Thursday Night Football Fantasy rankings: Can Vikings D slow down Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott?
Will a Thursday start and a tenacious Vikings defense be enough to derail the Cowboys' stars?
This isn't your typical Thursday night game, and we should be pretty thankful for that. With both the Vikings and Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving last week, both get the typical six full days of rest to prepare for this game.
So we hope that will mean a less stilted, ugly affair than we typically see on Thursday nights. Of course, that still doesn't mean we should expect a ton of fireworks, because neither of these teams exactly wants to air it out. In an ideal scenario, both the Cowboys and Vikings want to dominate time of possession by running the ball early and often, keeping the pace of the game slow and the scoreboard operator bored.
The Cowboys have seen that ideal scenario come pretty close to true this season, while the Vikings have been much less successful at it. Still, the Vikings' defense is one of the league's best, and we could see a slow, grind-it-out mentality prevail on both sides, making this a Thursday night potentially worth forgetting for Fantasy players.
Even if you combine Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, they are a pretty middling Fantasy option. Their combined numbers would rank just 19th among running backs in rushing yards, despite the ninth-most rushing yards. They would rank 15th in Fantasy points overall, right between Spencer Ware and Latavius Murray -- two spots ahead of Isaiah Crowell.
As one player, Asiata and McKinnon would be a pretty borderline Fantasy starter most weeks.
All this is to say that this just isn't a very profitable circumstance for Fantasy players. Despite being built around a running identity, the Vikings haven't had success on the ground with anyone this year, and these two mediocre backs have the added indignity of splitting work. Even against good matchups, it's hard to get excited about either, and the Cowboys aren't a good matchup. They have allowed the fourth-fewest Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season, and this is likely to be a game with a slow pace and a limited number of plays, further limiting their potential.
It's hard to get excited about Asiata or McKinnon as anything more than a desperation play most weeks, but especially tonight.
Ezekiel Elliott. He's the biggest no-brainer in football at this point, with the potential of exception of David Johnson or Le'Veon Bell. Matchups don't really matter for the Rookie of the Year shoo-in, who racked up 127 all-purpose yards against the Ravens two weeks ago, and torched the Eagles for 148 a few weeks before that. His workload and skill -- not to mention that dominant Cowboys' offensive line -- give him both a high floor -- at least 11 Fantasy points in each game -- and a huge ceiling.
The Vikings are one of the best defenses in the league, but they aren't exactly an elite run defense, ranking 15th in yards per carry allowed. Elliott should keep rolling through his historic rookie season this week.
Lineup Hail Marys
It's not clear if Stefon Diggs is going to be able to play tonight, but he appears to be inching closer to getting on the field. Thielen didn't quite step forward in Diggs' absence last week, but he still had eight catches on 11 targets, so if Diggs does have to sit out, Thielen is an option for volume if nothing else.
Cole Beasley has been a model of consistency this season, totaling between 50 and 60 yards in seven of his last eight games, with at least four catches in each. That hasn't led to huge Fantasy production every week, but it does make him a touchdown away from a strong showing every time he steps on the field.
The Vikings are strongest on the outside with Xavier Rhodes, who will see a steady dose of Dez Bryant tonight, but Captain Munnerlyn has actually been vulnerable in the slot. Munnerlyn has been Minnesota's most-used slot corner this season, but he is allowing a 103.3 passer rating on the season out of the slow. Munnerlyn hasn't been bad, but if you're looking for a weak-ish link in the Vikings' secondary, Beasley may be able to exploit it.
This Vikings offense doesn't pass the ball enough to sustain three -- four if you count Kyle Rudolph -- Fantasy relevant receivers on a weekly basis, but it's still easy to buy into Cordarrelle Patterson's upside. He is a threat to score every single time he touches the ball, and the Vikings have made a point of getting the ball in his hands, with five touches in six of the last eight games.
Of course, he has just two games with double digits in Fantasy scoring in that time, so it's hard to get too excited about the results for Patterson. However, if he can get going in Week 13, he might actually be a pretty interesting option down the stretch, with games against the Jaguars, Colts, and Packers in the next three games. Patterson will always be a boom-or-bust play, but if manages to put it together, Patterson has always had the ability to be a difference maker.
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