Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Week 9 wraps up with the Cowboys visiting the Giants in a relatively high total game (48 over/under currently) with Dallas installed as 6.5 point road favorites. The Giants’ defense has been barely there all season and the Cowboys should be able to easily put up points, while the Dallas defense has been more “okay” than “good” this season (17th in overall DVOA and roughly equal against the run and the pass) and thus even the Giants should be able to do something, at least.
Let’s start with the Dallas run game. This is a slate of strong plays, but Ezekiel Elliott is hands-down the best skill position play in this game. He has a great matchup, a powerful offensive line, a healthy team total, and a voluminous workload (note that after starting a bit slow, likely due to his brief holdout, Zeke has seen touch counts of 24, 14, 33, and 28 in his last four games, with the 14 in a game against Green Bay that had Dallas down by a ton very quickly). Zeke is a premium play if you can pay up for him, and a major game theory decision point in tournaments. Tony Pollard gets just scraps in this offense and isn’t worth mentioning unless you’re hoping for something very bizarre to happen, such as an early-game injury.
The Cowboys are generally thought of as a run-heavy offense, but their passing game has actually been fantastic this year and is ranked third overall by DVOA. There’s even more of a mismatch here than in the run game, as the Giants are 12th in DVOA against the run but just 28th against the pass. While I’ll always lean running backs for predictable workloads, the duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup have one of the best possible matchups they’re going to see all year. Both are tremendous plays who could easily turn in the top score on the slate. Interestingly, Gallup has actually averaged more targets than Amari in games in which they both were fully healthy, 8.0 to 6.8. Cooper has scored seven touchdowns to Gallup’s one, which isn’t really backed up by the data as the red zone targets are just four to two (Jason Witten, tiltingly, leads the Cowboys with nine red zone targets). Gallup’s upside is just as high as Amari’s, and his floor isn’t really that different either. He comes at a nice discount, as well. The rest of the Dallas passing attack is fairly forgettable. Jason Witten gets a lot of red zone looks but that’s about it, while Randall Cobb has exceeded double-digit Draftkings points only once all year. If we played this game 100 times, the kickers would outscore Cobb and Witten more often than not, so build your ownerships accordingly. Everyone else behind these guys are just MME dart throws, though Blake Jarwin is on the field enough to have a shot at a touchdown and he, at least, comes cheaper than a kicker.
The Giants’ run game is just as concentrated as that of the Cowboys, though it’s with Saquon Barkley instead of Zeke. They’re priced similarly, and while Saquon is (probably) the better talent, the matchup edge goes to Zeke as does the workload as Saquon rarely goes far past 20 touches. It’s close, though, and if we played this game out 100 games I bet Zeke outscores Saquon 60% of the time. Similarly to Dallas, the backup running back on the Giants isn’t in play unless you’re betting on an injury or another very strange fluke.
In the pass game, as JM already noted, the Cowboys’ defense filters targets to shorter areas of the field, which is where the Giants primarily operate anyhow. With Sterling Shepard out again, Golden Tate should see heavy volume once more. Tate has averaged 10 targets per game over his last three, and that’s a fairly realistic expectation here as well as his route tree is right where it’s easiest to hit Dallas. Evan Engram runs similar routes but has been seeing less volume and shorter targets lately. Engram is more of a YAC guy, which is harder to predict than sheer volume; he has plenty of upside but at $1,000 more than Tate, I think Tate is a safer play. Where the Dallas defensive scheme actually hurts is Darius Slayton. After a huge two touchdown game last week, ownership may swing his way, but he has the worst matchup of the Giants’ receiving corps and is just a ceiling play for MME. The Giants don’t really use their other guys — Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler will see the field a fair bit, but are unlikely to draw any meaningful volume as New York seems to just not like throwing to them. They and Rhett Ellison are pure dart throws.
The way this game is most likely to play out is for Dallas to have its way with the Giants defense. Zeke should see plenty of volume, but the passing attack has a tremendous matchup as well, so it’s a tossup where the touchdowns come from. The Giants should be forced into catch-up mode fairly quickly, which should result in a lot of dropbacks and a lot of volume to Tate, Saquon, and Engram (roughly in that order).
Some other ways the game could play out:
- It’s hard to see this while looking at the game in advance, but it’s not implausible that Dallas struggles here (road teams sometimes do, often in surprising situations). It’s an unlikely outcome but if you’re building a lot of lineups, it’s worth thinking about some “Giants win in an upset” scenarios.
- Most lineups are likely to have Zeke, who I expect to be the highest owned guy on the slate, and some of the Giants passing attack since they’re relatively affordable. Try flipping that on its head with lineups consisting of the Dallas passing attack and Saquon Barkley.
The cheap answer for my favorite captain is Zeke, and he is. But I also really, really like Gallup, Amari, and Tate. Amari has a sky-high ceiling, while Gallup and Tate have strong ceilings of their own and also come at significant discounts that get you a bit more flexibility in roster construction.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 1 receiver (Dak) or 2 receivers (Jones)
- At most 1 of the hodgepodge guys (Latimer, Austin, Ellison, etc. — there is a pile of very part-time players in this one and I wouldn’t want more than 1 on a roster, regardless of which team they’re on)
— Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns; and given the tangible edge in this contest type, it should pay itself off pretty quickly(!).
JM’s Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::
- On the big slate, this is one of the more attractive games, with this game easily breaking through the “43.0” Over/Under that so many games this week are being held below. Most of the scoring, of course, should come from the Cowboys’ side.
- Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliott can all have Tier 1 cases made for them. Zeke’s role locks him in as one of the highest-floor plays on the slate from a raw-score perspective, while Amari’s matchup is tremendous and his role has kept him as one of the more consistent high-priced wide receivers this year. There is nothing in the matchup that should give him trouble, so as long as the work is there, the production should be there as well.
- Michael Gallup has been inconsistent this year, but his upside is as high as any player on the slate. Especially in this matchup, a 100-yard, two-touchdown effort is not out of reach if the workload cooperates. His usage uncertainty (especially in a game the Cowboys might control) drops him to Tier 3, but the upside keeps him in the conversation as an attractive tournament play.
- The Cowboys filter opponents to the short areas of the field, which suits the Giants just fine, as that’s where they like to run Golden Tate, Evan Engram, and (if he returns) Sterling Shepard on routes. If Shepard is out, Engram and Tate both have potential for enough volume to be considered lower-end “floor/ceiling” pieces even in a below-average matchup for scoring expectations. If Shep returns, it all becomes a bit dicier, with more hoping-for-the-best involved.
- Saquon, of course, is a workload-driven bet with as much individual upside as any player on the slate, but with a tougher matchup than Dalvin Cook and a less locked-in mega-role than Cook and Christian McCaffrey. He ranks fourth among Cook // CMC // Zeke (who I think I have in that order at the mid-point of the week, though Cook/CMC could be easily flip-flopped given CMC’s touch ceiling).