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Fantasy Football Picks: Cowboys vs. Buccaneers DraftKings NFL DFS TNF Showdown Strategy

Garion Thorne preps you for Thursday’s 8:20 p.m. ET contest between the Cowboys and the Buccaneers with game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

I know, I know. A month from now, we’ll all probably be making fun of some terrible mid-week matchup between bottom-dwellers, but for one night, Thursday is home to a massive football game. Not only is it the first real contest we’ve all seen in half a year, it’s a star-studded affair between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. Tom Brady ($11,200) is going to get another ring, Jerry Jones will have his own camera on the broadcast. It’s all very fun.

Let’s break it down from a Showdown perspective.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL Showdown $4M Thursday Kickoff Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] (DAL vs TB)


SHOWDOWN STRATEGY

Captain’s Picks

Tom Brady ($16,800 CP) - While I can acknowledge that the Cowboys desperately attempted to improve their defense this offseason — their first six picks in the draft were spent on that side of the ball — it would take quite the jump in performance for me to fear the unit. Dallas finished 2020 ranking 21st in pass defense DVOA and 22nd in opponent passing yards per attempt (7.1). That would be a bad omen against anyone, but especially so against [checks notes] seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. The veteran really looked like he settled into Bruce Arians’ system towards the second half of last year, averaging a gaudy 0.68 DKFP per drop back across his final seven starts of the regular season. Combine that with an offensive line that registered the third-lowest sack rate in the league (4.3%), and you’ve got a high-ceiling asset in the Captain’s slot.

Chris Godwin ($12,900 CP) - Look, this is a great matchup for both Mike Evans ($9,200) and Godwin, but I’m going to side with the cheaper option. Really, you could make the case that Godwin deserves to be the more expensive of the duo. In the 12 games the wideout was able to play in 2020, Godwin averaged more targets per game than Evans (7.0), more receiving yards per game than Evans (70.0) and more yards per target than Evans (10.0). Obviously, as you would expect, Evans tended to be utilized more often in the red zone, yet that hasn’t stopped Godwin from racking up 16 receiving touchdowns since the beginning of 2019. Going up against a secondary that surrendered the third-most DKFP per contest to opposing WRs, I think the 25-year-old is in for a huge performance.



FLEX Plays

CeeDee Lamb ($8,200) - The Cowboys are on the road, going up against arguably the best team in the NFL. One could also argue that the Buccaneers own the league’s best rush defense, as the unit finished 2020 ranked no. 1 by DVOA and allowing the fewest DKFP to opposing RBs per game. I guess what I’m trying to say is: This game script could get a little predictable. It happened a lot last year, with a league-high 66.0% of plays run against Tampa Bay going through the air. Who am I to go against a trend that strong? I’d anticipate Dak Prescott ($10,400) needing to drop back upwards of 40 times on Thursday, which should lead to a huge amount of target volume for Lamb. The 22-year-old scratched the surface of what he can accomplish in his rookie campaign, and I think he’s gets his sophomore season started right.

Giovani Bernard ($2,000) - Bernard is our opportunity to save a little money on a slate that features so many big names and salaries. Yes, he’s technically behind both Leonard Fournette ($7,000) and Ronald Jones II ($5,000) on Tampa’s depth chart, but unlike those two, we actually know what Bernard’s role is. He’ll be the third down back and a pass-catching option for a quarterback that has consistently shown an affinity for these types of RBs. Heck, after the Patriots ranked second in raw running back targets back in 2019, the Buccaneers finished fifth in the category in 2020, despite not really having anyone that fit the “scatback” mold on the roster. Bernard might only see 20 snaps, yet that could be enough to garner four or five targets.



Fades

Ezekiel Elliott ($9,600) - I’m not suggesting I’m out on Elliott as a whole, but in this particular matchup at this extravagant a price tag, I’ve got to hold some of last season’s red flags against him. Elliott finished 2020 with career-lows in yards per attempt (4.0), yards per target (4.8) and yards per touch (4.4). The return of the aforementioned Prescott should help matters as the season goes along; however, my expectations are low against a Buccaneers defense that suffocated RBs all of last year. I’m also somewhat leery about how far Elliott’s snap share fell in November and December — games that we’re played with the NFC East still in the balance. If Elliott’s no longer going to see at least 70% of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps, that’s a bit of an issue.


THE OUTCOME

The Buccaneers are pretty overwhelming favorites in this game, and the spread only continues to climb on the DraftKings Sportsbook. In general, I think the public is correct in their assessment here: Tampa Bay is going to win. Dallas’ defense is going to struggle to slow down the Buccaneers’ offensive attack, while I haven’t even seen Prescott participate in a football game in almost 11 months. I have my doubts that the Cowboys’ signal caller will be able to keep pace with Brady, especially if Dallas can’t get anything going on the ground.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 28, Dallas 17

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL Showdown $4M Thursday Kickoff Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] (DAL vs TB)



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