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NFL DFS Showdown Spotlight: Week 13 Thursday Night Football DraftKings & FanDuel | Cowboys vs. Saints

Eric MacPherson



For each of the featured games, typically Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football slates, we will provide free analysis for the single-slate action on DraftKings and FanDuel. This will include team capsules, player rankings, comments and NFL DFS picks for today. There are loads of information and NFL DFS Showdown picks to get into for both DraftKings and FanDuel on this Week 13 Thursday Night Football slate featuring the Dallas Cowboys at the New Orleans Saints.

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NFL DFS Showdown Picks: Week 13 Thursday Night Football

Amari Cooper (health and safety) returned to a limited practice Wednesday after missing the last two weeks and is questionable for Thursday Night Football. Fellow wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (ankle) is out, and reserve wideout Malik Turner (illness) did not practice this week. The New Orleans defense will be without linemen Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) and Marcus Davenport (shoulder), while linebacker Kaden Elliss is out with a hamstring issue. Alvin Kamara (ankle) will be missing a fourth straight game.

Keep in mind that both of these teams played on Thanksgiving, so each has had the standard week between games. This is important to remember since more often than not, teams kicking off the week are on a short turnaround.

Dallas Cowboys: 26.0 Points


While the Saints defense is often referred to as a “pass funnel” by the fantasy community, indicating that their top-ranked run defense encourages opponents to throw, they also have the No. 13 pass DVOA. In five of their last 10 games, New Orleans has allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns and at least 300 yards. The other five games were against a combination of teams that prefer to run or have inexperienced quarterbacks such as New England, Washington, Seattle, Tennessee and Philadelphia.

Dak Prescott has been solid in his four games since returning from injury, with six touchdowns against three interceptions. On Thanksgiving he rolled up 375 yards and a pair of scores against the Raiders, and this week he should have all of his key pass-catching options available. Though this is not an easy matchup, it is important to remember that the oddsmakers have installed Dallas as 5.5-point road favorites.

Running Back

Ezekiel Elliott has been solid this season, with his 65.5 yards rushing per game the 10th most in the league. All but two of the players ahead of him have missed multiple games. For perspective, this would work out to just under 1,000 yards in the traditional 16-game season, a mark that only nine players surpassed last year. The concern is that Elliott is dealing with knee and lower-body injuries, and he has not topped 51 yards rushing in five chances since the Week 7 bye. In these games he is averaging 62.4 combined yards and has scored three total touchdowns.


Tony Pollard is the change-of-pace back, and while he has comparable yardage in this timeframe, his lone touchdown came back in Week 2. Corey Clement is the only other running back to see the ball this year, and his only opportunities came in Week 3 and Week 10.

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper is slated to return from his bout with COVID-19, but reports are that he is still feeling the effects. Michael Gallup looked good on Thanksgiving, leading the way with 106 yards on five receptions, while Cedrick Wilson was right behind him with 104 yards on seven catches. Noah Brown was the only other receiver to get opportunities, with six receptions for 53 yards on nine targets — the second highest volume on the team. CeeDee Lamb missed last week with a concussion, though he is expected to be a full-go tonight, which is key since Wilson will be out.

Both Gallup and Lamb were showing up as great plays in the NFL lineup optimizer today. Check out all of Awesemo’s free NFL DFS lineup optimizer picks from the DraftKings NFL cheat sheet and FanDuel NFL cheat sheet.

Tight End

Dalton Schultz continues to be a key option in the Cowboys passing game, with at least six targets in seven of his last nine games. On Thanksgiving he reached the end zone for the first time since Week 4, and it should be noted that he has only one red-zone target in the last six games, as Dallas tends to spread things around under the shadow of the goal post. Sean McKeon has six targets in the four games since Blake Jarwin was lost to injury. Schultz has played on 95% or more of the snaps in three of the last four games.

Defense/Special Teams

Dallas is recording just over two sacks per game, while New Orleans is suffering just under two. Dallas is fourth in the league in turnovers with 1.7 takeaways per game, while the conservative Saints offenses is allowing the sixth-fewest takeaways, at just over one per game.

New Orleans Saints: 21.0 Points


Tonight it is expected that Taysom Hill will be under center as the primary quarterback for the Saints. Last week he was active, though he did not leave the sideline in any capacity. The Cowboys have been stout against the pass with the fourth-best passing DVOA, though they are just middle of the pack against the run. Hill has played in only two of the last six games. This season he has eight pass attempts, and for his career he has only 142. New Orleans is going to rely on the ground game, which should allow Dallas to stack the box.

