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Cowboys vs. Saints Week 13 Thursday Night Football Showdown Game Breakdown & NFL DFS Picks

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Welcome to the NFL Showdown Matchups Showdown Highlights for Week 13 Thursday Night Football. Below is 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 13 Cowboys vs. Saints Thursday Night Football matchup.

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Week 13 Thursday Night Football NFL DFS Picks

The Cowboys head to New Orleans to take on the Saints, who have been reeling in recent weeks due to injuries. Now 5-6, the Saints have fallen to third in their division and are making a change at quarterback after scoring just 6 points against Buffalo on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys also had a rather disappointing showing last Thursday, though they scored 30-plus for the fourth time in their last seven games, even with both of their star wide receivers sidelined. The Dallas defense, however, fell flat on its face against the Raiders, giving up 36 points to a team that had failed to reach 20 points in four of its last six. With Dallas likely full strength in the receiving corps, and neither team’s defense among the elite, this game has shootout potential.

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Dak Prescott ($11,800 DraftKings/$16,500 FanDuel) was highly effective against Las Vegas a week ago, throwing for 8 yards per attempt, a mark he is reached in three of his last five starts. His two touchdown, 375-yard performance was the fourth time in six games he scored over 25 fantasy points. With both CeeDee Lamb ($10,000 DraftKings/$13,000 FanDuel) and Amari Cooper ($8,600 DraftKings/$11,500 FanDuel) expected to make their return, there is no reason to believe Prescott cannot continue rolling. His game against the Chiefs in Week 11, in which he threw for 5 yards per attempt and two interceptions, looks anomalous compared to the rest of his season. Plus, New Orleans has quietly slipped to 17th in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed and are much easier to attack through the air than via the ground game. Awesemo projects Lamb and Cooper for nearly identical fantasy production, with Lamb taking the slight edge in median projection. He also has the higher salary on both sites, making their value rankings nearly identical on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Lamb is also projected to be on more rosters than Cooper in most tournaments.

The Cowboys passing game was showing up well in the Awesemo optimizer, with both Prescott and Lamb being popular options. Check out all of our Awesemo optimizer plays and free NFL DFS picks in our DraftKings NFL cheat sheet and FanDuel NFL cheat sheet tonight.

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The running game is much tougher to figure out for Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott ($10,800 DraftKings/$14,000 FanDuel) is clearly hampered by a knee injury and has said as much in recent post-game interviews. The Cowboys have publicly discussed the possibility of dialing back his workload, and Elliott has played on less than 70% of team snaps in every game since Week 8. Elliott is still highly involved in the offense, however, and has been heavily involved in the passing game with Lamb and Cooper sidelined, seeing a total of 14 targets over the past two weeks. That volume would make him more than viable on a one-game slate. But with both receivers back, Elliott could get three to five targets. Tony Pollard ($7,800 DraftKings/$12,000 FanDuel) also complicates matters, but only because of how well he has been playing of late. On a per-touch basis Pollard has been the stronger back, ranking fourth in the NFL in evaded tackles per touch and fifth in runs of 10-plus yards. But Awesemo’s Top Plays Tool is not particularly bullish on either player, likely due to the fact that New Orleans is first in the NFL in yards allowed per carry by a wide margin. It suggests that even the auxiliary weapons in the Dallas passing game, such as Dalton Schultz ($7,600 DraftKings/$9,500 FanDuel) or Michael Gallup ($6,800 DraftKings/$10,500 FanDuel), have a higher likelihood of being the top scorer on the slate compared to Pollard, who has less than 3% chance of hitting that mark.

