Potentially one of the best games on the Week 1 slate, the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants on Sunday night in an attempt revenge a series sweep at the hands of their division rivals.
The biggest story heading into this game has been Ezekiel Elliott and whether he would suit up after being suspended six games by the NFL due to domestic abuse allegations. Even before a federal court in Texas granted the NFLPA's motion for a temporary restraining order, halting the six-game ban, it was decided that Elliott would play in this one.
And from a fantasy perspective, that's some absolutely huge news here. Much like fellow second-year player Dak Prescott, Elliott's only real struggles as a rookie came against these Giants. Elliott put up 159 yards on 45 touches for an average of 79.5 yards per game and just 3.5 yards per touch in two games against New York. To put that into perspective, the All Pro performer averaged 131 yards per game and nearly six yards per touch in every other outing.
Last season saw the Giants rank in the top six of the NFL against fantasy running backs. They also yielded an average of just 3.6 yards per attempt. It remains to be seen if the loss of Johnathan Hankins in free agency will hurt here, but Damon Harrison has proven himself to be one of the most-elite run defenders in the game.
Interestingly enough, Elliott did go for 107 yards on 24 attempts in his second game against the Giants. The running back's poor Week 1 performance could very well be attributed to not playing a whole lot in the preseason. That could also very much be the case come Sunda night. As it is, Elliott could very well be a risky play at $8,700. He comes in at less than a $1,000 less than both David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell, two running backs who promise to dominate on Sunday.
At quarterback, Prescott is pretty much in the same boat at Elliott. The only two games the star youngster struggled in as a rookie was against this Giants team. He threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions in two starts against the division rivals. In Prescott's other 14 games as a rookie, he combined for 28 touchdowns and two interceptions. That's just absurd.
Though, Prescott continued to look incredibly sharp during the preseason slate and will definitely have revenge on his mind here. The issue here is that Janoris Jenkins seems to have Dez Bryant's number. The Cowboys' top receiver caught just 2-of-14 targets in two games against the Giants. That's a problem for Prescott, especially if he has one side of the field shut down by Jenkins. Prescott comes in as the seventh-most expensive FanDuel quarterback on Sunday, a ranking he's unlikely to meet against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Circling back to Bryant for a second. He did look much better in terms of a relationship with Prescott during the preseason, but the receiver's struggles against Jenkins really leads us to believe he isn't a viable top-end DFS play on Sunday. As the sixth most-expensive FanDuel receiver on Sunday, that's an issue.
When it comes to the Giants' offense, one really has to be worried about the health of Odell Beckham Jr. He was injured in the team's second preseason game and has not returned to practice. Nursing an ankle injury, OBJ did make the trip to Dallas. But he's iffy, at best. And with this being the Sunday Night Football Game, it would be tremendously risky to play him.
Unless you have a backup plan in place for Monday's slate, there's no real reason to risk it with Beckham Jr.
On the same note, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and rookie tight end Evan Engram have to be considered more-viable fantasy plays with OBJ's status uncertain.
Specifically, let's focus on Shepard and Engram, two budding young Giants' stars.
We're not too sure why this Shepard is priced so low in Week 1, but it has to be music to the ears of those who are high on him as a sophomore in 2017. As a rookie last season, Shepard recorded an absurd 12.3 percent touchdown rate. He also caught over 63 percent of the passes thrown in his direction.
With Beckham Jr. seemingly unlikely to play in Week 1, Shepard is pushed up a bit on the Giants' depth chart against a Cowboys defense that gave up a 63 percent catch rate and the fifth-most yards per catch to receivers last season.
We absolutely love this matchup for the rookie first-round pick. Not only did he earn a starting job out of camp, Engram might be targeted more with Odell Beckham Jr being a game-time decision for Sunday night.
Considering Engram and his Giants are taking on a Cowboys team that yielded 120 receptions for 1,206 yards and eight touchdowns to tight ends last season, we're looking for a big NFL regular season debut. That's only magnified by the fact that Dallas also gave up a 78 percent catch rate en route to yielding the most fantasy points to tight ends in 2016.
As it relates to Manning, he remains a fledgling fantasy option. Sure the Cowboys lack a decent defense, but the veteran is coming off a 2016 campaign that saw him finish as a bottom-end QB2 option. Priced much higher than that in FanDuel contests, Manning isn't much of an option unless you decide to go with a cheap streaming option in him and Shepard/Engram.