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Fantasy Football Picks: Cowboys vs. Washington DraftKings NFL DFS Thanksgiving Showdown Strategy

Matt LaMarca preps you for Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. ET NFL contest between the Cowboys and Washington with game-script analysis and DraftKings Captain’s Picks.

Nothing says Thanksgiving football more than a matchup between the Washington Football Team and the Dallas Cowboys. These teams have previously met on nine separate occasions on turkey day, and the Cowboys have won eight of those contests.

Will history repeat itself in 2020 or can Washington pull off the upset? Dallas is currently favored by three points on DraftKings Sportsbook, while the total currently sits at 46.0.

Let’s dive into Washington-Dallas from a DraftKings Showdown perspective and try to identify some of the top studs, values, and sleepers.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $400K Showdown Special [$100K to 1st] (WAS vs DAL)


SHOWDOWN STRATEGY

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys righted the ship last week with a win over the Vikings, and as they have gotten healthier recently, they’ve generally played better. Dallas moved Zack Martin to right tackle in that contest, and the decision appeared to pay dividends. The Cowboys racked up a season-high 180 rushing yards in that contest and allowed just one sack.

Ezekiel Elliott ($15,900 CP/$10,600 FLEX) was one of the primary beneficiaries of their improved offensive line play. He eclipsed to 100-yard threshold for the first time all season, and he also managed to score a receiving touchdown. Overall, his 22.4 DKFP were the most he’s racked up in a game since all the way back in Week 5 vs. the Giants.

Andy Dalton ($14,400 CP/$9,600 FLEX) was also able to return to the lineup last week, and he gives the team a clear upgrade at the QB position. He’s obviously not as good as Dak Prescott — very few in the league are — but he’s a significant upgrade over guys like Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. Dalton has always been the type of guy who thrives in a clean pocket and falters under pressure, so the Vikings were an excellent matchup for him. They are not particularly good in terms of rushing the passer, so Dalton was able to sit in the pocket and take advantage of the Cowboys’ elite receiving options.

Unfortunately, both players will face a much stiffer test this week vs. Washington. Their defensive line is one of the best in the business after investing heavily in the position during the draft. They currently rank third in adjusted sack rate and eighth in adjusted line yards allowed, so they should be able to make life much more difficult for the Cowboys’ revamped offensive line. If they can limit Elliott and pressure Dalton, the Cowboys’ offense should suffer.

That makes it tough to trust CeeDee Lamb ($13,800 CP/$9,200 FLEX) and Amari Cooper ($12,000 CP/$8,000 FLEX). Both players have been priced up following last week, after they were able to exceed their salary-based scoring expectations. Cooper led the team with seven targets, while Lamb was able to find the end zone. Of the two, Cooper seems like the better option, given the difference in salary and the results from the first time these teams played. Cooper managed seven catches on seven targets, while Lamb couldn’t secure any of his five targets.

Dalton Schultz ($9,300 CP/$6,200 FLEX) and Michael Gallup ($5,100 CP/$3,400 FLEX) round out the Cowboys’ pass catching options. Gallup stands out as one of the best values on the slate at his current price tag. His production is down after breaking out last season, but he remains highly involved in the Cowboys’ offense. He’s seen at least five targets and has played on at least 86% of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps in each of the past three weeks.

Schultz is a bit riskier at his price tag, since he has some bust potential. That said, he’s seen at least six targets in three straight games and has averaged 10.87 DKFP over that time frame. He likely needs a touchdown to hit his ceiling, but that is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Tony Pollard ($6,600 CP/$4,400 FLEX) will also likely draw some ownership in this contest after ripping off a 41-yard touchdown run last week, but I think he’s overpriced. He saw just five carries in that contest, which was his lowest number since Week 5. If he doesn’t rip off a long touchdown in this contest, it’s going to be tough for him to return value at an elevated salary.

Finally, the Cowboys D/ST ($3,600 CP/$2,400 FLEX) and Greg Zuerlein ($5,400 CP/$3,600 FLEX) could both have some appeal in this contest. The Dallas D isn’t in the best spot since Alex Smith is typically pretty conservative with the football, but the low-scoring nature of this contest puts Zuerlein in play. The pedestrian total means that field goal attempts could be more frequent than touchdowns.


Washington Football Team

Editor’s note: Washington WR Terry McLaurin (ankle) is active for today’s game vs. the Cowboys.

The Washington offense is not very exciting, but they are appealing from a fantasy perspective. Even though their overall output might not be great — they rank 28th in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA — it is typically condensed around the same small group of players. That actually makes them an appealing team to stack.

