Kickoff: Sunday, October 1st, 4:25 PM ET
Location: AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX
Betting Odds: DAL -7, O/U 42.5 via OddsShark
Writer: Nick Beaudoin
New England Patriots
Mac Jones (Sit, QB2)
The Patriots are coming off their first win of the season against divisional rival New York Jets, where Mac Jones finished the week as QB24 with 201 yards passing and one touchdown, adding 13 yards on four rushing attempts. There is an argument that the Jets have one of the best defenses in the league. However, the same could be said for the Dallas Cowboys – at least we think so. After losing star CB Trevon Diggs to a torn ACL, the Cowboys looked like a different team and were exploited by the 0-2 Arizona Cardinals. What version of the Cowboys shows up on Sunday is difficult to predict, but with a team-implied point total of 18 for New England, it doesn’t look promising for Mac Jones and his receiving core. The Patriots are expected to be playing from behind, which may force Jones to pass more out of necessity. However, with zero rushing upside and not many weapons around him, we can safely bet on Michael McCorkle to fall into QB2 territory this week.
Rhamondre Stevenson (Start, RB2), Ezekiel Elliott (Sit, FLEX)
The fantasy community expected big things for Rhamondre Stevenson with the addition of OC Bill O’Brien, but so far the entire Patriots offense has been underwhelming. Volume has been key for Stevenson, averaging 15.3 carries as well as four targets per game, but with one touchdown and just 2.9 YPC, we haven’t seen the RB1 finishes we hoped for after drafting him as a top-10 running back. To make matters worse, late addition Ezekiel Elliott has been quietly eating into his workload, averaging 4.4 YPC on the season, and earning 16 carries for 80 yards against the Jets this past week. Zeke is also seeing targets and grading higher in pass protection, which is a big reason he was signed to New England in the first place. This past week, James Conner and the Cardinals stomped all over the Cowboys’ front seven, and I expect the Patriots to take the same approach after their RB duo combined for 35 rushing attempts against the Jets. Stevenson should be started as an RB2 but with tempered expectations as a 7-point underdog. Fortunately, he is a better receiver and more explosive than Elliott, so he will be the one on the field with the game on the line. Stevenson is a safe, volume-based RB2, while Elliott remains an increasingly interesting sit with FLEX upside.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Kendrick Bourne (Start, WR3), Davante Parker (Sit, FLEX), Demario Douglas (Sit), Hunter Henry (Start, TE1), Mike Gesicki (Sit, TE2)
The Patriots receiving core is a mess. Against the Jets, we saw Pharaoh Brown as the hero with a 58-yard touchdown reception, but his name won’t even be on this list.
If we have to start someone, it should probably be Kendrick Bourne with WR3 expectations. After being the topic of trade talks last year, Bourne has quietly become the #1 WR in New England, leading the team in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The Cowboys just lost Trevon Diggs for the year, allowing Cardinals #1 WR Marquise Brown five receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. The issue is that Kendrick Bourne is nowhere near as talented as Marquise Brown, so these numbers are likely his ceiling. However, in the two games that the Patriots have been trailing this season, Bourne has seen 11 and 9 targets. As seven-point underdogs, Bourne will likely be the recipient of 7+ targets again this week, putting him in high-WR3 range against the Cowboys.
Davante Parker is the next man up for the Patriots and should be considered a FLEX play at best. He will likely get 5-7 targets if the Patriots do end up playing from behind, but with only three touchdowns in his Patriots career, he is as inconsistent as they come and should not be trusted in your fantasy lineup.
Demario Douglas seems to be in the coach’s favor in New England. However, at this point in his career, he is a depth piece and not a fantasy asset. Belichick does not have a history of using rookie WRs, and against a (usually) solid Dallas defense, this is not the week to bet on it.
Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki together form an extremely talented and underrated TE room. Henry is Jones’ preferred target at this point, and although this past week was a dud, he put up TE1 numbers in the first two weeks of the season. This is not a great matchup for Henry or Gesicki as the Cowboys have shut down every tight end they’ve faced. Still, Henry is Jones’ favorite red zone option and a stream-worthy TE1 option if you have nowhere else to go. Gesicki on the other hand is due for a game, but with a season-high of 36 yards in a single game, he cannot be trusted this week against the Cowboys.
Dak Prescott (Start, QB2)
Despite Dallas scoring 40 points in Week 1, Dak Prescott has not scored above QB17 numbers through the first three weeks of this season, and I don’t expect this to change against a New England defense that has already held Jalen Hurts to QB19 and Tua Tagovailoa to QB26 (We don’t need to bother with Zach Wilson’s stat line). New England’s offense is as vanilla as they come, but their defense is stout, and with HC Mike McCarthy allowing OC Kellen Moore to leave for wanting to “light the scoreboard up,” we can expect a slow-paced, run-first, defensive battle this week against New England. CeeDee Lamb is elite and going to create mismatches all over the field, but there is still no reason to believe that this week will be Dak’s first as a QB1.
Tony Pollard (Start, RB1), Rico Dowdle (Sit)
Tony Pollard has been handed the reigns in the Dallas backfield, and he has capitalized at every turn with three top-13 finishes through the first three weeks. After years of the Dallas front office telling us that Pollard’s reps need to be managed, he is involved heavily in the rushing and receiving game, averaging 24.6 touches per game through the first three weeks. This does feel like an unsustainable level of usage for a 6’0, 209-pound, 26-year-old back, but Pollard has week-winning upside regardless of matchup and should be comfortably in your RB1 spot again this week.
Rico Dowdle has carved out a small role as a complementary back behind Pollard, averaging seven touches per game, and scoring his first NFL touchdown off a screen pass against Arizona last week; however, he should not be viewed as more than a deeper-league bench stash unless his usage increases.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
CeeDee Lamb (Start, High-WR2), Michael Gallup (Sit, FLEX), Brandin Cooks (Sit), Jake Ferguson (Sit, TE2)
CeeDee Lamb is one of the most talented wide receivers in the league, trying to make his case to be included in the “Justin Jefferson / JaMarr Chase” tier this season. However, with a slower-paced Dallas offense, Lamb has only finished as a WR1 once through the first three weeks of the season. This is not a great matchup against New England, but Lamb has established dominance in worse matchups (including New England) before. Coming off a 1,359-yard season, he is the type of talent that you set and forget in your lineups each week, and I’m projecting a WR2 finish this week.
Michael Gallup is second on the list because he finished Week 3 with six catches on seven targets for 92 yards receiving. This was heavily due to a negative game script, as he has only managed two receptions on four targets for 13 yards in the first two weeks. With that being said, he does appear to be the #2 WR on this team, displaying chemistry with Dak from their previous years together. However, in an expected low-scoring matchup against New England, Gallup is a low-floor, low-ceiling FLEX play, and can safely be left on your bench.
Brandin Cooks saw a season-high seven targets in this week’s loss to Arizona but only managed two receptions for 17 yards. With just 39 yards receiving on the season, Cooks can safely be left on your bench until further notice.
Despite drafting Luke Schoonmaker in the second round of this year’s draft, Dallas has had Jake Ferguson handle the pass-catching role through the first three weeks. Ferguson is a capable tight end, but like the Cowboys, the Patriots have shut down all tight ends they have played so far, including a zero-reception Week 1 against Dallas Goedert. With one TE1 week so far (TE11) from Ferguson, he will be a low-floor, low-ceiling option this week against New England, and it will be best to look for upside elsewhere.
– Nick Beaudoin