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Their names made the biggest noninjury headlines of the week in the NFL and this week one is expected to continue to play a big role for his team while the other is likely to be a backup for a while.
Thanks to a courtroom Hail Mary, the Dallas Cowboys will have the services of running back Ezekiel Elliott when they play the Kansas City Chiefs in ATT Stadium in an important game for the 4-3 team as it chases the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. For the third time, a federal court intervened Friday to keep Elliott, who is fighting a six-game suspension, eligible, granting a request by the NFL Players Association to keep the suspension on hold while the union appeals a ruling Monday.
It’s a risky gambit by the Cowboys, who could lose Elliott at a critical stretch of the season if all legal means are exhausted, but his recent productivity shows just how valuable he is. Over the last three games, he has rushed for 413 yards, with 150 coming last week in a victory over the Redskins.
For the Cowboys, having Elliott against the Chiefs, who struggle to stop the run, is a big plus. For the Chiefs, well, they have Alex Smith, who hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season.
In San Francisco, the 49ers will try for the ninth time this season to win a game and, while Jimmy Garoppolo drew all the attention when the team sent a second-round draft pick for him to New England for him ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. Garoppolo, long Tom Brady’s understudy, will be active for the game against the Arizona Cardinals, but so will starter C.J. Beathard. Garoppolo hasn’t had much time to learn Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but there’s a chance his education will come under fire because Beathard may have taken 34 percent of the team’s snaps, but he’s absorbed 41 percent of the sacks the team has given up and has been hit hard another half-dozen times.
Shanahan admitted that getting Garoppolo ready is a “challenge” — both for him and the team. “I don’t care who you are or how many hours you put in, there’s no way you can get it all down in that short amount of time. If he does get the opportunity to go in, you got to scale it down. You have to wristband a bunch of stuff,” Shanahan said. “You got to be very selective in what you call and make sure he understands what you’re doing. It’s not just the pass plays. It’s the snap count, the cadence, how to get out of the huddle, where the run plays are going, the ballhandling and all the little things that people take for granted that take a lot of time to work on. We’ve got in enough this week so that we know we can survive to a degree if he had to come in.”
The 7-1 Philadelphia Eagles added a running back to a roster that also includes LeGarrette Blount, obtaining Jay Ajayi from the Miami Dolphins. Ajayi is expected to play in limited action against the 3-4 Denver Broncos in Philly, but the key thing is that Carson Wentz is having an MVP-caliber season. He’ll be tested by the Broncos’ defense. On offense, they’ll have a familiar face trying to end their losing streak at three games. Brock Osweiler, a second-round pick by the Broncos in 2012, started seven games for them in 2015, then signed with Houston as a free agent in ’16. He later was traded to Cleveland in a salary dump, then re-signed with the Broncos in September.
Eagle fans If Philly wins today plan your trip to SB 52: Would be 5th 8-1 start in team history other 4 times made it to NFL title game/SB
— trey wingo (@wingoz) November 5, 2017
In the Sunday night game, Marshawn Lynch will be back for the 3-5 Oakland Raiders. They’ll face a Dolphins team that is now minus Ajayi, which will be a blessing for a run defense that is coming off its worst showing of the season (allowing 151 rushing yards and a 48-yard rushing touchdown to Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy). Before that, the Raiders hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher through seven games. The 4-3 Dolphins are averaging only 176 yards per game in the air, but they’ll have Jay Cutler and his sore ribs back after missing last week’s 40-0 loss to Baltimore.
In an early game, the 5-3 Panthers and 4-3 Falcons — two teams who know a thing or two about Super Bowl hangovers — will try not to lose ground in the NFC South to 5-2 New Orleans Saints, who play the 2-5 Buccaneers. Cam Newton has struggled of late, compiling the NFL’s worst passer rating (55.2) over the last three weeks. The Saints will be going for their sixth straight victory after their 0-2 start, something only the 1993 Cowboys and 2007 Giants have done. Both went on to win the Super Bowl.
Every week the question arises: Are the Los Angeles Rams for real? Well, they’re 5-2 and they journey east to play the woeful 1-6 New York Giants. The Rams are 30.3 points per game, which is second best to the Texans in the NFL. A year ago, they averaged 14 points, last in the league. For the Giants, Eli Manning needs only 186 yards passing to reach 50,000, a level accomplished by only seven quarterbacks in NFL history.
The Washington Redskins will journey to a place where two playoff dreams have died: Seattle. And the Seahawks are coming off a victory over the Texans and Deshaun Watson in what has been the best NFL game of the year. The Redskins are expected to have DeAngelo Hall (who hasn’t played since Week 3 of the 2016 season) back, but tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Jamison Crowder are out. The Seahawks will be without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks are 5-2 in the NFC West; the Redskins are 3-4 in the NFC East.
