In one of the most intriguing games on the NFL slate this Sunday, the Cowboys host the Rams in a matchup of two teams with playoff aspirations trending in opposite directions. If the season ended after Week 14, the Cowboys would be in the playoffs at 6-7 as the NFC East champions while the Rams would be left on the outside looking in despite an 8-5 record. Dallas has dropped three straight while the Rams have picked up back-to-back wins, including an impressive 28-12 win last Sunday night against the Seahawks.
The Rams still need help to get into the playoffs as they chase a Wild Card and will need either the Vikings or Seahawks to stumble over the next few weeks. Can Los Angeles keep things going on the road as they visit AT&T Stadium? Can the Cowboys turn things around in time to make the playoffs or will their dysfunction continue and ultimately lead to big changes in Big D this offseason? Let’s take a look at some possible ways the game could play out and a look at who you should target for your fantasy team if you enter a single-game Showdown contest focused on this tasty matchup.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices
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SUNDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN SPOTLIGHT
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Rams have won each of their last eight games following a Division win.
— Seven of the Rams’ last eight games have gone UNDER the total points line.
— Ezekiel Elliott has scored at least one touchdown in each of the Cowboys’ last four day games against NFC opponents.
— Amari Cooper has scored at least one touchdown in four of the last five Sunday games at AT&T Stadium.
— Todd Gurley II has scored two touchdowns in each of the Rams’ last three regular-season games against NFC East opponents.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
CowboysIt’s hard to remember a team seeming to need a game more than the Cowboys need this win. The whole organization seems to be in disarray, and there’s plenty of drama around the job of coach Jason Garrett. After losing to the Bears, Bills and Patriots the past three weeks, the team is 0-6 against teams with a winning record. Their wins have come against the Giants (twice), Redskins, Dolphins and Lions. Next week’s rematch with the Eagles looms large, and they could actually lose this game and still be in the playoffs if they win the next two weeks.
When Dallas’ offense is at it’s best, they rely heavily on Ezekiel Elliott ($9,800), who has actually been putting up pretty good numbers lately. He has at least 20 DKFP in three of his past four games and has been involved as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He had a pair of touchdowns last Thursday against the Bears and finished with a solid 81 yards on 19 carries. He has been the most reliable bright spot in the Cowboys’ offense and should be the key to your strategy if you want to build around a bounce-back performance for Dallas.
In the passing game, Dak Prescott ($11,000) has also been finishing with solid totals since he has had to throw the ball a ton as the Cowboys try to rally. He has attempted over 45 passes in four of his past five games, throwing for over 333 yards in each of those three games. He struggled to just 7.88 DKFP against the tough Patriots’ defense in the rain in Foxboro, but he has produced over 20 DKFP in the other six of his past seven.
Prescott has spread the ball around well and Michael Gallup ($7,400) has emerged as a legitimate No. 2 WR with an average of 9.2 targets per game and over 9.0 DKFP over his past five contests. Amari Cooper ($8,800) has been less consistent but still has big-play and big-game potential.
If you want a bargain option from the Dallas offense, Jason Witten ($5,000) is worth a look with at least seven targets and 8.0 DKFP in three of his past four games. Tony Pollard ($1,600; ankle) has also returned to practice this week and should get a few touches behind Elliot. Pollard is a risky play but typically gets a handful of chances as a change-of-pace back for Zeke.
I’d avoid the Cowboys DST ($3,200) since they have been getting trampled lately and haven’t scored double-digit DKFP since Week 9 against New York. They have given up 26 points to the Bills and 31 points to the Bears in the past two weeks, and the Rams’ offense has more firepower than both of those teams.
For the Cowboys to get back in the win column, they’ll have to be more consistent on offense. They haven’t been a total trainwreck on offense as Dak and Zeke’s numbers show, but they haven’t been able to sustain anything throughout the whole game either, leaving their defense on the field for too long and setting them up for failure. The best way to turn that around is to rely more heavily on Zeke and the running game. If they give him 20-plus carries and mix in some Pollard at times, I think that’s their best chance to beat the Rams and avenge their loss in last year’s NFC playoffs.
