SEAHAWKS // COWBOYS OVERVIEW
The Saturday evening game between the Seahawks and Cowboys gives us a matchup between two teams with solid defenses, dual-threat quarterbacks, and top-of-the-league run games. Each of these teams ranks bottom nine in pace of play on offense, and each team has controlled the clock this year, with the Seahawks ranked sixth in time of possession and the Cowboys ranked eighth. The Seahawks finished the season with the lowest pass play rate the NFL has seen in years, while the Cowboys prefer to work from the ground when they can — having finished the season ranked 23rd in pass play rate. This game will feature its fair share of play-action passing, but the centerpiece of each offense will be the run — with Ezekiel Elliott dominating touches on one side of the ball, and with the Seahawks’ three-man backfield loading up on volume on the other side. This game has been awarded a low Over/Under of 43.0, with the Cowboys installed as 1.5 point favorites.
When the Cowboys and Seahawks played in Week 3, Seattle dedicated their offense to the run — calling on Russell Wilson to throw the ball only 26 times in that game while Chris Carson rushed 32 times in spite of averaging only 3.2 yards per carry. Since that time, Russ has topped 31 pass attempts only once in the 13 games, and on the year he has a monstrous nine games in which he has thrown the ball 26 or fewer times.
While this run-leaning approach has allowed the Seahawks to go 10-4 down the stretch, it has made this offense difficult to target in DFS this year — especially as this team A) rarely leans on running backs in the pass game, and B) leans on the pass near the end zone. Ultimately, this is creating an offense in which most of the yardage is gained by running backs, but most of the touchdowns are scored by wide receivers.
The matchup in this spot is not great on the ground or through the air, with the Cowboys allowing the fifth fewest yards per carry in the league and allowing the third fewest wide receiver touchdowns in the league. Only five teams are allowing fewer points per game than the 20.3 the Cowboys are allowing, and Dallas has been even better at home, allowing only 18.5 points per game.
Although the matchup is difficult for Carson, the workload should be locked in, with recent carry counts in games with a healthy Rashaad Penny of 17 // 16 // 13 // 19, and with target counts in these games of 0 // 4 // 2 // 1. As a largely yardage-and-touchdown back who has rarely topped 20 carries with Penny healthy (and who will be taking on a tough run defense on the road), Carson’s floor is scary-low — but he has seen a recent spike in red zone usage (leading to five touchdowns across his last four games), and he will see enough touches to be given opportunities to hit. Mike Davis should mix in for six to eight touches behind Carson. Penny should mix in for six to eight carries as well. While the Seahawks rarely lean on their backs through the air, it should also be noted that the Cowboys have allowed the fifth most receptions to running backs this year.
The matchup is almost as difficult for the Seahawks’ receivers as it is for their running backs, as Dallas — much like Indy earlier in the day — tilts their coverage heavily toward wide receivers, leading to this team allowing the ninth fewest catches and the eighth fewest yards to the position. As noted above: only two teams have allowed fewer touchdowns to wideouts than the Cowboys have allowed.
Further working against us in DFS is the uncertain nature of targets for Seattle receivers. Across his last four games, Doug Baldwin has target counts of 4 // 6 // 12 // 5 — with two games under 30 yards in this stretch — while Tyler Lockett has seen a mere two targets in three of his last five games. Baldwin is the best bet for a spike in usage (though his likeliest outcome is another five to seven target game). Lockett, astonishingly, finished the season with a perfect 158.3 passer rating on throws in his direction — speaking to his incredibly efficient production on limited targets — but he’s always at risk of a dud with so few guaranteed looks flowing his way.
Behind these two, David Moore has become an afterthought (four catches for 32 yards across his last five games), though he quietly finished the season fifth in the NFL in aDOT, and his big body commands the occasional red zone look (his nine red zone targets are actually three more than Lockett saw on the year). He’s a slim-upside option with a legitimate floor of zero.
Behind the receivers, Ed Dickson and Nick Vannett are as hope-and-pray as it gets.
