What Zeke’s Holdout Means for the NFC East, Rushing Title

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We see the news everywhere – Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will not play this season without a new contract. If history is to repeat itself, Jerry Jones is having horrible flashbacks to 1993 and will soon cave in and pay the man! But until that happens, the NFC East and the competition for a rushing title could be up for grabs.

The Trend: Among football ownership, not paying the star
running back is becoming more common. Smart in business, but a cruel way to
punish your star, owners are realizing that the running back is an easily
replaceable position. While Le’Veon Bell didn’t get the big pay-day he expected,
that hasn’t stopped Melvin Gordon and now Zeke from sitting out of training
camp, and possibly the season. Until it’s addressed in the collective bargain
agreement (CBA), star running backs holding out for big money is a trend likely
to continue.

The Problem: Running back’s peak years are usually in
college and as soon as they come into the league, unlike most other positions
that need to adjust to NFL speed and game plans. The prime years for the
running back position are when they are under their rookie contract, which is
designated based off where they were drafted. When it does come time for their
first big contract, teams are using the franchise tag to delay what the player
is asking for, which often leads to a holdout. Once the teams exhaust the franchise
tag option, running backs are typically around the age that is referred to as
the wall, which is around 30 years old. That is usually when the wear and tear
catches up, and running backs start to lose production while their career comes
crashing down. We’ve seen it with countless players like Jamaal Charles, Shaun
Alexander, Stephen Jackson, Jamal Lewis and many more. All of those players had
become ineffective around the age of 30 after hitting that wall. The wall,
combined with the current structure of the CBA, now has owners making business
decisions to leave running backs out to dry by replacing them with the next
young star on a rookie contract.

The Odds:
Despite Zeke’s holdout, the projected standings have not changed. The
Eagles are still seen as the favorite in the division followed by the
Cowboys in the two-horse race with the Redskins at +1200 and the Giants still
tipped to finish at the bottom at +1400. However, if the holdout pours
into the regular season, the Eagles odds to win the division go from
+100 to -125 while the Cowboys go from +125 to +150. Is winning the division
without Zeke possible? Yes, but it could still be a steep mountain to
climb.

Despite his holdout, Zeke still currently
holds the best odds to win the rushing title, sitting at +300, but
division rival Saquon Barkley could reap the benefits as he sits at
+400 odds. If Elliot does sit out the entire season, Barkley’s odds could
drastically increase, paving the way to the rushing title. Others that
could see an opening include Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, and
Chris Carson, who are all at +1500 and Le’Veon Bell at +1600.

Final Thoughts:
While Zeke’s holdout has not affected the odds
yet, if it extends into the regular season, the odds are likely to fluctuate as
the Boys try to replace the 2018 rushing champion. Owner Jerry Jones and his
son Stephen believe rookie Tony Pollard can carry the same load that Zeke has
shouldered the past few years, but that’s yet to be seen. While the Cowboys
head honchos show little worry about Elliott being on the field come September,
you have to wonder if they’re bluffing, or if paying the controversial running
back what he wants is actually not in the conversation. We can only wait and
see what the outcomes is, but it seems to be an ever-growing trend in football
that can have major implications on betting odds for the rushing title and
division race.