Game Overview ::
- The marquee matchup of the slate – the only game with a game total north of 50.0 points, and one of only two games with a game total over 45.0 points.
- The Lions have surprisingly been in the top 10 in pass rate over expectation over the previous month of play, while the Vikings rank eighth over the entire season and seventh over the previous month.
- The Vikings and Lions rank seventh and eighth, respectively, in situation-neutral pace of play – Minnesota starts games fast (eighth in first half pace of play) while Detroit finishes games fast (seventh in second half pace of play).
- The Lions have been far more effective at scoring points at home this season (for whatever reason – it can’t be that Ford Field is the “Coors Field of the NFL”), putting up a gaudy 31.9 points per game at home compared to just 18.4 on the road, the largest such split in the NFL. Basically, the Lions turn into the Chiefs at home or something.
- Five members of the Vikings defense missed practice on Wednesday with the dreaded illness sweeping the league, including three members of the secondary.
- I don’t know if he suffered a setback in the Week 13 game or what the deal is (as in, there hasn’t been a single rumbling from beat reporters or Detroit staff), but D’Andre Swift found his way back onto the Lions injury report on Wednesday as he was listed as limited with his ankle.
How Minnesota Will Try To Win ::
The formula hasn’t changed much for the Vikings this season, who have been hovering near the top of the league in pass rate over expectation and overall pass rate the entire season. They currently rank eighth in pass rate over expectation and third in overall pass rate (63.14%), with quarterback Kirk Cousins finishing at or above 35 pass attempts nine times in 12 games, including games of 50, 46, 46, 41, and 40. But while the passing volume has been a welcome development, the offense overall operates primarily to the short-to-intermediate areas of the field, with Cousins’ average intended air yards value (7.1) sandwiched amongst guys like Davis Mills, Jared Goff, and Jimmy Garoppolo. Even Justin Jefferson’s elite fantasy season is coming through a modest 10.7 aDOT (he does possess an elite 29.2% red zone target share and leads the league in red zone looks for an offense that leans pass-heavy where it matters). Regardless, this has meant that the Vikings have largely been reliant on sustained drives and individual talent to generate splash plays (they rank 22nd in splash plays through the air this year with just 19 through 12 games), and a middle-of-the-pack drive success rate has kept them with a “probably less than it should be” 24.1 points per game value.
Dalvin Cook has commanded a robust 75% or more of the offensive snaps in six of the Vikings last seven games, averaging 22 running back opportunities in those six games (he saw only 12 in the 40-3 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys in Week 11). The problem hasn’t been Alexander Mattison or a lack of opportunities, the problem has been a 27th-ranked yards per touch value (4.8) and decreased efficiency behind an offensive line generating just 4.36 adjusted line yards, which Minnesota backs are matching in their yards per carry value this season. Dalvin has gone over 100 yards rushing and scored, or scored multiple touchdowns, just three times this season, which corresponds to his only three games of more than 16.3 DK points. Furthermore, he has exactly zero games of 4x salary multiplier fantasy output at his current (and depressed) price point of $7,300 (he came close once). The matchup on the ground yields a slightly above-average 4.455 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Detroit defense allowing 4.74 yards per carry and 21.8 DK points per game to opposing backfields.
While the defensive numbers against the run are nothing special for the Lions, they have quite simply been so easy to pass on (faced 34.5 pass attempts against per game and a robust 11.4 yards allowed per completion, the latter of which ranks 30th in the league) that teams continue hunting for chunk yardage gains. The Vikings have been around 20% 12-personnel usage since they brought over T.J. Hockenson from, checks notes, the Lions at the trade deadline, mixing in about 12% 21-personnel usage as well since that time. That has primarily dented K.J. Osborn and Adam Thielen’s snap rates slightly, with Osborn seeing the biggest change in usage. Jefferson maintains the “Cooper Kupp” role for Kevin O’Connell’s offense, seeing 11 or more targets in eight of 12 games played. Regardless of what happened in the previous matchup between these two teams, Justin Jefferson remains one of the highest upside pass-catchers on the slate (surprise, Jefferson put up a whopping 4.4 fantasy points in their first meeting). Adam Thielen and T.J. Hockenson have traded off games of fantasy relevance since Hock joined the fray, with neither providing a “can’t miss score” on relatively short-area roles.