RamsThe Rams played the same Bears that just beat the Cowboys in Week 11 and beat them in an ugly 17-7 game. They were shredded by Lamar Jackson in Week 12, but the Rams D/ST ($3,600) has bounced back very nicely with dominant performances against the Cardinals and Seahawks the past two weeks. With six sacks, an interception and a touchdown, they posted 18 DKFP against Arizona, but they had an even more impressive game last Sunday night against the Seahawks, holding Russell Wilson and company to just six points while picking up five more sacks and another interception on their way to 14.0 DKFP. Since Week 7, the Rams’ defense has allowed 11 or fewer points in six of seven games with the Ravens’ blowout the only exception.
On offense, coach Sean McVay seems to have turned the group around as well since their loss to Baltimore. Jared Goff ($10,600) led the way against the Cardinals with 424 yards, two touchdowns and 27.96 DKFP, and he looked strong last week against Seattle as well, finishing with just under 300 yards and two touchdowns along with two interceptions for 18.12 DKFP. The workhorse of last week’s win, though, was Todd Gurley II ($9,000), who looked good while taking 23 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown on his way to 21.3 DKFP. Gurley has at least 18 DKFP in three of his past four games, and it looks like the Rams are ready to rely on him for their playoff push after managing his workload very carefully all season.
Gurley has been the most productive skill player in the Rams’ offense lately but Robert Woods ($8,400) has been a very close second. Woods missed Week 11 due to personal reasons, but he has been targeted at least nine times in each of his past four games, highlighted by a massive 18 targets which he converted to 13 catches for 172 yards and 33.2 DKFP against the Cardinals. He followed that up with seven catches for 98 yards, a touchdown and 25.7 DKFP against the Seahawks last week. Fellow-WR Cooper Kupp ($8,000) has found the end zone each of the past two games but hasn’t been getting the volume of targets that have been going to Woods.
While Brandin Cooks ($5,400) has struggled, TE Tyler Higbee ($6,600) has had back-to-back big games going off for 107 yards, a touchdown and 26.7 DKFP against the Cardinals and following that with 116 yards and 21.6 DKFP against the Seahawks. The Cowboys have allowed the sixth-most DKFP to opposing TEs this season, so Higbee is again in a spot to shine, especially if Gerald Everett ($5,200; knee) is out or limited.
There aren’t a ton of Rams offensive options cheaper than Higbee who are involved on a regular basis. Kicker Greg Zuerlein ($4,000) is reliable and can be a source of salary relief if needed, or you can take a chance that Josh Reynolds ($1,000) or hope Malcolm Brown ($1,800) gets involved near the goal line. Interestingly, Reynolds played the second-most offensive snaps among all Los Angeles’ WR even though he wasn’t targeted last week. He did get three carries for 29 yards. He has upside if he’s more involved, so definitely monitor his usage against Dallas.
The Rams’ offense has found its groove and the Cowboys defense has lost its way. The Rams’ defense is ultimately the difference-maker in this matchup and has been quietly playing at a very elite level with the one glaring exception against Baltimore. You can build a well-stocked lineup around the Rams DST ($5,400 CP) as a value Captain’s pick or go with Tyler Higbee ($9,900 CP) to continue his late-season breakout as Goff’s new option of choice.
If you think Dallas is going to turn it around, I think Ezekiel Elliott ($14,700 CP) has to be the key, but you’ll need to find values to counteract that outlay in your captain’s pick. Of the two quarterbacks, Dak Prescott ($16,500 CP) has been the more consistent player lately, but it’s a tough matchup for him even at home.
Since I think the Rams will win pretty handily on the road and continue Dallas’s free-fall, I’ll be constructing my lineups with as many Rams options as I can and going with Robert Woods ($12,600 CP) or one of the two value Captain’s picks listed above.
Final Score: Los Angeles 34, Dallas 21
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