Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Fairly wide range of potential outcomes with respect to game flow here
- This means we need to be extremely careful how we deploy members from this game, ensuring players are entered into rosters with specific game flows in mind
- Xandamere’s “always one Viking” suggestion continues to carry merit in an absurdly concentrated offense
- Keep an eye on Minnesota’s personnel usage rates in this game, as they shifted to much heavier three and four wide receiver sets in Week 1, likely due to the lack of depth at the tight end position
How Minnesota Will Try To Win ::
We know by now that “how Minnesota will try to win a game,” and “how they might be forced to try and win a game” are very different ideas. The big picture is they are willing to open things up as required, dependent on game flow.
The new Kubiak-esque outside zone run scheme being built in Minnesota this season should enjoy further success as the season moves on. Transitioning an offense from a power-base run game to an outside zone scheme takes time and repetition, evidenced by the lack of success in their Week 1 game against the Bengals, a game in which running back Dalvin Cook averaged a measley 3.1 yards per carry. The weakness of this offensive line is on the inside, so until they are able to master the spread concepts of the outside zone run scheme, we are likely to see them struggle on the ground. Nothing has changed to start the year with respect to Dalvin Cook’s elite usage, who handled 29 of the 36 running back opportunities out of the backfield. The matchup is less than ideal, going against a formidable defensive line and running behind a weak offensive line; this matchup yields a net-adjusted line yards metric of just 3.2.
This game could take on an entirely different form in the case of Minnesota being forced to the air earlier than they would otherwise like. Over the previous three seasons, Kirk Cousins is the number one passer in the NFL against Cover-1 defensive formations, a formation the Cardinals used at the highest rate in the NFL in 2020. The success level through the air, or lack thereof, is likely to come down to protection up front against a strong Cardinals pass rush, but the lack of talent and primary coverage scheme from the Cardinals are liable to lead to explosive plays here. A week after relatively disappointing in the shadows of fellow wide receiver Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson sets up extremely well to take advantage of these defensive shortcomings from the Cardinals. A year after playing with three wide receivers on the field at a 38% clip (11, 20, and 02-personnel), the Vikings came out and ran three wide receiver sets a massive-for-them 66% of the time in Week 1, with a further 12% of snaps played with four wide receivers on the field. This led to KJ Osborn handling an 81% snap rate and nine targets, the same target total as Justin Jefferson. This is most likely a case of injuries and personnel departures of the tight end room, but something to monitor moving forward nonetheless.
How arizona Will Try To Win ::
The Cardinals looked basically exactly the same on offense as they did in 2020 but now boast a formidable defensive line with the addition of JJ Watt to a line that already held All-Pro edge rusher Chandler Jones (five sacks in Week 1!!!). The team still holds a top ten run-blocking offensive line but a bottom ten offensive line when it comes to pass protection, which is somewhat mitigated by the rushing prowess of quarterback Kyler Murray. We should expect pace, a horizontally-spread offense, and a handful of downfield strikes per game through Christian Kirk and rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore. We broke down how the team is likely to enjoy improved downfield success rates in the offseason primer, which came to fruition in Week 1.
Week 1 showed us that not a whole lot has changed with respect to the run game for the Cardinals. Chase Edmonds and James Conner combined for 28 rush attempts and four targets with both backs seeing 16 running back opportunities, yet Kyler Murray scored the lone rushing touchdown. After finishing 2020 with a situation-neutral pass rate of 56%, the Cardinals went out and held a situation-neutral pass rate of 52% in their opener. The matchup yields a net-adjusted line yards metric of 4.7, a top five value on the week, but this remains a head-scratching backfield week-to-week. Expect more of the same here with “backup” James Conner charged with a straight-ahead power run role, and “starter” Chase Edmonds owning an outside-in zone read role with sparse pass game usage.
