Tonight we get the last Monday Night Football game of the year and the final game of the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend matchups. The Dallas Cowboys visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what could be Tom Brady’s last game for the Bucs. We’ve seen plenty of parody and surprise performances through the first five games this weekend and I expect tonight’s tilt to be no different. The Bucs won their division after an underwhelming 8-9 season while the Cowboys finished second in the NFC East with a 12-5 record. These two teams did meet previously this season but it was way back in Week 1 where Dallas got the win in a low scoring 19-3 game. Hopefully we can get one more exciting game to wrap up the Wild Card round ahead of next weekend’s Divisional Round matchups.
Now before we begin, I want to reiterate what Howard usually says for NFL DFS Showdown slates. Take a moment to understand what exactly you’re getting into with these contests. It’s always fun to get some action on a primetime game. I used to max enter the $0.50 contest to get 150 lineups in this game for the price of $75.00. I had a lot of success with that method in 2021 but haven’t had the desire in 2022 to go through the nonsense of adjusting 150 individual lineups ahead of roster lock, all while making sure none of them became duplicates. Cash games can be brutal on a Showdown slate and large-field tournaments are nearly impossible to tackle unless you’re max entering. Have fun and be smart with tonight’s contest.
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Spread: Cowboys (-3)
Weather: Temps will be in the low-to-mid 50’s with clear skies and very light winds.
Dallas Cowboys Injuries
- Tyler Biadasz, C – Ankle (Expected to play)
- DeMarcus Lawrence, DE – Foot (Expected to play)
- Tyron Smith, OT – Knee (Expected to play)
- Leighton Vander Esch, LB – Neck (Questionable)
- Trayvon Mullen, CB – Illness (Out)
- Micah Parson, LB – Personal (Expected to play)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Injuries
- Carlton Davis, CB - Shoulder (Questionable)
- Mike Edwards, FS – Hip (Questionable)
- Mike Evans, WR – Illness (Expected to play)
- Robert Hainsey, C – Hamstring (Questionable)
- Julio Jones, WR – Knee (Expected to play)
- Nick Leverett, G – Knee/Shoulder (Doubtful)
- John Molchon, G – Ankle (Questionable)
- Sean Murphy-Bunting, CB – Shoulder (Expected to play)
- Carl Nassib, LB – Pectoral (Questionable)
- Keanu Neal, S – Hip (Questionable)
- Kyle Rudolph, TE – Knee (Doubtful)
- Logan Ryan, DB – Knee (Questionable)
- DonoVan Smith, - OT (Questionable)
- Vita Vea, DT – Calf (Questionable)
- Ryan Jensen, C – Knee; It’s worth acknowledging Jensen, who returned to practice two weeks ago and could come off IR after missing the entire season with a knee injury. The Bucs have until 4:00pm ET to activate him.
NFL DFS MVP/Captain Top Picks
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
He will no doubt be popular at the Captain spot. He’s potentially going to be the highest owned Captain, but for good reason. In full PPR formats he averaged over 18 fantasy points per game with nine touchdowns and over 100 catches on the season. From Weeks 12-17 he put up over 20 fantasy points five times on DraftKings reaching the receiving bonus in four of those games. He’s going to command attention from the defense, but Dak Prescott will likely still lean on his top target for double-digit targets. Remember, we want slate breakers at the Captain spot and Lamb certainly has that upside.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We witnessed Evans’ ceiling in Week 17 when he scored three touchdowns with over 200 receiving yards and while he likely doesn’t duplicate that performance, he still can be the top scorer on the slate. His touchdowns were bookended at both ends of the season as he experienced a lengthy drought from Weeks 5-16 without a score, but the target volume is still there for him as he saw at least eight in each of his final four games in the regular season.
Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Godwin offers a little salary relief if you want to pivot off Evans and still get a wide receiver in a pass-heavy offense, and he has arguably been Brady’s top receiver this year. Godwin may only have three touchdowns on the season with two receiving bonuses, but he’s posted double-digit fantasy points in full PPR formats in every game dating back to Week 4 and he recorded over 100 receptions in the regular season. He also has at least five receptions in 14 straight games as well. If you’re playing Cash games he provides a good floor, but we’ve also seen a decent ceiling for him in this offense as well.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you’ve read my previous contributions to the NFL DFS Showdown Playbooks you’ll know I usually recommend one player to play at Captain or don’t play him at all. In previous weeks that’s been Mike Williams and Gabe Davis. They’re the kind of players who have a very high ceiling, but also a very low floor. While Fournette isn’t as polarizing as those two, he is the kind of player that I’m either using at Captain or I’m not playing at all. Fournette had a fairly disappointing season running the ball with just 189 carries for 668 yards and three rushing touchdowns. But he salvaged his season by catching 73 passes for an additional 523 yards and three more touchdowns. The Cowboys have one of the best defenses in the NFL and this could be a game where Tom Brady simply checks down to the Bucs lead running back. We saw Fournette get at least four targets in 11 games this year including eight games with at least six targets. If playing a running back at the Captain position, we like them to be involved in the passing game and Fournette certain qualifies. But this is a very tough matchup as the Cowboys are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in full PPR formats.
NFL DFS FLEX/UTILITY PLAYS
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
If you’ve read my NFL DFS Showdown Playbooks in recent weeks, you’ll know I’m not keen on playing quarterbacks in the Captain spot unless they offer significant rushing upside like Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, or even Daniel Jones as odd as that sounds. Dak used to be a decent runner. He had 24 rushing touchdowns through his first five seasons in the NFL and could’ve had more if not more the freak ankle injury early in the 2020 season. He’s only recorded one rushing touchdown in each of the last two seasons and on top of that, we’ve only seen him attempt 40 passes twice all year. So the rushing upside is minimized, he’s not a volume lock, and he had 16 turnovers in 12 games this year. Now I know my tone makes it seem like he’s a fade. He’s not. You’ll need exposure to at least one of the quarterbacks in this game, possibly both. Dak correlates perfectly with any Dallas pass catcher at Captain, but I prefer his floor at the Flex/Utility slots.
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The GOAT certainly has passing volume on his side, but that hasn’t always translated to fantasy success this year. Since Week 3 he’s attempted at least 40 pass attempts in 13 different games. But even in that span he only has five games with over 20 fantasy points on DraftKings. He’s been better throughout the year protecting the ball than Dak, but Brady did have a stretch from Weeks 13-16 where he did turn the ball over nine times. But this is a tough matchup against the Cowboys who have only allowed about 200 passing yards per game this season. Play Brady comfortably knowing the passing volume will be there, but I don’t even know if that will get him to the coveted 300-yard bonus and multiple touchdowns.
Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Another week of picking your poison in this backfield. Pollard passes the eyeball test as the more talented of the two, but Jerry Jones is determined to get his money’s worth with Elliott. Zeke will likely get at least 15 carries and some goal line work to find the end zone. Last week broke a streak of nine straight games with a touchdown for Elliott and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if there was a concentrated effort to put him in the end zone again tonight. Pollard, to his own credit, also racked up a dozen touchdowns this year and proved to be the more dynamic of the two running backs as he was more involved in the passing game and for just $200 more on DraftKings I’d rather target him than Elliott at the Utility position. The Bucs have had their ups and downs against the run but if Vita Vea is active and at full strength that could be a mild setback for the Dallas running game, but one I wouldn’t avoid altogether.
Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys
I don’t normally break down my picks into Cash/GPP categorizations, but Schultz is a player I probably prefer for GPP’s. There’s too much variance in his production. He can certainly go out and get eight-to-ten targets, but as is the case with the tight end position if they aren’t finding the end zone, they aren’t doing much to help their cause. Fortunately for Schultz, he did collect seven catches on nine targets for 62 yards against the Bucs back in Week 1. He does need to find the end zone and I don’t think I’d use him at Captain since I don’t think he possesses slate breaking upside.
Rachaad White, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’ve seen some DFS touts on social media fading Leonard Fournette because of the emergence of Rachaad White. I’m not buying it. I’m perfectly fine playing White, but I won’t fade Fournette because of White’s presence. It’s a playoff game and I don’t imagine the Bucs lean on White as their lead guy, but if I’m wrong so be it. White had only three touchdowns on the year but did flash some explosiveness in the passing game at times. Still, he did lose three fumbles and only got the coveted 100-yard bonus just once this year. There are other plays I’d consider in this range over White but he still warrants consideration, and keep in mind the matchup isn’t ideal.
