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Fantasy Football Today

Stream all options against Cowboys defense

By Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com

The Cowboys defense will again be one of, if not the worst in the NFL. (USATSI)
The Cowboys defense will again be one of, if not the worst in the NFL. (USATSI)

The Cowboys gave up 6,645 yards last year, third-most in NFL history. For this defense, that might not be rock bottom.

Since last season, Dallas cut all-time sacks leader DeMarcus Ware in a salary move, watched Jason Hatcher (11 sacks) bolt to the Redskins, and lost middle linebacker Sean Lee to a torn ACL.

Eternal optimist Stephen Jones, the team's chief operating officer, said a defensive turnaround is possible and named three critical players for 2014: rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, corner Marcus Claiborne and linebacker Bruce Carter.

Well, Lawrence, the No. 34 overall pick, just fractured his foot and will be out 8-12 weeks.

Claiborne was having a good camp until twisting his knee Wednesday. His injury isn't believed to be serious, but he was held out Thursday. Claiborne was downright awful last year, grading out as Pro Football Focus' 88th-best cornerback.

Carter is extremely talented but has never lived up to expectations. Although he had 96 tackles and two sacks last year, he graded out poorly against the run and pass.

"I think he's got a chance to turn the corner," Jones said of Carter. "He's got all the skills. He's got everything you want in a linebacker, size, speed, the whole thing. He's just got to turn it loose and play with the energy and enthusiasm that Rod Marinelli demands."

Marinelli took over an impossible task. For this defense to improve substantially, defensive tackle Henry Melton (ACL) and defensive end Anthony Spencer (microfracture) must come back strong from major surgeries. It's wishful thinking -- something the Cowboys specialize in.

In Fantasy terms, Dallas is an equal opportunity defense. The Cowboys gave up the most Fantasy points to running backs (23.88 per game), the second-most to quarterbacks (24.75), the fifth-most to receivers (23.62) and the fourth-most to tight ends (9.0).

This defense is so bad, upgrade any player who gets to play Dallas in a given week. And consider the Cowboys when choosing bye-week replacements.

The Giants and Eagles get to play Dallas twice during the Fantasy season. New York plays Dallas in Weeks 7 and 12. Philly faces Dallas in Weeks 13 and 15. Sadly for Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, their second meeting with Dallas comes Week 17 when most Fantasy seasons are over.

If you draft Nick Foles as your starter, back him up with Eli Manning since the Giants play Dallas in Week 7 when Philly is off.

Of course, as Jamey Eisenberg likes to point out, the Cowboys' defense also boosts the Fantasy prospects of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. This team should be in a shootout every week.

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