Game Overview ::
- Both defenses present pass-funnel paths of least resistance and both offenses tilt toward the air.
- Both teams tank top 10 in first half pace of play and top six in overall pace of play.
- Both offenses rank top 11 in drive success rate on offense and in the bottom half of the league in drive success rate allowed on defense (MIN: 18th, ARI: 27th).
- The recipe is present for this game environment to erupt.
How Arizona Will Try To Win ::
We know exactly what Kliff Kingsbury’s “air raid” offense is at this point – the Cardinals utilize an elevated pace of play (fourth overall pace of play and fifth in first half pace of play) and spread the field horizontally, hoping to open up downfield passing from there. The problem is they haven’t opened up downfield passing at all this season, with the team electing to utilize Marquise Brown in a more possession-style role when DeAndre Hopkins was out of the lineup due to suspension and then electing to utilize Rondale Moore as a perimeter wide receiver with Hopkins back and Brown out due to injury. Make it make sense! That is a very clear indication that Kingsbury is attempting to fit square pegs into round holes as he attempts to force various players into his scheme, as opposed to maximizing the talent he has on the field through unique game plans. Hence the “fake sharp” moniker tattooed to his face by the fantasy community (to be fair, it is accurate). The good news for the Cardinals is they expect starting running back James Conner back from a rib injury that forced him to miss the last two games. The bad news is the entire left side of their offensive line missed practice on Wednesday for various ailments, including left tackle D.J. Humphries, left guard Max Garcia, and center Rodney Hudson. Interestingly enough, the Cardinals have been at or below league average in pass rate over expectation in all but one game this season (15th-ranked 61.18% overall pass rate), which makes little sense considering the offensive composition of this team. The logical next thought would be to look to their defensive metrics as a potential signal, but their unit currently ranks 27th in the league in points allowed per game at 25.1. One positive of their defensive scheme is the relative erasure of opposing WR1s this season, with Chris Olave the first to break 100 yards receiving against them this season, and it came through 14 targets on a season-high 71 offensive plays run from scrimmage for the Saints last week.
Cardinals backs have averaged only 19.4 fantasy points per game through seven games on an average of 32.4 running back opportunities per game (25.1 carries per game and 7.3 targets per game). That’s astoundingly poor. James Conner’s 3.7 true yards per carry ranks 56th in the league and his 4.5 yards per touch value ranks 34th in the league, and the backfield is likely going to have to contend with three members of their offensive line being out. Not great, Bob. I think we can safely assume Conner will return to a 60-65% snap rate player this week, backed up by Eno Benjamin as a strict change of pace and clear passing down back. The pure rushing matchup on the ground yields an average 4.32 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Minnesota defense holding opposing backs to just 3.95 yards per carry this season.
There are so many confusing moving parts in this pass offense, primarily due to Kliff’s insistence on forcing his pass-catchers into roles they aren’t best suited for (see above). One positive development was the absolute feeding of DeAndre Hopkins in his first game back. Nuk saw an unsustainable yet beautiful 52.8% targets per route run rate and 48.3% of the team’s available targets last week, even playing 22.8% of his snaps from the slot. That said, his modest 9.4 aDOT and weak 1.1 yards after the catch per reception highlight the low upside routes he continues to be asked to run, meaning he will need volume and touchdowns to return a GPP-worthy score in a standard week. Rondale Moore was confusingly thrust into a perimeter role in Week 7 in the absence of Marquise Brown, playing 86% of his snaps out wide. That is likely to change once newcomer Robbie Anderson gets up to speed in the offense, but it remains to be seen when that will be. As in, once Anderson gets the playbook down, it is likely he operates in the “Z” role, shifting Moore back to his more natural slot role. Sorry, it just made little sense to me that the obvious perimeter wide receiver in A.J. Green wouldn’t play perimeter snaps (even though he’s old, slow, and sucks) while Moore would be left to his natural role last week. I digress. Either way, Green’s days appear numbered in Arizona, with the team clearly shopping him before Tuesday’s trade deadline. Against a Vikings defense that is amongst the league leaders in zone coverage rate this season, it stands to reason that Moore could see an uptick in targets out of the slot this week (assuming he returns to that role). Cardinals running backs have accounted for 51 total targets this season, which ranks 11th in the league. Finally, Zach Ertz’s splits with and without DeAndre Hopkins are stark, a trend that continued last week as he saw just four looks after seeing double-digit targets in four of six contests without Nuk to start the season.