EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - For the second time in three years, the Dallas Cowboys will hold Ezekiel Elliott out of the regular-season finale in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
Sources confirmed to ESPN that Elliott will be inactive for Sunday's game against the New York Giants, leaving the Cowboys with Rod Smith and Darius Jackson as their main rushers.
NFL Network first reported that Elliott would not play.
Elliott's absence should not hurt his ability to win the second rushing title of his career. He has 1,434 yards on 304 carries in the first 15 games. Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams is second in the NFL in rushing and will not play Sunday because of a knee injury. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley would need to rush for 237 yards against the Cowboys to claim the title. Elliott also leads the Cowboys with 77 catches, a single-season franchise record, for 567 yards.
Coach Jason Garrett said multiple times during the week the Cowboys would approach the finale the same as any game even though the Cowboys are locked in as the fourth seed in the playoffs. Right guard Zack Martin (knee) was listed as questionable entering the game but he is not expected to play. Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford (neck) was ruled out on Friday. Martin and Lawrence will be available for the playoffs.
In 2016, Elliott was active but held out of action in Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles with the Cowboys having clinched homefield advantage for the playoffs. Elliott finished his rookie season with 1,631 yards to claim the rushing title. Dak Prescott played 16 snaps in that game before he was pulled.
Prescott could see a similar amount of action against the Giants, especially if Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith does not play. Smith is listed as questionable because of a neck injury. Cameron Fleming would replace Smith if he does not start. Prescott has played all but six snaps this season with Cooper Rush taking over late in the Cowboys 40-7 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars in October.
Prescott said during the week he wanted to play against the Giants. The Cowboys won six of seven games in the second half of the season to clinch a playoff a spot with an NFC East title.
"I don't know about this not playing stuff, but we've got a momentum that we've got to keep going," Prescott said Thursday. "I think coach has said it before, momentum is huge. It's a big thing in this league. That's what it's about, the team that gets hot, so I think it's important for a lot of guys to get out there and play and keep it going."