- 2 of MIN’s 3 worst offensive performances of the 2019 season came against GB, scoring a COMBINED 26 points (average in other 14 was 27.2 ppg), turning the ball over 5 times, and allowing 6 sacks
- Stefon Diggs replacement Justin Jefferson had the 2nd most catches from the slot in a single college season since 2014
- 2019 MIN ran 11 personnel (3 WRs) on just 25% of plays (NFL average is 60%), and ran 12 or 21 personnel (2 WRs) 27% above NFL average, meaning Jefferson is going to be playing outside far more often than he did in college
- 2019 GB ranked bottom 3 defending TEs in every pre-snap alignment (slot, inline, split wide)
- 3 of MIN’s top 5 personnel groupings featured 2 TEs (Rudolph & Smith played 77% & 60% of the snaps respectively), and Cousins targeted TEs on early downs at a 4% rate above average
- After his dominant start to 2018, Thielen never really got going in 2019, as he only had one strong game pre-hamstring injury (35 DK pts), and didn’t do much of anything until getting to rest Week 17 and then hitting the Saints for 22.2 DK pts
- With Thielen healthy, Diggs gone, and Kubiak at the offensive helm, Thielen is in position to see a bump in targets and dominate usage in a Kubiak offense that has produced an average of 157 targets/season for its 12 previous 16-game WR1s
- Some talented WR1s were able to perform strongly vs GB in 2019, including Robinson (x2), Cooper, Golladay, Moore, McLaurin, & Lockett all surpassing 20+ DK pts
- GB ranked 29th in explosive pass plays allowed to WRs
- Dalvin Cook’s averages in first 10 games pre-injury vs final 4 games: 20.3 att for 99.1yds, 4 rec for 42.4yds // 11.8 att for 36yds, 3.3 rec for 23.8yds
- GB ranked 23rd in Rush Efficiency Def, 31st in Early Down Rush Success Def, 14th in Explosive Rush Def, 29th in RB rushing TDs allowed, and 23rd in RB receptions allowed
- Despite the injury, Cook still led all RBs in total touches inside the 5-yd line (26), helping him to surpass 27+ DK pts in 7/10 games pre-injury
- Zimmer’s D has sacked Rodgers at least 4 times in 7/12 matchups dating back to 2009
- Rodgers has only topped 20 DK pts once in those 12 matchups with Zimmer, and he hasn’t topped 16 DK pts since 2016
- Rodgers’s #1 WR in those 12 games (Adams (4), Jordy (5), Jones (2), Driver (1)) has fared far more favorably, averaging 6.7rec (10.3targ) for 93.3yds, 0.7 TDs, and with a DK ppg average of 21.77
- After averaging just 7 targets/g in the first 3 weeks, Adams averaged 11.6 targets/g for the rest of his season, with just one game below double-digit targets
- The only 2020 MIN CB to meet PFF’s snap parameters in 2019 was Mike Hughes, coming in as PFF’s 78th ranked CB; opposite Hughes will likely be 6th CB off the board in 2020 draft, Jeff Gladney
- Of Aaron Jones’s 4 largest attempt totals of the season, Jamaal Williams was inactive for 2, and left early in 1 more
- 2 of those 4 games were vs MIN, his 4th and 5th highest scoring games of the season
- Jones reached 16 carries in another game, but otherwise never received higher than 13 in the 11 other games
- GB added a 2nd round RB to the rotation in the draft
How Minnesota Will Try To Win ::
In 2019, Kirk Cousins threw the ball more than 34 times in only three of 15 games — and he finished at 30 or fewer pass attempts in seven of 15 games. Meanwhile, the Vikings regularly pushed for 30 or more rush attempts, and they even had a few games north of 35. Consider this your reminder that the Vikings would prefer to lean on the run if they can — using Gary Kubiak’s zone-based rushing attack to keep the defense off balance and to make Cousins look good by giving him easy reads at multiple levels with half the defense flowing the other way on run action.
