Dallas Cowboys (5-1, 6-0 ATS) at Minnesota Vikings (3-3, 3-3), 8:20 p.m., SNF
Brolley’s Cowboys Stats and Trends
The Cowboys come out of their bye as the only unbeaten ATS team at 6-0 after they were the last team to cover a spread last season with 0-8 ATS start in 2020.
Dallas is the only team to play under the total just once this season.
Dak Prescott enters this week with a calf injury, which he played through at the tail end of their last game in Week 6. He completed 36/51 passes for 445 yards (8.7 YPA), three TDs, and one INT against the Pats, which gives him 3+ TDs in the last four weeks. The Vikings have held four straight QBs to fewer than 18 FP before their bye.
CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper were held back in Weeks 2-5 with Dak attempting just 26.8 passes per game, but there was some actual volume in their passing game the last time out. Lamb feasted with 9/149/2 receiving on 11 targets while Coop disappointed with 5/55 receiving on eight targets. Cooper owns the deeper aDOT (11.7 to 10.0) but Lamb is getting weekly opportunities with a better target share (23% to 20%). The Vikings are giving up the 16th-fewest FPG (36.5) to WRs so far but they will be without CB Patrick Peterson (hamstring, IR).
Michael Gallup could return this week after sitting out the last five games with a calf injury. He managed just 4/36 receiving on seven targets before his injury, and he ran just four of his 37 routes from the slot after talk in the summer that he’d play more inside. Cedrick Wilson would continue to fill in for him if he’s not quite ready to play, and he posted season-highs in targets (7), catches (4), and yards (42) the last time out.
Dalton Schultz is coming off a season-high 84% snap share in Week 6, but Blake Jarwin stole a touchdown. Schultz has hung 5+ catches, 55+ yards, and 12+ FP in four straight games entering their bye. The Vikings have faced the fifth-fewest targets per game (5.2), but they’re giving up an extremely generous 10.1 yards on those limited targets.
Ezekiel Elliott is averaging a healthy 18.2/97.6/1.0 rushing and 2.8/19.8/.2 receiving per game for 21.8 FPG over his last five contests. Tony Pollard has posted double-digit touches and 60+ scrimmage yards in five straight games, but he’s fallen below 10 FP in three of his last four games. The Vikings are giving up a generous 4.6 YPC and the eighth-most rushing yards per game (108.3) to RBs.
Brolley’s Vikings Stats and Trends
The Vikings have played just one contest that hasn’t been decided by one score — a 30-17 victory over the Seahawks in Week 3. They played up to the likes of the Cardinals in a heartbreaking 34-33 loss in Week 2 and down to the likes of the Lions in a puzzling 19-17 victory in Week 5.
Minnesota is 1-6 ATS in its last seven home games.
The Vikings are 4-1 toward unders in their last five home games.
Dalvin Cook had been hampered by an ankle injury in Weeks 3-5, but he was back at full strength in their last game before the bye. He finished with 29/140/1 rushing and 2/3 receiving on two targets while getting back to a 74% snap share. The Cowboys are facing the second-fewest rushing attempts (14.8) per game but they’re allowing 4.5 YPC to RBs. Damien Harris posted 18/101/1 rushing against the last time out.
Kirk Cousins has posted 22+ FP in four of his six games after completing 33/38 passes for 373 yards (7.7 YPA) and three TDs against the Panthers the last time out in Week 7. The Cowboys are giving up the third-most passing yards per game (311.2) and the fourth-most FPG (22.3) to the position this season.
Justin Jefferson has posted 12+ FP, 65+ yards, and 5+ catches in every game this season. He saw a season-high 14 targets the last time out and he’s up to a 26% target share. He should see the most of Trevon Diggs this week, but the Cowboys are still giving up the sixth-most FPG (41.0) and the third-most receiving yards per game (200.7) to WRs this season.
Adam Thielen bounced back the last time out with 11/126/1 receiving on 13 targets against the Panthers after managing just 5/86 on 11 targets in Weeks 4-5 combined. He should see the better matchup once again with most of his routes likely coming against Anthony Brown, who has given up two touchdowns in his coverage this season.
K.J. Osborn had just 8/66 receiving in Weeks 3-5 after opening the season with a blistering 12/167/1 receiving in Weeks 1-2. He came back to life in Week 6 with Cousins attempting 48 passes, posting 6/78/1 receiving on seven targets and he scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Panthers. Tyler Conklin also showed a pulse the last time out, 3/71 receiving on five targets. The Cowboys could push Cousins to throw more than usual this week to put these two on the radar this week. Dallas gave up a 75-yard touchdown to Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry scored against them the last time they played in Week 6.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.1 (4th)
Plays per game: 72.7 (3rd)
Pass: 55.0% (27th) | Run: 45.0% (6th)
Pace: 27.5 (13th)
Plays per game: 72.2 (5th)
Pass: 60.5% (17th) | Run: 39.5% (16th)
Well, this was the game of the week until Dak Prescott’s status was thrown into doubt on Friday morning. If Prescott can’t get his calf well enough to play, all bets are off. Cowboys-Vikings was the No. 1 game in my model by a landslide between these two fast-paced, high-volume attacks – but if Cooper Rush starts… gross. It’d be a huge break for the Vikings and would give Dalvin Cook even more upside as the focal point of this offense.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Ooooh boy. This could be a juicy one on Halloween night. A Sunday Night Football matchup between the Cowboys and Vikings on Halloween. Our children collecting candy from throughout the neighborhood and dropping that yummy bounty of diabetes directly into our laps for safe keeping. Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen defended by the third-highest Cover 1 rate.
