NFL's six most important running backs down the stretch

Ezekiel Elliott's production has dropped off over the last six games, with the sixth-year pro averaging 12.5 carries and 44.7 rush yards per outing in that span. Some of his struggles are undoubtedly health-related. After Zeke was held to 25 yards on nine carries in a Thanksgiving Day loss to the Raiders, head coach Mike McCarthy voiced his concern about Elliott's lingering knee injury.

"It's that time of year," McCarthy said. "Zeke's running style is ferocious. He gives a pounding and he takes some hits. We need to evaluate that, and this week, we'll see what the preparation looks like for him."

There's no indication that Zeke actually will receive a lighter load against the Saints on Thursday night and beyond, but Pollard will be ready whenever called upon. Not widely viewed as an every-down back, Pollard has the ability to thrive in that role, at least in my estimation. He's been an explosive running back with 13 runs of 10 yards or more this season, including three of 20 yards or more. The Cowboys' run game has taken a back seat to the passing attack but it's evident that Dallas needs a strong run game if it wants to succeed. McCarthy and Co. will especially need it in the postseason.

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