As always :: we should be paying attention to these types of things. As we noted in both the NFL Profitability Masterclass and Xandamere’s Single-Game Mastery course, these are raw points here. By knowing what an offense is likeliest to do most games, you’ll have a better sense of how many points are available in that spot // offense. (A bonus note here — covered a few times in various podcasts last year, and covered again in the Masterclass :: with DraftKings scoring, you can typically expect an offense as a whole (quarterback included) to put up around 65 to 85 points. Every once in a while, you catch a monster game with 100+ points, and every once in a while you’ll see a dud with 55 or fewer points; but 65 to 70 total points is pretty normal, and anything up to 80/85 isn’t outside a reasonable range. (With PPR scoring, of course: teams that throw more often pick up more points, and teams that score more touchdowns pick up more points.) So if taking a player like Adam Thielen in a game like this, for example, you should know what you’re saying. Do you think the Vikings are going to have to throw the ball 37+ times (and if so: why? — and what does that mean for players you should consider on the other side of the ball?), with Thielen seeing 10 targets; or do you think they throw only 33 times and Thielen sees a 30% market share? (Note: Michael Thomas dominated the league last year with a 34.5% market share.) Again :: these are raw points. And these are things we should be looking to pin down — understanding the game environment in which a player is playing, and understanding how this impacts the player’s production.)
We’ll get back to players in this game in the DFS+ Interpretation — but as a starting point here :: the Vikings are going to try to win on the ground to whatever extent they can, and the focal points will be Dalvin Cook, Thielen, and a mix-and-match of other pieces from there.
How Green Bay Will Try To Win ::
As has been well documented, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur wants to build a system similar to the one we’ve hit on with Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Sean McVay, Greg Roman, and others. All of these coaches have unique ways in which they attempt to build these systems — but the core elements are the same; and LaFleur seemingly doesn’t care that this is not the best system for Aaron Rodgers (or, at least, is not a system Rodgers would prefer to run; for one thing, Rodgers hates turning his back on the defense — and all this run action and play-action requires exactly that).
In the Packers’ games against the Vikings last year, they ran the ball with running backs 32 and 29 times. The game with 32 rush attempts saw Rodgers throwing only 34 times, while the 29-rush-attempt game saw Rodgers throwing 40 times. (Unfortunately, he went for only 216 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.)
Year in and year out, the Vikings are going to have one of the most well-coached defenses — and from a positioning perspective, these guys are almost always going to be in the right place at the right time, using good technique to tackle (to whatever extent they can with a shortened offseason and limited tackling reps).
From a pure talent perspective, the Packers should be able to move the ball on the ground here; and from a big-play perspective, Aaron Jones has the ability to break off big plays against this defense. The Packers can also layer in A.J. Dillon to wear down the defense — which all adds up to a spot in which the Packers are likely going to be able to take their standard approach, mirroring the two games these teams played last year: a 21-16 Packers win, and a 23-10 Packers win (note: not necessarily those outcomes; but that general range of scoring).
Likeliest Game Flow ::
In 2019, the Packers — low-key — had combined point totals of 43 or lower in nine of their 16 games (while hitting 45 or lower in an astonishing 12 out of 16 games). This is not the Mike McCarthy + healthy Jordy Nelson + emerging Davante Adams Packers — nor is this the Pat Shurmur Vikings with Stefon Diggs. These are two teams trying to win games differently than they were trying to win them a couple years ago, and we should adjust our eye levels accordingly.
In order for this game to become a track meet, it would almost certainly have to happen from big plays. What I mean by that is that with both of these teams looking to run the ball and win in that way, it’s unlikely we see both offenses simply open things up and start relentlessly attacking. (A tremendous number of things would have to go just right in order for that to happen). As we’ll see in the DFS+ Interpretation, this doesn’t mean each team should necessarily be avoided. Each of these squads has a narrow enough distribution of touches that you can still feel good about some of the upside you can target here without a blowup game. But the likeliest scenarios here certainly do not have “a blowup game” in the mix.
With all that said: we should be aware that these offenses can generate explosive plays.
