Cowboys @ Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals fumbled on their first three offensive possessions with one returned for a touchdown, allowing Andy Dalton to cruise to a 30-7 win in his return to Cincinnati. The Bengals won the time of possession battle 34:41 – 25:19 despite the loss, putting a damper on the Cowboys’ fantasy performances. The biggest takeaway from this game was how just much these offenses miss their injured franchise quarterbacks.
Andy Dalton: 16/23, 185 yards, 2 TDs, 2 sacks | 1 carry, -1 yard
Andy Dalton managed the game in this one and did enough for the win, but did little to change our opinions of this offense from a fantasy perspective. After an early Bengals’ turnover, the offense settled for a field goal on a short field. Dalton’s defense returned a fumble for a touchdown on the second drive to make it 10-0, so the Cowboys’ offense spent much of the first quarter on the sidelines (they were on the field for only 3 minutes in the first quarter). Towards the end of the half, Dalton began to get into a rhythm, targeting Amari Cooper on back-to-back plays and converting a 3rd and 14 in the process. He capped the drive with an easy slant for a touchdown to Cooper, giving the Cowboys a 17-0 lead at the time. After a big kick return to start the second half, Dalton completed a pass to the 3-yard line, but the offense stalled and settled for a field goal. With a 20-7 lead and the Bengals showing very little on offense, the Cowboys coasted through the fourth quarter for the easy victory. Dalton remains no more than a back end starter in two-quarterback leagues.
Ezekiel Elliott: 12 carries, 48 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards
Tony Pollard: 11 carries, 39 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 9 yards, 1 TD
Ezekiel Elliott looked fine in this one but certainly didn’t have many explosive plays. While the Bengals controlled the ball for a large portion of the game, Elliott didn’t see the volume you would typically expect from a 30-7 victory. Elliott had a carry in the second half on first and goal from the 3-yard line but was stuffed, and the offense chose to pass on the next two plays and ultimately settled for a field goal. It was a disappointing game in a prime matchup, and with as much as Tony Pollard mixed in, Elliott doesn’t look like a top-end fantasy option for the rest of the season.
Pollard saw the field often and looked solid on offense. He made his biggest play in the return game, taking the opening kickoff of the second half for 60 yards past midfield. Pollard caught a short pass off play-action on 4th and 1 deep into garbage time for a 7-yard touchdown but remains just a handcuff in a limited offense.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Amari Cooper: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 51 yards, 1 TD
CeeDee Lamb: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 46 yards | 1 carry, 15 yards
Michael Gallup: 6 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards
Dalton Schultz: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 34 yards
Amari Cooper was the best Cowboys receiver in this one and paid off for fantasy managers with a first-half touchdown. Most of Cooper’s work came on slants, with his two biggest plays (the touchdown and a 3rd and 14 conversion) coming on that play type. After his 3rd and 14 conversion, he lined up in the slot the next play and ran an out-breaking route for another catch. Cooper had a goal line target on the opening drive in the 3rd quarter that was incomplete and was barely needed afterward. Cooper no doubt would have had a bigger day if Dallas had needed to put up points in the second half.
— QB List (@TheQBlist) December 13, 2020
CeeDee Lamb produced more yardage than you could hope for on just three opportunities, but he was clearly squeezed out in a game where Dallas didn’t need to air it out. Lamb picked up a 3rd and 6 out of the slot on their touchdown scoring drive in the first half and took an end-around to start the second half where he made Bengals defenders look silly. Otherwise, he was an afterthought and is likely only playable in potential shootouts where Dalton will need to throw more often.
Michael Gallup was actually the most targeted Cowboys’ wide receiver but tends to draw the more difficult opportunities, which is not ideal with Dalton at quarterback. Gallup missed out on a red zone target on a play-action roll out, so a better fantasy day was possible. But in this limited offense, there just aren’t enough looks to support Gallup at the moment. Dalton Schultz caught a tough pass to get Dallas to the 3-yard line, just missing a score. But the low volume nature of the passing offense limited him in this one.
