Sunday Night Football

New Orleans @ Dallas

At 53.5 points, Saints-Cowboys predictably has the highest over-under of Week 4. This is a game to target when making fantasy lineup decisions. New Orleans is only favored by three, so the Vegas wizards anticipate plenty of scoring from Dallas’ side as well. … The Cowboys re-confirmed their run-game commitment in last week’s comeback win over St. Louis by sticking with DeMarco Murray despite a 21-0 early-game deficit. They came back and won the game. Averaging an NFL-high 27.7 touches per game, Murray is the foundation of Dallas’ offense and playcaller Scott Linehan has stayed impressively devoted to him, even when trailing and amid three lost fumbles. Although the Saints have played surprisingly stout run defense, holding Falcons, Browns, and Vikings tailbacks to 264 yards and two touchdowns on 66 runs (4.00 YPC), Murray’s heavy workload locks him in as a top-shelf RB1. If you’re interested in stashing Murray’s backup in light of his usage and injury history, you’re on your own. Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar would likely form a near-even committee if Murray went down. … Tony Romo‘s stats look promising from last week’s victory — and his on-field performance was much improved, to be sure — but he owes plenty to St. Louis’ pathetic defense, which left Dez Bryant wide open for a 68-yard touchdown jaunt. Romo is worth QB1 consideration in Week 4 only because of this game’s high-scoring projection. Dallas continues to utilize Romo as a game manager, averaging under 30 pass attempts per game. He’s a matchup-dependent fantasy commodity at this point.

Romo’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Bryant 27; Jason Witten 18; Terrance Williams 13; Murray 10; Cole Beasley8; Gavin Escobar, Dunbar, and Devin Street 3. … Although Dallas is dinking and dunking more than ever in the passing game these days, Bryant ranks a respectable 13th among NFL receivers in targets, eighth in receptions (20), and 11th in yards (247). The emphasis on a high-volume run game could gradually help Dez, earning him more one-on-one looks downfield, particularly on play-action. … New Orleans has allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, the seventh fewest receptions, and the second fewest yards. Aside from the high over-under, nothing about this game suggests Witten is headed for a big box score. The 32-year-old has turned in stat lines of 2-14-0, 4-32-0, and 4-49-0 through three weeks. So maybe he’s “due”? Per PFF, Witten has blocked on 55% of his snaps this season. For comparison, Jimmy Graham has blocked on 45%. Greg Olsen has blocked on 42%. … The third option in the passing game on a team that has scaled back its passing-game volume and isn’t throwing the ball downfield, Williams is a week-to-week WR3 crapshoot. He’s averaging 4.3 targets per game, but so far has compensated with a pair of red-zone scores. In the seemingly unlikely event Williams does deliver in Week 4, fantasy owners should consider selling high.

I expect Drew Brees to have a big Sunday night game, but there are two concerns to consider when approaching Brees as a daily fantasy start: 1) His home-away TD-to-INT splits since the beginning of 2013 and including playoffs are 29:3 compared to 17:13. 2) The Cowboys play a ball-control style that could conceivably limit New Orleans’ offensive possessions. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from starting Brees against the NFL’s most talent-less defense, but it’s worth considering both sides of the coin. … Brees’ Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Jimmy Graham 31; Brandin Cooks 24; Pierre Thomas and Marques Colston 13; Kenny Stills 9; Robert Meachem 8; Mark Ingram 5; Ben Watson 4; Joe Morgan 3; Khiry Robinson 1. … Getting obliterated by tight ends, Dallas’ defense has served up stat lines of 4-44-2 to Vernon Davis (Week 1), 10-142-1 to Delanie Walker (Week 2), and 13-104-1 to Rams TEs Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks (Week 3). Graham is a pretty good bet. … Although it was a home game for New Orleans, these teams met in October of last year, when Dallas’ defensive personnel was, in fact, better than it is now. The Saints wiped the floor with the Cowboys and Colston led the team in receiving (7-107-1). I understand Colston’s consistency has been an issue — and it will continue to be — but this is a good week to start him. … Stills remains in the boom-or-bust WR3 conversation. Coming off a preseason calf injury, Stills’ snap rate rose from 42% in Week 2 to 58% in Week 3. Stills runs low-percentage routes and is not a heavily targeted player, but his arrow is pointing up. If you’re trying to hit a Week 4 home run, he gives you an outside shot.


Friday Update: Further upgrading Brees’ matchup is the Cowboys’ loss of DT Henry Melton, who is expected to miss Week 4 with a hamstring injury. Melton has graded out as a top-three pass-rushing interior tackle at Pro Football Focus. He will presumably be replaced by Terrell McClain, who is more of a run-stuffing type.

In addition to his 24 targets, which rank second on the Saints, Cooks has three rushing attempts and is averaging a healthy 72.3 total yards per game. The Cowboys are weak throughout the backend, so it’s not really worth worrying about which Dallas defensive back might end up covering which New Orleans receiver. Cooks moves around enough that he’ll likely see time on everyone. He’s a safer WR2 play than Colston, albeit without the touchdown upside. … The Cowboys have played predictably soft run defense, serving up 309 yards on 62 combined carries (4.98 YPC) to 49ers, Titans, and Rams tailbacks. Robinson was a bit of a disappointment in last week’s start, managing 69 scoreless yards on 18 carries without a passing-game target. His matchup is more running back-friendly in Week 4. Until Ingram (hand surgery) returns — which isn’t expected for at least two more games — Robinson should be penned into fantasy lineups as an RB2. The workload was definitely there last week, even if the fantasy points weren’t. … Thomas is another Saints player who’s experienced weekly volatility. He handled 13 touches in Week 1, six in Week 2, and 11 in Week 3. Promisingly, Thomas got a goal-line carry in last week’s win over Minnesota, executing from a yard out in the first quarter. I’d view Thomas as a solid every-week flex play in PPR leagues and a mid-range flex option in non-PPR. His limited workload limits his upside, but he’s the primary passing-down back in an explosive pass-based offense.

Score Prediction: Saints 27, Cowboys 23

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