Cowboys vs Titans Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Calls on Hassan Haskins, Treylon Burks, More
Cooper Neill/Getty Images. Pictured: Hassan Haskins.
Week 17 of the 2022 NFL season kicks off with a Thursday Night Football showdown between the Dallas Cowboys and TennesseeTitans.
The Cowboys weathered an early season injury nightmare with quarterback Dak Prescott going down in Week 1 and are now 11-4. They are in line to be the No. 5 seed and will likely play the winner of the NFC South in round one of the playoffs. Their fate seems fairly locked up at this point, one spot behind the 13-2 Eagles in the NFC East, and atop the Wild Card standings by a significant margin. This predicament could mean that if they take a comfortable lead in this game, starters could be rested.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans are trying to weather their own injury nightmare with quarterback Ryan Tannehill likely out for the rest of the year and star running back Derrick Henry doubtful to play due to a hip injury. With last week’s loss to the Texans, the Titans sit in second place, behind the Jaguars (tied with a 7-8 record, but do not currently have the tiebreaker) in the AFC South.
Tennessee will be starting rookie quarterback Malik Willis, who struggled last week and completed 14-of-23 props/passing-attempts”>pass attempts for 99 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed seven times for 43 yards and a touchdown. Willis will have a negative impact on the team’s already anemic passing attack, which is unfortunate timing given Henry’s likely absence.
Some lineup decisions, like starting Dak Prescott or CeeDee Lamb, are easy. Below are some fringe players at each position who you may be on the fence about starting in Thursday’s Cowboys-Titans game.
Cowboys Week 17 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em
RB Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott and Pollard have been in a time share all season and have split snaps fairly evenly (36.4% to 36%). In the past, this has been more of a headache for managers, but both have managed to be very fantasy relevant.
Elliott has managed to do so via touchdowns. He is the overall RB16 and has eight consecutive games with a touchdown and at least 13 fantasy points in half-PPR scoring. Pollard has been even more successful, doing so with his efficient 5.3 yards per carry. He is the overall RB7.
In Week 16 against the Eagles, Pollard rushed nine times for 19 yards and caught 6-of-8 targets for 61 yards, finishing as RB22. Elliott rushed 16 times for 55 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass for six yards, finishing as RB16.
Verdict: If Pollard plays, start him as a high-end RB2 and Elliott as a low-end RB2. If Pollard sits, start Elliott as a RB1.
The matchup is difficult against the Titans’ defense, which ranks No. 2 in rush DVOA behind only the 49ers. The unit has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points, which is the only reason either would be downgraded at all. However, I suspect the Cowboys, who are 12-point favorites entering this matchup, will be in control of this game from the start and should be able to lean heavily on their elite run game and cruise to a victory.
WR Michael Gallup
Gallup is coming off of his second-best game of the season. He caught 4-of-7 targets for 36 yards and a touchdown — his fourth of the year — and finished as tWR24 in half-PPR scoring.
Gallup never truly emerged as the WR2 behind Lamb, as many had hoped with Amari Cooper out of the picture. Gallup has only finished as a top-36 wide receiver in three of 12 games this year.
Verdict: Sit unless you are desperate. This matchup is a favorable one opposite Tennessee’s defense, which ranks 27th in pass DVOA and has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. I am still wary of trusting Gallup, who has been boom-or-bust (mostly bust), especially in an affair that could be quite lopsided. Lamb would be the lone Dallas receiver I would be inclined to trust this week.
TE Dalton Schultz
Schultz — like most tight ends — has been unreliable for fantasy, though he has improved from a rough start. He is the overall TE17 in half-PPR on a per-game basis this year, but since Week 8, Schultz has improved to TE7 in the same metric.
Last week against the Eagles, he was held to just three catches on four targets for 43 yards and was TE21. He will look to bounce back against an exploitable Titans’ pass defense.
Verdict: Start as a low-end TE1. It is understandably difficult to get excited about a guy who was drafted as a top-6 tight end, yet has 58 total yards and zero touchdowns over the past two weeks. That said, I would challenge you to name 12 tight ends you would feel more comfortable starting — especially against the Titans who have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to the position this year.
Titans Week 17 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em
RB Hassan Haskins
Haskins is the heir-apparent to the Titans’ RB1 role with Henry listed as doubtful and Dontrell Hilliard on Injured Reserve. There is not much to say about Haskins, who has logged 11 attempts for 50 yards and seven catches for 31 yards over 13 games played this year.
Verdict: Sit. The only appeal for Haskins is this new opportunity, which may not be as appealing when you take into account Willis’ struggles, which have contributed to the team being double-digit underdogs. The Cowboys are no easy matchup either as their defense ranks top-5 in rush DVOA and has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year. Haskins is a volume-based, RB4 desperation play with minimal upside.
WR Treylon Burks
The hype for Burks was off the charts entering the season. The rookie was an elite prospect who landed on a team that traded its No. 1 wide receiver during the offseason. However, Burks has been an interesting case of perceived opportunity not being enough to manufacture fantasy points. He has 25 catches on 39 targets for 359 yards and three touchdowns in nine games played this year and has finished as a fantasy WR3 or better in just one game.
Burks returned from injury last week and was held to zero catches. He did rush once for 15 yards, but 1.5 fantasy points is not going to cut it for your fantasy Super Bowl.
Verdict: Sit. Even when Tannehill was under center, I had seen very little convincing evidence that Burks should be considered a fantasy starter. Willis tanks any remaining value for Burks, who belongs on waivers — not in your fantasy championship lineups.
TE Chigoziem Okonkwo
There was a brief moment when I thought Okonkwo could be the real deal. He was TE9 in Week 13 against the Eagles and was TE2 in Week 14 against the Jaguars in half-PPR scoring. His production has suffered with Tannehill out and he’s finished as TE16 and TE46 in back-to-back weeks.
Verdict: Sit. Even in the deepest leagues, there are better dart-throw options who have better matchups than the Cowboys, who have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year.
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