Vikings fantasy football outlook: Cook should go off against Cowboys porous defense

Well, well, well.

With three consecutive wins, the Minnesota Vikings’ season continues to get more and more interesting. Luckily, the wins have produced loads of fantasy football points for the Vikings offense, something that should continue in Week 11 at home against the Dallas Cowboys.

Each week, we’ll take a look at the players with fantasy value on the Vikings and their opponent. Player matchups are graded on a 1-5 scale of football emojis, from “don’t even think about starting him” (🏈) to “you’re a fool if you bench this guy” (🏈🏈🏈🏈🏈).

Here’s how Week 11 shakes out:

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

QB Kirk Cousins: 🏈🏈

The winning formula for Minnesota’s offense is simple: Feed Dalvin Cook and let Cousins simply manage the game. While the Vikings are living in the win column lately, Cousins is still mostly fantasy irrelevant. He’s tossed for multiple touchdowns in four of his last five games, although he’s been picked off five times in that span and only logged 300+ passing yards once all season. Last week, Dallas allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw for 303 yards and a trio of scores. Even in a favorable-ish matchup for Cousins without rookie Trevon Diggs – the younger brother of one of Cousins’ former favorite targets Stefon Diggs – on the field, we’re expecting another Dalvin Cook Game™. Two footballs for Cousins.

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RB Dalvin Cook: 🏈🏈🏈🏈🏈

Folks, it’s happening again. Cook will be licking his chops Sunday against Dallas, which is surrendering the second-most rushing yards per game (157.0) and yards per carry (5.0). One thing we know for sure about Cook is he’s getting at least 20 carries against the Cowboys. Three running backs have taken 20+ carries against Dallas in 2020 – Arizona’s Kenyan Drake, Atlanta’s Todd Gurley and Washington’s Antonio Gibson – and they averaged 117.7 rushing yards and a score in those contests. Plus, in 2019, Cook rushed 26 times for 97 yards and a score vs. the Cowboys. Easy peasy.

WR Adam Thielen: 🏈🏈🏈🏈

Thielen is tied for the NFL lead with nine receiving touchdowns in 2020. He’s seen 11 targets in the red zone, which is seven more than the next Vikings pass-catcher, Irv Smith Jr. (4). And, guess what? Dallas has surrendered 16 touchdowns to wide receivers this season, tied for most in the NFL, including seven in its last four contests.

WR Justin Jefferson: 🏈🏈🏈🏈

Ever since he became a focal point of Minnesota’s offense in Week 3, Jefferson has never finished a game at U.S. Bank Stadium with less than 64 receiving yards. Small sample size? Sure – just three games – but if the opportunities are there, Jefferson will make the defense pay. Dallas just yielded 69+ receiving yards to three different Pittsburgh wideouts last week, so there will be plenty for Jefferson to eat Sunday.

TE Irv Smith Jr. or Kyle Rudolph: 🏈🏈

After missing last week’s game against Chicago, Smith was back at practice Wednesday. Be sure to monitor his status throughout the week. Despite their shortcomings against wide receivers, the Cowboys are middle-of-the-pack against tight ends, allowing a score to the position in five of nine contests. With all of the two-tight end sets Minnesota runs, it’s really a toss-up between these two on who gets the red-zone targets. A lukewarm matchup against the Cowboys doesn’t leave us feeling great starting either Smith Jr. or Rudy.

Vikings D/ST: 🏈🏈🏈🏈

Is the Vikings’ defense … worth starting now? It just might be. At least this week. Minnesota has held its last three opponents to 22, 20 and 13 points and has forced six turnovers in those matchups. The Red Rifle Andy Dalton, Dallas’ starting quarterback for Week 11, could help boost those numbers even further. In the four matchups before losing Dak Prescott to an ankle injury, Dallas averaged 36.5 points per game. In the four games after losing Prescott, the Cowboys have scored 10.3 points per contest.

 

DALLAS COWBOYS

QB Andy Dalton: 🏈

After having to leave during a Week 7 game against Washington due to a concussion, Dalton is all set to return as Dallas’ starting quarterback. The Vikings are allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to QBs. But can Dalton take advantage? The Cowboys do have some good receivers. Against Arizona (13th-most fantasy points allowed to QBs), Dalton threw for 266 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. We could see a similar line against Minnesota. There’s some upside if you don’t trust the Vikings’ cornerbacks against Dallas’ receivers, but Dalton threw 11+ picks in each of his last three seasons in Cincinnati (and only one of those was in 16 games). Have a QB on a bye? OK, but start him knowing there’s a lot of risk.

RB Ezekiel Elliot: 🏈 🏈

We are nine games into Dallas’ season and Elliot has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game. After scoring six touchdowns in his first five games, Elliot hasn’t been in the end zone since. He’s even starting to lose carries to Troy Pollard. Minnesota has been decent against the run (11th-fewest fantasy points vs. RBs). With Dalton back in the lineup, perhaps things open up a bit more for him and maybe he catches more passes – he had four games with 6+ receptions in his first six games and four combined in the last three. I mean, you probably drafted Elliot high and thus have to start him. But there are a lot better options out there nowadays.

WR Amari Cooper: 🏈 🏈

We’re not sure who to trust on this Dallas offense, but Cooper was targeted 10 times with seven receptions in Dalton’s one full game against Arizona. He had 79 yards and a touchdown. Of course, it’s one of his only two TDs this season. Nevertheless, Cooper is the most-targeted receiver on Dallas (83) and leads the team in catches (59) and yards (655). He might be the best bet among all the offensive players to do something.

WR CeeDee Lamb: 🏈 🏈

Lamb is Dallas’ deep threat – and you’re pretty much counting on him to get open downfield if you start him. He’s topped 65 yards in a game just three times – but two of those were over 100. Lamb has three TDs, but two came in one game (against Cleveland). Dalton did target him 11 times against Arizona and he had seven catches but for just 64 yards.

TE Dalton Schultz: 🏈

Schultz has emerged this season with 35 receptions for 383 yards and 2 TDs. He’ll get his share of targets but has topped 50 yards just once in the last five games with no scores in that span. Pass.

Cowboys D/ST: 🏈

Dallas ranks 30th in the NFL in turnovers, passing touchdowns allowed and interceptions and 26th in points allowed. Nothing to see here.