Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- Keep an eye on the health of Cleveland’s second-ranked offensive line; both center JC Tretter (knee) and left tackle Jedrick Wills, Jr. (ankle) have yet to practice this week
- The spread nature of the Cleveland offense means all players must rely on efficiency and touchdowns in order to provide a GPP-worthy fantasy score
- Everything sets up well here for some fireworks to develop; it’s much easier to nail down where that production is likeliest to come from on the Vikings, while it remains damn near impossible for the Browns
How Cleveland Will Try To Win ::
Slow pace of play (26th at 33.26), hefty situation-neutral rush rates (second highest in the NFL at 53%), low blitz rates and organic pressure up front, and a conservative 4-2-5 base Cover-3 defense designed to limit splash plays has been the name of the game for these Browns. On defense, Cleveland has allowed just a 60% completion rate and middle of the pack 10.7 yards per completion against. On the season, the Browns have run 11-personnel on a below average 39% of their offensive plays, instead electing heavy 12- and 13-personnel alignments (21% each). Considering the typical low-upside nature of this passing attack, quarterback Baker Mayfield’s fifth-ranked 9.4 yards per attempt comes somewhat as a surprise, but might just be an evolution in how this team will look to attack through the air in 2021.
The ground game has been the backbone of this team for the previous couple of years. Although the matchup yields the top net-adjusted line yards metric of the week at a silly 4.93, the Browns offensive line could be without two of their offensive linemen in center JC Tretter and left tackle Jedrick Wills, Jr., who have both yet to practice (as of Thursday). Keep an eye on this situation as it could have a significant impact to Cleveland’s offensive efficiency. On the other side of the ball, Minnesota middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, one of the Vikings’ top run-stoppers, appears ready for Week 4 after returning to full practice on Thursday. While Derrick Henry has increased his weekly value significantly through a modest bump to pass game work, Browns running back Nick Chubb has seen only three targets all season and is typically held in the 15-20 touch range. Cleveland has at least upped their 21-personnel usage rate to 14% on the season, but we’re primarily seeing either Chubb or Kareem Hunt on the field, not both. Hunt has seen nine, 14, and 17 running back opportunities through the first three weeks and could be called on slightly more should the two offensive linemen miss this contest.
Baker Mayfield’s pass attempts typically land in a tight window of 27-32 attempts, so all Cleveland pass-catchers rely heavily on efficiency and touchdown output to provide fantasy utility. Odell Beckham, Jr. made his season debut in Week 3, seeing a modest 64% snap rate which he turned into five receptions on nine targets for 77 yards. In that Week 3 game, four wide receivers saw snap rates between 35% and 65% and there isn’t much to indicate a large shift in that philosophy in the immediate future. I referenced the Browns tight end usage earlier, but all three of Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant have seen more than 32% of the offensive snaps in each game this season, with the former two typically in for around 60% of the offensive snaps and the latter averaging a 42% snap rate. Basically, there’s a whole bunch of “share the love” mentality going on here. The matchup through the air against the Vikings is pristine. They have allowed a 28th-ranked 12.1 yards per completion, the worst completion rate against in the league (75.79%), and 26.0 points per game on the young season.
How Minnesota Will Try To Win ::
The Vikings appear to have been much more aggressive in their play calling this season, landing in the middle of the pack in overall situation-neutral pass rates as well as early down situation-neutral pass rates. They are still relatively hesitant to throw on early downs with the score within seven points, but the overarching trend is that their situational play calling has taken a step forward early in the season. They have also been much more explorative in their personnel alignments, running 11-personnel a below average 51% of the time, and mixing in pretty much every other trackable offensive personnel alignment at varying rates. They do remain, however, a slow pace of play offense in 2021, which is much more likely a tool used to mask their defensive deficiencies than it is married to their rush rate plans.
Dalvin Cook is expected back this week after missing the Vikings’ Week 3 contest, and should immediately regain his 70%+ standard snap rate. In his two fully healthy games, Dalvin has seen running back opportunities of 27 and 25. We should take that as his norm for Week 4 assuming his ankle is healthy enough to play. After 30 combined touchdowns over the previous two season, he holds just one trip to the paint in 2021, a trend likely to seek stark correction sooner rather than later. The matchup on the ground yields a below average 3.64 net-adjusted line yards metric, but the heavy expected workload and pass game involvement are difficult to ignore. Behind Dalvin, expect Alexander Mattison to revert to his loose change of pace duties and 15-20% snap rate, while fullback CJ Ham sees his standard 25-30% snap rate.
Adam Thielen’s 22.2% target market share, 7.1 aDOT, low 2.9 yards after the catch, and moderate 61.7 air yards per game leaves a lot to be desired when he’s not scoring touchdowns. The problem (problem?) is that he’s pretty good at that scoring touchdowns thing. When you compare the pure metrics, analytics, and statistics between he and Justin Jefferson, the floor of Jefferson feels clearly superior. Jefferson’s 25.6% target market share, 10.9 aDOT, 4.7 yards after the catch, and 108.7 air yards per game were bound to provide a nice “get-right” spot, which we saw come to fruition in Week 3. Behind those two top dogs, KJ Osborn has played 59% of the offensive snaps in consecutive weeks following his seemingly out of nowhere 81% snap rate in Week 1 (another nod to not overreacting to early season statistics). He and Tyler Conklin should be considered low floor, touchdown-driven moderate ceiling options in roles we figured to be right on entering the season.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
Both of these teams prefer to run the football to set up the pass, it just appears that through Week 3 of 2021 the Browns are running to set up the deep pass while the Vikings are running and attacking the short and intermediate areas of the field through the air. If you had asked me before the season started, I would have had that backwards (dunno emoji). Now, is this a trend worth reading into or simply data influenced by a small sample size? The answer is we don’t really know yet. I will say, it is rather telling that Kirk Cousins holds the lowest pocket time of any non-Texans quarterback and has faced the most blitzes in the NFL through three weeks, which is likely to have had a large influence on his depth of target. We know the Browns blitz at extremely low rates, instead allowing their front four to organically create pressure, which allows their conservative zone defense to sit in coverage. Why is this all important? Knowing this can give us a better idea of where and how the Vikings are likeliest to attack through the air and also greatly affects their expected drive success rate. Since we know Cleveland is likelier than not to experience success on offense, the higher the likelihood Minnesota has to generate successful drives, the higher likelihood this game has to shoot out, and all signs are currently pointing to that being the case.
