TNF Fantasy Preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saintsby Mike Fanelli December 2, 2021 0 comments
Tonight, Week 13 of the 2021 NFL season kicks off with a matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. While everyone loves Thursday Night Football, fantasy owners struggle with which players they should put in their starting lineups. To help them decide which players they should start and which they should sit, let’s dive into this week’s Thursday Night Fantasy Preview.
All stats are based on four-point per passing touchdown and PPR scoring.
Quarterback – Dak Prescott
Other than the matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago, Prescott has been one of the best fantasy quarterbacks this season. Since Week 3, Dak has averaged 21.6 fantasy points per game, scoring at least 20 in all but two of those contests. He has also thrown at least two touchdowns in all but two games this season, averaging 2.2 passing touchdowns per game. Tonight Prescott has a great matchup against the Saints. They have allowed quarterbacks to average 19.2 fantasy points per game this season, the fifth-most in the NFL. Over the past five weeks, the Saints have given up an average of 2.2 passing touchdowns and 26 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. With all his weapons back this week, expect a big performance from Prescott.
Running Back – Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
Reports earlier this week suggested that the Cowboys will give Zeke some time off to rest his knee injury. However, Jerry Jones said Zeke will carry a “serious load” in tonight’s contest. Over the past two weeks, Elliott has averaged only nine rushing attempts per game. However, he has averaged six catches in those games, averaging 14.9 fantasy points per game despite the limited work on the ground. More importantly, Elliott has scored 11.3 or more fantasy points in every game since Week 1. While Zeke is the lead back, Pollard also plays a critical role for the Cowboys. Over the past three weeks, Pollard has averaged 13.3 touches and 13.9 fantasy points per game. While both have played well this season, tonight’s matchup is far from ideal.
The Saints have held running backs to only 18.6 fantasy points per game this season, the fewest in the NFL. Furthermore, they haven’t given up a rushing touchdown to running backs over the past seven weeks. Running backs averaged only 17.1 fantasy points per game against the Saints, rushing for over 70 yards once during that span. While the Saints have shut down running backs this season, they have struggled against superstar players. They gave up 24.7 fantasy points to Christian McCaffrey in Week 2 and 29.6 to Saquon Barkley in Week 4. While the matchup isn’t ideal, fantasy owners can trust Zeke as a low-end RB1 tonight while Pollard is a flex option in PPR leagues.
Wide Receiver – Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup
After missing the past two games with Covid-19, Cooper will play tonight. However, fantasy owners should be cautious starting Cooper. Not only will he see plenty of Marshon Lattimore tonight, but he likely won’t be 100 percent coming off Covid-19. Not only will Cooper play tonight, but Lamb will return after missing last week’s game with a concussion. Before the injury, he had scored 17 or more fantasy points in four of the past five games, averaging 21 fantasy points per game in those contests. Meanwhile, Gallup is coming off his best performance this season, scoring 15.6 fantasy points last week with Cooper and Lamb out of the lineup. This week, all three wide receivers are startable options for fantasy owners.
While the Saints have a talented defense, they have struggled to slow down wide receivers. They have given up an average of 37.7 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season, the fifth-most in the NFL. The Saints have given up at least 42.5 fantasy points to wide receivers in just under half their games this season. More importantly, the last time the Saints faced a passing attack like the Cowboys was in Week 8. They gave up a season-high three touchdowns and 68.4 fantasy points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers. Of the Dallas trio, Lamb is a must-start come off his recent hot streak. Cooper is a mid WR2 with risk coming off Covid-19, while Gallup is low-end flex with upside.
Tight End – Dalton Schultz
With Cooper out of the lineup the past two weeks, Schultz has been the biggest beneficiary. He averaged 7.5 targets and 13.5 fantasy points per game in those two games. By comparison, Schultz has averaged 5.7 targets and 11.1 fantasy points per game the rest of the season. Meanwhile, the Saints have struggled to stop tight ends recently. Over the past three weeks, the Saints have allowed tight ends to score three touchdowns while averaging 14.8 fantasy points per game. Tight ends had either a touchdown or at least 60 receiving yards in all three of those games against the Saints. While Cooper returning to the lineup will impact his upside, Schultz is still a top-10 tight end this week.
Surprisingly, the Cowboys are the D/ST7 on the year, averaging 7.4 fantasy points per game. However, they have been very inconsistent on a weekly basis. The Cowboys D/ST has scored double-digit fantasy points in three games this season. By comparison, they have averaged 4.3 fantasy points per game in the other eight games, scoring four or fewer fantasy points in 62.5 percent of those contests. On the other side of the ball, opposing D/STs have averaged only 4.9 fantasy points per game this season against the Saints. They have scored over five fantasy points against the Saints in only four games this season. With the change at quarterback this week, fantasy owners should be cautious starting the Cowboys D/ST.
