After Baltimore’s Week 12 COVID-19 outbreak, the Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens game was pushed to Tuesday night. Both Baltimore, due to COVID-19, and Dallas, due to injury, are playing short-staffed but there are still a bevvy of useful fantasy options to be found in this late-week bout.
The Baltimore Ravens received great news this morning via Tom Pelissero; two of their most impactful defensive linemen, Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams, have been activated from the team’s COVID-19/Reserve List. While both players form a mountain of flesh, Campbell at his towering 6’8”, 300lbs and Williams a stout 6’1”, 336lbs, dominant enough to slow any opposing run game, it’s Campbell who brings much needed aid to the Ravens’ lacking pass rush. Despite missing three of the team’s 11 games, Campbell is still sixth on the team in QB hurries (2), fourth on the team in QB knockdowns (4), tied for the team lead in sacks (4), and fourth on the team in total QB pressures (11). With the Cowboys missing the entirety of it’s true starting offensive line, QB Andy Dalton has a tall task ahead of him.
Dalton’s endeavor is, of course, helped by the fact that Campbell didn’t exactly have real time off to rest and recuperate while on the COVID-19/Reserve List. The dominant lineman may need to knock off some rust — while oftentimes being double-teamed as stud pass rusher Matthew Judon is still on the COVID-19/Reserve List. Dallas’ use of play-action is likely to meet, or exceed, their per-game pace of 8.6 attempts to help negate their O-Line deficiencies, which can help any quarterback inflate his performance. Further parsing the raw statistics of Baltimore’s defensive units, their secondary, although talented, has recorded just six interceptions and 41 passes defended on the year. Consider Dalton a mid-to-high QB2 this week, as the talent around him is good enough to buoy any fill-in signal-caller.
Through Dalton’s three starts for the Cowboys this year (Weeks 6, 11, and 12), the veteran quarterback has firmly locked onto wide receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, along with tight end Dalton Schultz. Cooper has resoundingly answered Dalton’s calls, hauling in at least six receptions and 79 or more yards in every contest — two of which, he found pay-dirt. Given the consistency, Cooper can be trusted as a mid-tier WR2 with Top 12 upside. Lamb, meanwhile, has been less productive on his share of the targets, producing a three-game stat line of 16/24-119-1. With an impending battle against stud slot cornerback Marlon Humphrey, fantasy managers cannot count on Lamb to produce a ceiling game. He’s just a high-target/high-floor option with albeit decent upside in full-point PPR leagues. During Dalton’s run, downfield receiver Michael Gallup’s best game came against the Washington Football Team — a lackluster six receptions and 41 scoreless yards. Gallup is only an option in contrarian DFS lineups.
With Dalton under center, tight end Dalton Schultz has operated as a high-volume, low-average depth of target (aDot) safety blanket option. Toggling to the Dallas section, Weeks 6, 11, and 12 on the exceptionally developed airyards.com, fantasy mangers can see that while Schultz is the fourth-most targeted Cowboys pass catcher during this span, his near-impossibly low aDot of 4.4 ranks seventh. At the tight end position, workloads do count for a lot though, cementing Schultz’s floor as high as anyone’s outside of the position’s elite. Schultz’s cause is aided by the Ravens’ league-average tight end coverage (10.3 .5PPR PPG, 16th in the NFL).
The aforementioned return of run-stuffer Brandon Williams, who’s yet to miss a tackle this season, is enough to relegate Ezekiel Elliott to the middle of the RB2 ranks. No longer the snap (and touch) hoarder that he was at the beginning of the season, Elliott is at risk of losing work to talented dual threat backup, Tony Pollard. That said, Pollard’s usage has been routinely sporadic, making him an ill-advised flex option outside of contrarian DFS lineups.
