XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Week 13 begins with the Seahawks visiting the Cowboys for a 47 total game with the Cowboys favored by 9. Hey, at least it isn’t a sub-40 total island game, we’ve had way too many of those. This should be a fun one with Dallas absolutely stomping over the NFL lately (albeit against fairly modest competition). Fun with stats: the Cowboys have eight wins. In those eight wins, they have scored 298 points and allowed just 87 for an average margin of victory of 26.4 points. They played the Chargers to a 20-17 victory in Week 6, but outside of that game, their smallest margin of victory is 20 points. That’s absolutely insane.
Poor Tony Pollard has been a wild disappointment this year. He hasn’t had the same level of explosiveness that we’ve been used to seeing from him, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. While he’s dominating snaps, he’s also not really seeing bell cow volume on the ground. Pollard is averaging 14.5 carries per game and has only gone over 15 in two games. Part of this is due to Dallas frequently blowing out their opponents, but keep in mind that normally we like running backs in those situations because they can finish the game out. Dallas, though, does not want to give Pollard those extra carries when the game is put away. Pollard has a strong passing game role, averaging about 4.5 targets per game, and he’s also gotten extremely unlucky when it comes to scoring touchdowns. He has the second most carries of any running back in the league in the red zone, inside the 10, and he’s tied for third inside the 5 and has fewer touchdowns than any other running back who he’s close to in those rankings. Overall, despite his touches being somewhat capped, despite the Cowboys insisting on just banging him between the tackles instead of trying to get him the ball in space, and in spite of poor touchdown variance, Pollard has still done at least “ok” in fantasy scoring . . . and if touchdown variance swings back his way at some point, he definitely has big games in him. Just be aware, he doesn’t really have the 25+ touch ceiling that we can find on some other teams. Behind Pollard, Rico Dowdle plays the RB2 role and can sometimes get a bit of late-game mop-up work. At $4,200, he’s alright. He’ll probably need a touchdown to find a ceiling, but Dallas scores a lot of touchdowns.
Ownership updates automatically
In the passing game, the Cowboys lead the NFL in pass rate over expectation since their Week 7 bye. For years we’ve thought of Dallas as a team that generally has to be pushed in order to pass the ball at a high rate, but that’s clearly changed in the past few weeks. They’re starting games pass heavy and continuing to pass the ball deep into the game, even if up by multiple scores. Dak Prescott is putting up MVP-level performances with 30+ DK points in 4 of 5 games since the bye, with 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions (remember in the preseason when people thought Dak was horrible because he threw too many picks? Lol). CeeDee Lamb is obviously the primary beneficiary here with 62 targets in those five post-bye games. The dude is a baller, his volume is enormous, and he’s scored five touchdowns in those games with three 100+ yard performances. Behind Lamb, the surge in Dallas passing game has lifted all boats. After a slow start to the season, Brandin Cooks has also seen more success through the air (combined line of 13/109/1 in the season’s first five games, then 20/343/3 in the last five games). Michael Gallup and Jalen Tolbert are sharing the WR3 role and both playing under 50% of the snaps. Given the elite efficiency of this offense lately, both are definitely in play, but they are of course much lower floor options. And given that they directly compete for snaps, I’d shy away from playing too much of them together (though I don’t think I’d set a hard rule against it). Finally, gadget guy KaVontae Turpin doesn’t see a lot of volume but what he does see is geared towards upside with red zone work, deep targets, and even rushes – he’s a punt play but one with a realistic ceiling to get double-digit DK points if things break his way.
At tight end, Jake Ferguson gets most of the work with Luke Schoonmaker backing him up. Ferg is a guy without a huge amount of yardage upside (even during Dallas’ post-bye passing renaissance, he has only gone over 47 receiving yards once), but he does have a lot of touchdown equity with a whopping 18 red zone targets on the season, which is good for either 1st or 2nd in the NFL depending on whose data set you believe. $6,200 for that kind of red zone work is a very fair price. Schoonmaker gets little volume and is a punt play.
Pass Defense Note
Working against Dallas is that Seattle’s pass defense, while ranked just 23rd in DVOA, has somehow managed to limit opposing passing production. They’re allowing the 4th-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. They’re accomplishing this by facing a roughly league average opposing passing play rate but also facing modest opponent play volume at just 59.6 plays per game. I’m frankly struggling to get this to make any sense. Seattle is dead-last in time of possession at 27:11 per game so it’s not like they’re holding on to the ball with long drives to limit opponent volume. They aren’t playing super slow – they’re 8th-fastest in the league at 27.8 seconds per play. I don’t get why Seattle is facing such low play volume when they can’t maintain possession, they play quite quickly when they do have the ball and are not facing a high rushing play rate (which of course bleeds more clock time). The most relevant piece of data I can see is that they allow a slightly above-average completion rate but below-average yards per pass attempt, and lots of shorter completions can eat up the clock. It’s weird though. They aren’t an especially good red zone defense, allowing roughly ⅔ of opposing red zone trips to result in touchdowns (almost the worst in the league). I’m tempted to just say this data is weird, I don’t understand it, and it’s probably just volatility. This was a long writeup to just essentially shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t get it,” but my overall perspective is that I wouldn’t put too much stock in the stats that say Seattle is good at limiting opposing passing production, especially seeing as how they’ve faced a lot of below average passing offenses this season. Moving on.