Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard Start/Sit Week 16: Are both Cowboys RBs fantasy starters?

Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard Start/Sit Week 16: Are both Cowboys RBs fantasy starters?

Heading into last week, fantasy football managers were unsure of what to expect from Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, given Pollard’s murky injury situation. Pollard tore his plantar fascia in Week 13, and after missing Week 14, his effectiveness was very much a question. Given Pollard’s normal usage and performance in Week 15, fantasy managers are once again trying to decipher the Cowboys’ backfield.

Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are both fantasy-viable

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. You can certainly start both Cowboys running backs. On the season, Zeke has been a high RB2 while Pollard has been a mid RB3.

Elliott has averaged 15.5 PPR fantasy points per game this season. Pollard is averaging 10.8 ppg.

Tony Pollard continues to outplay Ezekiel Elliott

Every week, it’s the same story. Elliott plays 60-65% of the snaps, firmly ahead of Pollard, but looks far inferior. Zeke’s highest single-game yards per carry since Week 10 is 3.75. During that same span, Pollard has posted three games over 6.0.

I keep bringing up Week 10 because that is when the Cowboys really started utilizing Pollard more deliberately. Pollard has finished as an RB2 in every game he’s played since then. Meanwhile, Zeke has two mid-to-low RB3 finishes over the same period.

The Cowboys offense isn’t exactly humming

One of the most appealing parts of drafting Pollard this season was the belief the potent Cowboys offense could support two fantasy-viable running backs. It still has, but not to the extent we expected.

The 2021 Cowboys win games with defense. Since Week 8, Dallas’ offense has scored more than 21 points just twice. This is despite having one of the highest neutral game script pass rates in the NFL. When the game is within one score, the Cowboys throw the ball 59% of the time, the eighth-most in the league. Dallas is passing, but it’s not translating to points.

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Should fantasy managers start Pollard or Elliott this week?

Allowing the 14th-most fantasy points to running backs, Washington has been an average matchup to the position.

These teams met just two short weeks ago. Pollard missed that game because of his foot. Yet, despite his absence, Elliott’s workload remained the same, and he was his usual inefficient self. Zeke carried the ball 12 times for 45 yards and caught just 1 of his 6 targets for 15 yards. This week, we should expect more of the same.

Hopefully, Cowboys coaches watched Tuesday night how the Eagles were able to move the ball on the ground against Washington. Philly utilized a lot of outside runs and beat the Football Team with speed. If the Cowboys did notice, that would suggest a Pollard-centric approach on the ground. Pollard is the speed back while Elliott looks like he’s accelerating through a pool of caramel.

The Cowboys are double-digit home favorites in this one. They should control the game even with Washington getting Taylor Heinicke back. My hope is they deploy Pollard to gain the lead and use Zeke to put the game away in the fourth quarter, allowing both to maintain RB2 value. If I had to choose just one, I would lean Pollard, but both are viable starters this week.