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Will Ezekiel Elliott Play? — NFL Week 9 Preview

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins
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Ezekiel Elliott’s legal battles continue in Dallas, and a flurry of trades could help current playoff contenders. Here’s a preview of the most interesting NFL games of Week 9:

Thursday, November 2

The Bills Are…Good?

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills
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Buffalo at N.Y. Jets | MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on NFL Network
Thanks to a league-leading turnover margin of +14, Buffalo (5–2) is closely following New England in the AFC East race. The Bills got even better this week when they traded a third-round pick and a seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft to Carolina for wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The acquisition of Benjamin gives quarterback Tyrod Taylor a legitimate target and helps take some of the offensive burden off running back LeSean McCoy.

This week, Buffalo travels to the Meadowlands to face the Jets (3–5), a team they beat 21–12 in Week 1. If the Bills are to end their 17-season playoff drought, they’ll need to win games like this against teams that haven’t started to rebound from rock bottom. Considering New York ranks 27th in the league against the run, McCoy is likely to lead the charge while Benjamin learns the playbook in time for the two games against the Patriots in December.

Sunday, November 5

The Eagles Have a Winning Formula

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles
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Denver at Philadelphia | Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Philadelphia (7–1) is in win-now mode. The Eagles acquired Jay Ajayi in a trade with the Dolphins on Tuesday, giving the team with the NFL’s best record a boost for a running game that already ranks fifth in the league. Ajayi will team with LeGarrette Blount to give Philly a deep backfield to go along with the near flawless play of quarterback Carson Wentz and his solid receiving corps. Does a deep, mistake-free offense plus a ferocious pass rush equal a Super Bowl title?

The Broncos would know. That’s the formula they used two years ago in Peyton Manning’s last season. Denver (3–4) could use Manning this Sunday. He certainly couldn’t be worse than Trevor Siemian has been recently. Under Siemian’s direction, the Broncos have lost three consecutive turnover-filled games. That’s led Denver coach Vance Joseph to consider making a change at quarterback. Unfortunately for him, he only has Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler to choose from (unless team EVP John Elway wants to suit up). More mistakes against the Eagles will mean another loss.

The Falcons & Panthers Battle in Charlotte

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers
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Atlanta at Carolina | Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox

While the surprising Saints currently lead the NFC South, Atlanta (4–3) and Carolina (5–3) figure to be the two teams battling for the division crown in December. The Falcons are 3–1 on the road this season and have won two of their past three in Charlotte, so they figure not to be daunted by the drive up Interstate 85. The foliage might be nice, too.

The Panthers NFC-best pass defense needs to stop Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense so that Cam Newton can work against the Falcons. Newton must figure out whom to turn to since the team’s leading receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, was traded to Buffalo this week. That could mean more work for rookie running back Christian McCaffrey in the offense.

Jimmy Garoppolo Won’t Help the Niners…Yet

Atlanta Falcons v New England Patriots
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Arizona at San Francisco | Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox

Will newly acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo make San Francisco (0–8) better? No. Not yet, anyway. Earlier this week, the Niners traded a 2018 second-round draft pick — they had two — to New England for Garoppolo, Tom Brady’s understudy in the NFL’s Evil Empire. The talented, but unproven, Garoppolo gave San Francisco a building block and freed up future draft picks to be used on positions other than quarterback. The point? It’s Week 9 of the 2017 NFL season and the Niners are thinking about the 2018 NFL Draft.¯_(ツ)_/¯

Arizona (3–4) is better off than San Francisco, but it’s hard to imagine that the Cardinals are happy with their present or their future quarterback options. They’ll start backup quarterback Drew Stanton in place of the injured Carson Palmer this week — and presumably hope that they don’t have to use third-stringer Blaine Gabbert. Ever. Yet, thanks to a terrible Niners team, they are likely the favorites in this game. Such is life in the NFC West.

When Will Ezekiel Elliott Start Serving His Suspension?

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins
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Kansas City at Dallas | AT&T Stadium, Arlington; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS

With a tweak here and there, this Sunday’s Chiefs-Cowboys game could be a Super Bowl preview. Deep and experienced, Kansas City (6–2) is only a few plays away from being undefeated, while Dallas (4–3) has endured a brutal early schedule and come through a winner.

The biggest factor in this game will be decided in the courts: the NFL Players Association filed yet another injunction request to keep Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott on the field instead of serving his six-game suspension for off-field conduct. If Elliott plays, he’s the guy the Chiefs need to stop. On the other side, Dallas must contain Kansas City playmakers Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt and turn NFL sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence loose on frighteningly efficient quarterback Alex Smith. This should be great football.

Other Games

Sunday, November 5
Baltimore at Tennessee | Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Tampa Bay at New Orleans | Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
L.A. Rams at N.Y. Giants | MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Cincinnati at Jacksonville | EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Indianapolis at Houston | NRG Stadium, Houston; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Washington at Seattle | CenturyLink Field, Seattle; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Oakland at Miami | Hard Rock Stadium, Miami; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

Monday, November 6
Detroit at Green Bay | Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN

Bye Week:
Chicago, Cleveland, Minnesota, New England, Pittsburgh, L.A. Chargers

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