I also like the matchup for Cowboys WR Amari Cooper in general, but obviously things would be thrown asunder if Dak Prescott (calf) can’t play. The Vikings are without CB Patrick Peterson (hamstring — IR).
Dolan’s Vantage Points
It’s hard to get a truly good read on this game from the Cowboys’ perspective… because it appears QB Dak Prescott (calf) is truly questionable. From Friday:
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (calf) was sore today after ramping up intensity in Thursday’s practice, coach Mike McCarthy said. On decision ahead about Sunday status: “It’s more than just one game. We’re obviously in our seventh game, so there is a ton of football left to play.”— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 29, 2021
McCarthy and Jerruh are sending mixed signals here.— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) October 29, 2021
Prescott appears truly questionable. https://t.co/Tu8h0XqNVR
If Prescott can’t go, then Cooper Rush will start, and, well… that’s a downgrade!
And the target tree will be getting a bit wider, as Michael Gallup is expected to come off of IR either this week or next — next being more likely — after missing five games with a calf injury. The absence of Prescott would certainly hurt CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper, even against Minnesota’s decimated secondary.
“Although Dalton Schultz's target share dropped to 11.8% in Week 6 (down from 27% over the prior three weeks), he ran a route on 73% of the team's dropbacks (11th-most), and has remained within the 73-76% in each of his last three games… Over the last five weeks, he ranks 3rd in target share (21%), 6th in targets per game (7.25), 7th in XFP per game (12.4), and 2nd in FPG (17.7). Although he feels like an obvious sell-high with Michael Gallup designated to return from IR, I’d still bet on Schultz putting up TE1 numbers throughout the remainder of the season.”
Anyway, a lot of this is moot if Prescott doesn’t play. That would downgrade Cooper and Lamb from WR2s to WR3s, and would mean Gallup is not even in consideration (not that many would be playing him anyway). Even if Prescott does go, I would anticipate this is an Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard game, as the Cowboys look to avoid putting too much stress on their injured QB, especially since the Cowboys are in a division with three rebuilding teams.
By the way, the Cowboys get RT La’El Collins back this week… but Terence Steele has been so good they are keeping Collins as a reserve for now.
“Cousins has been such a sneaky good fantasy play to open the year. He’s finished as the QB12 > QB6 > QB6 > QB28 > QB23 > QB1 in weekly scoring in his first six starts and he’s really only had one down game (vs. Browns). He finished as QB23 vs. the Lions, but his periphery stats were still strong as Cousins completed 74% of his passes for 275 yards. This should be a massive shootout here for Cousins to post his fifth top-12 performance of the year. This Cowboys-Vikings game has the highest total on the Week 8 slate (54 points) and while Dallas’ defense has generated a lot of takeaways, they gave up 300 or more yards in four-straight to open the year before they played the Giants in Week 5 (Daniel Jones got hurt) and the Patriots in Week 6. Cousins is a high-floor, high-ceiling QB1.”
“Among all WRs, Thielen ranks 14th in FPG (17.8) and 13th in XFP per game (17.4, +0.2 more than Justin Jefferson). So, he’s producing like a fringe-WR1 on fringe-WR1-levels of volume. But he should be viewed as an easy mid-range WR1 this week, with CB Trevon Diggs likely to shadow Justin Jefferson.
Now, that doesn’t mean we should be downgrading Jefferson too much. Diggs is sort of the current iteration of Marcus Peters, but on a level we’ve never quite seen with Peters. He’s what we refer to as a “gambling corner,” where the tradeoff with his high interception total is he surrenders a large number of big plays. He has seven interceptions on the season (most by any CB through six games since the 1970 NFL merger), but he’s also given up the most “big plays” (30+ yard gains) of any CB, with six (two more than next-closest).
Although Jefferson has elite big-playmaking ability, Diggs’ seven interceptions should make Kirk Cousins wary. And so, I’d expect Cousins to favor Thielen in the far more advantageous matchup against CB Anthony Brown, who has five fewer interceptions and ranks 2nd-worst in yards allowed per game (62.3).
Dallas ranks 6th-best in FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (12.6), but worst in FPG allowed to opposing WR2s (17.7), and that’s actually more than all but five teams have given up to WR1s. So, this is one of the rare weeks we’ll have Thielen projected well ahead of Jefferson.”
But that’s not all! Our Jake Tribbey is into TE Tyler Conklin this week. From Streamers:
“Conklin currently ranks 13th among TEs in targets (29), 16th in receiving yards (240), 13th in routes (174), and 14th in total fantasy points, averaging 8.7 FPG. He’s earned at least 3 targets in every game, and 4 or more targets in five of his six outings. That’s mid-range TE2 volume for a player who’s basically free in almost all leagues. And he’s playing in the best scoring environment of Week 8, as the Vikings matchup with Dallas has a total of 55.5. Over the last three years, the Vikings starting TE has averaged 9.2 FPG when the game total is more than 52.0. Not an earth-shattering number by any means, but absolutely good enough for a bye week fill-in. Conklin is the clear top waiver wire TE option in deeper leagues this week.”
As for Dalvin Cook… you know what to do. Cook was coming off an ankle injury that cost him two of the last three games in Week 6, and he was clearly limited in one of the games he did play in that span. Meanwhile, Alexander Mattison put up over 100 yards from scrimmage and massive fantasy days in the games Cook didn’t play. So with the Vikings heading into a Week 7 bye, they would take it easy on Cook, right? Well, if you think a 74% snap share, 31 touches, 143 yards from scrimmage, and a TD is taking it easy, then sure. Vikings backs had 35 opportunities (carries plus targets) in Week 6 against the Panthers — Cook handled 31 of those (88.6%). He looked fully healthy, and he had a bye week to get even healthier. Mattison is back to handcuff status, though an elite one.