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Gallup made some interesting comments earlier in the week that were along the lines of “If he (CeeDee Lamb) is getting doubled up, then you’re one-on-one with somebody. You got to make them pay… I’m looking at that, licking my chops,” and I am all here for that. I love comments like that and hope he can find the end zone. His production this year was modest with a pretty low floor and he was a player that was very dependent on finding the end zone. But if he’s right, and the Bucs do give extra attention to Lamb, then there’s added value if Gallup can go and get his usual six or seven targets. The price tag on DraftKings is very reasonable if stacking the Dallas offense especially since both Gallup and Lamb have 12 red zone targets each.
Julio Jones, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Not a play I’m particularly excited about, and truthfully the Bucs could lean on Russell Gage more as their WR3. But Jones was a full participant in the later practice sessions for the Bucs and that’s a good sign for him heading into this playoff matchup. From Weeks 9-14 he was seeing roughly five or six targets per game at full health, but he just hasn’t found the end zone too often this year. On DraftKings, he’s probably about $800 cheaper than where he should be so the discount is nice and by all accounts he’s healthy. But don’t be surprised if he comes out of the game after making a catch and he needs a breather. That’s kind of been his thing for the last six years or so.
NFL DFS DART THROWS
T.Y. Hilton and Noah Brown, WR, Dallas Cowboys
It’s a true tossup here between Hilton and Noah Brown, but I’m going to give Hilton the slight lean, but if you need he savings then Brown is still viable and likely carries less ownership. Hilton has come on pretty strong with nine targets in his last two games after being signed just a few weeks ago and he has big play upside even at the age of 33. He had that big 52-yard catch a few weeks ago against Philadelphia and has been getting acclimated to the offense with each passing week. Brown, on the other hand, only has three catches on 12 targets in his last three games but we have seen him command six targets in a game sporadically throughout the year. The recent trends aren’t in his favor, but he’s more of a contrarian play at least.
Cade Otton, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Otton has been kept in check the last four weeks with just six catches in that span, but he did have 13 total targets in Weeks 16 and 17 and I expect him to be on the field plenty in this matchup. I’m also very surprised he’s this cheap at just $1,800 on DraftKings. On most Showdown slates he’s been priced between $3,000-$5,000. I expect he’ll be a popular paydown option for most people building lineups, but he’s well worth the price tag if Tom Brady is throwing 40+ times and Otton can collect six targets. He only found the end zone twice this year, but if he can catch four or five passes he’s likely returning value. And if you need a cheaper punt for the Bucs, you can take a look at Cameron Brate who is only $200. The absence of Kyle Rudolph would likely ensure more snaps for Brate and while his role has diminished this season, we know he and Brady have rapport in the red zone and he only needs a couple catches to pay off his price tag.
Both D/ST’s are very affordable and in play. There is a very real chance the Bucs offense stalls and struggles to put up production. According to DK Nation, the Bucs are 1-6-1 at home against the spread this season. Both quarterbacks have also been prone to turnovers lately as mentioned above and while I can’t predict a pick six or a D/ST touchdown, it’s possible that we see one tonight. The Cowboys forced 54 sacks in the regular season and 33 turnovers to average ten fantasy points per game. That’s a pretty solid floor and they also put up 20+ fantasy points on a few occasions as well. The Bucs D/ST has been a little disappointing since the first two weeks of the season and they’ve struggled with injuries. I’m more inclined to fade them if this game plays out as projected with a Dallas win.
Both kickers are perfectly fine as Flex/Utility options for this matchup. There is some positive correlation with kickers and quarterbacks, so if you disagree with me and play either Dak Prescott or Tom Brady at the Captain/MVP spot then you can pair them with their kicker for some positive correlation. Brett Maher actually managed double-digit fantasy points in nine games this year, while Ryan Succop did it six times. Remember, the DFS success of kickers is dependent on the offense effectively moving the ball and failing to score and that might play to Succop’s favor more than Maher’s. Ultimately, we don’t want that throughout the whole game. We want touchdowns with a couple field goals for our kicker.