Washington Commanders vs. Dallas Cowboys Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em: Top Targets Include Tony Pollard, Brian Robinson Jr., and Brandin Cooks

It's Thanksgiving! Who are some of the fantasy-relevant players to know going into this NFC East divisional battle between the Commanders and Cowboys?

The 2023 NFL season is flying by, and we’re already to Thanksgiving Day football!

With the Washington Commanders and Dallas Cowboys squaring off, who are the fantasy football-relevant players you need to keep an eye on during this game?

Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys

  • Spread: Cowboys -11
  • Total: 49
  • Commanders implied points: 19
  • Cowboys implied points: 30

Quarterbacks

Sam Howell: In terms of return on investment (or lack thereof), Howell is proving as valuable as any signal-caller in our game this season. He’s posted four straight top 10s and has been a top-15 QB in nine of 11 games this season.

The beauty in Howell is that you don’t have to trust him as a player. Washington continues to pass at a top-five rate over expectation, which has resulted in him throwing over 40 passes in seven of his past eight games.

This matchup is a brutal one, but the sheer volume means I can only drop Howell so far in the ranks. He’s my QB13 this week.

Dak Prescott: With multiple TD passes in five straight games after doing it just once in his first five games, Prescott is playing at as high a level as we’ve seen him play in some time.

  • Post-bye: 37 pass attempts per game
  • Pre-bye: 31.7 pass attempts per game

He had posted four straight top-three finishes before an underwhelming fantasy day in the win over the Panthers, and that’s the range I have him in this week (QB4). I don’t love the fact that he has just two games with 20+ rushing yards this season, but no one is perfect.

You’re playing Prescott and playing him with confidence.

Running Backs

Brian Robinson Jr.: It was three months ago when we were worried about Robinson’s lack of versatility and what it would mean with Antonio Gibson on the roster. Well, here we are, with Robinson catching 13 passes over two weeks and turning into one of the game’s best in terms of sniffing out the end zone.

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His reliance on touchdowns is concerning to me, especially in a spot like this with a low implied point total. Combine that with game script risk and the fact that the Cowboys miss a league-low 3.2 tackles per game, and Robinson is a low-end RB2 for me that carries more risk this week than we’ve seen from him lately.

Tony Pollard: Rewatch Pollard’s TD run last week — you can’t tell me that he didn’t run like someone who rosters himself in fantasy. The touchdown was good to see, as was the four receptions.

There is still plenty of scar tissue for us Pollard managers to work through, something that a single strong run isn’t going to fix. That said, you don’t have two options that I’d play over Pollard. Fire him up and spend your Thanksgiving dinner tilting every single carry.

Pollard — the fate of our Thanksgiving day is in your hands.

Wide Receivers

Terry McLaurin: With at least seven targets in six straight games, McLaurin has had the usage of a WR1, but the production has been lacking (consecutive finishes outside of the top 40, giving him five such performances this season).

Given how this offense functions, McLaurin owns a reasonable floor — 5+ catches in eight of his past 10 games — and that’s enough to justify flexing him, but he’s certainly underachieving based on preseason expectations.

If you’re curious, McLaurin caught just five of 12 targets against the ‘Boys last season. You can start him, but you don’t have to. If you’re discouraged by his trajectory, rookies Zay Flowers, Rashee Rice, and Tank Dell could all justifiably be played over him.

Jahan Dotson: He has scored in three of his past four games, but Dotson has still failed to catch more than three passes in the majority of his games this season.

He participated on 76.9% of routes last week, and that’s his path to value, given how this offense functions. But still, four targets were earned against the Giants in a situation where the game script was working in his favor.

I have Dotson ranked in the same tier as the Packers receivers and a struggling Tyler Lockett.

CeeDee Lamb: With 53 targets over his past four games, Lamb is at the intersection of Elite Talent and High Usage.

There isn’t anything in Lamb’s profile that suggests he’s destined to regress. So, as long as Prescott is playing at a high level, you can feel good about putting him up against any receiver in the league.

Brandin Cooks: If there is a spot to use Cooks, this is the time. His 12.1 aDOT leads the team, and the Commanders own the third-highest opponent aDOT this season. Teams feel comfortable in attacking Washington, and that’s all you could want if you’re considering Cooks for your Flex spot.

The Commanders’ high pass rate also means this game could feature a high possession count — more bites at the apple are always a plus!

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Of note for those in deeper leagues, Jalen Tolbert looks to be ahead of Michael Gallup in the hierarchy of Cowboys receivers. He earned a target on 29.4% of his routes against the Panthers (Gallup: 21.1%) and was on the field for more snaps.

The “WR3” role in this offense isn’t of interest in average-sized leagues, but if you were holding out hope on Gallup in a crazy league, you can move on.

Tight Ends

Logan Thomas: Did you know that Thomas has the same number of top-15 finishes at the position as George Kittle (six)? Or that, since Week 5, Thomas has been pacing for 82.6 catches over a full season?

The pass rate in Washington is real, and it’s spectacular. The matchup with the Cowboys may seem like a tough one, and for the Commanders’ offense as a whole, it is. But for Thomas? A top-10 pressure defense that has a bottom-10 opponent aDOT isn’t a bad spot to be.

Thomas has separated himself from the TE blob and deserves to be started with confidence, even if the ceiling is capped.

Jake Ferguson: If Week 11 was “one of those weeks” for you, you probably had Ferguson and were in a rare mental space when Luke Schoonmaker hauled in an 18-yard TD (his fourth catch of the season). Ferguson didn’t get the TE score and finished with just 4.7 fantasy points, a disappointing effort in a good matchup.

I wouldn’t worry about it. Ferguson more than doubled Schoonmaker’s snap count and quadrupled his route count – this was a misfortune, not a red flag. Ferguson ran a route on 83.3% of Prescott dropbacks, and from a process standpoint, that’s a solid profile to bet on.

The Commanders have allowed four TE touchdown receptions over their past four games against an opponent with an even semi-dangerous option at the position. Ferguson is a top-10 player for me and a starter in all formats.

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