Lead wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins actually saw a slight uptick in average depth of target in Week 1 when compared to last season, ending the week with a value of 10.9 (a full two yards greater than 2020). Newcomer AJ Green took on more of a possession style, finishing with an average depth of target of 9.0. Christian Kirk maintained a downfield role (12.0), and rookie Rondale Moore was deployed to all depths of the field (his 4.4 aDOT doesn’t tell the whole story as far as his usage goes, and he even shook free on a broken play on third down in the second quarter for a long completion). The overall identity of this Cardinals’ pass game remains the same as what we saw last season, with a horizontally spread nature and sporadic downfield attempts. The secondary of the Vikings, with Breshaud Breeland and newcomer Patrick Peterson at corner, and Xavier Woods and Harrison Smith at safety, is well equipped to deal with the possession style of the perimeter receivers in this offense but should struggle to contain any deep passing.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
There’s an interesting dynamic to this game that gives a high level of uncertainty with respect to the likeliest game flow, in that we should expect Mike Zimmer’s defensive philosophy to revolve around stopping the run and forcing teams into longer down and distance to go situations, which is exactly how the Cardinals should be looking to attack here. That said, the largest influence on how this game plays out is likely to be the Cardinals’ level of success in downfield passing, particularly considering the Vikings’ struggles containing that area in their Week 1 matchup with the Bengals.
It is likeliest the Cardinals dictate the pace and tempo here via the aforementioned metrics. Basically, the Vikings would like to rely on their run game to open up the pass but are entirely capable and willing to turn to the air when required. If the Cardinals connect on a couple of downfield strikes, or are able to methodically move the chains to start the game, we could see this game turn into one of the bigger shootouts on the slate. The Vikings should be able to absolutely dismantle the heavy Cover-1 usage of the Cardinals if forced to the air early as Kirk Cousins has averaged a 123.6 passer rating over the previous three seasons against the Cardinals’ primary coverage scheme, which ranked first in the league over that span. Conversely, if the Vikings are able to control the line of scrimmage on either side, this game could disappoint from a box score perspective. The numbers and metrics tell us the former should be the likeliest case, but I want it to be clear that this game comes with a fairly wide range of potential outcomes, so ensure any exposure to this game is built with particular game scripts in mind.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
It is difficult to get overly excited about any single member of the Cardinals outside of Kyler Murray, meaning all of DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, Chase Edmonds, and James Conner carry wide ranges of outcomes due to the low expected concentration of opportunities. Naked Kyler always carries merit, but any pairing is almost akin to throwing darts blindly at a board full of confetti balloons.
My primary interest comes from the Vikings side, as all of Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and KJ Osborn carry some level of appeal, in that order for me. Justin Jefferson has the chance to absolutely feast if, and only if, the Vikings can keep Cousins upright long enough for his routes to develop. Adam Thielen carries the highest floor of non-Dalvin Cook players, while KJ Osborn is an interesting low-cost dart throw if his usage carries over from Week 1. Dalvin is likely to experience efficiency troubles once more, but the close to 30 expected running back opportunities really speaks for itself here.
Finally, the Cardinals defense has the chance to wreak havoc as far as pressure on the quarterback goes, so they are once again an appealing option this week (quick note there: if they are projected to carry substantial ownership, it is an extremely sharp take to look elsewhere and build primary rosters around this game shooting out).
The Vikings’ implied team total is under 24, on a week in which 13 teams(!) have an implied total of 25 or higher. Their saving grace in this spot is the game environment, as an implied team total of 23.25 as an underdog tells us a different story than 23.25 as a favorite. The Vikings will likely be forced into an aggressive mindset as this one moves along, and with how concentrated this offense is, there’s upside to hunt for. Arizona’s defense ranked ninth in pass defense DVOA last year and 14th in rush defense (they’re no cupcake), and they play at a faster speed than Kirk Cousins’ arm. But the Vikings do enough things right, and enough should open up throughout this game, for some big plays to develop downfield. Any of the Big 3 on the Vikings could hit, but the highest likelihood of a ceiling game goes Jefferson > Thielen > Dalvin (though while Jefferson has a better shot at a ceiling game, Thielen carries a better chance of avoiding a dud; all of this was written before reading Hilow’s writeup, but basically echoes everything he said). None appear to be must plays, but as is almost always the case with this competent, enormously concentrated offense, there’s no reason to keep these guys away from “tighter player pool” consideration deep into the week.
