What We Saw: Week 8

It's backup QB SZN

Cowboys @ Vikings

Final Score: Cowboys 20, Vikings 16

Writer: Corey Saucier (@Deputy_Commish on Twitter, /u/Lights_Kamara_Action on Reddit)

 

With Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott ruled a game-time decision coming into Sunday night’s matchup with the Vikings, the fantasy football world was forced to collectively hold its breath for a moment. Some of Prescott’s managers may have still had a replacement from the Cowboys’ bye week last week, but many were probably scrambling for a replacement at some point during the week. That being said, for those who were forced to start Cowboys’ backup QB Cooper Rush, it certainly could have been worse. Rush was more than adequate for Dallas – leading the Cowboys to a win on the road against Minnesota, and also providing a decent fantasy output as well.

You would think that with Prescott out Dallas would have relied heavily on the running game with RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, but it was the Cowboys’ pass-catchers who shined on Sunday night. Both WRs Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb ended up with 100+ receiving yards and at least 8 targets. TE Dalton Schultz had 7 targets of his own but wasn’t able to turn them into much. On the other sideline, QB Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense struggled all night to get anything going against the Cowboys’ defense. After conducting a 7-play, 75-yard opening TD drive, Cousins failed to lead Minnesota back to the end-zone. RB Dalvin Cook had one of his worst fantasy performances of the year. WR Justin Jefferson had by far the worst fantasy performance of the season – finishing with just 2 catches for 21 yards. What does this mean for your fantasy team as we near the halfway point of the season? Let’s dive into what we saw:

 

Dallas Cowboys

 

Quarterbacks

 

Cooper Rush: 24/40, 325 yards, 2 TD, INT | 1 carry, 2 yards, Fumble (Lost)

 

Nobody expected a huge performance from Dallas’ backup QB Cooper Rush in Prescott’s absence, so those who were forced to start him ended up with a pleasant surprise. Rush actually outscored opposing QB Kirk Cousins on Sunday night – even with two turnovers and an offense that loves to run the football. The Vikings’ defense decided to force Rush to beat them with his arm, but unfortunately, he did so just fine. While Rush and the Cowboys’ offense only put 3 points on the board in the first half, their second-half adjustments clearly paid off and Rush started slinging the ball all over the field. Rush got plenty of help from WR Cedric Wilson on his first TD pass:

 

 

Rush’s second TD pass was a beautiful throw to WR Amari Cooper where only his receiver could get to it:

 

 

We will have to monitor Prescott’s situation for Week 9 against Denver, but Rush has shown that he can possibly be trusted for a spot-start if Prescott can’t go.

 

Running Backs

 

Ezekiel Elliott: 16 carries, 50 yards | 6 targets, 4 receptions, 23 yards

Tony Pollard: 7 carries, 26 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 1 yards

 

It made sense to me that the Cowboys would lean on their ground game to move the ball against the Vikings with Prescott unable to play – apparently, it made sense to the Vikings’ defense as well. Minnesota stacked the box and sold out to force the Cowboys to beat them through the air, and it led to a couple of mediocre performances out of Dallas’ backfield. RB Ezekiel Elliott‘s 50 rushing yards were his fewest since Week 1 against Tampa Bay, but his 4 receptions helped to salvage his day in PPR formats. Zeke got close to the end-zone on this grab, but no cigar:

 

 

RB Tony Pollard had the more disappointing night by far – securing his worst fantasy outing of the season thus far. Pollard isn’t quite providing fantasy value of his own just yet, but if Zeke were to miss time Pollard would be considered one of the top handcuffs in the entire league. Both of Dallas’ backs will look to turn around their fortunes against a tough Broncos’ rush defense in Week 9.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Amari Cooper: 13 targets, 8 receptions, 122 yards, TD

CeeDee Lamb: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 112 yards

Cedric Wilson: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 84 yards, TD | 1/1, 35 yards

Dalton Schultz: 7 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards

 

No Dak throwing passes? No problem for the Cowboys’ top two wideouts WR Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Cooper was the other Cooper’s favorite target on the night – finishing with over 100 yards and a TD for the first time since Week 1. We saw Cooper’s TD grab in the opener, but check out this bobbling circus catch on Dallas’ winning TD drive:

 

 

CeeDee Lamb also had a big night for Dallas – posting at least 6 catches and 100+ yards for the third time this season. We saw that WRs Cedric Wilson and Cooper both found the end-zone while Lamb failed to, Lamb did pull in this nifty grab on an absolute bullet from Wilson on a trick play:

 

 

Minnesota Vikings

 

Quarterback

 

Kirk Cousins: 23/35, 184 yards, TD | 3 carries, 18 yards, Fumble

 

It was a pretty mediocre night for Vikings’ QB Kirk Cousins and the rest of the Vikings’ offense. Cousins struggled with his accuracy throughout the night – but not on this opening-drive TD pass to WR Adam Thielen:

 

 

Cousins was actually outscored by Cooper Rush from a fantasy standpoint and threw for fewer than 200 yards for the first time this season. Cousins has slowed considerably after his hot start (outside of his big week against Carolina in Week 6) but remains a fringe, borderline QB1, and decent streaming option week-to-week.

 

Running Backs

 

Dalvin Cook: 18 carries, 78 yards | 2 targets

Alexander Mattison: 2 carries, 5 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, -5 yards

 

Dallas’ defense kept RB Dalvin Cook frustrated all night on Sunday. Cook was able to bust a couple of nice runs throughout the course of the game, but he failed to score or bring in either of his two targets. Cook has scored only two TDs on the ground all season and has yet to score through the air – surely frustrating his managers to this point. That being said, Cook is still dominating touches out of this backfield and he seems to be completely healthy. Backup RB Alexander Mattison had just four touches in relief of Cook for zero total yards.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Adam Thielen: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 78 yards, TD

Justin Jefferson: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards | 0/1

Tyler Conklin: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 57 yards

 

The biggest story here was the absolutely shocking lack of work for Minnesota’s star second-year WR Justin Jefferson. Jefferson’s two catches were his fewest since Week 1 of his rookie season last year. Jefferson’s 4.1 PPR points were his fewest in a game that he played over 80% of the snaps of his young career so far. Jefferson was hyped for his premiere matchup with Cowboys’ star CB Trevon Diggs and vowed to show the world what he could do on Sunday night – and I’m guessing he wishes he would have shown something else. Seeing that Jefferson was only targeted four times throughout the entire game, it’s safe to say that Diggs won this matchup. WR Adam Thielen took advantage of the softer coverage – turning his 9 targets into 6 grabs, including Minnesota’s only TD of the night:

 

 

Thielen also gave us this nice grab which set up the Vikings for a FG just before halftime:

 

 

Corey Saucier (@Deputy_Commish on Twitter, /u/Lights_Kamara_Action on Reddit)

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