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The Cowboys threw a big contract to an offensive star this summer, ending all the controversy, locking the player up. Back to football. Crisis averted.
But did Jerry Jones send that bag of money to the wrong address?
I don’t blame anyone who prefers Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson in the MVP debate, but make some room for Dak Prescott, too. Prescott has turned into a superstar in his fourth year, the critical member of the NFC East favorites, the man who makes this offense hum.
Prescott’s form was never better than in Sunday’s 35-27 victory at Detroit. He threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns, didn’t turn the ball over, and took just one sack against 46 attempts. You can’t play much better than that.
It doesn’t seem to matter who Prescott is throwing to. Although a dinged-up Amari Cooper was held in check (3-38-0, eight targets), Prescott made hay elsewhere. Rising star Michael Gallup rang up nine catches for 148 yards, and back-in-style Randall Cobb (4-115-1) was also productive. Prescott hit on a chunk play with six different receivers.
Ezekiel Elliott, the man with the big contract, is still a prominent part of the Dallas offense. But he wasn’t effective on the ground Sunday — 16 rushes, just 45 yards. Zeke’s fantasy day was bailed out by a short touchdown run and a nifty touchdown gallop down the right sideline.
Face it: It’s Dak’s team and Dak’s offense. The Cowboys might have learned their lesson in last week’s loss to Minnesota when they went away from Prescott on the critical final drive.
Fantasy managers love Prescott because he’s dynamic and consistent. He’s been QB8 or higher in eight of his starts, and only once has he been outside the top 12. He brings you upside and floor on a weekly basis, and that’s the name of the game.
The rest of the schedule will challenge Prescott — at New England, Buffalo, at Chicago, LA Rams, at Philly, Washington. There isn’t an easy defense on that list (if you want to argue Washington, well, that’s Week 17). But given Prescott’s growing confidence, athleticism, and variety of targets, I’m not puling back from this offense or this quarterback. Baby, you’re a big star now.
Against the Cardinals, no tight end left behind
The Arizona defense continues to be lost with tight-end coverage. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side. Slumping O.J. Howard? Check. No-name Ross Dwelley of the 49ers? Check.
Dwelley picked up the start Sunday, in place of George Kittle, and he came through nicely. Four short catches, but two of them went for touchdowns. He had all of 10 catches for 52 yards before Sunday. There is no such thing as a bad start against the Cardinals. Don’t overthink it.
Arizona rests in Week 12, but this coverage problem won’t go away in a week. After that, it’s the Rams (hopefully a healthy Gerald Everett), the Steelers (Vance McDonald), the Browns (will David Njoku be ready to go?) and the Seahawks (the Patriots surely miss Jacob Hollister). Adjust your plans, as needed. The seam is open. The end zone awaits.
Jimmy Garoppolo is going to miss that Arizona pass defense. Garoppolo racked up eight touchdown passes in the two meetings; he has 10 touchdown passes in his other eight games. Sign me up for all the Deebo Samuel stock; I like Mike Salfino’s comp, linking Samuel to Anquan Boldin (lofty praise; Boldin will get Hall of Fame consideration).
• Maybe the 49ers defense inspired Kyler Murray, as he had two of his best three games against San Francisco. Sunday’s passes went for a puny 4.5 YPA, but Murray avoided the big mistake (no picks), and also ran proactively (67 yards, with a score). The Cardinals could easily finish the year on an upswing, turn into this year’s version of the 2018 Browns. Should that happen, here’s hoping the Cardinals stay level-headed in the offseason. The Browns spent much of their time on commercials (I feel like Baker Mayfield moved in with me) and parade routes.
• In a few months, the Buccaneers can start humming Closing Time to Jameis Winston. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. The Saints were without cover ace Marshon Lattimore on Sunday, but it didn’t help Winston. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were invisible for a half, when the game was lost. Winston threw four soul-crushing picks, and a few medicine balls hit the turf.