New Orleans Saints
Quarterback – Taysom Hill
When Hill filled in for Drew Brees last season, he was one of the best quarterbacks in fantasy football. He averaged 21.1 fantasy points per game, scoring two touchdowns and 17.5 fantasy points in every contest. More importantly, Hill threw for at least 230 yards in three of those games. In the other game, he threw the ball only 16 times against the Denver Broncos, with Kendall Hinton playing emergency quarterback for Denver. Tonight he has a solid matchup against the Cowboys. They have given up an average of 17.3 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. They have also given up over 290 passing yards in half of their games this year. While he is making his first start of the season, Hill is a top-10 quarterback this week.
Running Back – Mark Ingram
Last week, Tony Jones got the start against the Buffalo Bills with Alvin Kamara and Ingram out with knee injuries. Unfortunately, Kamara will miss tonight’s game with a knee injury. However, Ingram expects to play tonight. Ingram has averaged 13.7 fantasy points per game since returning to New Orleans, scoring 11.4 or more fantasy points in his past three starts. More importantly, Ingram has scored at least 15 fantasy points in the two games without Kamara this season. Tonight, he takes on a Dallas defense that has gotten beat up by running backs over the past few games.
Since the bye week, the Cowboys have given up an average of 113.4 rushing yards per game to running backs. By comparison, they held running backs to only 66 rushing yards per game before the bye week. The Cowboys have given up over 100 rushing yards to running backs four times this season, including three of the past four games. Furthermore, the Cowboys have lost three of their past four games. In those losses, they gave up an average of 127 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, and 24 fantasy points per game to running backs. While DeMarcus Lawrence will play tonight for the first time since Week 1, fantasy owners can feel confident starting Ingram.
Wide Receiver – Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway
With Michael Thomas missing the entire season because of an ankle injury, the Saints wide receiver unit has been very underwhelming. Smith and Callaway lead the way, each averaging 9.3 fantasy points per game this season. Over the past five weeks, Smith has averaged 10.7 fantasy points per game, scoring at least 11.4 fantasy points in three of those contests. By comparison, Callaway has averaged 8.6 fantasy points per game during that span, scoring 11.5 or more fantasy points in two of those games. After the duo scored a combined 14.8 fantasy points last week, they have a chance to get back on track tonight.
The Cowboys have given up an average of 36.9 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season, the seventh-most in the NFL. They have given up at least 28.5 fantasy points to wide receivers in all but one game this season. More importantly, the Cowboys have given up over 51 fantasy points to wide receivers three times this season, including a season-high 54.3 fantasy points to the Las Vegas Raiders last week. Since the bye week, the Cowboys have given up over 40 fantasy points in 40 percent of their games. That said, Smith and Callaway are risky flex options with upside this week. While the matchup is appealing, the change at quarterback is a total unknown. Fantasy owners should avoid starting any Saints wide receivers tonight if possible.
Tight End – Nick Vannett
Before suffering a possible season-ending knee injury, Adam Trautman was playing the best football of his career. Replacing him last week was Vannett. However, the veteran has a total of two catches and 11.1 fantasy points this season. While Juwan Johnson got hyped up during the preseason, he has scored a total of 7.4 fantasy points since Week 4. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have allowed tight ends to average 13.8 fantasy points per game this season. However, they have held tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce to only 9.3 fantasy points per game this year. Furthermore, the Cowboys haven’t given up a touchdown to the tight end position since Week 6. There is no reason why fantasy owners should roster, let alone start, a Saints tight end.
On paper, the Saints have one of the best defenses in the NFL. However, it hasn’t turned into fantasy points lately. They have averaged only three fantasy points per game over the past four weeks. Tonight, they take on a Cowboys offense that has been one of the best in the NFL this season. Opposing D/STs have averaged only 1.4 fantasy points per game this season against the Cowboys. They have scored negative fantasy points against the Cowboys in over half the games this season. While fantasy owners shouldn’t start the Saints D/ST this week, keep them on your roster. Next week they face the New York Jets.
Prescott: High-End QB1
Elliott: Low-End RB1
Pollard: Flex Option
Cooper: Mid WR2
Lamb: Mid WR1
Gallup: Flex Option
Schultz: Mid TE1
Cowboys D/ST: Avoid
Hill: Low-End QB1
Ingram: High-End RB2
Saints D/ST: Avoid
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