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Thursday Night Football Starts and Sits: Cowboys vs Buccaneers Matchups

CeeDee Lamb - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Targets, NFL Injury News

It’s been 258 days since my last NFL preview and I couldn’t be more excited to be back. That’s right, it’s football time! Coming to you for the second year in a row, it is my honor to bring you the RotoBaller Thursday Night Football Preview each week. For those of you who followed my work last year, welcome back, and to those who may be new, I’m thrilled to have you on board.

Along with my work with RotoBaller, I am also a contributor for True North Fantasy Football (@TrueNorthFFB), and a featured expert with FantasyPros (@FantasyPros). I am very proud to announce that last season I ranked 14th out of 210 experts on FantasyPros for picking games against the spread.

America’s team travels to Tampa Bay to take on the reigning Super Bowl champs. NFL fans couldn’t have hand-picked a better matchup to kick off the season. Not only do we get to see another opener featuring the GOAT Tom Brady, but we also get to see the return of Dak Prescott. Buckle your seatbelts, everybody, because we have one of the most anticipated offenses taking on one of the most complete teams in the NFL. So without further ado, I bring to you, the RotoBaller Thursday Night Preview for Week 1.

Featured Promo: Our friends at RIVAL Fantasy have created fun and unique DFS games including over/under contests and Fantasy Bingo. Use promo code BALLER to get a free year of RotoBaller Premium access ($199 value), and a $50 risk-free deposit. Play Now!


Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thursday 9/9 @ 8:20 PM EST

Notable Injuries:

  • Zach Martin (G, DAL) - COVID - Out



Tom Brady (QB, TB): At the age of 44, Brady once again makes the must-start list. Last season he finished as the fantasy QB8, passing for over 4,600 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Somehow the ageless wonder has not shown any signs of slowing down. Plus, he is passing to one of the best receiving corps in the league. Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, you now give him a primetime matchup against one of the worst defenses in the league.

Last season, Dallas finished 28th in points allowed, averaging nearly 30 points a game. Thankfully, with Dak Prescott on the other side of the ball, Brady should have to keep moving the offense all game long. Make sure you don’t skip your veggies on Thursday and plug the Plantman into your line-up.

Dak Prescott (QB, DAL): Dak is back. After fracturing his ankle in Week 5 last season, then returning from a shoulder sprain over the camp, we finally have a fully healthy Prescott under center. The last time we saw Prescott, he was on pace for over 6,300 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. Although Tampa’s defense is one of the best in the league, their secondary is definitely worse than their D-line. If Dallas is going to win this game, Dak Prescott will need to sling the rock. If you thought last year this offense was unstoppable, now add a second-year CeeDee Lamb and a healthy Blake Jarwin. Dak is an excellent play to start the fantasy season.

Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown (WR, TB): For much of the same reasons above, these receivers are an excellent play this week. In what is looking to be a high-scoring matchup, this elite trio should feast on a Cowboys secondary that allowed the third-most passing touchdowns per game. All of these receivers will take advantage of the abysmal secondary and execute the high-flying Bruce Arians offense to perfection. I think Godwin is the safest option of the three, holding the best yardage floor with touchdown upside. Next, I would play the touchdown upside of Evans, followed by Brown.

Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb (WR, DAL): After riding the hype train for Ceedee Lamb, we finally get to see him in action. However, don’t forget about Amari Cooper. Through the first five weeks of last season, Lamb and Cooper were fantasy WR12 and 13 respectively. In a game where the Cowboys’ offense will need to cover for their lack of defense, these two receivers should help Dak keep Dallas in the game. Unfortunately, expectations may need to be tempered if Prescott does not have time in the pocket.

After dominating Kansas City in the Super Bowl, it’s no secret how good this D-line is. Thankfully, with Brady commanding the other side of the ball, the volume of pass attempts should still be there for both Lamb and Cooper to have a productive day at the office. In fact, I’m calling for the Pie Shop* to be open for Lamb, as I think he starts the season fulfilling the offseason hype.  