I thought Ronald Jones could build on Week 10 momentum because he caught eight passes, maybe marked some territory. So much for that; he had one receiving yard Sunday. The Bucs didn’t try to run the ball at all; other than two Winston scrambles, they had six rush attempts. There are elements of this offense that still hold fantasy value, obviously, but my nerves can’t watch these guys, snap-to-snap.
• DJ Chark sure looks like a league-winner, an early FAAB pickup who’s been consistent and dynamic all year. Chark was peppered with 15 targets in the Nick Foles return game at Indianapolis, scoring once early and once late. The Jaguars have just one rushing touchdown all year and a favorable passing schedule to come. Maybe Chark can drag Foles — who was rusty but not terrible Sunday — into relevance, too.
• Nobody thinks Brandon Allen is a long-term quarterback answer for the Broncos. But I can’t wait to see what Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant can do with better quarterback play. Sutton is already a star — he had 161 yards of offense in the shootout loss at Minnesota, his own personal run, pass, catch competition. Fant wasn’t efficient on 11 targets (4-60-0), but given how difficult the tight end position is, I’m thrilled with his rookie year resume. I’ll keep pushing play on both of these guys.
• While Lamar Jackson was brilliant again (four total touchdowns, 308 total yards, no mistakes), Deshaun Watson was a mess on the other side. The Houston line did a poor job protecting Watson (six sacks), but a lot of those sacks are on Watson — poor pocket awareness, and a lack of pre-snap recognition.
Houston tried to get DeAndre Hopkins going but he managed an ordinary 80 yards on 12 targets. No one else in the passing game had a playable day. Why not utilize Duke Johnson (two piddly targets), a receiver who can provide cheap, easy gains from low-risk passes? Ah, only Bill O’Brien could answer that — and he’s surely not telling us.
• New England’s base offense has three viable pass-throwers on the field at all times (Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Mo Sanu); Edelman threw a strike to Philip Dorsett for the go-ahead touchdown at Philly. New England will need to sprinkle in those plays, given how difficult it is for the Patriots to make splash plays with anything conventional. Edelman and James White are fantastic bass players, but this offense desperately needs a lead guitarist.
• Kalen Ballage was so awful in his stint (14 touches, 17 yards), Patrick Laird comparatively looked like Marshall Faulk during garbage time. Ballage did get a roll of touchdown deodorant, but if I had to bet on any back here, I’ll try Laird. DeVante Parker wasn’t fazed by the Bills coverage (7-135-0, 10 targets); he’s one of Miami’s 2019 hits. Mike Gesicki was mediocre for the second straight week.
• Let’s keep our feet on the ground with Bo Scarbrough; 14 carries for 55 yards is not a parade-throwing event, though we respect the touchdown and the effort. But his Week 11 debut underscores one simple fact of NFL life — running back is essentially a plug-and-play position, and it’s common for unheralded players to quickly turn into useful pieces. Of all the skill areas, it’s the one with the least power-up time needed.
The Lions seem to value Scarbrough’s power and decisiveness, which is good. There is no lateral agility to speak of.
• Jeff Driskel is obviously a major step down from Matthew Stafford, but he doesn’t unplug the entire offense. He has a good understanding of the game, and he’s unafraid to improvise. You tweak your Detroit expectations, sure, but at least we can still use the primary pieces here.
• Ryan Griffin doesn’t have Chris Herndon’s long-term upside, but Griffin is healthy and producing (and Herndon is out for the year). Don’t question it. Welcome to the circle of trust, Griff. We care about the numbers, not the names. It helps that Sam Darnold has regained his health and confidence.
• Kyle Allen was so awful Sunday, it’s hard to know how much credit the Falcons defense deserves after four picks and five sacks. But keep in mind Atlanta hounded Drew Brees a week ago and made the Saints look like a mediocre offense. The Falcons haven’t quit on Dan Quinn, and we need to reevaluate this team. Atlanta sticks in the division the next three weeks, hosting Tampa Bay before the New Orleans and Carolina rematches.
• We figured Brian Hill had projectable volume, and he did — 16 touches. Alas, they went nowhere. He did have a short touchdown wiped out by penalty. Volume hunting is still critically important in fantasy.