It starts with Terry McLaurin ($16,500 CP/$11,000 FLEX), who continues to produce at a high level. He’s followed up an excellent rookie season by increasing his production to 6.2 receptions for 87.1 yards per game in 2020. He hasn’t been as prolific in terms of scoring, but he’s still managed to grab three touchdowns through his first 10 games.

There was some concern that his skill set might not mesh with Alex Smith ($14,700 CP/$9,800 FLEX), but those concerns appear to be unfounded. He’s averaged just shy of 100 receiving yards per game over his past three contests, and the majority of his snaps over that time frame have been with Smith.

Some of the best production of McLaurin’s career has also come vs. the Cowboys. He’s played two career games vs. Dallas, and he’s scored 22.0 and 17.2 DKFP in those contests. Pro Football Focus gives him a sizable advantage this week, so he makes for a logical Captain selection.

Speaking of Smith, he has started to look more comfortable. He was dreadful in his first bit of game action this year vs. the Rams, but that was to be expected. They put him under heavy pressure, and Smith was seeing the field for the first time since suffering a gruesome leg injury back in 2018. He’s played much better since then and has even racked up at least 325 yards passing in two of his past three games.

That said, Smith isn’t exactly known for putting up gaudy stats, and the Cowboys’ defense has improved against the pass since getting healthier. They still rank 22nd in pass defense DVOA, but they aren’t getting shredded on a weekly basis like they did earlier in the season.

I prefer the idea of targeting Washington’s running game in this matchup. Antonio Gibson ($15,300 CP/$10,200 FLEX) has fared well in his rookie season despite not playing much as a traditional running back at Memphis. He’s averaged 4.5 yards per carry this season, and his eight rushing touchdowns total is tied with Alvin Kamara for the seventh-highest mark in the league.

Gibson has been an excellent fantasy asset of late, scoring at least 17.4 DKFP in three of his past four games, and the Cowboys’ defense ranks just 28th in rush defense DVOA. Gibson’s lack of involvement as a pass catcher does limit his upside a bit, but he makes up for it with his involvement around the goal line.

J.D. McKissic ($10,500 CP/$7,000 FLEX) handles the receiving duties out of Washington’s backfield, and that role has kept him busy recently. He logged 29 total targets over a two-game stretch after Smith took over at QB, but that number did dip to just four last week. Ultimately, McKissic’s target share is going to depend on how much pressure Dallas can put on Smith. If they can get to him, Smith has no problem dumping it down to McKissic. If they give Smith time in the pocket, he’ll be more inclined to throw the ball down the field.

Sadly for McKissic, Dallas ranks just 21st in adjusted sack rate. This doesn’t seem like the best spot for him.

That group of McLaurin, Gibson, and McKissic has provided most of the fantasy value for Washington this season, but there are a few other players we can consider. Logan Thomas ($8,100 CP/$5,400 FLEX), in particular, has seen a healthy target share in 2020, although that hasn’t exactly led to a ton of fantasy success. Still, he finished second on the team with five targets last week, and he’s seen at least four targets in all 10 games this season.

Cam Sims ($6,000 CP/$4,000 FLEX) and Steven Sims ($4,200 CP/$2,800 FLEX) have both seen a boost with Dontrelle Inman ($2,100 CP/$1,400 FLEX) out of the lineup recently — but Inman was able to get in a full practice on Tuesday. It seems like Inman is on track to return to the lineup this week, which would not be great for the Sims brothers (no relation). Inman might actually be the preferred target given his cheaper salary, and he played on 90% of Washington’s offensive snaps in his last full game.

Finally, the Washington D/ST ($7,200 CP/$4,800 FLEX) and Dustin Hopkins ($5,700 CP/ $3,800 FLEX) both stand out as solid values. Washington should be able to put Dalton under pressure in this contest, which can lead to sacks, turnovers, and possibly even a score. They also held Dalton and the Cowboys to just three points scored in their first meeting this season.

Hopkins has also benefited from Smith being at QB recently. He’s improved Washington’s ability to move the ball on offense, but they haven’t been good enough to put the ball in the end zone on a regular basis. As a result, Hopkins has attempted three field goals in back-to-back weeks.


THE OUTCOME

Even though Dallas is favored in this contest, I actually like Washington to win this game thanks to their dominant defensive line. I like the idea of rostering their defense and Hopkins, which allows me to pay up for either Terry McLaurin ($16,500 CP) or Antonio Gibson ($15,300 CP) at Captain.

Final Score: Washington 23, Dallas 13

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $400K Showdown Special [$100K to 1st] (WAS vs DAL)


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