Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott drops back to pass during the second half of the team's NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) stiff arms New York Giants cornerback Deandre Baker (27) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) is tackled by Detroit Lions defensive back Will Harris (25) and cornerback Darius Slay during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
DETROIT (AP) The Dallas Cowboys ’ offense is having a great year - statistically at least.
Dallas is leading the league in total yards for a fourth straight week and has a chance to close the season as the NFL’s top-ranked offense for the first time in 42 years.
“It’s all kind of clicking for them,” Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay said.
Despite the success of Dak Prescott and Co. - they are averaging 437-plus yards a game and are the league’s best offense on third down - the Cowboys are not rolling into the Motor City with much momentum.
Dallas (5-4) is coming off a loss to Minnesota at home and has dropped four of six games.
The Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia atop the NFC East, but they probably can’t afford to lose to the slumping Detroit Lions (3-5-1) because their schedule down the stretch is challenging with games against New England and the Eagles on the road.
“This is a confident group that knows we’re going to peak at the right time,” Prescott said. “We’ve got all the faith and trust that we’re going to get there and handle the things that we need to handle.”
The Lions, meanwhile, have lost five of six after a solid start and don’t want the season to slip away.
“Nobody’s wants to say the last few weeks haven’t gone the way we wanted and just lay an egg,” Detroit offensive tackle Taylor Decker said.
Here are some things to watch Sunday at Ford Field:
FEAST OR FAMINE
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had five 100-yard rushing games in his first eight games for the first time in his career.
However, Elliott has been held to four of the nine lowest rushing totals in his career when he hasn’t run for 100 yards.
The two-time rushing champion struggled in the 28-24 loss last week to Minnesota. His longest carry was 6 yards, and he was limited to 47 yards on 20 carries.
A chance to win escaped when Dallas went to Elliott three straight times inside the Minnesota 15 late in the game. He had two rushes that for a combined minus-3 yards before he was the target on an incomplete pass on fourth down.
“Take it with that chip on your shoulder and use it as fuel when you go back to work the next week,” he said.
Detroit will be without quarterback Matthew Stafford for a second straight week because of hip and back injuries, giving Jeff Driskel another opportunity to show the NFL what he can do under center.
The fourth-year pro was 27 of 46 for 269 yards passing and 37 yards rushing - all career highs - with a touchdown and an interception in his sixth career start in last week’s loss at Chicago.
“He’s a really talented guy,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s big. He’s athletic. He can throw it. He played a lot of football in college and just seemed like a really smart guy who understood the game and just needed an opportunity. So, it doesn’t surprise us one bit that he’s playing.”
Driskel got his first opportunity to play last season with the Cincinnati Bengals, starting five games in place of the injured Andy Dalton, with mixed results.
“Everybody wants to be out on the field and playing and competing,” Driskel said. “Kind of how we all got here is our competitive nature.”
PLAYING A MAN DOWN
The Cowboys already know one way they can improve the defense against screen passes after Dalvin Cook tied his career high with 86 yards receiving, most of it on screens. Dallas can start by making sure 11 men are on the field. There were just 10 on a 30-yard play by Cook that set up the second Minnesota touchdown for a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. The play was made worse for the Cowboys when defensive end Robert Quinn was called for roughing the passer.
TAKING AWAY TURNOVERS
Detroit got off to a 2-0-1 start and had chances to win the next two games in part because its defense forced 11 turnovers in five games. The Lions’ defense has not recovered a fumble or made an interception in two straight games and has forced only one turnover over a four-game stretch.
“We’re trying to find new tricks and trades to turn the ball over,” Slay said.
OFFENSIVE LINE SHUFFLE
Dallas left guard Connor Williams will miss several weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery. Right tackle La’el Collins (knee and back) and right guard Zack Martin (back, ankle and elbow) are also banged up, but are expected to play at Detroit. Xavier Su’a-Filo played well when Williams was out with a knee injury last year and is taking his spot again.
