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Daily Fantasy Week 8: Sunday night picks for Cowboys-Vikings

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By Matt Savoca, 4for4

Special to Yahoo Sports

Yahoo is expanding its daily fantasy football options in 2021 with a single-game offering. Yahoo has a roster construction of one "Superstar" that scores at a 1.5 multiplier, while the remaining four FLEX roster spots accumulate points at the normal rate. This is half-point PPR scoring and the "Superstar" salary does not change from the Utility. All scoring and rules can be found here.

Editor's note: Dak Prescott was still considered questionable at time of this writing. It has been reported that he will not play on SNF; Cooper Rush will start at quarterback for the Cowboys.

This week, the 5-1 Cowboys, currently running away with the NFC East, head to Minnesota to face the 3-3 Vikings, who are currently clinging to the seventh seed in the NFC and need a win to keep their place in the playoff standings. For the Cowboys, the game plan hinges almost entirely on the health of Dak Prescott, who is fighting an uphill battle to play with a strained calf. While the following analysis is based on the assumption that Prescott is able to play, if the Cowboys are forced to go with Cooper Rush, we should significantly downgrade every single Dallas player to the point that they all become dart-throw plays at best.

Depending on the type of contest we’re creating rosters for, we’ll need to adjust our player selection strategy. If playing in a tournament with a huge amount of contestants, it will be vitally important to play something other than the optimal lineup based on projections. Differentiating yourself from the rest of the field is equally valuable. Once we understand the type of roster we need to be building for the specific contest you’re trying to take down, we can then focus on player selection, working to identify combinations of players who could all hit their respective ceilings together, based on specific game environments. Slow, run-oriented defensive battles often allow very different players to hit their ceiling score compared to when a game is fast-paced and pass-happy.

Vegas Total and Spread

Due to the uncertainty surrounding Dak Prescott’s availability, the spread has moved considerably in this contest. The original line had the Cowboys favored by 2.5 points, but as it currently stands, the Vikings are now favored by 2.5 points. The game total has fluctuated throughout the week but currently sits at its opening over/under of 52.

[Visit 4for4, where 92% of subscribers made the playoffs, for more]

Weather

With the Vikings playing in a dome, there is no weather to be concerned about, thankfully.

Potential Game Flow Scenarios

Assuming Dak Prescott ($35) is able to start in this contest, the Cowboys should operate at their typical blazing-fast pace. The Cowboys currently rank number one in the NFL in game-script adjusted pace of play, and combined with their well-above-average passing rate, consistently creating game environments that are highly conducive to fantasy scoring. More plays mean more opportunities for the array of superstars within the Dallas offense. Ezekiel Elliott ($31) hasn’t been the bellcow of year’s past but still ranks 11th overall in weighted opportunities, fifth in the NFL in red zone touches, and fifth in rush yards. His six total touchdowns rank third among all players. While Tony Pollard ($16) has carved out a role for himself, typically 10-12 opportunities per game, Elliott still has the highest probability of any Cowboys’ skill player of finding the end zone.

In the passing game, expect CeeDee Lamb ($27) to command the most targets, especially after his monster Week 6 performance, where he scored two touchdowns on a season-high nine catches. Amari Cooper ($23) should also see his typical 6–10 targets, as will Dalton Schultz ($18). Dallas should also get Michael Gallup ($16) back for this contest, which complicates the projections, but increases the chances of the Dallas offense hitting their ceiling against a Vikings defense ($14) that ranks just average in points allowed per play and in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA).

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 27: CeeDee Lamb #88 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates his second half touchdown with Dak Prescott #4 while playing the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium on September 27, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
CeeDee Lamb and the Cowboys' pass-catchers will take a major hit if Dak Prescott isn't able to play. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Vikings aren’t quite as fast-paced as the Cowboys but have increased their pass rates this season, which has expanded their passing offense beyond their big-two superstars, Justin Jefferson ($28) and Adam Thielen ($27). Still, the all-pro pair have commanded 69.6% of air yards and 47.6% of the team’s targets. That number is well over 50% when the Vikings get inside the red zone. The pair has a combined nine targets in the end zone, while no one else on the squad has more than one.

With the bye week to heal his injured ankle, Dalvin Cook ($32) should once again command an elite-level workload in the Vikings’ backfield. Cook has seen 25 or more opportunities in all but one game this season and saw a season-high 31 looks in his last game against the Panthers. Though Tyler Conklin ($14) and K.J. Osborn ($15) and possibly even Dede Westbrook ($10), will be involved, the Vikings offense goes as their big-three goes, regardless of opponent. The Cowboys ($19) rank below-average in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses and are slightly more susceptible via the air than via the rush. Kirk Cousins ($31) is in a decent spot, but his matchup has been overhyped. I’ll be fading Cousins in this contest, but I’ll still take shots on his skill players, who can succeed this Sunday without Cousins reaching his ceiling along with them.