In other games, two hard-luck teams — 2-6 Indianapolis and 3-4 Houston — square off; 3-4 Cincinnati plays at 4-3 Jacksonville; and 4-4 Baltimore plays 4-3 Tennessee.
On Monday night, the 4-3 Packers will host the 3-4 Detroit Lions in a game that will show how well Brett Hundley progressed during the bye week. The Packers expect that veteran safety Morgan Burnett will be able to play again after suffering a hamstring injury last month. At least the Lions, who’ve lost three straight, can say this much: they’ve avoided the injuries that have plagued this NFL season.
Week 9 byes: The Bears, Browns, Chargers, Vikings, Patriots and Steelers are off.
In other news…
Pizza wars: Of all things in an odd NFL season consumed by injuries to star players and cultural skirmishes over national anthem demonstrations, Papa John, whose pizza company is an NFL sponsor, fired a shot at the league over protests begun in the summer of 2016 by Colin Kaepernick. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” John Schnatter said in blaming the company’s sagging sales on the controversy. “Like many sponsors, we are in contact with the NFL and once the issue is resolved between the players and the owners, we are optimistic that the NFL’s best years are ahead. But good or bad, leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.” (Read more.)
Kaepernick vs. NFL owners (and Goodell): Attorneys representing the free agent quarterback in his collusion grievance against the NFL are seeking to depose several team owners, including the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, the Texans’ Bob “we can’t have the inmates running the prison” McNair, the Patriots’ Robert Kraft and the Giants’ John Mara. Commissioner Roger Goodell also can expect to be deposed and asked to turn over cellphone records, ESPN reports. (Read more.)
‘Sad and divisive’: The Saints respond to a veteran’s refusal of an award because of national anthem protests. (Read more.)
A peek into the life of an itinerant lineman: “It’s been a little wacky,” Tony Bergstrom says. (Read more.)
Thomas Boswell: The NFL season looks even more dreary next to an unforgettable baseball season. (Read more.)
Maybe this season is jinxed: No sooner had the Astros won the World Series than the Texans great rookie quarterback, Deshaun Watson, tore his anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the rest of the season, a devastating blow for him and a league that could use the excitement he brings. He joins J.J. Watt and Mercilus Whitney from the defense on the injured reserve list, another heartbreaking development for the Texans.
“I promise that I will continue to work diligently so that this team can one day bring a championship to Houston, and when I return, I will be better, stronger and more focused than ever before!” he tweeted “Now the grind begins…. #815 #Memo GODSPEED. A small thing to a GIANT.“
A Rodgers return depends on several factors: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers addressed his status for the first time Friday, telling reporters that whether he will be able to come off the injured reserve list (he’s eligible to return Week 15) will depend on how well his surgically repaired broken collarbone heals. “I would just temper expectations because, as much as I would love to get back out there this year, if it’s not healed, then there’s no conversation,” Rodgers said. “If it is healed, then there’s a conversation and we’ll go from there.” Part of that “conversation” would revolve around whether the Packers are in the running for a playoff spot.
The Luck update: The Indianapolis Colts shut down Andrew Luck for the rest of the season last week. Luck, who had shoulder surgery in January, had barely begun throwing again when he experienced pain in the shoulder. After consulting with doctors, he is continuing with rehab. “I wish I was better and 100 percent this season, but that’s not the case,” Luck said. “I know I’ll be better from this. I know I’ll be a better quarterback, teammate, person and player from this, and I’m excited for the future.”
Key players listed as questionable
Karlos Dansby (finger, hamstring)
Andre Ellington (quadriceps)
Reuben Foster (ribs)
Fozzy Whittaker (ankle)
Nick Boyle (toe)
Joe Flacco (concussion)
Jeremy Maclin (shoulder)
Mike Wallace (back)
Delanie Walker (ankle)
Marquise Lee (knee)
Emmanuel Sanders (ankle)
Zach Ertz (hamstring)
Matt Jones (ankle)
Cole Beasley (concussion)
Brashaud Breeland (knee, groin)
Brandon Scherff (knee)
Kam Chancellor (ankle)
Jay Cutler (ribs)
DeVante Parker (ankle)
Fantasy football advice
Best/worst matchups: How crazy is it that Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Alex Smith are top-five fantasy quarterbacks at this point in the season? (Read more.)
Five moves you must make: Remember Alex Collins. (Read more.)
Week 9 cheat sheet: The choicest tips for Week 9. (Read more.)
Week 9 Start/Sit: Bench the Bengals’ A.J. Green. Really. (Read more.)
The Fantasy Football Beat: The Post’s fantasy football experts pinpoint the one big winner from the oh-so-busy trade deadline day. (Listen.)
The top trends and insights from Las Vegas. (Read more.)