Monday Night Football
Tennessee @ Dallas
Team Totals: Cowboys 23.5, Titans 17.5
The Cowboys return from an active bye week during which they traded a first-round pick for Amari Cooper and fired OL coach Paul Alexander, whose position group ranked No. 13 in Football Outsiders’ run-blocking metrics in Weeks 1-7, but 27th in pass protection. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 24.5 touches per game in the month leading into the open date and returns as a Week 9 home favorite. Tennessee has shown no ability to score and force opponents into negative script, which should allow the Cowboys to control this game, feed Zeke, and limit Dak Prescott’s dropback volume behind porous pass blocking. … A fantasy non-factor in the season’s initial five weeks, Prescott caught fire with QB2 (Jaguars) and QB7 (Redskins) finishes just before Dallas’ bye. The Cowboys finally embraced using Prescott proactively as a runner rather than allowing all of his carries to occur on broken-play scrambles. Dak’s rushing lines in the last three games are 6/34/0 - 11/82/1 - 6/33/1, immensely supplementing his box-score results. The Titans are playing stout pass defense but have allowed the NFL’s 12th-most quarterback rushing yards per game (18.1). Prescott is a surefire two-quarterback-league starter with low-end streamer appeal.
Dallas is an unideal fantasy landing spot for Amari Cooper. First, he leaves a Raiders team that ranks 12th in pass attempts per game (37.3) and second in completion rate (72%) for a run-first Cowboys Offense that is 29th in attempts (29.4) and 24th in completions (62.1%). Second, coach Jason Garrett last week called Amari an “elite outside receiver,” even though Cooper has long been more efficient in the slot. In 2017, Cooper averaged an elite 2.21 yards per route run on interior routes versus a miniscule 1.36 YPRR outside, struggling to beat press coverage. The Cowboys will feel incentivized to force their new toy targets in a primetime game before the home crowd, however, and Cooper should be able to win against struggling Titans RCB Malcolm Butler. Cooper is a boom-bust WR3/flex. … Cole Beasley faces Dallas’ toughest pass-catcher matchup against sturdy slot CB Logan Ryan. Fellow slot WRs Keenan Allen (5/72/0), Willie Snead (7/60/0), Dede Westbrook (3/31/0), Danny Amendola (4/26/0), and Nelson Agholor (5/22/0) have all underwhelmed against Tennessee. Beasley drew target counts of 11 and 8 in Dallas’ two pre-bye games, although Cooper’s addition will cut into Beasley’s volume. He’s a PPR-specific WR4/flex. … Rookie Michael Gallup had seemingly settled in as Dallas’ X receiver before the Cooper trade, logging his best box score of the season (3/81/1) in Week 7. Gallup will now either move to Z or rotate with Allen Hurns, who also had his best 2018 game (5/74/0) in Dallas’ pre-bye loss to the Redskins. … Missing Geoff Swaim (MCL), the Cowboys will turn to some combination of Blake Jarwin, Rico Gathers, and Dalton Schultz at tight end. Keyed by All-Pro FS Kevin Byard’s lockdown coverage, Tennessee has allowed the NFL’s third-fewest yards (253) to tight ends.
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With WLB Sean Lee, DT Maliek Collins, and NT Antwaun Woods all available after missing early-season time, the Cowboys’ D/ST is an exciting play at home versus a low-scoring Titans team that has struggled mightily under first-year OC Matt LaFleur. Marcus Mariota has taken sacks on 10% of his dropbacks – the NFL’s fourth-highest rate – while Dallas’ underrated defense ranks sixth in sack rate (7.9%) and third in QB hit rate (17.9%). Just 1-of-7 passers to face the Cowboys has logged a top-12 fantasy score. … Acknowledging their dysfunctional passing game, the Titans’ post-bye signing of lead-blocking FB Jalston Fowler hinted at run-heavy intentions the rest of the way. This is a poor matchup to execute that plan; the Cowboys have stymied enemy backs for a 146/506/3 (3.47 YPC) rushing line. Dion Lewis reasserted himself as a superior option to Derrick Henry in Tennessee’s pre-bye loss to the Chargers, out-touching Henry 19 to 14, out-snapping him 63% to 34%, and outgaining Henry 155 to 65 in Lewis’ year-best game. Lewis is a passable RB2/flex play. Henry is a touchdown-dependent flex whose lack of receiving usage creates a back-breaking floor.
Mariota’s 2018 target distribution: Corey Davis 43; Lewis 26; Taywan Taylor 22; Tajae Sharpe 21; Jonnu Smith 9; Henry 8. … Silenced by Casey Hayward (3/10/0) in Tennessee’s pre-bye loss, Davis has finished below 65 yards in 6-of-7 games. Dallas’ plus-sized duo of RCB Byron Jones (6’1/199) and LCB Chidobe Awuzie (6’0/202) has contained perimeter WRs Kenny Golladay (4/74/0), Marvin Jones (3/56/0), Odell Beckham (4/51/0), Josh Doctson (3/42/0), Devin Funchess (3/41/0), and Donte Moncrief (0/0). … Sharpe moved ahead of Taylor before the bye to lead the team in targets (9) and receiving (7/101/0) against the Chargers. As Sharpe runs a team-high 48% of his routes inside, he has the Titans’ top pass-catcher draw against a Cowboys Defense that has struggled versus slot receivers Golden Tate (8/132/2), Tyler Lockett (4/77/1), Keke Coutee (6/51/1), and Dede Westbrook (3/38/1). Just keep in mind that was Sharpe’s first game above 33 yards this year. … Taylor lost a Week 5 fumble and drew just four combined targets in Weeks 6-7. He’s topped 32 yards once in seven games. In Week 7, Taylor beat the Chargers’ defense for a would-be 75-yard touchdown bomb in the first quarter, only for Mariota to miss the throw. … Mariota is 3-of-9 for 23 yards when targeting Smith, who has lost passing-down snaps to rookie Anthony Firkser.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Titans 13