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NFL Matchups: Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots Fantasy Football Preview

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This a snippet of Adam Pfeifer’s NFL matchups column, previewing the Cowboys vs. the Patriots for Fantasy Football Lineups. Fantasy rosters needed protective spray because key players continue to miss extended time due to injury. In kind, there have been plenty of great performances in kind from backups and secondary players filling in for injured studs. As a result, we have plenty to parse through and discuss each and every week. So let’s dig into some NFL DFS matchups and NFL game breakdowns for your Week 12 Fantasy Football Lineups on DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo and FantasyDraft.

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Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots

Total: 45.5

Line: NE -6.5

Cowboys passing game

This should be interesting. We have the best pass defense in the NFL hosting the top-rated pass offense. Dak Prescott is on an absolute tear, throwing at least three touchdown passes in each of his last three contests, while throwing for 444 and 397 yards over his last two games. Prescott’s schedule has been favorable for a quarterback, while New England has played a ton of bad offenses, so I’m excited to see how this plays out.

Because Prescott has been so good, ranking third in both fantasy points per dropback (0.57) and game (23.2), it may be tough to bench him here. And I honestly wouldn’t unless I had a very strong alternative option. But the Patriots pass defense remains elite, sporting the lowest passing touchdown rate in the NFL at 1.2 percent. Prescott is a low-end QB1 for NFL DFS this week and while he’s been outstanding, he doesn’t exactly have to be in your lineups.

Amari Cooper continues to deal with that knee issue. He has been seen limping to the sideline in each of the last three weeks but Cooper will keep playing through it. That on top of a meeting with Stephon Gilmore make him more of a WR2 than surefire top-seven NFL DFS option like he normally is. The Patriots are allowing an impressive 48.1 percent catch-rate to opposing receivers this year, largely due to Gilmore’s elite play. He is allowing a 40.3 passer rating in his coverage, the best mark in the league, along with 0.20 fantasy points per cover snap and 0.97 fantasy points per target, numbers that rank second and third, respectively. You are still starting him this week but you should definitely be lowering your expectations.

With Cooper banged up and followed by Darius Slay when on the field, Michael Gallup had the big day for the Cowboys, catching nine of 13 targets for 148 yards. The sophomore receiver continues to make a ton of big plays, as he is 15th in yards per catch (16.1), 16th in yards per target (9.8) and 14th in yards per pass route (2.68). If Cooper struggles with Gilmore, we could see more targets funnel to Gallup again this week, though the matchup is much more difficult. But when New England does get beat, they get beat deep, allowing the fourth-highest average depth of target in the league (95). That keeps Gallup in the mid-range WR3 discussion for NFL DFS, especially with his 23 percent target share in a very good offense.

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Randall Cobb has been targeted seven times in each of the last three games and has now reached 100 yards and a touchdown in two consecutive contests. I’m not buying into it, though, especially against the Patriots, who have a pretty damn good nickel corner in Jonathan Jones. I understand picking him up off waivers but Cobb is still nothing more than a WR4 this weekend.

Cowboys running game

A lot of people are upset over Ezekiel Elliott’s lackluster NFL DFS production. But as long as he continues to get the work and score touchdowns, I really don’t care. Elliott scored twice last week, giving him eight touchdowns on the season. He is sixth in the league with a 78.6 percent opportunity share, while averaging just under 20 carries per game. You are still starting him as a top-five option each week but I think people might be off him in tournaments this week. I am interested, especially at his decreased NFL DFS price tag. We have seen the Browns and Ravens find success on the ground against the Patriots this season and we know Dallas is built to run the football.

Patriots passing game

Did you know that New England currently ranks 25th in the league in yards per play (5.1)? Because their defense has been other-worldly, no one has really talked about how below average this offense truly is right now. Tom Brady really struggled last week, completing 26 of 47 passes without scoring. He’s now thrown just four touchdowns over his last five games and since Week 6, Brady is 29th (!) in fantasy points per dropback. It is weird because he is currently on pace for a career-high in pass attempts, averaging 40.2 per game. Dallas isn’t New England but they are only allowing a 3.2 percent passing touchdown rate this season, the eighth-best mark in the league, as well as the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing signal callers. I have very little interest in Brady this week in NFL DFS.

Julian Edelman has seen double-digit targets in each of his last five games and got there last week by throwing a touchdown pass, something you obviously shouldn’t count on. Still, that floor and volume is so trustworthy and you should keep rolling him out there, even against a Cowboys defense allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. They are also surrendering the third-fewest receptions per game to opposing wideouts, making this a poor matchup for Edelman. But with the injuries to the Patriots receivers and lack of play-makers in general, 10 targets seems to be a lock at the moment.

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I was all over Mohamed Sanu last week but that clearly didn’t work out. He apparently suffered an ankle injury during the game and with he and Phillip Dorsett shaken up, there is a path to meaningful snaps for rookie N’Keal Harry, who played 32 offensive snaps last week compared to 19 for Jakobi Meyers. Keep an eye on the injury reports out of New England over the next few days.

Patriots running game

Over the last three weeks, the Patriots are running the football just 32.6 percent of the time, the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL. We’ve seen them abandon the run quite often this year, which has led to Brady attempting over 40 passes per game. If they continue to throw the ball a lot, that obviously benefits James White, who is fourth among all backs in both receiving yards (420) and receptions (48). The Cowboys, meanwhile, are allowing the fifth-most receiving yards to enemy backfields this season (51.9), as well as the third-most receptions per game (6.5). White has been a top-30 PPR running back every week, giving him that safe floor for NFL DFS.

The pass-heavy approach has obviously hurt Sony Michel, who has just 14 total carries over the last two weeks. You are hoping New England gets back to running the football and Michel doesn’t get vultured by Rex Burkhead or someone because the matchup isn’t too bad, as Dallas is allowing one rushing touchdown per game on the year, while 47.6 percent of all touchdowns surrendered by the Cowboys this season have been via the run, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.

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