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The Jameis Winston suspension could impact the Cowboys playoff hopes

We’re looking way down the road here, but everything matters.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After some initial rumblings on Wednesday, further confirmation came on Thursday evening that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston would be suspended for the first three games of the NFL season.

Obviously this will likely remind you of the situation that Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys battled all throughout last season that led to Zeke ultimately serving his six-game (not three like Winston) suspension, but there’s a difference here. Jameis is not expected to appeal this.

Winston’s backup in Tampa Bay is NFL journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jameis was actually hurt for three games last season and Ryan (did you know he went to Harvard?) quarterbacked the team to a 2-1 record in that stretch (Jets, at Dolphins, at Falcons).

Things will be a lot more difficult for this next hat trick of games. Tampa Bay opens the season with a much more menacing spread than those three. They will visit the New Orleans Saints before hosting the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The impact within the NFC East is obvious. Dallas shares a division with Philadelphia, and they just so happen to be the reigning Super Bowl Champions. It’s still unknown whether Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz will be back in time for the season’s beginning, but Nick Foles proved capable of running the table during the playoffs last season, he’ll likely be able to lead the team to a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This means that the Cowboys, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins will all (barring injury, of course) get a significantly better Buccaneers team than the Eagles will. To say it’s frustrating that the Eagles would catch this break is an understatement.

Of course, considering how good the Eagles are, the Cowboys’ best shot at the playoffs might be via a wildcard spot if Philadelphia repeats as division champions. One of the contenders for that spot could indeed be last year’s NFC South winners, the New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans split their season with Tampa Bay last year (the Saints lost in the regular season finale with not much on the line to be fair), but any win for any NFC team that is not the Cowboys is technically a not ideal thing. Those wins can make the difference come late December.

Even if Jameis did ultimately decide to appeal this decision the Cowboys don’t face the Buccaneers until Week 16. The situation is likely to be resolved, to whatever degree, by then. This is a unique suspension though given that Winston is entering his fourth season. This means that 2019 will be his fifth, and as a former first-round pick that’s his fifth-year option season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter explains this as part of the reasoning why Jameis might be electing not to appeal.

The quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being suspended for three games in the middle of June is hardly backbreaking news for the Dallas Cowboys season; however, this is a situation worth monitoring as the fallout could induce a ripple effect that impacts Dallas when push comes to shove. Hopefully it doesn’t.

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