While Adams and Thielen have some explosiveness to their games, the places where “explosive games” are likeliest to emerge is from the backfields — where Cook and Jones are both capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Especially with each of these guys having a role in the pass game, there is an interesting tributary to consider (or, that is to say: an interesting angle to play) where Cook and Jones are the two key pieces from this game. This would allow them to be played on a roster together — and would create a very unique roster construction compared to what the field will bring to the table.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
Last year, Dalvin Cook rushed for 154 yards in his one game against the Packers on 20 carries — but this included a 75-yard run off left tackle where he spotted some over-pursuit on the second level and cut back to the middle of the field and raced all the way to the end zone. Without that, he was looking at 19 carries for 79 yards — and there is certainly potential for another game like that as the Packers put heavy emphasis on slowing him down. With that said: Cook also averaged 7.5 DraftKings points per game last year on catches without even factoring in touchdowns; and the Packers allowed the sixth most running back receptions in the league last year. If we played this game out a hundred times, Cook would likely average 8.5 to 9.0 points per game through the air alone, which gives him a nice floor to work from. Even a game of “only 75 rushing yards and no touchdowns” gets you solid production; and he obviously carries explosive upside and a big role in this offense. He’s a solid, high-upside play — as is almost always the case.
Jones, of course, is a little more difficult to fall so easily in love with (in “like” with? — that’s more where I am with Dalvin), as he literally had 11 out of 16 games last season in which he was given 13 or fewer carries. And while the eight games of six or more targets definitely helped, those were mixed in with five games of one or zero target. Minnesota has the safety and linebacker play to be tough on running backs and tight ends (not to where you necessarily have to avoid pass-catching backs in this spot, but where they don’t get an upside boost, as most backs would come in under their pass-catching averages if facing this matchup over a 100-game sample), but Jones nevertheless remains interesting to me for his pure upside from a usage // red zone // big-play perspective. There will be times this year when he puts up only eight or nine points at high ownership and a high price tag, so there’s a bit of “buyer beware” here as well.
Of course, the place where the Vikings are most susceptible is in the secondary. And while I’m not making as big of a deal as others out of the losses in the Vikings’ secondary (they lost some “names” in Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes — but those names gave up the seventh most wide receiver catches in the NFL a year ago), and we know that Mike Zimmer always does a great job scheming his defense to mask deficiencies and limit big pass plays. With that said: Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Robert Tonyan are all raw, developing players — and Rodgers is going to be very happy to throw the ball to Adams as much as he can. Adams saw double-digit targets in eight of his last nine regular season games last year, including four games out of nine with 13 or more targets. He posted only one true dud in that stretch (four catches for 41 yards and no touchdowns against Washington), and he topped 100 yards or scored a touchdown in seven of those nine games — with 24+ DraftKings points in four of those game. While we don’t want to use past performance as an indicator of what will happen in the future (i.e., “Hey, look: he did this last year, so let’s extrapolate forward and assume he does it again”), we know Adams’ role in this offense and know how much Rodgers likes throwing to him. We also know Rodgers is going to lean on the pass catchers he trusts the most. Adams fits with Dalvin and Thielen (who we’ll get to in just a moment) as high-confidence plays: guys who won’t dud often, and who have upside for a big game.
Swinging back over to Minny: this offense has been very comfortable, for years, focusing on a small band of players — and with Diggs gone, we should be able to look at Thielen’s game logs at the end of the season and see only one or two games below eight targets, with probably more than half his games at double-digit looks. While there is nothing in the matchup that boosts expectations for Cook, Thielen, or Adams, there is also nothing that should scare us away.
Behind Thielen and Cook, there may be about 15 targets remaining (assuming expected game flow) for Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, Justin Jefferson, and potentially Olabisi Johnson (along with whoever else mixes in from there). These guys are lower-percentage plays: hoping to capture a touchdown or a broken play. I’ll avoid guessing here and chase more certain upside in other spots.
To put this game in perspective: there isn’t a ton to “love” here — but there are some pieces that should benefit from the way these offenses are run, and from the heavy individual volume they see. For me, Cook, Thielen, and Adams are all rock-solid plays — while Jones has some clear upside (and clear risk). I’m unlikely to branch beyond these guys as a “tighter build” player, with the likeliest scenarios for this game generating more value through bankable volume than through game environment.