evident. This week the Patriots will take on a banged up Jets team and Brown's snaps should increase. The All-Pro receiver still is learning the offense but has the kind of elite talent that can shine in any system. He may not be fully up to speed but Brown should still deliver solid fantasy numbers in Week 3.
New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon will try and rebound after catching only two passes for 19 yards in Week 2. Gordon has plenty of talent but the acquisition of Antonio Brown certainly is cutting into his chances. He will go up against a Jets Defense that was gashed by Odell Beckham Jr. and the Browns last Monday. The Patriots offense is so explosive that keeping everyone happy will be tough. Gordon may be the one to suffer for now and will be no higher than a WR3/4 heading into Week 3.
The Minnesota Vikings Defense got off to a rough start, allowing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to jump out to a quick 21-0 lead in the first quarter. They righted the ship after that, though, holding the Packers scoreless for the rest of the contest. They also notched two sacks, recovered two fumbles, and allowed just 191 passing yards in what was an impressive bounce-back effort. Though this wasn't a productive day from a fantasy standpoint, it wasn't exactly expected to be - on the road against the Packers is not the greatest spot to be in. Slot the Vikings defense in as a top-10 play at home against the bottom-tier Oakland Raiders offense.
New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead has been a fantastic role player for an explosive offense through the first two games of the season. Burkhead has carried the ball 13 times for 5.0 yards per carry and has added seven catches for 88 yards. He clearly is the backup behind teammate Sony Michel but has outplayed veteran James White in the first month of the season. Burkhead is not worth a start in most fantasy formats but has produced when called upon in the Patriots offense. Barring injury, however, Burkhead carries little fantasy value heading into Week 3.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen had a decent fantasy outing in Week 2, catching five of eight targets for 75 yards in Sunday's 21-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Though quarterbackKirk Cousins attempted 32 passes, he only completed 14 of them and had an awful day finding his receivers downfield. The inconsistency from Cousins is impacting Thielen's production, but the team's willingness to completely abandon the pass is of even more concern. Head coach Mike Zimmer will undoubtedly look to again feature the run in Week 3's contest against the Oakland Raiders, though Thielen still has to be started as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 thanks to the juicy matchup.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will face a Jets Defense in Week 3 that has allowed the 12th most fantasy points to receivers through two games. Edelman has been a rock for a dynamic Patriots offense, picking up first down after first down. The veteran is still looking for his first touchdown of the season but heads into Week 3's action with 10 catches for 134 yards. The Jets come into the contest undermanned on both sides of the football and the Patriots are expected to dominate. Edelman carries WR3 value, perhaps even higher in PPR leagues, heading into this Sunday.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel will try and build off of his 85-yard, one-touchdown performance last week when the team takes on the Jets this Sunday. After a disappointing game to start the season, the second-year running back bounced back nicely. Michel ran hard as the Patriots racked up a sizeable lead. The Patriots backfield consists of Rex Burkhead, James White and Damien Harris but Michel led the way last week with 21 carries. The Jets are down to their third-string quarterback and the Patriots could lean heavily on the running game in Week 3. Michel has RB2 value with a high ceiling this week.
New England Patriots running back James White is off to a slow start through the first two games of the season. With so many weapons on offense, there are a lot of mouths to feed for quarterback Tom Brady. White has seen only seven carries through the first two weeks and has eight catches for 75 yards. The veteran will face a Jets Defense that has allowed 12 receptions to running backs but the Patriots game plan could lean towards relying on the running game. White is better suited in the passing game and his production could continue to suffer.
Chicago Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro played the hero in Week 2 and will now travel to Washington take on the Redskins in Week 3. Pineiro hit all three of his field goals last week, including a dramatic 53-yard boot to win the game with a second left. Pineiro is a perfect 4-for-4 on the season but is still largely unproven. He'll carry some value with a Bears offense that has scored only one touchdown through the first two games, but he doesn't come with much upside.