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Cowboys vs. Vikings Sunday Night Football Showdown Game Breakdown & NFL DFS Picks

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WEek 15 NFL DFS daily fantasy football DraftKings FanDuel lineup optimizer picks projections today tonight free expert advice tips lineup 2021 Amari Cooper NFL picks and parlays today tonight best bets betting picks odds lines predictions ROI free expert Thursday NIght Football betting advice Cowboys vs. Saints Amari Cooper NFL Player props

Welcome to the NFL Showdown Matchups Showdown Highlights for Week 8 Sunday Night Football. Here we will provide a quick overview of the game’s key storylines and highlight some of the key insights from Awesemo’s world-class suite of tools to find the best NFL DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel showdown lineups. Let’s dive into the NFL DFS picks today for the Week 8 Cowboys vs. Vikings Sunday Night Football matchup.

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Week 8 Sunday Night Football NFL DFS Showdown Picks

The 5-1 Cowboys have enjoyed their best start in half a decade and now head to Minnesota to face a 3-3 Vikings squad that is desperately clinging to the seventh seed in the highly competitive NFC. The game flow of this matchup would be rather easy to predict if Dak Prescott was confirmed to play, but his calf has clearly troubled him all week, making his status questionable. This analysis will assume that Prescott is able to suit up, but if Cooper Rush ends up being the Cowboys starting quarterback, as the Vegas line currently suggests, the Vikings should have no problem pummeling Dallas. In that scenario, downgrade the Cowboys skill players so significantly that they all become poor value plays, and the high-salary players are nearly unplayable outside of the largest of large-field tournaments.

Cook Is the Safest Player on the Slate

After missing Week 5 with an ankle injury, Cook came back in the game prior to the Vikings’ bye, earning a season-high 31 opportunities. Cook’s 4.6 yards per opportunity were modest for his standards, but he still posted the third-most fantasy points of any running back on the week. Cook ranks fourth in the NFL in opportunity share,= but has just a 2.2% touchdown rate, making him a prime positive regression candidate. The Cowboys rank below average in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses, which explains why Cook has an 18% chance of being the optimal Captain on DraftKings, highest on the slate. On FanDuel he is below the quarterbacks in optimal MVP probability, but not by much.

Jefferson Could Get the Diggs Treatment

While many Showdown gamers flock to the Cowboys pass catchers (assuming Prescott plays), there is some concern that Justin Jefferson could be shadowed by Trevon Diggs, the current front runner for defensive player of the year. The Cowboys quietly rank eighth in the NFL in expected points added per play, but the underlying metrics are not particularly bad for Jefferson. In fact, PFF gives Jefferson the fourth-most advantageous wide receiver matchup on the weekend. Jefferson  ranks 12th in target share and eighth in air yards share, good enough for WR8 in fantasy points per game.

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Starting Thielen Is Not Points Chasing

Thielen had his best statistical game of the season in Week 6, earning 13 targets, including two in the red zone, and he turned that elite-level opportunity into 11 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. That was good enough for the third-most fantasy points among wide receivers in Week 6. PFF ranks Thielen’s individual defensive matchups as more advantageous than all of the Cowboys wideouts, making his $8,400 salary on DraftKings one of the more appealing plays on the slate. Thielen has seen seven-plus targets in all but one game this season.

Prioritize Cooper Over Lamb

Lamb has been spectacular this season, ranking 12th among all wideouts in fantasy points per game despite being outside the top 24 receivers in target share, air yard share and targets per route run. Lamb has been fantastic with the ball in hands, ranking top 10 in yards after catch per target this season, but that production is less predictable week to week compared to volume, which Lamb is not consistently seeing. Lamb could easily have 10 catches for two scores in this game, he is not a bad play by any means. But Amari Cooper has seen 14 looks over his last two games and is a bit more appealing considering the steep salary discount on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Cooper’s probability of being the optimal Captain on DraftKings is nearly 2% higher than his higher-salary teammate. On FanDuel the gap is closer.

Elliott Is a Stronger Play if Prescott Starts

Should the Cowboys be forced to start Rush, the first thought by many might be to jam in Ezekiel Elliott, who could likely become the focal point of the depleted Dallas offense. Though Elliott would almost certainly be in line for more volume, the projected quality of that volume would diminish so highly that he would be a better play with Prescott in the lineup. Elliott’s $13,500 salary on FanDuel is inordinately high if not projecting three to four touchdown drives per game from the Cowboys offense. Elliott has survived on high-quality opportunities this year as it is, ranking fifth in the NFL in goal-line touches and third in total touchdowns. Tony Pollard is sneakily a strong start in large-field tournaments regardless of the quarterback.

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The Bottom Line

With Prescott under center, this could be the highest-scoring game on Sunday. Both offenses are highly consolidated, with a trio of skill players on each side commanding a massive share of their team’s high-value touches. While Dalton Schultz for the Cowboys and K.J. Osborn and Tyler Conklin on the Vikings have hit in previous games, their ceiling performances are tied to the game environment. For this game to be the type of game environment where those players are viable, Prescott must play at or near his typical high level. If Rush gets the nod, the game likely will be a defensive slog, the style of football Vikings coach Mike Zimmer would like to play anyway: Run focused, physical and slow paced. If that is the case, there could be some very low-scoring lineups taking top Showdown prizes.

Week 8 Sunday Night Football Prediction:

With Dak Prescott: Cowboys 31, Vikings 26

With Cooper Rush: Vikings 26, Cowboys 17


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If you’re interested in other DFS NFL football for multiple game slates, head over to NFL DFS projected ownership, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, daily fantasy football rankings, and NFL stacks. View our FanDuel NFL DFS ownership rankings and our DraftKings NFL DFS ownership rankings. Take a look at our inactive player list, starting lineups and depth charts. We also have FanDuel Single-Game slate tools and DraftKings showdown ownership projections.

A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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