*Pie Shop: An Australian term (often used in Rugby League) to describe who will score a Try (or in this case touchdown) this week.

Ronald Jones II (RB, TB): Vegas is forecasting this to be a lopsided game with Tampa as heavy favorites. As a result, this could become a very positive game script for the third-year running back. Unfortunately, he will be sharing backfield duties with Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard, however, he managed to find success last year in a similar situation. Coming off of an RB-16 campaign in 2020, Jones looks to remind everyone why they call Fournette “playoff Lenny” and not “regular-season Lenny.”

In addition, the matchup is fabulous. Dallas allowed nearly 160 rushing yards per game last season (second-most in the league). Although plugging Jones in your lineup doesn’t usually carry a lot of confidence, this might be the perfect situation. Plus, for what it’s worth, I’m calling for the Pie Shop* to be open this week for Jones.


Solid Options

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL): To be honest, Elliott was really close to making the “sit” section of this preview. However, you don’t bench your first-round pick for the first week. Thankfully the volume and touchdown potential should keep Zeke afloat and not sink your fantasy week. Although some were speculating that Elliott may have lost a step last season as his metrics dipped far below his career average, my worry has nothing to do with Elliott and everything to do with Tampa Bay. This run defense was outstanding last year averaging the fewest rushing yards and rushing touchdowns per game. In fact, they were the only team to allow less than 90 rushing yards per game, which they did handly with an 82-yard average. It’s going to be tough sledding for Zeke and I would look to find a week-winning performance at another spot in your lineup. 

Michael Gallup (WR, DAL): Often the lost receiver in this stacked receiving core, Gallup finds himself in the “solid option” section for week one. As mentioned previously, Prescott should be chucking all game long which opens the door for WR production. Last season, in the five games with Prescott, Gallup was the WR29 for fantasy. During this stretch, he averaged 70 yards and six targets a game. Although it’s risky to rely on three receiving weapons on one team, there is definitely a path for Gallup to have a very productive opening game.


Consider Sitting

Rob Gronkowski (TE, TB): Even though the tight end position gets murky really quick, there must be a better option out there than Gronk for week one. In 2020, he had 10 games under eight fantasy points. Although Dallas’ defense is not their strong suit, in 2020 they allowed the third-fewest yards to the tight end position. One of my favorite sayings for these previews applies perfectly here: you can’t win your matchup on Thursday, but you can lose it. It’s truly a touchdown or bust situation for Gronk and I’d look for a safer option.

Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard (RB, TB): All the reasons why I like Ronald Jones this week, are the same reasons why I don’t trust Fournette. He could find the end zone and be played as a FLEX flier, however, I want to see how Bruce Arians uses both Fournette and Bernard before I put any confidence in them. 

Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz (TE, DAL):  In the last offseason, Blake Jarwin was a popular fantasy sleeper at the position. Unfortunately, this was quickly crushed after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in week one. Enter Dalton Schultz.

In Jarwin’s absence, Schultz stepped up and performed admirably in his place. It is because of his play last year that has muddied the tight end room for both. During camp, the coach talked about using both players in this offense. Pair this information with possibly the best receiving trio in the league, and the last thing you want to hear is the tight ends splitting work. We need to see how this team uses these players before we can even consider playing either this season.


Ellis’ picks are back! Every Thursday, I pick both the over/under and against the spread for the week's matchup. Last season, I finished 9-9 for both picks against the spread and the over/under. This year I look to get off to a hot start with this barn-burner of a matchup. I think Tampa Bay is the hands-down better team here, however, I am not sure if anyone can stop this Cowboys offense.

The line has moved to further favor the Bucs, giving me enough confidence to take the plus points. As for the over-under, it’s hard to see either of these teams not scoring in abundance. The forecast is currently calling for thunderstorms which may take some confidence away from my selection. Either way, here are the first picks for the 2021 season!

Ellis’ Picks: Dallas +9.0 (0-0), Over 51.5 (0-0)

Career record: Spread (9-9), Over/Under (9-9)

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