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Running Back

Alvin Kamara (ankle) will not play tonight, though Mark Ingram (knee) is back after missing the last game. On Thanksgiving it was receiver/running back Ty Montgomery who out-snapped third-stringer Tony Jones 29-21. Jones had 16 carries but was ineffective with just 27 yards and no targets in the passing game. Montgomery more than doubled his season carry total with half a dozen, and he brought in five of his seven targets for 31 yards. Ingram will get first crack at things, and he is a solid contributor in all facets of the game. Jones will likely be the direct backup, with Montgomery fading into the background but in the mix in passing situations.

Wide Receiver

There is not much to infer as to how the receiving targets will be distributed with Hill under center tonight. Last year Kamara and Latavius Murray were the running backs in the four games that Hill started in place of Drew Brees at the end of the season, while Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith were the receivers. In these games an average of 14.8 targets went to wide outs, seven to running backs and 8.3 to tight ends. Pick one receiver at the most tonight in the hopes that they bring in Hill’s fifth career touchdown passing.

Awesemo’s data scientist Matt Savoca wrote about some of the best salary-saving plays into tonight’s Thursday Night Football matchup, and a lot of them included these Saints wide receivers. Check out all of his value plays in the Week 13 Thursday Night Football Showdown Matchups & NFL DFS Picks.

Tight End

Last Thursday Nick Vannett saw the lone target to this position, an 11-yard touchdown, and played 37% of the snaps. Juwan Johnson was on the field for 42% of the snaps, while Garrett Griffin played 32% of the snaps. Keep in mind that Griffin has four career targets on 292 total snaps.

Defense/Special Teams

New Orleans and Dallas are each averaging just over one takeaway/turnover per game. The Cowboys have allowed the fifth-fewest sacks this season, while the Saints are recording just over two per game, which is league average.

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Thursday Night Football Single-Game NFL DFS Strategy

The rankings below are best utilized for building out single-entry and three-max lineups and for head-to-head and three-man formats. They provide a nice barometer for player value, but for those taking the MME approach, remember that correlation is key. This means matching a receiver or two with a quarterback in the Captain/MVP slot. This also works conversely with pairing a Captain/MVP pass catcher with their quarterback.

Week 13 Thursday Night Football NFL DFS Rankings

Top 10 NFL DFS Showdown Picks

  1. Dak Prescott: He is going to have to carry the Dallas offense tonight.
  2. Taysom Hill: FanDuel salary ($7,000)will have him on around 98-99% of all rosters.
  3. Mark Ingram: DraftKings salary ($5,000) will have him on around 80-90% of all rosters.
  4. CeeDee Lamb: Best positioned to take advantage of the Saints defense; should see plenty of slot action.
  5. Michael Gallup: Finally healthy and has been a solid contributor.
  6. Ezekiel Elliott: Double-digit DraftKings points in last 10, 9.3 or more FanDuel points during the same timeframe.
  7. Tony Pollard: Time to play the leverage game with the Elliott vs. Pollard popularity disparity.
  8. Dalton Schultz: Could lose a little off the baseline if Cooper returns and is mostly healthy.
  9. Amari Cooper: Reportedly still dealing with post-COVID aftereffects.
  10. Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway: Pick one and only one. Awesemo is projecting Hill for 20.1 completions on 29.4 attempts.

Secondary NFL DFS Showdown Picks

  1. Greg Zuerlein: 19-for-24 on the year; three of his misses are from 50-plus, where he is just 1-for-4.
  2. Brett Maher: Fourth kicker used by New Orleans; one lonely field goal attempt in his two games, 2-for-3 on extra points.
  3. New Orleans D/ST: Prescott has been effective behind much improved line.
  4. Dallas D/ST: Hill should be good for at least one interception — maybe it will be a pick-six.

Lottery Ticket NFL DFS Showdown Picks

  1. Ty Montgomery: Maybe he will get a couple short passes.
  2. Nick Vannett and Juwan Johnson: Over/under on combined targets is four based on the Awesemo projections, which is double Montgomery.
  3. Tony Jones: Perfect time for a troll touchdown after being a turkey on Thanksgiving.
  4. Noah Brown: Move up to the top of the next section if Cooper is out.
  5. Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Kenny Stills, Garrett Griffin, Corey Clement, Sean McKeon: Dregs from both teams.
  6. Trevor Siemian: It would be apropos if he replaces Hill tonight.

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

Eric "EMac" MacPherson won the 2007 Fantasy Baseball grand prize (trip for two to the MLB All-Star game) in the Roto format on ESPN. He won again in 2008, this time in the H2H format. As one of the early adopters of daily fantasy sports, EMac has been providing content for baseball and basketball as well as both professional and college football since 2012 for a variety of websites including DraftKings Playbook, FanVice, RotoWorld, Daily Fantasy Bootcamp, and RotoGrinders. He is well into his third decade of fantasy sports and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Follow him on Twitter @EMacDFS or contact EMac by emailing [email protected].

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