Thursday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

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Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback – For a multitude of reasons, this is not a week to roster Dak Prescott. For one, Thursday Night Football games are proven to result in fewer points (over the course of a large sample size) and the Vikings present a very difficult task to opposing QBs. Even though they have struggled recently, allowing seven passing TDs in their last four games, they still have allowed the 10th fewest fantasy points to the position during that span. This is not a spot with a ton of upside for the Cowboys’ QB.

Running Back – Over the course of the last four games, the Vikings have surrendered an average of 101.5 yards rushing to opposing backs per game and two total TDs. Explosive backs have had their way with way with Minnesota and David Johnson is probably the best example; he rushed for 103 yards on 22 carries, scored a rushing TD and even caught seven passes for 57 yards and a TD as well. Ezekiel Elliott has not been held below 92 yards rushing since Week 2 and he has scored seven total TDs in his last four games. Although the matchup is not ideal, Elliott and this run game can get it done against anyone.

Wide Receiver – Xavier Rhodes can Captain Munnerlyn both grade in the top 28 overall at their position according to Pro Football Focus. When looking at coverage skills only, the two both grade inside the top 32. In other words, they present a difficult challenge to anyone who matches up against them including Dez Bryant. The way to beat the Vikings defense is out of the slot so if there is one WR to consider in tournaments it is Cole Beasley. Unfortunately, the price is still unfavorable for him on most sites but he has caught at least five passes in four consecutive games and scored double-digit fantasy points in all but two games this year. All it takes for him to catapult a good day into a great day is finding the end zone.

Tight End – A noticeable trend that had been developing prior to Week 12 was the susceptibility of the Vikings’ defense to opposing TEs. In Week 8, Zach Miller posted a 7-88 line followed by a 7-92 line by Eric Ebron line in Week 9, Jordan Reed 3-66-1 line in Week 10 and Jermaine Gresham 2-33-1 line in Week 11…then Ebron posted a goose egg last week. Even with that stretch, the Vikings still rank middle of the pack against the position according to both fantasy points allowed and DVOA so they are a difficult defense to handicap in this aspect. At $3,400 on DraftKings, Jason Witten falls into the tournament only category with so many superior options at the position priced somewhat similarly, but the previous data against the Vikings suggests there is plenty of upside. Witten showed just four weeks ago how high his ceiling still remains (8-134-1 against the Browns) so he is worth the risk.

Defense/Special Teams – The Cowboys defense has produced 2.00 DraftKings fantasy points cumulatively in the last three weeks. They just do not cause enough turnovers or sack the QB enough to warrant DFS consideration.

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback – New week, same story for the Vikings quarterback situation where Sam Bradford continues to complete a high percentage of his passes but the Vikings simply do not have the offensive line to allow him to push the ball downfield. Bradford remains very cheap across the industry, but he simply does not have enough upside to warrant a roster spot in DFS, especially against a solid defense like the Cowboys who should control the ball for the majority of this game.

Running Back – The timeshare between Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata will continue, with McKinnon out snapping Asiata nearly every week but Asiata outscoring McKinnon from a fantasy perspective nearly every week. Neither back has much upside in a game where the Vikings should be limited in their offensive opportunities against the ball-control Dallas Cowboys.  Both players can be safely avoided in all DFS formats.

Wide Receiver – Top receiver Stefon Diggs has returned to practice on a limited basis after missing the Turkey Day contest against the Detroit Lions, and it appears he should be able to take the field against the Cowboys on Thursday. But how healthy and effective will he be? Diggs has struggled this season when limited in practice/on the injury report while typically thriving when fully healthy. Priced up after a few big games, it is difficult to trust Diggs enough at his current price point, although if reports come out that he is fully recovered from his knee injury he does make for an interesting option on full-point PPR sites. Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson are the other options to consider, but Thielen has seen a dramatic price spike on most sites and Patterson just does not get enough downfield targets to really make either a viable option, especially if Diggs plays.

Tight End – The Cowboys have struggled against the tight end all season, currently ranking 30th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings against the position. Kyle Rudolph is the most intresting play on the Vikings coming off a 10-target, 9-reception performance against the Lions. Rudolph is also the Vikings primary end zone target and it would not be surprising to see him get in the box here. Rudolph is in the conversation at tight end in all formats and at all sites across the industry as he generally has a very reasonable price tag.

Defense/Special Teams – Nobody has been able to slow down the Cowboys rushing attack and the uber-efficient Dak Prescott, and even at home do not expect a banged up Vikings defense to be the first to do so. Paying a premium price tag for a defense against this Cowboys team is not a recipe for DFS success.