Thu Nov 7 7:54pm ET
By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Pro Football Writer
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs the ball against the New York Giants during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) rolls out of the pocket to pass during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) celebrates his touchdown with running back Dalvin Cook (33), wide receiver Bisi Johnson (81) and wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Ezekiel Elliott doesn't feel the need to declare himself the best running back in the NFL with the two-time rushing champion and the Dallas Cowboys set to face current leader Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota Vikings.
Two months after becoming the highest-paid back by ending a preseason-long holdout and signing a $90 million extension, Elliott is sixth in the rushing race with 741 yards, 153 behind Cook in one fewer game.
Elliott is also on one of his best rolls, looking to match a career best with a fourth straight 100-yard game at home against the Vikings (6-3) on Sunday night, the third straight prime-time game for the Cowboys (5-3).
''I think there have been running backs that have played better this year,'' Elliott said.
And that suggestion doesn't bother a two-time Pro Bowler who was an All-Pro as a rookie in 2016.
''It just kind of adds a little fuel to the fire,'' said Elliott, whose 4,789 yards rushing since entering the league are almost 1,000 yards more than anyone else. ''I've got some more work to do, that's all.''
Cook needs 106 yards to become Minnesota's first 1,000-yard rusher since Adrian Peterson in 2015, when Peterson won the last of his three rushing titles for the Vikings.
''Any time you can be mentioned with a guy like that is awesome,'' said Cook, who is second in the NFL to Christian McCaffrey with 1,232 scrimmage yards. ''It's a guy that's highly recommended in this organization and I'm just proud of being in the conversation.''
But for Cook, the conversation is really more about Elliott. Born 23 days after the former Ohio State star in the summer of 1995, Cook came out of Florida State a year later than Elliott and was drafted in the second round.
So next summer, Cook could be going into the final year of his contract because Minnesota doesn't have a fifth-year option on him. The Cowboys had that with Elliott, the fourth overall pick in 2016, so there were two years left on his contract when he held out this past summer.
''Everybody's different,'' Cook said. ''Zeke's been putting in the work since Day One since he walked in. I just think that's what it all comes back to. Just putting in the work and not looking for a payday. Just looking to get wins and looking to do good things for the organization and it'll pay itself off.''
To Cook's point, the first meeting between the teams since Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott were rookie sensations in 2016 is important in what is shaping up to be a difficult playoff chase in the NFC.
The defending NFC East champion Cowboys lead Philadelphia by half a game. The Vikings trail Green Bay by a game in the NFC North and currently hold the last playoff spot in the conference. Plus, the offenses and defenses of both teams are all ranked in the top 10.
''This is the toughest test we've had as an offense going against this defense,'' said Dallas tight end Jason Witten, back for a club record 16th season after a year in retirement as a broadcaster. ''So I think it would be foolish to be thinking about something down the road.''
Prescott and Minnesota's Kirk Cousins see other for the first time since they were division rivals when Cousins was in Washington. Prescott was 4-0 in those meetings his first two seasons, and Cousins is 1-6 in his career against the Cowboys.
ANOTHER TOUGH TEST
In their last 10 road games against teams with a winning record at the time, the Vikings are 0-9-1. Their last such victory was at Atlanta on Dec. 3, 2017, before Cousins arrived.
The lack of big-game wins has been a knock on the eighth-year quarterback, including last week's 26-23 loss to Kansas City when the Chiefs were without Patrick Mahomes. Beating Dallas, in prime time no less, would be a big lift for more than just Minnesota's postseason bid.
''If you're going to be a playoff team, you have to win tough games in tough environments at some point,'' Cousins said. ''Otherwise you're probably not getting into the playoffs.''
Top Dallas receiver Amari Cooper isn't sure he'll be able to play after aggravating a knee injury he sustained in practice the week before Monday's 37-18 win at the Giants. Cooper left during the first series, but came back to catch a 45-yard touchdown.
The Vikings haven't allowed any points off turnovers in five straight games. Cousins has gone three straight games without a turnover, matching the longest streak of his career since he became a full-time starter with the Redskins in 2015.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and will play on Sunday against the New York Giants. The Giants are starting four rookies in the secondary and Parker and the Dolphins shouldn't have too hard a time moving the ball. Parker is a strong WR2 with a nice ceiling for the fantasy semifinals this week. Parker's fellow Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson also cleared the protocol and will suit up for Sunday's game.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley said he is feeling 'healthier and healthier' ahead of a Week 15 matchup with a Miami Dolphins team ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing defense.
Fantasy Spin: Barkley hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game since Week 2, and he has gone five straight games without scoring. He has been one of the bigger fantasy disappointments this season, but RB2 numbers should be possible in Week 15 with a friendly matchup on tap.
Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list, Saturday, Dec. 14.
