Not long ago, this matchup would have been seen as a battle between two supremely talented squads on the verge of fighting for the championship. After the last few weeks and, knowing the results from Thanksgiving, this is looking more like Thursday Night Football: Contender vs. Pretender.
The Dallas Cowboys (8-3) demolished Washington recently on their way to winning their third consecutive game and earning the largest point differential across the NFL.
The Seattle Seahawks (6-5) can be happy to still sport a winning record after getting run over (literally) by the San Francisco 49ers on Turkey Day, making it back-to-back defeats for the team out of Emerald City.
After getting undeniably beaten 37-3 by Baltimore in Week 10, Seattle defeated Washington and was very much considered a serious threat for any other good-not-great franchise looking to make a surprise deep postseason run.
Not anymore, folks.
The Cowboys, however, have been resilient and able to bounce back every time they’ve faced adversity through the first 12 weeks of play. That said, they will have to prove they are contenders (and not Seattle-like pretenders) during the next few games as the competition they will face will be much tougher than previous opponents.
Dallas opened the week as the favorites over the Seahawks and it isn’t even close for the oddsmakers as they’re giving the Cowboys a large -7.5 spread. That moved to an even larger gap as we approached kickoff time, with Dallas favored by nine points entering TNF.
The total points projection is set at 47.5, a rather large figure across the league’s Week 13 slate of games. For context, Dallas is averaging 31.5 points per game while Seattle has scored 20.8 a pop, making it a combined 52.3 between them. These two defenses are giving up 16.8 (Dallas) and 22.6 (Seattle), combining for a much lower 39.4 points-against per game.
How do Seahawks and Cowboys arrive at their TNF matchup?
All things considered, it looks like reality is finally catching up with the Seattle Seahawks. After starting the season winning five of their first seven matchups and six of their first nine, they have now dropped back-to-back games, losing matches at the Los Angeles Rams and against the San Francisco 49ers at home.
The problem for Seattle is that its schedule isn’t getting any easier with consecutive games on the road at Dallas and San Francisco, followed by a reception of the league-leading Philadelphia Eagles.
Most concerningly, it’s starting to look like Seattle simply cannot compete against the cream of the NFL crop. The 49ers destroyed them on Thanksgiving (31-13). The Ravens limited the Seahawks to a meager three points. Only a close early-season win against Detroit (37-31) saves the Seahawks from ignominy.
The Cowboys shouldn’t rest on their laurels either as they might suffer the same fate as the Seahawks if they don’t keep the pedal to the metal through the remainder of the season. Barring the matchup against Seattle on TNF and a season finale at Washington, Dallas still has to visit Buffalo and Miami while sandwiching those trips with games against Philadelphia and Detroit.
Dallas has beaten rather mediocre competition to date, but you can’t choose who you play against. The two times the Cowboys met top-of-the-order franchises (San Francisco in Week 5 and Philadelphia in Week 9) they lost by 32 and five points, respectively (both on the road). The Cowboys have bounced back from that latter loss, however, by winning three consecutive games and scoring 49, 33 and 45 points, respectively, while only allowing 37 points combined in those three matchups.
There is no arguing the Cowboys should be considered contenders who are seemingly clicking at the perfect time as we get into December. But to label them “serious top-tier contenders," however, will require proof that what they’ve done is real and not just a bunch of subpar-opponent-boosted smoke and mirrors.
It is also worth noting that the Cowboys extended their home winning streak to 13 games on Thanksgiving … although they have lost their last four games against Seattle (two home in 2015 and 2017; two away in 2018 and 2020).
TNF Week 13: Injury Report
The Cowboys' and Seahawks' injury reports were filled with many more concerns a week ago than this week, although that doesn’t mean you could simply avoid tracking them during the past few days.
Walker was getting talked about as a potential go for this week’s matchup as early as last Friday, but after missing back-to-back practices to start the week coach Pete Carroll pretty much ruled him out for Thursday’s game, and that is what has happened as he will miss this matchup.