To review and sum that up, the Browns run to set up deep passing against a defense struggling against the run and against deep passing, and the Vikings are likely to see a slight boost to expected offensive drive success rate with lower pressure rates on quarterback Kirk Cousins, who currently ranks sixth in the NFL in total fantasy points scored in spite of the absurd pressure that has been generated against him and low pocket time.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- MIN’s solid overall defense that had been getting hurt by big plays finally held up all game vs SEA, allowing just 17 points to Wilson & co.
- Stefanski’s only time as an OC prior to becoming CLE HC was for MIN in 2019
- MIN is allowing the 2nd highest yds/att in NFL, due in large part to big plays vs the likes of Jamar Chase & Rondale Moore
- Baker has the 4th highest yds/att in NFL through three weeks, and two of the ones higher were previous MIN opponents (Kyler, Wilson)
- Only three teams have more sacks than MIN
- Only four QBs have been sacked more than Baker
- Final game scores of Mayfield’s only scores of 20+ DK pts with Stefanski: (37-34), (41-35), (42-47), (20-6), (48-37)
- Odell received 9 targets in his return from a torn ACL, totaling 87 yds
- No other CLE WR received more than 2 tg, and Schwartz’s 5 in W1 are the most by a non-Landry/Odell WR this season
- WRs vs MIN: Chase (5:101:1), Higgins (4:58:1) // Hopkins (4:54:1), Moore (7:114:1), Green (3:44:1) // Metcalf (6:107:1), Lockett (4:31)
- Odell’s only game vs Zimmer’s Vikings came all the way back in 2016, in which Odell finished with 3:23 on 9 tg
- Odell drew heavy coverage from Patrick Peterson in a 2019 matchup with ARI, finishing with 8:66 on 13 tg in the game
- TEs vs MIN: Uzomah (2:35) // Williams (7:94) // Everett: (5:54), Dissly (1:39)
- CLE TE targets: Hooper (3, 5, 3) // Bryant (2, 4, 2) // Njoku (5, 3, 0)
- Hooper’s season: 3:27 // 5:40 // 2:19:1
- MIN ranks 6th worst in defensive rush DVOA
- Lead RB rushing vs MIN: Mixon (29:127:1) // Edmonds (8:46) // Carson (12:80:1)
- CLE RB att: Chubb (15, 11, 22) // Hunt (6, 13, 10)
- CLE RB: tg: Chubb (2, 1, 0) // Hunt (3, 1, 7)
- MIN has allowed 5 RB rec in each game
- Chubb as road favorite with Stefanski (DK pts): 29.6 // 14.6 // 17.6
- Hunt in those games: 6.1 // 5.8 // 14.2
- After weaker showings vs KC & HOU, CLE showed some of its potential in completely shutting down the mess of a CHI offense (9 sacks)
- CLE’s defense is the most talented of the ones Cousins has faced to date (CIN, ARI, SEA)
- This is the 2nd highest game total on the slate, with CLE & MIN averaging 28.7 & 29 points respectively
- Final game totals of Cousins 25+ pt DK scores with MIN: 2021 (51, 67, 47) // 2020 (51, 59, 63, 55, 72) // 2019 (50, 58, 72) // 2018 (50, 41, 69, 58)
- 13/15 games came in 50+ pt finishes, with 8/15 over 58 pts
- Jefferson has out-targeted Thielen in 9 of the last 11 games
- Total targets this season: Jefferson (30) // Thielen (26)
- Jefferson has 70+ yds in 9 of his last 11 games
- Thielen has caught at least one TD in 13/19 games since last year
- Top WR vs CLE: Tyreek (11:197:1) // Cooks (9:78:1) // ARob (2:27)
- In their only game as a Home Dog in 2020: Jefferson (7:175:1) // Thielen (3:29:1)
- Top MIN WR score since 2020 when Opp Implied for 27+ pts: AT (29.2) // AT (29.3) // JJ (9.9) // AT (23.7) // JJ (18.5) // JJ (29.8)
- CLE has been very tough on RBs to start 2021, allowing just 43, 41, & 34 rush yds to lead RBs CEH, Ingram, & Montgomery
- Cook or Mattison have been over 20 rush att in all three games (20, 22, 26), and have caught 6 passes in two of three (6, 2, 6)
- Total yds for lead MIN RB in 2021: 104 // 148 // 171
- Dalvin has scored at least one TD in 24 of his 32 games since 2019; seven 2+ TD games in that span
- As an underdog since 2019 (13 g), Dalvin has five games of 30+ DK pts & six games under 20 DK pts
- Dalvin scored 29.9 DK pts in his only career game as a home dog (TEN in 2020) // MIN lost that game 30-31 with Dalvin & Jefferson each surpassing 175 yds
- Mattison scored 26.1 DK pts in last week’s start as a home dog vs SEA // MIN won 30-17 with Jefferson also scoring 29.8 DK pts
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