The cascading fallout from Tony Romo’s fractured vertebrate

The Dallas Cowboys just lost their starting quarterback, Tony Romo, find out what his injury means for the NFC East race, Dak Prescott’s development and your fantasy football league.

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SiriusXM Editor
August 29, 2016

NFL goal posts.

“Any spine fracture sounds bad…obviously … This is a worse fracture than what he suffered in 2014,” that’s Dr. David Chao talking with SiriusXM’s NFL Radio about the latest injury sustained by Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo. While the injury may have occurred last Thursday night, the ramifications will be felt throughout the NFL (and your fantasy league) for weeks to come. The Cowboys are remaining mum about Romo’s status for Week 1, but most people reading between the lines (and listening to Dr. Chao) understand the seriousness of Romo’s latest injury and the extended timeline to heal from such an injury. Here’s a breakdown of everything impacted by Tony Romo’s most recent injury.

The NFC East title chase

Heading into the preseason, Dallas with a healthy Tony Romo was widely considered to be the prohibitive favorite in the NFC East. That presumption is far more murky at this point, while Dak Prescott has ably proven himself in extensive preseason snaps, the action and learning curve is far more aggressive come the regular season. Still, this is a rather loaded Cowboys team, particularly on offense. The ‘Boys still boast a generational talent at wideout in Dez Bryant, an incredibly talented offensive line and two exceptional running backs in Alfred Morris and Ezekiel Elliot. All of those factors can make life much easier for the young Prescott, but the line play and running backs especially will be useful for the Cowboys.

Will we see them become more of a ball-control offense versus the aerial outfit we know they can be? Defensively, the Cowboys were middle of the pack in total defense in 2015, due largely to a very poor passing defense (the squad was top 10 in stopping the run.) If Dallas’ defense can stop big plays through the air and get more third-down stops, the team should be in good shape.

Schedule-wise? Dallas opens with a decent four-week run: hosting the Giants, at Washington, hosting the Bears and at San Francisco. Barring some unforeseen disaster or injury, Dallas should be, at worst, 2-2 heading into a brutal stretch where they face Cincinnati, Green Bay and Pittsburgh within a six-week stretch. The NFC East is always a very competitive division with plenty of bad blood and animosity to go around between the four squads and no matter what, Dallas will have a puncher’s chance so long as they endure that stretch with the Bengals and trips to Lambeau and Heinz Field.

Dak Prescott’s development

The Cowboys brass selected ‘Zeke Elliot and Dak Prescott to build for the future back in the April’s NFL Draft. They’ve got the sensational Dez Bryant, that impressive (and young) offensive line and with or without Romo’s latest injury, management understood that he wasn’t going to be under center forever. That being said, no one in the greater Dallas area is probably “happy” about another injury to Romo and for Prescott to be shoved into the spotlight so soon. Be that as it may, Prescott’s the favorite to be the starter come Week 1 when Dallas hosts the New York Giants.

The best-case scenario for Prescott and the Dallas offense may be to keep things simple through the first few weeks, trust the o-line and kick the tires on both Elliot and Alfred Morris who came over from Washington this offseason. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are reliable enough receivers to move the chains and keep any defenses honest vs loading the box to slow down the run. Will any of that matter? It’s tough to say, Prescott, at times, this preseason has looked like the steal of century as he’s used his arm, nimble footwork and apparent running ability to keep broken plays alive and to keep the offense on the field. If Prescott matches his preseason success in the regular season, the Cowboys should be in the catbird seat of the NFC East for this season and potentially more to come.

Your fantasy team

It’s a glib reality that a player’s real-life injury is going to send shock waves through your fantasy league. With Romo on the shelf? Anticipate some ADP-hedging for Dez Bryant as people are still leery of what Dak Prescott will do in the regular season. Meanwhile, anticipate Ezekiel Elliot and Alfred Morris going even sooner than anticipated and adjust accordingly. Particularly with ‘Zeke’s ADP pushing into the top-five range, look for other still very valuable and, y’know, GOOD players to slide and try to take advantage of these shifting draft boards. And as for Dez Bryant? Fantasy Sports Radio has him going in the third round following the Romo injury.