:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.
We’ll start this game on the Lions’ side of the ball, where we can make fairly quick work of an offense that has a narrow distribution of touches, but will be taking on a Vikings defense that has allowed the fifth fewest yards per game and the sixth fewest points per game while ranking sixth in overall DVOA on defense (fourth against the run, eighth against the pass).
Part of the Vikings’ strong numbers against the pass so far this year are somewhat “smoke and mirrors,” as this team has allowed a league-average aDOT while no longer ranking as one of the best in the league at catch prevention. In fact — specific to wide receivers — only three teams have allowed more receptions this year to the position…with 21 teams having allowed more yards. As has been the case for years with this Mike Zimmer defense, the Vikings are one of the best teams in the league at preventing yards after catch (so far this year, they have shaved a stunning 25%+ off the league-average YAC per reception rate — by far the best in football); but how much does that matter against Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, who are not on the field to rack up yards after the catch anyway? (Only three qualified players in the NFL have fewer yards after catch per reception than Marvin Jones right now, while Golladay unsurprisingly ranks in the bottom-third of the league as well.) Scoring expectations as a whole in this game are somewhat low, so this is not a “good” spot for either guy; but it’s a better spot than it appears on the surface, with Golladay obviously the player with a better shot at taking advantage.
For several weeks now we have mentioned the Vikings’ relative weakness against the tight end position, though it’s fair to wonder how much this will matter in the box score when the Lions have refused to use T.J. Hockenson on anything but short-area routes since his breakout Week 1 (a week in which he was consistently used downfield). This Lions offense has come to resemble what the Seahawks developed last year: running the ball a lot, sure — but not “running just to be boring.” Instead, the Lions run to set up the vertical passing attack — and in this, Jones and Golladay have become the vertical weapons, while Hock and Danny Amendola are used underneath. Barring changes in role, either guy would need a busted play or a score to be relevant.
When the Lions run the ball, they’ll lean on Kerryon Johnson, who has cracked 50 yards only once this year — against the brutal run defense of the Chiefs. Over half of Kerryon’s runs this year have come up the gut, where he’s averaging only 2.7 yards per carry (during his time away, Darrell Bevell apparently learned some things…but he also, unfortunately, didn’t forget some others). Runs up the gut have been a relative weakness of the Vikings, if you wanted to take a shot, though the matchup as a whole doesn’t tilt in his favor.
Teams have been trying to get to the edges against the Lions run defense this year to avoid Snacks Harrison and instead take advantage of a relative weakness of this unit — an approach the Vikings will be happy to indulge in with their outside zone run scheme. This matchup sets up well for Dalvin Cook, who has topped 23 touches only once this year, but has also been held below 20 touches only once. The Lions are a disciplined defense with “attention to detail” as a strength of this coaching staff, so they are less likely than others to get hit for a monster run or to get caught off guard by the Vikings screen game, but there is still a talent gap that Cook can exploit for consistent gains in this spot.
The Lions have been easier to run on (17th in DVOA) than to pass on (10th) this year, and they have been particularly tough on wide receivers since Week 1, holding Keenan Allen to “only” 98 yards on 15 targets and otherwise allowing no wide receiver to top 65 yards. The Lions do play a man-heavy coverage scheme that will be put to the test against two of the best route runners in football in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, so there is a chance that volume proves to be a bigger concern than matchup in this spot — but while Diggs and Thielen both have the ability to crack any matchup, this isn’t nearly the spot they enjoyed last week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I certainly didn’t come into my research for this game expecting to have interest in Golladay, but the matchup is more interesting than it appears on the surface. (Last week, a similar-style player in Alshon Jeffery hit the Vikings for 10-76-1; and while not all of his catches came on routes that Golladay runs, all of his bigger production did.) He’s a name to keep in mind in tourneys, as his “catch downfield targets and get tackled right away” skill set can still play just fine in this spot, with game environment and scoring chances a bigger concern than the matchup itself.
I certainly did come into my research for this game expecting to have interest in Dalvin Cook, and unsurprisingly, that didn’t change. Because DFS sites generally bunch up pricing at the high end so tightly, it’s easy to get someone like Cook (20 to 23 touches per game) confused with someone like CMC (27 to 37 touches per game!), so it’s fair to note that Cook isn’t the “can’t miss, lock-and-load” play you get when you’re able to pay up for CMC. But in taking pricing out of the equation, Cook is one of the stronger plays on the slate from a floor/ceiling perspective, as he’s locked into around 20 touches as one of the engines of this offense, and he sets up well in this spot.
Finally, MME players should keep in mind that vertical passing attacks can score quickly — so there are some paths to this turning into a different type of game than the Over/Under implies. It’s certainly not the likeliest way for this game to play out, but if Golladay and Jones were to hit on a couple long touchdowns early, the Vikings do have the pieces for this game to become more aerially interesting.
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