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Wild Card Sunday Preview: Lions at Cowboys

dez land
Source: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys
January 4, 2015. 4:40 p.m. EST, FOX

This is a very intriguing game and neither team’s history warrants a whole lot of faith in their ability to step up in a big game. It’s nice for Tony Romo that he got his December woes out of the way. January is a whole other monster, and I really hate this matchup for them. They have been impressive this season, but this is as bad a matchup as they could have had in the first round. The Lions have the league’s top ranked rush defense and let’s be honest, the Cowboys playoff success hinges on DeMarco Murray’s ability to run the ball. If he can’t get going the Cowboys are in big trouble. Detroit has playmakers on every level of the defense.

Then on the other side of the ball, who stops Calvin Johnson? Then again everyone has that problem. Joique Bell will be key to their success just like Murray will be for Dallas. If the Lions get their running game going, that may spell the end for the Cowboys. Because Megatron and Golden Tate aren’t going to be shutdown. Still, the Cowboys are the favorites and with good reason. They were a tiebreaker away from being the top overall seed in the NFC. This should be a great matchup for two franchises that are extremely hungry for a deep playoff run.

Detroit Lions: What to look for

Quarterbacks
Matthew Stafford was a major disappointment this year for fantasy owners expecting him to take that next step in to the ranks of elite fantasy QBs. Many of his weapons were disappointments as well and it was more their fault than Stafford’s. Megatron dealt with injuries this season as did all of the Detroit TEs. Eric Ebron had a very disappointing rookie campaign. Reggie Bush is also all but done. Tate, Bell and Theo Riddick are the only Lions on the offensive side of the ball to live up to expectations this season. Still with Johnson and Tate on the outside, the upside will always be there for their QB. Not to mention Bell’s ability to run should draw enough attention to open things up. While Stafford is a candidate to flop against an inexplicably solid Cowboys’ defense, at $7,200 on DraftKings.com, he is a very good value pick. He is a difference maker and could win or lose you a lot of money.

Running Backs
Bell has emerged as the clear-cut feature back in Detroit and at $5,500 he is a steal. You have to love that price tag. No RB comes at a better value this week. Bush and Riddick will also play a role, however, and when both active they pretty much cancel each other out. They have some PPR value but it is very difficult to gauge what their production will be. You are much better off avoiding them, especially Bush at $4,800. Bell is the man to own here.

Wide Receivers
Megatron is Megatron, it’s as simple as that. If you can afford him, you plug him in. He does not come cheap at $8,800 and rightly so. Who does Dallas have that is going to slow him down, let alone stop him? He should have a monster game. Johnson also doesn’t tend to disappear in big games. He will see a ton of targets and do what he does best. Tate is an interesting play. He has as much upside as any WR2 in the league. Although, he’s still a WR2. His $5,500 price tag has him sandwiched between Kelvin Benjamin and Torrey Smith. That is a very fair place for Tate. He is a good play this week, but I wouldn’t pair him with Johnson. He could be a nice compliment to another top wideout. There is little to be desired after these two. Jeremy Ross and Ryan Broyles are not worthy of consideration.

Tight Ends
The Detroit TEs have been a fantasy nightmare this season. They have all been awful. They have some value on DraftKings being that both Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew can be had for $3,000. Nonetheless, that is pretty much just throwing a dart and hoping it sticks. Neither guy can be trusted. The Cowboys are pretty bad against TEs, though, allowing more fantasy points to the position than any team in the league this season. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Then again, maybe not.

Dallas Cowboys: What to look for

Quarterbacks
You have to love what Romo did this season, even if at times his fantasy production took a hit as he took a backseat to Murray. Romo is the third-most expensive QB at $7,500. The Lions have a very tough defense and could force Romo in to having a classic Romo game (that’s not a good thing). If the Cowboys are to win, odds are Romo will have a big game because of how stout the Lions’ run defense is. While Murray will have to get something going for the Cowboys to win, the bulk of the points will likely fall on the shoulders of Romo. We like but don’t love Romo this week. No one would be shocked if he was a nightmare and the Cowboys were sent packing because of it.

Running Backs
This is all about Murray against that dominant Detroit front seven. The Lions allowed a league best 69.3 rushing yards-per-game this season. Murray and the Cowboys O-line have been good enough to move the ball on anyone this season. Still, at $8,800 that’s a pretty big risk to take. He is the most expensive back assuming Bell sits. The next highest price tag is Jeremy Hill at $6,200 with Justin Forsett just $100 behind. You may be better off going with those guys and saving some cap room. Of course, no one could fault you for splurging on Murray either. That’s just not the direction I would go.

Wide Receivers
This is pretty much Dez Bryant and a couple of other guys who might catch a few passes and find the end zone. The guy to own here is Bryant. You are probably going to purchase an elite WR1 on your team. Bryant is right up there with Megatron and Antonio Brown. You can probably only afford one of them, so take your pick. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Personally I went with Brown but they’re all great. If you think the Cowboys will win this game, you should probably take Bryant. He will need to make big plays and find the end zone for that to happen. Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams are pretty much afterthoughts with little upside if they don’t find the end zone. Both have had their moments this season, however, they are better off avoided.

Tight Ends
While Gavin Escobar is capable of finding the end zone, Jason Witten is the obvious TE we’re looking at in Dallas. He has been much better late in the season than he was in the beginning but still has disappeared at times. His $4,500 price tag is about where he should be priced. Don’t love him, don’t hate him. Heath Miller and Dwayne Allen are a bit cheaper and are just as productive. They are better value picks. Nonetheless, if you want to roll with the old vet there is nothing wrong with that either. Go with your gut.

Predictions

Final Score
Detroit: 28
Dallas: 24

Best Play
Lions: Joique Bell
Cowboys: Dez Bryant

Sleeper
Eric Ebron

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