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Week 16 fantasy football start ‘em, sit ‘em: Sit Dak Prescott

Which Cowboys are you starting in your fantasy playoffs?

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

This will be controversial for some, but consider this a holiday warning akin to A Christmas Carol and a visit from the ghost of Fantasy Christmas Future. Do not start Dak Prescott this week in your fantasy lineup. Before you roast me in the comments like chestnuts on an open fire, I think looking at this from 360 perspectives is fair. First, let’s deconstruct why this may seem like crazy talk.

Following the bye week, Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense caught fire. From Week 8 to 13, Prescott scored no lower than 30 fantasy points just once and began his ascent to the third-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy. Prescott was touted as a fantasy league winner and an NFL MVP. Sadly, the MVP train careened off the rails as the Buffalo Bills circled the Cowboys’ wagons to an embarrassing 31-10 loss. Prescott scored only four fantasy points on a rainy Sunday afternoon in western New York.

Conventional wisdom, and Prescott’s recent trajectory, would say he’ll bounce back after being embarrassed as he did against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5, and you’d be right. However, we also have to account for the caliber of the opponent following the Cowboys’ first three losses. The teams Prescott has faced following his first three losses have a combined record of 13-29. (New York Giants, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers)

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys offense are raring to get back on the field and prove that what they showed against Buffalo isn’t who they are. The way the offense struggled to get any momentum last week can’t be a repeat performance of last week, but I wonder if that won’t be the case. The oddsmakers are trolling us to expect a shootout with the over/under set 51.5 points, the highest of this week’s slate of games. Queue the Tom Hardy gif. That’s bait. Despite the Cowboys and the Dolphins having about a 60% run/pass ratio in favor of the pass, the Dolphins run the 19th most plays per game. They will take their time and likely build off the blueprint Buffalo established last week against Dallas. Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel runs one of the most exotic running games you’ll see and is a disciple of 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

The other concern I have with starting Prescott this week is that the Dolphins’ defense is excellent and has been the fourth-highest-scoring defense in fantasy football. The Dolphins have the second-most sacks in the NFL and the most quarterback pressures despite blitzing only 20% of the time. This means that the Dolphins will limit explosive plays down the field and will be content with getting pressure with their defensive front.

Bradley Chubb and Christian Wilkins are playing terrific as of late. Terence Steele is an area of concern. Steele struggled to return from an ACL injury last year and has had some lowlight moments. Against San Francisco, he allowed eight quarterback pressures, and in the first meeting with the Eagles, he allowed four sacks.

Dolphins’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has given Prescott problems in the past. Think back to 2021. Prescott and the Cowboys’ trio of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup were held in check by the Fangio’s Denver Bronco defense. On that day, Prescott completed 19 of 39 passes for 232 yards (5.9 YPA), was sacked twice, and threw interceptions.

Then, we must also address the stark difference between Prescott’s play on the road and at home this year. Prescott has thrown eight touchdowns on the road against five interceptions, 6.5 YPA, and a passer rating of 84.2. After looking at this week’s matchup further, it seems uncomfortable trusting Prescott in this type of situation where the Cowboys’ defense could be compromised and Dallas has to play a one-dimensional offense to combat Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins.

Assuming I’ve convinced you that the Dolphins take control of this game and the Cowboys are trailing big like they were against Buffalo, I wouldn’t be comfortable relying on garbage time for added points. In some league formats, you’re penalized for sacks and, indeed, for turnovers. Miami forces each of those in bunches, and an early deficit may be a hole too big for your fantasy team to climb out of. Like many fantasy managers, I play a stack of Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, and Tony Pollard most weeks, but this is the week to diversify your roster.

The Cowboys are very much alive in the NFC East race, and, even if they were to lose against Miami, are still able to secure the division title depending on what happens with the Eagles in the coming weeks. Dallas also has a date with the Detroit Lions on short rest playing six days later. The team could see where a significant deficit is going and choose to live to fight another day to avoid further damage.

For alternative options, there are a few names to consider. The ageless Joe Flacco is doing wonders for the Cleveland Browns and, since taking over as the starting quarterback for the Browns, has posted 36 fantasy points in consecutive weeks. He takes on the Houston Texans, who may be without C.J. Stroud and Nico Collins. Regarding pace of play, the Browns run the most plays per game at 71.5.

Also, if you’re in the holiday spirit, you could go with Nick Mullens, who gets the Detroit Lions defense that allows the fifth-most points to fantasy quarterbacks. Mullens may make a mistake or two, but he has a full assortment of weapons. Running back Ty Chandler is a more explosive runner that will keep Detroit honest to defend the run. Justin Jefferson is healthy once again and threatens to go off this week. Jordan Addison has home run potential, and T.J. Hockenson is a premier red zone threat.

Happy Holidays.

-The Fantasy Grinch

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