[Play in Yahoo's $100K Single Game Baller for DAL vs. MIN]

Close, low-scoring game

  • Dalvin Cook

  • Ezekiel Elliott

  • Justin Jefferson

  • Adam Thielen

  • CeeDee Lamb

  • Tony Pollard

  • Dalton Schultz

Close, high-scoring game

  • CeeDee Lamb

  • Justin Jefferson

  • Adam Thielen

  • Dalvin Cook

  • Ezekiel Elliott

  • Dak Prescott

  • Tony Pollard

  • Kirk Cousins

  • Amari Cooper

Blowout for home team

  • Dalvin Cook

  • Justin Jefferson

  • Adam Thielen

  • Kirk Cousins

  • Dak Prescott

  • Amari Cooper

  • Dak Prescott

  • KJ Osborn

  • Tyler Conklin

  • Dede Westbrook

Blowout for away team

  • Dak Prescott

  • CeeDee Lamb

  • Amari Cooper

  • Ezekiel Elliott

  • Dalvin Cook

  • Kirk Cousins

  • Michael Gallup

  • Dalton Schultz

Cheap/Unique Stack Options

Tony Pollard ($16) and Cowboys Defense ($19)

With so many elite skill players in this contest, most fantasy gamers will be expecting an offensive barrage this Sunday, which could create an opportunity to be contrarian by building lineups that suggest a defensive struggle. The Cowboys' defense has made incredible strides this season, ranking eighth-best in the NFL in defensive expected points added per play. Tony Pollard, still overshadowed by Ezekiel Elliott, has seen a dozen or more opportunities in four of the Cowboys’ last five games, and has two 100-plus total yard games already this season, while never playing more than a 37% snap share. If the Cowboys dominate from start-to-finish, this could be a combination that propels you to the top of the leaderboards

Low Salary Volatile Plays

Michael Gallup ($16)

Gallup hasn’t played since Week 1, but is expected to be activated in time for this Sunday’s game, and should immediately slot in as the Cowboys’ third wideout once again. In limited action this season, Gallup has been heavily utilized, having earned seven targets in less than one half of play against the Buccaneers. Assuming Prescott plays and Gallup plays his typical snap share, Gallup represents low-salary access to six-plus targets on the high octane Cowboys offense

K.J. Osborn ($15)

Osborn has quietly put together quite a strong season as the Vikings’ third-option in the receiving game. Osborn earned nine targets in Week 1, which is still a season-high, but his seven targets in Week 7 are the third time he’s gotten seven-plus looks in his six contests this season. Though he ranks outside the top-50 wide receivers in the NFL in air yards share and target share, Osborn ranks top-35 in yards after the catch and in average yards of separation per target.

Tyler Conklin ($14)

Conklin has carved out a consistent role for himself in the typically condensed Minnesota offense, playing on over 75% of the Vikings’ snaps in each of the team’s last five games, and has pushed that number to 84.5% over the last three weeks. Conklin has also seen four-plus looks in five of six games this season. Conklin quietly ranks 11th among all tight ends in routes run, despite being the TE18 in fantasy points per game.

Superstar Picks

Dak Prescott ($35)

The game script this Sunday hinges almost entirely on the health and availability of Prescott. If he’s out and Cooper Rush is in, the Cowboys skill players have a near-zero percent chance of hitting their ceiling score in fantasy football, and a near-zero percent chance of winning the game. Prescott has been marvelous this season, ranking fourth in adjusted yards per attempt, 10th in fantasy points per dropback, and second in PlayerProfiler’s true completion percentage, that filters-out throw-aways and drops.

Justin Jefferson ($28)

Jefferson hasn’t had quite the impact he had a season ago but has still turned in five straight top-24 wide receiver performances, averaging over 14 fantasy points per game over that span. A beneficiary of the Viking’s increased pass volume, Jefferson has commanded double-digit targets in three of his last five games and seen multiple red-zone looks in three of his last four. His fourteen targets against Carolina in Week 6 were a career-high.

CeeDee Lamb ($27)

In the midst of a spectacular second season, Lamb was the WR1 in fantasy scoring in Week 6, posting nine catches for 149 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets. That marked the third game this season that Lamb has seen nine-plus targets, and he’s seen at least one red-zone look in all but one game this season. The Vikings rank right at league-average in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to wide receivers.

This article originally appeared in its full form on 4for4.com

A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position in middle school, Matt has been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, he loves to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone.

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