Lamar Jackson returned from the COVID-19/Reserve List in time for Tuesday’s game against a hapless Dallas Cowboys’ defense but unfortunately brings with him a floor as low as his ceiling is high. Working with a COVID-19-stunted pass catching corps, it stands to reason that Jackson’s rushing ability may be forcibly coaxed out of him. It’s also possible that battling a virus that attacks one’s lungs has nuked his cardio system and he’s unable to get much done on the field at all — not to mention the sometimes brutal cognitive issues known as the “COVID fog” could be impairing his decision-making. Ranking him at his ceiling, he’s a high-end QB2. But fantasy managers must understand that his floor is the lowest it’s ever been.
Update 12/8/20 4:53pm PST: Dez Bryant tested positive for COVID-19. The results were made known via his twitter account roughly an hour before kickoff. Per Kevin Seifert, immediate contact tracing has begun. Any players deemed to be high-risk will be pulled from the game. Incredibly, per Tom Pelissero, the NFL has concluded that there are no high-risk close tactics identified... The fantasy outlook of all Ravens pass catchers has slightly improved, namely big-boded players like tight end Luke Willson and wide receiver Miles Boykin who are likely to absorb the would-be-Dez targets in over the middle/jump ball situations.
Playing without No. 2/slot receiver Willie Snead IV and stud pass catching tight end Mark Andrews last week after both ended up on the COVID-19/Reserve List, downfield receiver Marquise Brown acted as a target hog for the diminished pass catching corps, seeing eight targets come his way with the next closest receiving just three. Devin Duvernay operated as the clear-cut No. 2 wideout while Miles Boykin and Dez Bryant split time as the No. 3. Facing a Cowboys’ secondary currently allowing the third-most .5PPR PPG to opposing receivers (35.1), the sturdy snap shares of Brown and Duvernay should pay dividends. Brown carries low-floor/high-ceiling flex play prospects into the Week 13 bout with a commanding lead in the target market share column. Duvernay garners serious contrarian viability in DFS lineups given his continued ownership of kick return responsibilities. To be fair, Dallas has allowed just the eighth-fewest kick return yards this year (387), but a man capable of 4.39 40-yard dash speed like Duvernay can house a kick return against any unit.
Boykin can be left out of DFS and season-long lineups but Bryant is a different story. A number of narratives as to why a given player should perform well can be constructed on a weekly basis but the “revenge game narrative” has occasionally been brought to fruition. After eight years of dominance in Dallas, Bryant was unceremoniously cast aside, when his athleticism was showing signs of waning. Given the lack of pass catchers that Baltimore has to work with this week, don’t be surprised in head coach John Harbaugh has gone out of his way to scheme up a healthy workload for the spurned former Cowboy. Consider Bryant a zero-floor/high-ceiling Hail Mary flex option.
Tight end Luke Wilson was brought in to play the pass catching tight end role with both Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle unavailable. Last week it amounted to two targets and zero catches. Like their Week 13 counterpart, Dallas’ tight end coverage is solidly middling (10.4 .5PPR PPG, 15th-most in the NFL). Willson is a boom/bust TE2.
Running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins have returned from the COVID-19/Reserve List to join steady rusher Gus “The Bus” Edwards who largely flopped in his shot at stardom without the other two in the lineup last week. With Ingram having struggled to do much of anything all year, he can be safely forgotten, even against a Dallas defensive front allowing 23.6 .5PPR PPG, sixth-most in the NFL. Dobbins and Edwards, on the other hand, need to be in season-long and DFS lineups. Prior to the COVID debacle, Dobbins had seemingly stolen the lead back gig in Week 11, owning a 63% snap share and dominating backfield touches. Given the COVID/lung concerns, it’s likely that Dobbins doesn’t return to quite that strong of a workload. He should, however, immediately be reinserted as the team’s lead back after Edwards’ failure last week. Edwards, meanwhile, should see a healthy amount of change of pace work — and could possibly maintain the team’s RB1 status in the red zone. Dobbins bears usage of the RB2 variety while Edwards brings high-floor flex value to their date with the ‘Boys.