Arizona, of course, is the team that will need to be responsible for creating the aforementioned game environment — and they should be happy to oblige. There will be some plays in this game where Kyler scrambles around and no one is open, but there’s also a good chance that some big plays develop downfield. Realize: this is the type of game in which a 75+-point final game total doesn’t fall too far outside the range of reasonable outcomes, and all of the Cardinals players are sharply priced on DK for their roughly-median game (that is, a game in which they win something like a 27-21 or 28-24 game, as Vegas is projecting). This means that in order for these players to contribute to a tourney-winning roster, they have to be in a higher-scoring game environment; and with how concentrated the Vikings’ offense is, a game in which Arizona is flying above their implied total is also a game in which one or two Vikings pieces are posting a DFS score in the range of “big” to “huge.” Put it all together, and I really don’t care which Arizona players I play (as noted already, there are no mispricings around the bunch, so understand the floor and ceiling that belongs to each respective price tag, but you could build around any of them that you want), so much as I care that I have a Vikings piece on any roster with an Arizona piece. (Because the Arizona offense is less concentrated, this doesn’t necessarily apply on the other side of the ball. You could conceivably get away with playing a Vikings piece on a roster with no one from Arizona. But even if you’re starting with the Vikings’ side, I’d say that if you’re going to bet on a piece from this game, you might as well maximize that bet in a spot with such obvious shootout upside.)
Jefferson > Thielen > Dalvin
Literally any Arizona piece (with Hopkins > Kirk > Rondale > AJG the order in which I rank WR ceiling, and with Edmonds much likelier to hit than Conner), but with a rule of “include one Vikings piece if playing an Arizona piece.” Of course, a Kyler/Vikings-WR pairing tells an obviously-strong story, and will be low-owned enough as a combo that you could eliminate nearly all guesswork and just take this setup — with the value of adding an “ARI WR guess” to this roster increasing as you get into larger tourney fields.
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- This will be Kyler & Kliff’s first matchup vs Mike Zimmer
- ARI scored 38 pts vs TEN in the first 3 quarters; scored 27+ in 8/16 games in 2020
- MIN allowed 27 CIN pts in 70 minutes of play in W1; allowed 27+ in 10/16 games in 2020
- On CIN’s 3 straight TD drives, they gained 225 yds on 9.4 yds/play (24 plays)
- On the rest of CIN’s drives, they gained 141 yds on 3.1 yds/play (46 plays)
- This MIN Def is much more talented than 2020 with better CBs and star Danielle Hunter back on the edge
- MIN pts allowed rank with Zimmer: 11th // 5th // 6th // 1st // 9th // 5th // 29th
- MIN pass yds allowed rank with Zimmer: 7th // 12th // 3rd // 2nd // 3rd // 15th // 25th
- MIN sacked Burrow five times in W1; Kyler was sacked twice by TEN
- Kyler dropped from 48 sacks in year one to 27 in year two
- Burrow passed for 261:2:0 vs MIN
- Kyler Murray DK pts in games with final totals of 50+ pts: 24.12 // 28.92 // 41.1 // 41.92 // 30.9 // 18.42 // 38.14 // 34.56
- Kyler’s only games under 20 DK pts in 2020 (QB DK pts allowed rank, notable coach): 18.5 (6th, Patrick Graham) // 18.4 (1st, Brandon Staley) // 16.4 (8th, Robert Saleh) // 8.9 (7th, Bill Belichick) // 3.8 (1st, Staley)
