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.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Allen Hurns (ankle, knee) did not take part in practice on Wednesday. All three of Hurns, Devante Parker (concussion) and Albert Wilson (concussion) are in danger of missing the Week 15 contest against the Giants. Hurns has become the No. 2 behind Parker late in the year, but he still has only 29 receptions (44 targets) for 366 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Hurns will only be worth a flier as a flex play in deeper leagues if Parker is inactive this Sunday. Receivers Trevor Davis, Isaiah Ford and Mack Hollins could be forced into heavy playing time this weekend as well.
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said rookie running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder) isn't a lock to return in Week 15 against the Jaguars despite positive results from his MRI exam. Jacobs's status is unclear for this Sunday, although he was a limited participant in the walkthrough practice on Wednesday. Jacobs must prove to Gruden and the coaching staff in the next two days that he's ready to return after missing Week 14. Deandre Washington and Jalen Richard would once again handle the backfield if Jacobs is forced to miss another game. If the stud rookie returns, he'll be a high-upside RB1 against a Jaguars team that continues to get roasted on the ground.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis (knee) returned to a full practice on Wednesday. It puts the struggling second-year wideout on track to return in Week 15 against the Falcons for the first time since Nov. 11 against the Seahawks. The 24-year-old has just 11 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games and is buried on the team's receiver depth chart. Pettis should be on waiver wires in all redraft leagues, and it's even questionable that he should be stashed in dynasty/keeper leagues with the way he's fallen in his second year in the NFL.
Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday. There's still a chance that Mattison can play in Week 15 against the Chargers, but nothing is guaranteed. With Dalvin Cook (chest) seeing a full workload against the Lions last Sunday, Mattison would be nothing more than a little-used backup against the Bolts this weekend if he's active. Mattison has been impressive when on the field, but he just doesn't see enough volume behind Cook to have standalone value. Ameer Abdullah and Michael Boone are behind Mattison on the running back depth chart in Minnesota.
Washington Redskins WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Richardson has missed the last few games but appears to have a chance to play in Week 15. He would see a handful of targets if he active for the game but can be avoided in most leagues.
Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson (toe) fully participated in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Peterson will receive a majority of the carries with Derrius Guice out for the season and was productive in the role earlier this season. He can be a No. 2 running back or flex option in fantasy leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Jordan Howard (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Howard still has not been cleared for contact, so his status for Week 15 is uncertain. Fantasy players should know more later in the week but will need other options available in case Howard misses another game.
Philadelphia Eagles WR Nelson Agholor (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Agholor was not able to play last week and appears to be questionable for Week 15. He would have a favorable matchup if he plays, but fantasy players may want to consider other options for their lineups.
Philadelphia Eagles DE Derek Barnett (ankle), WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) and OT Lane Johnson (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11. CB Jalen Mills (elbow) was limited during practice, while LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (concussion) fully participated in practice.
The New Orleans Saints officially placed defensive end Marcus Davenport (Achilles) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (ankle) on season-ending Injured Reserve on Wednesday. The combination of losing both defensive linemen is a pretty big blow to this Saints Defense to close out the year. Davenport, a first-round pick in 2018, had 31 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles in his 13 games, while Rankins, a first-rounder in 2016, had 10 tackles and two sacks in his 10 games in 2019. New Orleans' defense will be a low-tier fantasy play on Monday night in Week 15 against the fading and injured Colts offense in the superdome in a bounce-back game.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) was limited in practice on Wednesday after being inactive in the Week 15 loss to the Broncos. Fuller could be a game-time decision this Sunday against the Titans. If he sits out a second straight game, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee would have bigger roles alongside top wideout DeAndre Hopkins. If Fuller returns to action on Sunday, fantasy owners should consider the speedy deep threat as a boom-or-bust WR2 commodity as the Texans look to bounce back from a frustrating loss.
Houston Texans OT Chris Clark (hip), CB Gareon Conley (hip), RB Taiwan Jones (hamstring), LB Brennan Scarlett (Achilles, shoulder) and DE Carlos Watkins (hamstring) were limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (knee) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Njoku returned in Week 14 from a wrist injury that landed him on Injured Reserve after Week 2, and he played limited snaps on his way to just one catch for four yards in the win over the Bengals. The 23-year-old should be fine to play this weekend against the Cardinals. Arizona has been atrocious against opposing tight ends, but even so, Njoku is a boom/bust TE1/2 for fantasy owners feeling lucky in the second round of the fantasy playoffs.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (knee) and tight end Jimmy Graham (wrist) were limited participants in Wednesday's practice. Graham was limited last week but was able to play against the Redskins, so he should suit up this week barring a setback. Allison, on the other hand, is a new addition to the report and will have to prove he's healthy in the final two sessions. If healthy, both would be shaky starts in Week 15 against the Chicago Bears.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald (concussion) and running back Jaylen Samuels (groin) both were missing from practice on Wednesday. Not only is McDonald questionable for Week 15 against the Bills on Sunday night, but he hasn't cleared 50 yards the entire season and has only three touchdowns. He has just five catches for 25 yards in the last three games combined. Even if he's active, he can't be trusted in fantasy lineups in a very difficult draw in Buffalo. Nick Vannett would be a desperation TE2 if McDonald is inactive. Samuels is basically useless in fantasy with James Conner (shoulder) expected to return this Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (knee, thumb) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Winston is expected to play this week despite the thumb injury, but fantasy players should check on his status later in the week. He is a risky option in fantasy leagues because of his interceptions but could still be a low-end No. 1 quarterback in some leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Demar Dotson (non-injury), WR Mike Evans (hamstring), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) and OT Donovan Smith (ankle, knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11. OG Alex Cappa (elbow), WR Scott Miller (hamstring) and LB Anthony Nelson (hamstring) were limited during practice.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller was not able to play last week, and his status for Week 15 is uncertain. Fantasy players should monitor his progress this week but may want to look for other options to use in their lineups.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett (knee) is considered "day-to-day" by head coach Sean McVay. "His knee is making progress, but not ready to get out there and practice with us yet." Everett has essentially been day-to-day since suffering the injury in Week 13. He's missed the last two games as a result and cannot be trusted for fantasy lineups in Week 15 against the Panthers. Starting the week off with another missed practice is a bad sign. Tyler Higbee has gone for 14 catches (19 targets) for 223 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks against the Cardinals and Seahawks with Everett sidelined. Higbee will keep his TE1 status in the fantasy playoffs if Everett remains out.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Howard has been close to playing for weeks it seems, but he has yet to be cleared and hasn't seen the field since Nov. 3 against the Bears. If he does return in Week 15 against the Redskins, he could have his workload monitored and limited because of the long layoff, making him more of a risky RB2/3. Rookie Miles Sanders has been the workhorse in Philly's backfield with Howard sidelined, and he'll maintain RB2 upside in a solid matchup this Sunday if Howard misses another game.