Fantasy Spin: The knee injury certainly won't help the former first-round pick establish himself as the potential starter in Seattle in 2020. If you own Penny in a dynasty league, you just have to stash him and hope he eventually turns things around.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman has seen his targets decrease since Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins returned healthy. He's seen one target over the last two games, but that catch was a 48-yard touchdown. Hardman doesn't see enough targets to warrant owning in most formats. He's a touchdown-dependent receiver that is only worth using in the deepest of leagues. It's unclear how he'll be worked into the game plan, so he's risky for fantasy formats.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has been arguably the best tight end in the NFL alongside George Kittle. Kelce is expected to easily surpass 1,000 receiving yards on the season during the Week 15 matchup with the Denver Broncos. Kelce should be in for a solid game against the average Broncos Defense. Fantasy owners have been able to count on Kelce basically every week this season. He'll remain a TE1 for this home matchup with Denver.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been unable to live up to his epic Week 1 performance. He's been able to carry enough fantasy value worth rostering him in most 12-team leagues, but hasn't scored since Week 1. Watkins heads into a matchup against the Denver Broncos in Week 15. The Broncos Defense has allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season, according to Yahoo Sports. Fantasy owners should consider Watkins a WR3 or flex option for Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson has seen increased involvement in the offense the last two games. Damien Williams (ribs) and Darrel Williams (hamstring) both being sidelined has given Thompson an opportunity in the backfield. Damien has a chance to play in Sunday's Week 15 contest against the Denver Broncos. Having him back might push Thompson out of the backfield rotation. Thompson showed promise in the passing game when he caught four passes for 36 yards versus the Patriots in Week 14. Thompson could again have value in the passing game if Williams is forced to sit out again. He's only a deep league option at this point, but he could have some flex value if Williams remains out.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has been a reliable fantasy option throughout most of the season. However, Hill has been unable to find the end zone through the last three games. He's heading into a matchup with the Denver Broncos in Week 15. The same team that he caught three passes for 74 yards and a touchdown on in Week 7. Fantasy owners should feel confident that Hill can be a WR1 for this home matchup with Denver. Hill has caught at least five receptions in each of the last two games.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy has been the lead back lately with Damien Williams (ribs) sidelined. However, Williams is listed as questionable for Sunday's Week 15 matchup with the Broncos. McCoy saw 11 rushing attempts for 39 yards during the Week 14 victory over New England. He might end up getting another start, but will battle with Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware for carries. McCoy is basically a touchdown-dependent option that will be handcuffed to around 10 to 12 carries.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs) is listed as questionable for Sunday's Week 15 matchup with the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs backfield is a mess with LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson, and Spencer Ware all in the mix. Williams has missed the last two games and could be limited, assuming he plays on Sunday. It's uncertain how many touches Williams would see even fully healthy. He's going to be a touchdown-dependent fantasy option that most owners should avoid for Week 15.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown three touchdowns and two interceptions over his last three games. Mahomes is normally an elite fantasy option every week, but has been slowed down recently. He should bounce back nicely against the Denver Broncos in Week 15. Mahomes completed 10 of 11 passing attempts for 76 yards and one touchdown last time he faced the Broncos in Week 7. However, Mahomes was injured during the game, but was playing very well before that. Fantasy owners should feel confident that Mahomes will bounce back here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (knee, thumb), will play Sunday, Dec. 15, against the Detroit Lions, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN Saturday, Dec. 14. He is officially listed as questionable.
Fantasy Spin: Winston has produced much better fantasy numbers than real-world results this season. He threw for a season-high 456 yards last week against the Indianapolis Colts while matching a season-high with four touchdowns but he also threw three interceptions for the fourth time this season. He's a low-end QB1.
Free-agent LB Terrell Suggs (Cardinals) will strongly consider not reporting to any team that claims him on waivers by 4 p.m. ET Monday, Dec. 16, if not the Baltimore Ravens, according to league sources Saturday, Dec. 14.
Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson (concussion) cleared the NFL's concussion protocol Saturday, Dec. 14, and is expected to be available for the game Sunday, Dec. 15, against the New York Giants.
Fantasy Spin: Wilson hasn't reached the end zone since Week 8 and he hasn't topped 33 receiving yards in a single game this season. He isn't a fantasy consideration in anything but the deepest of leagues, even in the great Week 15 matchup.
Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (concussion) cleared the league's concussion protocol Saturday, Dec. 14, and will be available to play against the New York Giants Sunday, Dec. 15.
Fantasy Spin: Parker has enjoyed a breakout season and had topped 130 receiving yards in two of his previous three games before leaving early due to injury last week. He's a WR2 in a great matchup against the Giants this week.
Cleveland Browns LB Joe Schobert has not heard from the team in months in regard to a contract extension and will likely be allowed to walk in free agency, according to a league source Saturday, Dec. 14.
Washington Redskins WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Saturday, Dec. 14. OT Timon Parris was signed to the active roster from the practice squad.
Houston Texans RB Taiwan Jones (hamstring) won't travel with the team and has been ruled out of the game Sunday, Dec. 15, against the Tennessee Titans.
New Orleans Saints TE Jared Cook (concussion) practiced in full again Saturday, Dec. 14, and was taken off the Week 15 injury report.
Fantasy Spin: Cook is a top-flight TE1 due to his red-zone usage in the second half of the season. He has four touchdowns over his last four games.
New Orleans Saints LB Kiko Alonso (quad), OT Andrus Peat (forearm), S Vonn Bell (knee), CB Patrick Robinson (calf) and DB Johnson Bademosi (foot) didn't participate in practice Saturday, Dec. 14, and have been ruled out for the game Monday, Dec. 16, against the Indianapolis Colts. OT Terron Armstead (ankle), DE Cameron Jordan (abdomen), C Will Clapp (elbow), LB A.J. Klein (knee) and FB Zach Line (knee) were limited in practice but don't have injury designations.