COWBOYS PASS OFFENSE
The Seahawks ranked 18th this year in yards allowed per pass attempt, though they got there by shaving almost 9% off the league-average aDOT, holding opponents to a roughly league-average catch rate, and experiencing some after-catch breakdowns that led to them finishing the year near the bottom of the league in YAC/R allowed. This creates an interesting spot for Amari Cooper, who has held onto his monster price tag across the last few weeks due to largely-FOMO ownership that misinterpreted how Amari came across the two big games he had with the Cowboys: the first (as explored multiple times in this space) coming on a pair of broken-play, huge-YAC opportunities against Washington, and the second (as also explored multiple times in this space) coming against the Eagles in a game in which the Cowboys chose to relentlessly attack Sidney Jones with downfield passes. Outside of that game against the Eagles, Amari’s role in this conservative Cowboys attack has glued him to the short areas of the field, with almost all of his work coming within 10 or 11 yards of the line of scrimmage. The good news in this spot is that Seattle has been prone to some of the after-catch breakdowns that can lead to a big game from Amari. The bad news is that this is not a spot that sets up well for him to finally see a heavy downfield role. Amari has recent target counts of 8 // 13 // 7 // 5 // 11; he should be considered a target-secure alpha with a likely-limited downfield role.
Dak Prescott has topped 39 pass attempts only two times this year — with the first coming in the Cowboys’ 90-play Week 14 overtime win against the Eagles, and with the second coming in Week 17 with Ezekiel Elliott on the sidelines. With the Seahawks allowing the third fewest opponent plays per game and presenting an attackable matchup on the ground (more on this in a moment), we should project Dak to land in his typical 30 to 36 pass attempt range. Across his last five games in this range, target counts among ancillary pass catchers on the Cowboys have looked like this:
:: Cole Beasley — 5 // 7 // 3 // 3 // 5
:: Michael Gallup — 3 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 4
:: Blake Jarwin — 0 // 0 // 2 // 1 // 3
Beasley’s touchdowns (three on the year) tend to come on scramble drills and broken plays, typically leaving him as nothing more than a non-awful floor option. Gallup continues to see downfield looks — with inefficiency a constant risk (across Weeks 11 and 12, he caught only three passes for 29 yards, on 11 targets), but with a slim path to upside each week. Jarwin has the most difficult matchup against a Seattle team that has allowed the fourth fewest receptions to the position.
COWBOYS RUN OFFENSE
With the Seahawks limiting opponent plays and typically playing with a lead, they have faced the fifth fewest rush attempts in the NFL this year — but when teams have been able to run against the Seahawks, they have been able to have success, with this team allowing a below-average 4.55 yards per carry to running backs. The Seahawks have also allowed the third most receiving yards to running backs this year.
After resting last week, Zeke — who is averaging 25 touches per game on the year — should be in line for a big workload in a must-win game. Zeke has seen six or more targets in seven consecutive games, and he has added 18+ carries in every one of these games as well. His 39 red zone carries rank eighth in the NFL — helping him to stand out as the safest, highest-upside play this weekend from a raw floor/ceiling perspective. Zeke should be the engine of this Cowboys offense once again, giving him plenty of opportunity for upside, and making it difficult for him to fail.
If this game were on a typical, regular season Main Slate, Zeke would be the only player we would have genuine interest in — but with this slate being what it is (four games, with three of them carrying a low game total), some of the fringe options will need to be considered as well. On the Seahawks: Russ has carried a surprisingly strong floor for much of the year on this run-heavy offense, with the Seahawks comfortable putting the game in his hands when they need a score or a win // Baldwin and Lockett are going to be involved with some downfield looks, giving each guy a chance to hit for ceiling // Carson is a yardage-and-touchdown back in a difficult matchup, but he should push for 20 touches once again. On the Cowboys: Dak has outlier potential to be the highest-scoring quarterback (though Luck, Russ, and Watson all carry higher projections) // Amari will be involved, and he has the talent to break off a big play or two, though he should be expected to operate in a primarily short-area role // maybe one of the other pass catchers on the Cowboys does something worthwhile, though none are safe options. Again: Zeke is the only standard-strong play in this game, but there are other spots where you are at least not drawing dead — which may have to be good enough at one or two positions on your roster on this small, unique slate.