On the other hand, tight end Will Dissly didn’t practice on Monday but he was limited on Tuesday aiming at playing come kickoff time on TNF, which he is expected to do at the time of this writing. Dissly is listed as “questionable."
Dallas cleared wideouts Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb ahead of their last TNF game and backup running back Rico Dowdle also played after being listed as “questionable” for the game against Washington.
No Cowboys player left last week’s game injured and the team hasn’t included any fantasy-relevant performer in their injury report through the week leading up to TNF, so everybody should be good to go.
One stat that can swing the balance
The Seahawks' run defense has gone from best (Weeks 1-7) to third-worst (Weeks 8-12) in opponent’s success rate in such plays
The best players on both of these two teams can be found at either the quarterback and/or the wide receiver position. It takes two to tango, so those two things go by the hand whether we like it or not, so we’d rather look into other potential edges to exploit on this TNF matchup.
This game, as much as Seattle fans might hate to find out later, is probably going to be dominated by Dallas. That could lead to a positive game script and thus to a nice opportunity for Pollard to keep building on his recent outcomes.
Seattle's defense is mediocre-to-bad ranking no better than 20th league-wide in the points, passing yards and rushing yards allowed metrics. The Seahawks also have the fourth-worst defense against fantasy football running backs, currently allowing 23.2 FPPG to opposing RBs in Yahoo leagues.
In the last five games, not only has the success rate of opposing offenses rushing the rock been sky-high (which means more opportunities and extended drives for Seattle's rivals) against the Seahawks, but all of those backfields have scored between 18.2 and 41.1 FP.
The Seahawks have given up seven rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns to running backs in the last five weeks combined.
The opposite can be said about the Dallas Cowboys' defense against the pass, which is allowing a paltry 21.9 FPPG (third fewest) to opposing fantasy wide receiver units and limiting fantasy quarterbacks to 14.8 FPPG (ninth fewest) through Week 11.
Seattle will need to pass the ball a lot to try and catch up with Dallas in the most likely of scenarios, but not even that is probably going to yield gaudy results on TNF for those playing fantasy football and boasting Seahawks players in their lineups.
One player to start, two to leave on your bench
Prioritize in DFS: RB Tony Pollard (DAL)
If I’m honest, I didn’t expect to check Pollard’s rostership in Yahoo and find a perfect 100% next to his name. The Cowboys rusher has not been awful, far from it, but he’s barely among the top-20 RBs in FPPG league-wide, scoring 12 fantasy points per contest in half-PPR formats.
After a strong start to the season (three consecutive games scoring at least 13.6 FP), Pollard had a rough stint from Week 4 through Week 10 in which he scored only a combined 47.2 FP. But Pollard returned to his best version the last two weeks, scoring a total of 35.3 FP combined in those two matchups.
It’s been back-to-back weeks scoring a rushing touchdown for Pollard, whose usage and touches have not changed throughout the season. He will keep getting around 12-to-15 carries per game, getting targeted five times and making the most of his chances. He has shown signs of being the back we all expected him to be entering the season these past two weeks.
He should keep those standards high on tonight's matchup.
Consider benching: WR DK Metcalf (SEA)
Most weeks you’re not sitting someone like Metcalf. If you have a better option this week, however, it might be a good time to give such a player a role in your starting lineup instead of adding Metcalf to it, as hard as that might be to stomach.
Metcalf has been targeted at least nine times in the last three games. He’s gotten at least nine looks in five of the last six games, all of them following Seattle’s bye week. Even when he was targeted only four times against Baltimore, he turned that one grab into 50 receiving yards!
That’s precisely the problem with Metcalf: he’s a supremely volatile player. He’s coming off a season-low 4.7 FP in Week 12. The week before he posted a season-high 17.9 FP. He’s as capable of reaching those heights (four games scoring 12+ FP) as he is of disappearing (four games failing to reach 10 FP).