Brandon Allen: 27/36, 217 yards, 1 TD | 4 carries, 12 yards
Ryan Finley: 1/2, 5 yards, 2 sacks
There’s very little hope at quarterback in Cincinnati with Joe Burrow sidelined, as neither Brandon Allen nor Ryan Finley has looked good at all. Allen played most of the game, often checking down short of the sticks. He was put behind the eight-ball from the start as his teammates fumbled on their first three possessions, but he never was able to get anything going in the passing game. Even on their lone touchdown drive, Allen threw inexplicably threw into triple coverage in the red zone and should have been picked off. He did follow that up with a touchdown to A.J. Green for his only score of the game. Allen was hobbling down the stretch for several drives and seemed to be in pain, and was eventually replaced by Finley who looked even worse. I would expect Allen to start if healthy, but neither QB is on the fantasy radar.
Giovani Bernard: 3 carries, 8 yards, 1 fumble lost | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 15 yards
Trayveon Williams: 12 carries, 49 yards, 1 fumble lost | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 14 yards
Samaje Perine: 10 carries, 32 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 9 yards
Veteran running back Giovani Bernard drew the start for the Bengals and fumbled on the second play of the game. Bernard had an NFL-best streak of 829 consecutive attempts without a fumble snapped, and apparently, he had built up no margin for error, as he was shockingly benched for the rest of the first half. Bernard would finally return in the second half, but at that point a three-man rotation had developed, and Bernard had a massively disappointing day. He will be hard to trust for the remainder of the season, as the Bengals are likely goin to be motivated to try some young players as they finish out a lost season. Watch for what Coach Zac Taylor has to say about Bernard in the media this week.
Trayveon Williams was the first in line behind Bernard and had a much more egregious fumble than Bernard on his own first drive. Williams ran into the back of his own lineman and fumbled, with the Cowboys returning it for a touchdown. For some reason, Williams wasn’t punished like Bernard, however, and saw snaps throughout the game. Williams looked solid on his opportunities and was capable in the passing game, so there could be something here. But with Bernard the superior third-down back and Samaje Perine serving as the backup for most of the year, there likely isn’t a big enough role to make Williams fantasy-relevant.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Tyler Boyd: 9 targets, 5 receptions, 43 yards
Tee Higgins: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 49 yards
A.J. Green: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 62 yards, 1 TD
Alex Erickson: 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards| 1 carries, 0 yards, 1 fumble
Drew Sample: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 21 yards
Tyler Boyd still looks like the most consistent option in this passing game, as he is a talented route-runner over the middle and is an easy target for the Bengals’ miserable quarterbacks. On their second drive of the game, Cincinnati gave Boyd a jet sweep where he took advantage of some pretty bad defense and then had an 11-yard catch on the next play. Unfortunately, Green’s uptick in targets cut into Boyd’s work, and this offense can’t support three primary receiving options. Boyd has a decent weekly floor, but his ceiling is nonexistent without Burrow.
Tee Higgins looked good, and his career has a bright future. But with Allen at quarterback, Higgins is just a player with a consistent floor and little upside. Higgins got open in different parts of the field and was a versatile option, but is competing with two other receivers in a struggling offense. The Bengals will keep giving him looks each week because he is a big part of their future, so he isn’t going away. But like Boyd, his ceiling is very touchdown-dependent.
A.J. Green returned from the dead and had a flurry of targets toward the end of the first half, including where he scored the Bengals’ lone touchdown of the game split out on his own in the red zone. Allen took advantage of the single coverage and got him the ball. Green has lost his top-end speed so he is more of a contested-catch player at this point, but he will continue to work at adapting his game as he plays for his next contract. Drew Sample was just a safety valve in this one and the running backs saw more of those opportunities than he did.
— QB List (@TheQBlist) December 13, 2020
— Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter, truebest on Reddit)