Thursday Night Football: Cowboys at Vikings

Thursday Night Football Week 13 Preview

Blame it on the matchups or blame it on the color rush uniforms, but the rumor mill has been swirling. Over the last few days, The fate of Thursday night football has been brought into question. According to reports, talks will begin on if they should scale back or entirely scrap the Thursday night contests. Will it stay or will it go? Whatever the result might be to all of these rumors, there is still football to be played this Thursday, and the matchup is a good one. Week 13 will kickoff with the only ten win team in the NFL, as the Dallas Cowboys travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. Both teams are coming off of Thanksgiving games, so they have had a regular week of rest. The Cowboys are three-point favorites with an over under of 43.5.

Ezekiel ElliottThe Cowboys have been riding sky high during the 2016 season. Not even a potential quarterback controversy has slowed them down. Some folks haven’t even hung their Christmas lights yet, and the Cowboys already have double the wins that they had last season. As if the tale of two seasons isn’t enough, they have managed to do it with the play of two rookies. Ezekiel Elliott is the league’s leading rusher by more than 150 yards while Dak Prescott has thrown only two interceptions all season long. The most die-hard of Cowboy fans are not in love with the month of December as the Cowboys have been 12-12 in December since 2010, but it’s tough to imagine them hitting a wall at this point. Dak has thrown a touchdown pass in every week since week 3 and has had three games with three touchdowns passes during that time. The knee-jerk reaction would be that Dak has yet to face a defense like the Vikings, but he has.

The Vikings are currently allowing the third-fewest yards in the league. The Cowboys week 11 opponent, the Baltimore Ravens have allowed the second fewest yards. That contest saw Dak complete 75% of his passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. The Vikings are still a team not to be taken lightly as they are led by Xavier Rhodes with four interceptions and currently have three players with five sacks or more on the season. Make no mistake; this will be a test for the rookie sensation.

[the_ad id=”66786″]The other rookie that has Cowboy Nation swooning is former Buckeye Ezekiel Elliott. The rookie has five games left on the regular season schedule and is currently 609 yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards. His per game average has him finishing just 64 yards short of the mark but he has never the less taken the league by storm. Since week 3, he has had only four games with less than 100 yards rushing. Those four games were still above 90 yards. Much like Dak, Elliot will have some stiff competition in the Vikings. The purple people eaters are allowing 87.8 rushing yards per game to running backs but are also just one of four teams to allow less than four rushing touchdowns to the position. It is not entirely about the rookies though, and that is where the pass catchers come in.

The team leader in targets currently is a tie between the PPR fantasy darling Cole Beasley and the veteran Jason Witten. Beasley now leads the team in receiving yards (647) and has a catch percentage of 79.5. He has become an enormous contribution to the Cowboy passing game while Dez Bryant was dealing with his knee injury. Bryant returned in week 8 and has had four touchdowns since and has also been averaging around eight targets a game. The Vikings have allowed 20 points or more in five of their last six games while not allowing 20 points in any of their first five games. The Vikings may be slipping, but the Cowboys should not sleep on a Mike Zimmer defense.

It really has become a roller coaster for the Minnesota Vikings this season but regardless, they are still hanging tough in the NFC North. The Vikings had their Thanksgiving dinner-spoiling when they lost last Thursday to the Lions by scoring their second-lowest point total of the season. For the Vikings, it’s has been a matter of simply punching it in for six points. Just last week, Sam Bradford has his highest completion percentage (83.78%) of the season but averaged just 7.2 yards a pass and was unable to throw for a touchdown. Bradford is currently nursing an ankle injury but is expected to be a go this week. One of his most targeted receivers is Stefon Diggs who has been dealing with a knee injury that forced him to miss last weeks game. As of this writing, Diggs’ Thursday night status is still in question. If Diggs is unable to go then we could see a repeat performance from Thanksgiving that saw Kyle Rudolph leading the team with nine receptions and Adam Thielen just behind him with eight. Cordarrelle Patterson could also see some extra work as he hauled in all 5 of his targets last week but only managed 15 yards. Regardless of who is playing, somebody will get some serious work as Bradford has attempted thirty passes or more in three out of his last four games.

[the_ad id=”63198″]In regards to the running game it has definitely been a matter of quantity or quality. The volume has gone in the way of Jerick McKinnon as he has had 103 carries since week 3 as well 25 in his last two games. In regards to Matt Asiata, he has been on the quality end with touchdowns in each of his previous three games while having 23 less carries than McKinnon since week 3, including just 10 in the last two games. Whomever gets the majority of the work will have their hands full as the Cowboys defense is allowing the third-lowest amount of rushing yards to the running back position. The Vikings are continuously staying in games as each of their last two losses hasn’t been by more than six points. They always seem to find a way to hang in there but I think this will be another unfortunate matchup for them.

The Cowboys have scored 25 or more points in nine of their ten wins this season while the Vikings have managed just three. There is legitimate fire power in Dallas and in the end I think it will be a valiant effort by the Vikings but a loss none the less.

My Prediction: Cowboys 24 Vikings 16

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Fantasy Thoughts and Tips:

matt-asiataThis game will be methodical and almost boring at times (Sorry folks!), but I think the end result will produce some favorable returns for some. I personally think Dak Prescott is playing too well to sit down right now but it should be noted that the Vikings defense is allowing the third-fewest points to the quarterback position. They have allowed 13 touchdowns with 12 interceptions this season. If that scares you and you have another quarterback on your roster with a better matchup, it may be something to consider. The Cowboys are allowing the eighth most points to opposing quarterbacks but I just don’t trust Sam Bradford, especially when some of you are headed into the fantasy playoffs. His stats from a fantasy standpoint are less than jaw dropping. You don’t need to read this article to know that you should be starting Zek but in regards to the Vikings, I am skeptical of starting any running back. I understand that Asiata has had three touchdowns in his last three games but he is only averaging 26 rushing yards a game this season. You’re literally gambling on him scoring a touchdown and with the Cowboys only allowing 5 rushing touchdowns this season, I am not in love with the odds.

[the_ad id=”58837″]If Stefon Diggs is suiting up, then I would look to start him and if he sits then I would turn my attention to Thielen as he been producing when needed. The Cowboys are currently allowing the 17th most points to opposing wide receivers in standard formats. I would be looking to start Beasley in point per reception formats and Dez in all formats but much like Dak, I would urge some caution. The Vikes are one of two teams to have allowed less than 1,500 yards receiving to the position. On top of that they are also one of eight teams to allow less than ten touchdowns to wide receivers. Just know that you probably should be expecting less than astronomical returns but still serviceable. The Vikings are slipping but they aren’t helpless. The Vikings player that I like the most this week is Kyle Rudolph. The Vike’s tight end is the fourth most targeted tight end in football and the Cowboys are allowing the ninth most points to the position.

In regards to Jason Witten, the Vikings are allowing the 11th most yards to the position but have only allowed two touchdowns all season long. So Witten could be a good start for PPR formats but don’t expect a touchdown. If you have the Vikings defense, you have been starting them all year so I don’t see why you’d sit them now. If you feel more comfortable streaming then I would look for a defense like the Bills. Good luck to all of you this week as you may be either in the playoffs or just one week away.

 

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