In the last two games in which Metcalf faced a top-tier defense against fantasy WRs (vs. CLE, at BAL) he only scored 9.2 and 5.5 points, respectively. He’s going against the No. 3 defense against fantasy wide receivers on TNF.
The Cowboys have allowed an opposing wide receiver to score 10+ FP just two times since Week 10 and 15+ FP only three times all season long. Not liking Metcalf’s outlook here.
Bench: TE Jake Ferguson (DAL)
What’s the real version of Jake Ferguson? The Cowboys are surely clicking on offense of late with Dak Prescott playing his best football of the season during the last month, but that has surprisingly coincided with Ferguson’s drop in production in half of those matchups, namely the last two.
At Carolina in Week 11, Ferguson caught three passes (five targets) for 32 yards, failing to score a touchdown following back-to-back-to-back games with a score. Then, last week, Ferguson could only grab one of three targets for 35 yards, once again failing to score.
As I said, Ferguson hit the jets in the Week 8 through Week 10 span, catching 15 total passes for 164 yards and 3 TDs combined. He grabbed at least four passes in each of those games and racked up 47, 96 and 26 yards, respectively.
Ferguson, however, is now enduring another rough spell similar to the one he went through during the first five weeks of play (only one game scoring more than nine FP when he went 7-for-7 for 77 yards in Week 3).
If the tight end and Prescott can rebuild their rapport this week, then I will consider making Ferguson a priority in my lineups again. Until they prove they haven’t lost it for good, I’ll be fading him.
Start: RB Zach Charbonnet (SEA)
Zach Charbonnet should be Seattle's RB1 in Walker's absence this week. The rookie has been seeing more snaps with each passing week and that should stay the same tonight. The Cowboys' defense won't make things easy, but having such a large role (paired with Charbonnet's own skills) should be enough to start the rookie in nearly every league.
Charbonnet wasn't much of a factor before the Seahawks' bye week, but he's started to find his way toward taking many more snaps lately, surpassing a 50% snap share in the last five games including back-to-back matchups appearing in 85% or more. Last week, with Walker out, Charbonnet stayed on the field pretty much every important snap only sitting for breathers, appearing in a season-high 88% of the Seahawks' total offensive plays.
Dallas should dominate and win this game, which might lead Seattle to lean more on passing the ball instead of rushing it. Still, it's not that we can expect the Seahawks to get just above seven minutes of ball possession this TNF as happened to them in the first half of the game they played a week ago — thus limiting Charbonnet's opportunities.
Charbonnet has reached at least 7.8 FP in his last three games and in the past two weeks he's logged 15 and 14 carries, respectively, turning those to back-to-back 47 rushing yards. Most promising is that he can grab passes nicely, getting targeted 15 times through the last three games and catching 14 of those throws for 51 yards.
One player to scout as a potential weekly flex option
Dallas Cowboys WR Brandin Cooks (62% rostered)
We tend to keep this section reserved for players rostered in fewer than half of all Yahoo leagues, but I couldn’t pass on recommending adding Cooks as a late-season, league-winning option. Maybe you play in a shallow league where he's on the waiver wire, or maybe he's been a bench-warmer for you. Here's why he could be more.
Cooks has scored around the 50th-most fantasy points in half-PPR formats thanks to a season-long stat line featuring 33 receptions on 48 targets for 452 yards and four touchdowns.
It took Cooks a while to click (he had a paltry 11.4 FP through Week 5), but he’s scored 75.6 FP in his last six games played combined. Cooks has scored four touchdowns in that span.
Cooks might be a little bit volatile (thus his current rostership, as he’s not the most reliable player out there), but he’s improved his performances of late while showing a ceiling that saw him reach a ridiculous 9-173-1 stat line just three weeks ago when he scored a season-high 27.8 FP.
Feel free to throw Cooks in your lineup if you are WR-needy, or add him if he's somehow still available. You could do much worse in a heavy bye week.