Thursday Night Football
Dallas @ Minnesota
Vegas Projected Score: Cowboys 23.5, Vikings 20
The premier fantasy play on Week 13 Thursday Night Football is Ezekiel Elliott, who has totaled 120 yards or more in eight of his last nine games and takes on a Vikings run defense that has yielded a combined 173-793-2 (4.58 YPC) rushing line over the past eight weeks while dipping to 16th in DVOA. As Minnesota’s weak offense seems unlikely to pour points on Dallas’ defense, Elliott is set up for another high-volume effort in positive game script. Elliott has finished below 20 carries in just 2-of-11 games this year. … The matchup is more imposing for Dak Prescott versus a Minnesota pass defense that ranks No. 4 in DVOA and has allowed just one top-15 fantasy quarterback finish over its last ten games. Prescott will also have to overcome tough matchups throughout his pass-catcher corps, which we’ll get to in a minute. Still, Prescott should benefit from playing beneath the U.S. Bank Stadium dome, and his high floor makes him tough to fade in 12- and 14-team season-long leagues. Prescott has posted top-ten fantasy results in five straight weeks, also accounting for multiple touchdowns in nine straight games.
Prescott’s targets since Dallas’ Week 7 bye: Dez Bryant 42; Cole Beasley 34; Jason Witten 31; Terrance Williams 15; Elliott 14; Brice Butler 8. … Normally a locked-in WR1 with 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in six of his last seven games, Dez is a riskier-than-usual play against the Vikings. Only six wide receivers have cleared 65 yards versus Minnesota’s secondary, which is especially stout on the boundaries due to RCB Xavier Rhodes and LCB Terence Newman’s lockdown coverage. Bryant runs 80% of his routes on the perimeter. Dez is likely to be shadowed by Rhodes, who has allowed one touchdown (DeAndre Hopkins) all year. … Beasley’s matchup is slightly more favorable inside against Vikings slot CB Captain Munnerlyn, who got beaten up by Anquan Boldin (7-69-1) on Thanksgiving and has battled an ankle injury recently. While this doesn’t necessarily set up as an upside game for Beasley, he has been a steady PPR asset with five or more catches in 8-of-11 games and would stand to benefit if Rhodes contains Dez outside. … The Vikings were gashed incessantly by tight ends in Weeks 8-11 before Eric Ebron abruptly goose egged on one target against them on Thanksgiving. While I still think this is a good matchup for Witten, the 34-year-old has cleared 60 yards in just one of his last ten games and is typically a low-ceiling streamer. … Williams beat Bashaud Breeland for a ten-yard touchdown in Dallas’ Week 12 win over Washington, but he has failed to top 25 yards in five straight games since the Cowboys’ Week 7 bye while drawing target counts of 3 > 1 > 2 > 2 over the past four weeks. Williams is an unattractive dart throw on Thursday night.
The Vikings’ talent-deficient offense has scored 20 points or fewer in six straight games and has been held to 16 points or fewer in five of them. Sam Bradford has thrown multiple touchdown passes in 1-of-6 games since Minnesota’s Week 6 bye and is averaging just 237.5 passing yards during that stretch despite a soft schedule that has included Detroit twice, Chicago, and Washington. Although Dallas was lit up by Ben Roethlisberger (QB1) in Week 10 and Kirk Cousins (QB3) in Week 12, the Vikings’ passing game doesn’t appear capable of lighting up anyone right now, particularly after Bradford (ankle) was spotted limping through the Vikings’ facility early this week. In a probable low-scoring affair, Bradford is a mere two-quarterback-league option for Week 13. … With Ronnie Hillman gone to San Diego, the Vikings’ backfield was reduced to a two-man committee in last week’s loss to Detroit. Jerick McKinnon logged 12 touches on 62% of the snaps against the Lions, while Matt Asiata (8 touches, 40%) vultured another goal-line score. The Cowboys rank No. 6 in run-defense DVOA and have limited opposing running backs to a combined 104-398-2 (3.83 YPC) rushing line over their last six games. C Joe Berger has been the Vikings’ best run blocker this year and won’t play due to a concussion. Timeshare members in a sub-par matchup behind a horrid offensive line, McKinnon and Asiata both are poor Week 13 plays.
Bradford’s targets with Stefon Diggs in the lineup since Pat Shurmur took over as playcaller: Diggs 36; Cordarrelle Patterson 20; Adam Thielen 15; Kyle Rudolph 14; McKinnon 5; Asiata 4. … While Diggs’ on-field play has dipped sharply whenever he’s been on the injury report – he is on the report with a knee injury this week – Diggs’ high-volume role is tough to ignore in a strong matchup. Running over 70% of his routes in the slot since Shurmur became OC, Diggs will mainly deal with struggling Cowboys slot CB Orlando Scandrick. Interior receivers Jamison Crowder (8-88), Steve Smith Sr. (8-99-1), Eli Rogers (4-42-1), Jordan Matthews (11-65-1), and Randall Cobb (7-53-1) have given Dallas problems lately. … Rudolph has the next-best matchup in Minnesota’s pass-catcher corps versus a Cowboys defense that has given up a league-high 75 catches and the NFL’s fifth most yards (757) to tight ends. While Rudolph is not remotely the athlete Jordan Reed is, it is noteworthy that Cowboys FS Byron Jones got flamed badly by Reed (10-95-2) on Thanksgiving. Rudolph has a touchdown and/or 60-plus yards in three of his last four games. … Thielen isn’t as appealing with Diggs back in the fold, but he has been a factor regardless with 50-plus yards and/or a touchdown in four straight games, playing three of them alongside Diggs. Thielen will run most of his routes at solid RCB Brandon Carr and vulnerable rookie LCB Anthony Brown. Thielen is worth a look in deep PPR leagues. … Manufactured-touch player Patterson has big-play ability, but he hasn’t cleared 60 receiving yards since Week 7 and hasn’t cleared 70 yards all year. In all likelihood, Patterson will need to break a kickoff return touchdown to pay off as a fantasy start on Thursday night.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 24, Vikings 17
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