Cleared from concussion protocol, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson didn't do much for those owners who took a chance on the speedy wide receiver ahead of a prime matchup with a bad Giants Defense. Wilson's eight targets led all Dolphins wide receivers and he managed to convert five of them for a total of 59 yards, finishing his day with just five points in standard leagues. Even with a matchup in Week 16 against the hapless Bengals, Wilson is only a desperation play for those fighting for a fantasy championship.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught seven of 13 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown in a 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears. Adams hesitated on his route, then left Bears corner Buster Skrine in the dust for a 29-yard score. A great day could have been even better for Adams, if not for a few uncharacteristic drops. Still, Adams saw double-digit targets for the sixth time this year and remains Aaron Rodgers' most trustworthy receiver. He'll get a good matchup for fantasy receivers in Week 16 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick turned in another solid performance in a losing effort on Sunday, throwing for 279 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-20 loss to the New York Giants. Fitzpatrick didnt throw an interception for the first time in more than a month but still managed to contribute a brutal turnover, fumbling on Miamis first drive of the second half after New York had just taken the lead with a touchdown. Fitzpatrick finished with 19 points on the day, rewarding the many who took a chance on the veteran even with as their playoff hopes were on the line. He'll have another solid matchup in Week 16, as the Cincinnati Bengals come to town in a battle of two of the NFL's worst teams.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins was overshadowed by teammates Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce during the Week 15 win. Watkins caught three of four targets for 49 yards in the win over the Broncos. Hill and Kelce are going to continue to be the favorite targets in KC. Watkins should be considered a boom-or-bust WR3 for his Week 16 matchup with the Bears. Watkins has some fantasy value, but hasn't caught a touchdown since Week 1.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman has shown the ability to make big plays, but has been lost in the shuffle lately. Having both Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins back healthy has basically killed Hardman's fantasy value. He saw two targets and caught one of them for 10 yards in the Week 15 win over the Broncos. Hardman has seen three total targets over the last three games. He belongs on the bench or waiver wire in most formats at this point. He'll be a boom-or-bust WR5 for his matchup with the Bears in Week 16.
The last man standing in the backfield, Miami Dolphins running back Patrick Laird was a non-factor in fantasy on Sunday, rushing for 46 yards and scoring just four points in standard leagues. Laird was even more ineffective in the passing game, catching two of his five targets for eight yards. In theory, Laird will have a better matchup in Week 16, facing a Cincinnati defense thats allowing the seventh-most points to running backs this season but its not as if the Giants were that much better, having had allowed the 15th-most prior to the matchup with Miami. Even facing the one-win Bengals, Laird is only a desperate play with fantasy championships on the line.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has been arguably the best tight end in the NFL this season. He absolutely destroyed the Broncos Defense during the Week 15 matchup Kelce caught 11 of 13 targets for 142 yards in the 23-3 win over Denver. Kelce surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the season during that contest. Kelce is going to continue to be an elite PPR TE1 for his matchup with the Bears next week.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey had a day despite his team falling to the Seahawks on Sunday, finishing with 87 yards on 19 carries, while also adding eight catches for 88 yards. After failing to score a touchdown in either of his previous two outings, the 23-year-old also racked up his 15th and 16th score of the season in this one. Though the team has nothing left to play for this year, McCaffrey should remain active over the next two games as he attempts to hit 1,000 yards on both the ground and through the air.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had no issues in the 23-3 victory over the Broncos in Week 15. Hill caught five of his seven targets for 67 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown came on a 41-yard play where Hill completely destroyed Broncos' Chris Harris. The snowy conditions can't even hold back Hill. Fantasy owners should feel comfortable with Hill as a WR1 for their matchup with the Bears next week.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams was held to 26 rushing yards on eight totes and one catch for seven yards in a 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears. Williams, like Aaron Jones, couldn't find much room to operate between the 20s against Akiem Hicks and the Bears Defense. Unfortunately for the 24-year-old, Jones out-touched him 13-nine and scored twice in the red zone. It's also worth noting that Williams has seen only two targets the last two weeks after seeing 12 in Weeks 11 and 12. He'll look to bounce back in a tough matchup next week against the Minnesota Vikings.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware was signed by the team roughly two weeks ago and is already making an impact on the field. Ware rushed seven times for 26 yards in the victory over the Denver Broncos. However, the Chiefs have a running back committee, so Ware has handcuffed fantasy value. Both LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson are going to see carries each week. He's not someone worth owning in basically any format. He'll have a tough matchup against the Bears Defense in Week 16.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder) has left the game and will not return after being tackled on a third-quarter run. He landed hard on the shoulder/chest area that has been giving him trouble in the last few weeks and will be held out for the remainder of the contest. With Alexander Mattison (ankle) also out, the backfield duties will now be split between Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone in the second half. Cook had nine carries for 27 yards and three catches for 16 yards before exiting.
