Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Shoutout to Xandamere for fighting through the plague to get this Showdown writeup our way. Let’s go!!!
The first half of the season kept giving us terrible showdown matchups, but lately we’ve been seeing some good ones. Here we have the Vikings traveling to Dallas in what would be a pickem on a neutral field; Dallas is a field goal favorite at home in a 48.5 total game. If you glance just above at the DVOA matchups, you’ll see this is a battle of strength on strength — both teams boast solid defenses, but overall, the offensive DVOA for both the run and the pass for each team ranks better than the opposing defensive DVOA. This means that there isn’t one amazing matchup to exploit, which will lead to ownership being spread around.
The Minnesota run offense is in an interesting spot here. Dalvin Cook has been one of the two highest scoring running backs in the NFL on an offense that wants to run first and is missing one of its two top receivers. On the other hand, Cook is also a road underdog facing a relatively tough run defense whose pass game work has been somewhat up and down this season (5+ targets in 5 games, 3 or fewer targets in the other 4). My overall opinion here is that I like Zeke better than Cook, especially at a $1k discount, but Cook is still one of the highest-ceiling plays on the slate. I am still debating how I rank Cook compared to Cousins and Dak, but I think it’s something like Dak > Zeke > Cook > Cousins, without accounting for price. Behind Cook, Alexander Mattison only really gets involved when the Vikings are stomping their opponents — Mattison had 15 touches in a Week 8 romp of the Redskins (and if he’d gotten in the end zone at the end of the game there I would have won a lot of money…), but just 3 touches in a closer affair with the Chiefs last week. I would only use Mattison in builds in which I’m projecting the Vikings to have a multiple-score lead.
The Vikings’ pass offense without Thielen is interesting. Last week, Stef Diggs only saw 5 targets (in a game in which Cousins dropped back 38 times), catching 1. 5 other Vikings saw 4 or more targets, including backup running back C.J. Ham, TE2 Irv Smith, and Laquon “who?” Treadwell. I’m going to bet on snap counts over targets, though — Treadwell only played 28% of the snaps, so I’ll let someone else chase that. The 2 wideouts who should be on the field for most of the snaps are Diggs and Olabisi Johnson, while the Vikings are likely to run a lot of 12 personnel as they did last week, which puts Rudolph and Smith on the field at the same time. Those 4 are basically the Vikings’ receiving corps for this game (plus Cook, of course). If the Cowboys are not able to successfully scheme out Diggs, he should be the focal point of the passing game, and should see as many targets as he can handle. Bisi, Rudolph, and Smith are all very viable value plays in the 4-5k range — they all seem about 1k too cheap there, to me.
The Dallas offense is even more narrowly focused and I feel like I could just copy/paste what I wrote up the last time they were in a showdown. In the run game, Zeke will get his 22-25 touches, and while the Vikings are a solid enough run defense, the Cowboys’ O-line has enough of an edge on them so that it doesn’t worry me one bit. It’s worth noting that in last week’s matchup against the Giants, Tony Pollard got 3 targets (Zeke somehow didn’t get a single one). Personally I do not believe that this is the start of a trend of using Pollard over Zeke in the passing game, but you could bet that way, I suppose. All in all I view Zeke as a locked-in 3-down bellcow who is a home favorite, which is just the kind of play I want to make in DFS.
The Raiders’ pass game centers around Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, and as I wrote about the last time the Cowboys were in a showdown, there really isn’t that much of an opportunity gap between them. Their target volume is similar (Cooper does have a modest lead in air yards), but overall the differences between them this year has been that Cooper’s scoring the touchdowns, while Gallup has dropped more passes than one would expect. The opportunity, though, is so close between them that I view them as more akin to, say, Diggs and Thielen last year than to a traditional WR1/WR2 designation. Behind them, Randall Cobb unexpectedly spiked up to 8 targets last week…and still only scored 8.5 Draftkings points. If he doesn’t get in the end zone he’s probably not relevant. The Dallas tight end split became even more apparent as Jason Witten caught 8 of 9 targets….for just 58 yards. Meanwhile Blake Jarwin caught 1 of 1 targets, for 42 yards and a touchdown. Witten is a plodder who the Cowboys can use to make consistent short gains, and he does have a great red zone role (he’s leading the team in red zone targets). Jarwin gets far less volume but is much more athletic, capable of big plays but also capable of putting up a 0.
The way this game is likely to play out is, for lack of a better word, grindy. These two teams rank in the bottom 6 in the NFL in passing play percentage, and as long as the game stays reasonably close, they’re both quite content to lean on the run game.
Some other ways it could play out:
- If one team gets out in front, the other will need to open up the playbook a bit and take to the air. This is going to be a common way to attack this showdown: one of the RBs in the captain spot and then bringing it back with the other team’s passing attack. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad play, though.
- While both of these teams want to run, as we’ve seen many times, touchdowns are unpredictable. Zeke and Cook are going to be massively owned and you won’t find many rosters that don’t have at least 1 of them. Betting on the touchdowns going to the receivers is a way to be contrarian here.
My favorite overall captain here is Zeke as the home favorite bellcow RB. Behind him, I’ll have a fair bit of Gallup exposure in the captain slot, as his discount lets you make some differentiated rosters. Finally, the cheaper Vikings receivers open up a lot if you happen to stumble into a big game from one of them, but it’s tough to tell which one is likeliest to smash.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (could consider 1 in the case of Dak)
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- At most 1 of Mattison and Zeke (Mattison only gets a lot of run when the Vikings are up by a lot, which would largely take Zeke out of the game)
- At most 2 of Bisi, Rudolph, and Smith
— 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 ::
- The Cowboys’ Vegas-implied total in this game of 25.5 sits comfortably among the higher-scoring teams on the Main Slate, and is a reminder that the Vikings defense has not been as daunting as in the past. Dallas players are always priced for their reliable roles (Amari and Zeke are true focal points of this offense, and Gallup is always going to be involved), so none of these guys approach “lock-and-load” territory against a still-solid defense with pricing accounting for role; but all can be considered in tourney play. Dak // Amari // Zeke are a “certainty” step below guys like Lamar || Mike Thomas // Evans // Godwin || Christian McCaffrey; but all have paths to outscoring these names and emerging as one of the more valuable pieces on the slate, making them worth keeping in mind as you build for tourneys.
- The Vikings will be without Adam Thielen again, so it will be a lot of 12 personnel with Irv Smith and Kyle Rudolph, a lot of Cook, and a lot of Diggs. Last week, Laquon Treadwell saw a number of looks, but the snaps didn’t back up the usage, and he’s still behind Cook // Diggs // Olabisi // tight ends in the pecking order on this offense.
- Cook does not have the matchup that CMC has (Dallas has struggled off and on against the run this year, but they have the pieces to be solid when things come together), and his role (as noted last week) is not as valuable as CMC’s. But he’s an interesting pivot as a guy whose ownership may dip a bit after he disappointed in a premium spot a week ago.
- Diggs, of course, does not have the locked-in usage of the “bullet point” names from this week (Thomas // Evans // Godwin), with his big showings this year generally coming on seven or eight targets. But we also know what he can do when things break his way. Dallas focuses on limiting downfield passing, so the spot isn’t great; but Diggs can always be considered for the upside, especially with Thielen set to miss.
- Nothing in this game pops off as must-play, but there are tourney considerations across the board, and there are ways to build around this game turning into a higher-scoring affair than the other games on this weekend’s slate.