- Before ranking 14th in QB DK pts allowed with 20/g in 2020, Zimmer’s MIN defenses have ranked: 9th (16.3) // 3rd (15.2) // 3rd (13.1) // 5th (16.2) // 10th (17.4) // 9th (16.8)
- Routes in W1: Hop (35) // Green (32) // Kirk (23) // Moore (14)
- Targets in W1: Hop (8) // Green (6) // Kirk (5) // Moore (5)
- CIN WRs in W1 vs MIN: Chase: 5:101:1 (7) // Higgins: 4:58:1 (5) // Boyd: 3:32 (4)
- Patrick Peterson took on Andre Johnson all the way back in 2013 when Hop was a rookie, so their only true matchup came in 2017 when Hop finished with 4:76:1 (8) with Tom Savage at QB
- PFF has graded Peterson’s play at a steep decline over the last two years
- Hopkins received double-digit targets in 9/16 games in 2020, only falling below 7 targets once; he had 8 on 32 Kyler att in W1 (25%)
- 2020: Of Hopkins 8 games of 20+ DK pts, 7 came in Wins, and in 5 ARI scored 30+ pts
- Hop scored 20+ DK pts in a W1 win in which ARI scored 30+ pts
- 2020: Edmonds was under 10 att in every game except two (25, 11), and Drake missed the one he received 25
- Week 1: Edmonds received 12 att to Conner’s 16 (though he gained 2 more yds/att)
- Conner received 8 of the final 9 rush att, coming on the final garbage time drives
- Rush att before the last two drives: Edmonds (9) // Conner (8)
- Edmonds caught 3+ passes in 11/16 games in 2020, and started W1 with 4 rec
- 2020 ARI rush att inside the 5: Drake (21), Kyler (7), Edmonds (1)
- Kyler had the only rush att inside the 5 in Week 1
- Mixon scored a TD on one of his two att inside the 5 vs MIN in W1
- MIN’s struggles against RBs carried over from 2020 for at least one more week, with Mixon turning 33 touches into 150 yds, TD
- Final game totals of Cousins 25+ pt DK scores with MIN: 2020 (51 // 59 // 63 // 55 // 72) /// 2019 (50 // 58 // 72) /// 2018 (50 // 41 // 69 // 58)
- 11/12 games came in 50+ pt finishes, with 7/12 over 58 pts
- ARI sacked Tannehill 6 times, forcing 2 fumbles in W1
- Cousins has been sacked 3+ times in 20 of 50 MIN starts, with an average of 2.5 sacks over the 50 games
- Only one of MIN’s five offensive linemen was graded well in pass protection by PFF in W1 vs CIN
- Since 2014, Road underdog QBs on teams implied for 24+ pts have averaged 1.35 pts above expected (determined by salary)
- ARI held AJ Brown & Julio Jones to a combined 7:79:1 on 14 targets in W1
- Jefferson out-targeted Thielen in 7 of the last 8 games in 2020; Thielen led 10 to 9 in W1
- Jefferson has 70+ yds in 8 of his last 9 games
- Thielen has caught at least one TD in 11/17 games since last year
- The only games in which BOTH guys have failed to produce since last year: 11-28 L vs IND // 28-22 W vs GB (Dalvin w/ 51.6 DK pts) // 34-20 W vs DET (Dalvin w/ 42.2 DK pts) // 14-26 L vs TB
- The only RBs to break 80 rush yds vs ARI in 2020 were Mike Davis (84) & Jeff Wilson (183)
- Derrick Henry was held to 58 yds on 17 att in a blowout loss in W1
- Dalvin has scored at least one TD in 24 of his 31 games since 2019; seven 2+ TD games in that span
- As an underdog since 2019 (12 g), Dalvin has five games each of 30+ DK pts & under 20 DK pts
MIN “Rule” (DK pts):
- Since start of 2020, leading MIN scorer: 32 // 15.1 // 33.5, 29.9 // 31.6, 29.2 // 29.3, 39.5 (DC+AM) // 42.6 // 51.6 // 42.2 // 24.5, 20.3 // 35.3, 29 // 26 // 30.3, 26.9 // 22 // 29.9 // 23.7, 23.3 // 30.2
- Only one of 17 games has failed to produce a 20+ pt scorer
- 14/17 games produced a 25+ pt scorer
- 11/17 games produced a 30+ pt scorer