The New Orleans offense will be helmed by Taysom Hill ($9,600 DraftKings/$7,000 FanDuel), arguably the top option on the slate due to his dual-threat abilities. Hill will call his own number at the goal line plenty, though Hill has been up and down as a passer. He had 20 or more pass attempts in three games last year and averaged 253 yards and over 7.7 yards per attempt. He also added 55 yards rushing a game. If he were able to pull off a similar performance, it would more than justify his salary on any platform. Hill has the highest probability of being the optimal Captain play on both sites. That does not mean that Alvin Kamara ($11,200 DraftKings/$15,000 FanDuel) is unplayable. However, considering he is likely less than 100% healthy and could cede work to Hill and Mark Ingram ($5,000 DraftKings/$12,000 FanDuel), Kamara is a much riskier option than he normally is. Kamara has less than a 6% chance of being the optimal MVP play on FanDuel, and that number dips below 3% on DraftKings.

Thursday Morning Update: The Saints have ruled out Alvin Kamara, likely making Mark Ingram the most obvious play on the entire slate. In large-field tournaments it might be wise to strategically fade Ingram, but he’s still the top value play from either team.


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It is difficult to project the Saints passing attack with Hill under center for the first time this season, making Tre’Quan Smith ($5,600 DraftKings/$9,000 FanDuel), Deonte Harris ($4,600 DraftKings/$7,500 FanDuel) and Marquez Callaway ($6,400 DraftKings/$8,500 FanDuel) volatile but viable options in this game. The Dallas defense has faltered a bit of late, ranking bottom 10 in the NFL in yards allowed per pass attempt. There should be opportunities for Hill to hit players deep, an area he excelled as a passer last season. Hill completed 60% of his passes that traveled more than 20 yards downfield last season, which explains why Smith, New Orleans’ primary deep threat, is popping in Awesemo’s Top Plays Tool. Harris’ modest DraftKings salary also makes him a solid option, though he is only playing on 40% of snaps over the last three games. Juwan Johnson ($1,400 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel) continues to see more playing time but only has three targets since Week 10. It looks like the Saints will play Nick Vannett ($3,600 DraftKings/$7,000 FanDuel) over Johnson, but Awesemo sees Lil’Jordan Humphrey ($2,600 DraftKings/$7,500 FanDuel) or even Kenny Stills ($200 DraftKings/$6,000 FanDuel) as stronger options compared to either tight end. Humphrey has seen a significant boost in snaps the past two weeks and has six targets during that span. Ty Montgomery ($3,000 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel) saw seven targets a week ago with Kamara out of the lineup, but he will likely get much less run this week.

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The Dallas offense does not have as many available salary-saving options, but fantasy gamers could look to Noah Brown ($600 DraftKings/$6,500 FanDuel), who will not see a 78% snap share like he did a week ago. But with Cedrick Wilson expected to be inactive, Brown should continue to rotate in. He has seen 11 targets in the last two games, five more than Tony Pollard during that span. Brown is a stronger option than Sean McKeon ($1,000 DraftKings/$5,500 FanDuel), though McKeon caught a touchdown on his one and only target last week

The Bottom Line

It is difficult to project an offense that is making a change at quarterback, and the unique talents and shortcomings of Taysom Hill make that even harder. The Saints passing attack has a chance to succeed against Dallas, who continues to slide in most defensive metrics, but Hill’s first start of 2021 could also be a disaster. That could lead the Cowboys ($4,400 DraftKings) to become an optimal play where available. However, with both defenses seemingly more committed to stopping the run than the pass, both teams will attempt to air the ball out. An ugly, mistake-prone game is never out of the question, but there should be plenty of offensive fireworks.

Week 13 Thursday Night Football Prediction: Cowboys 34, Saints 27

With that prediction, it would point toward OVER 47.5 being the best bet in tonight’s Thursday Night Football game. Find the best NFL odds here to bet the over.


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We also have NFL DFS showdown projections and single-game ownership projections. Take a look at our NFL inactives, NFL starting line-ups and NFL depth chart list. If you’re interested in other DFS NFL advice for multiple game slates, head over to NFL ownership projections, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, NFL DFS rankings, and DFS NFL stacking. View our DraftKings NFL rankings and our FanDuel NFL ownership rankings.

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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