The Ezekiel Elliott saga took another drastic turn on Thursday, as the Fifth Court of Appeals vacated the Dallas running backs’ temporary injunction, reinstating his six-game suspension. If, like myself, your legal expertise checks-in just above Lionel Hutz and below Phillip Banks, Thursday’s decision adds another dense layer of legal jargon to an already complicated situation. Elliott is now staring at a pile of options, which includes looking for a new injunction in New York, but it appears that the NFL now has the upper hand and Elliott’s suspension could begin in Week 7 after Dallas’ bye.
While more twists and turns are undoubtedly on the way, the fantasy implications are now as heavy as ever. Elliott’s chances of actually seeing a suspension are at an all-time high, meaning fantasy owners need to be making alternate plans. As with the legal action in this case, the replacement for Elliott in Dallas’ backfield is as clear as mud. Darren McFadden appeared to be Elliott’s direct handcuff this summer, but has now eaten five consecutive inactive designations while Alfred Morris has served as the second back in Dallas. Sure, this could mean Morris hops in and takes over for Zeke, but the Cowboys could also smash the glass case surrounding McFadden and hand him a healthy portion of their backfield work as well. Rotoworld’s own Evan Silva summed up the prospects of adding both Dallas running backs, along with highlighting McFadden’s higher ceiling due to more passing game involvement. ESPN’s Todd Archer gave us a solid glimpse into the potential roles in a Zeke-less Dallas backfield, but the truth is that nobody knows how this situation will play out. If you have the roster space and could use running back help, snag any one (or two) of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, or even Rod Smith and hold on as this roller coaster continues.
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Philadelphia Holds Off Carolina on TNF
The Philadelphia Eagles took a trip to Carolina on Thursday night as the Panthers hosted a battle of 4-1 squads. Cam Newton was looking for his third consecutive three touchdown game but it was Carson Wentz who tossed a trio of scores as the Eagles pocketed a huge road win by a score of 28-23.
Wentz completed just 16 of 30 passes but was effective when needed, finding tight end Zach Ertz twice for red zone scores. The performance gave Wentz seven touchdown passes in a five-day span, which is more than Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (6) has on the season. Alshon Jeffery was targeted a team-high 10 times on the night but hauled in just four passes for 71 yards. Jeffery has caught more than four passes only once in six tries in 2017. With Wendell Smallwood (knee) inactive for a second straight week, LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles' backfield with 30 snaps and racked up 67 yards on 14 carries in his signature bruising style. Thursday was the first time this season that Zach Ertz saw less than eight targets, but the breakout tight end did manage to catch two of his five looks for scores in a productive evening.
Cam Newton erupted in Weeks 4 and 5 after a sluggish start to the season but had trouble finding success against the Eagles, throwing for 239 yards on 52 attempts along with one touchdown and three interceptions. While he never looked comfortable in the pocket, a healthy rushing line of 71 yards and a touchdown salvaged Newton’s fantasy line. Carolina’s passing struggles were likely caused by a ridiculously inept performance from the Panthers' backfield, as Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey, and Fozzy Whittaker combined for a grand total of one yard on 13 rushing attempts. Stewart looked particularly elderly, turning eight carries into -4 yards. Stewart’s last two games have produced 17 rushing yards on 26 carries, good for a helpful average of .65 yards per carry. McCaffrey did manage to make noise in fantasy terms with 10 catches on 14 targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. The rookie is averaging 6.2 receptions per game through six weeks and is producing in a PPR capacity as expected.
Eagles at Panthers Quick Slants
Kelvin Benjamin saw a season-high 13 targets, which he turned into a season-high nine catches for 99 yards. … Nelson Agholor’s promising season continued, as he managed to snare four of seven targets for 55 yards and his fourth score of the season. … Devin Funchess caught only three passes on nine targets, but is now averaging a beefy 9.0 targets per game over the last four weeks. … Carolina tight end Ed Dickson followed up a monster Week 5 performance with four catches on eight targets for 36 yards for fantasy owners chasing last week’s production.
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Injury News and Notes
Travis Kelce (concussion) practiced in full on Thursday and now looks like a decent bet to play in Week 6. … Marcus Mariota (hamstring) turned in a “limited” practice on Thursday and his status should be monitored as a Monday Night date with the Colts moves closer. … Like Mariota, Derek Carr (back) was limited on Thursday and will likely be a game-time call ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Chargers. … New England should have Rob Gronkowski (thigh) back in Week 6 after a limited practice on Thursday, although Friday’s practice session should help give the fantasy world a more concrete answer on his status. … Ty Montgomery (ribs) practiced fully on Thursday in a flak jacket and appears ready to return in Week 6, although he could be on the short end of a backfield split with emerging rookie Aaron Jones. … Tyler Eifert (back) saw his 2017 season come to an end on Thursday as he was placed on injured reserve after opting for back surgery. … Kenny Britt (groin) aggravated his injury on Thursday, leaving the door open for Ricardo Louis to continue his rise in Week 6. … Minnesota saw both Sam Bradford (knee) and Stefon Diggs (groin) miss practice on Thursday. Both players should be monitored over the weekend. … DeVante Parker (ankle) did not practice on Thursday and looks like a dicey bet to suit up on Sunday. … Sterling Shepard (ankle) didn’t practice on Thursday, leaving the decimated Giants' receiving group in the hands of Roger Lewis this week at Denver. Gulp.