New England Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught two passes for only 13 yards in the Patriots 34-13 win over the Bengals. Sanu has been battling an ankle injury over the past few weeks and does not look 100%. Add to that the fact that Sanu is acclimating himself into a new offense and his fantasy value has fallen off the map. The veteran has very little value at present with only two games remaining in the season.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson surprisingly led the team in carries during the Week 15 win over the Denver Broncos. He rushed eight times for 38 yards and caught one pass for one yard through the air. It appears the Chiefs are beginning to feel more comfortable with Thompson. However, LeSean McCoy and Spencer Ware will continue to be worked into the backfield. Thompson will have shaky RB3 or most likely RB4 value against the Bears next week.
The New England Patriots Defense picked off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton four times in the team's 34-13 win in Week 15. The Patriots gave up an early touchdown but stiffened up from there as they dominated the rest of the game. Stephen Gilmore and J.C. Jackson recorded two interceptions each as the Patriots got a much-need win against a poor Bengals team. The defense now prepares for a huge game against a division rival, the Bills, next Saturday to kick off Week 16.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross had just two catches for 24 yards during the loss to the Patriots on Sunday. Ross was only targeted three times on a day where Andy Dalton threw four interceptions. Since returning to the lineup after suffering a chest injury earlier in the season, the 24-year-old has only four receptions for 52 yards. He still has a shot to get things going over the team's final two games, but that chance could diminish if A.J. Green (ankle) returns at some point during that span.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones carried the ball 13 times for 51 rushing yards with two touchdowns and wasn't targeted in a 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears. The Bears are a much better run defense with Akiem Hicks in the lineup, as they stifled Jones between the 20s. Jones broke free in the red zone twice, including a 21-yard run in the third quarter, complete with broken tackles. It wasn't the most productive day on the ground or through the air for Jones, but his nose for the end zone, 17 touchdowns this year, has made up for many sub-par days- and turned good outings into great ones. Up next is a Week 15 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, who Jones gashed for 150 scrimmage yards and a touchdown back in Week 2.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was able to bounce back after three straight mediocre performances. Mahomes completed 27 of 34 passing attempts for 340 yards and two touchdowns and one interception in the Week 15 victory. It wasn't a perfect game for Mahomes, but it was in snowy conditions. He was able to play very well despite the frustrating field conditions. Fantasy owners should feel confident that Mahomes will be a top tier option against the Bears in Week 16.
New England Patriots running back James White totaled only 62 yards from scrimmage but caught and ran for a 23-yard touchdown in the Patriots win over the Bengals in Week 15. The Patriots coasted to victory after a tight first half and explosive plays simply were not on the menu in this contest. White has been a disappointment in fantasy this season but his impact on the offense over the last month continues to increase. Of all the runners in the Patriots backfield, White is the one to deploy in fantasy lineups over the final few weeks.
New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry caught two passes for 15 yards with one touchdown in the Patriots 34-13 win over the Bengals. The rookie saw only four targets in the game and continues to be a raw talent in an experienced offense. But Harry has proved to be a threat in the red zone and capitalized on his size for a seven-yard touchdown reception. Harry's fantasy value should be reserved for dynasty and keeper leagues the rest of this season.