VIKINGS // PACKERS OVERVIEW
The flow of this game will obviously depend on the health of Aaron Rodgers, as the entire complexion will change if DeShone Kizer is under center for Green Bay against one of the top defenses in the NFL. Given that Rodgers returned to the game in Week 1, we will approach this writeup with the assumption Rodgers will be out there. If that assumption proves to be incorrect, the entire Packers offense will have to come off the board, and the Vikings’ run game elements will receive a bump up in expected workload and production.
VIKINGS PASS OFFENSE
In Week 1 against a Bears offense that was relying on still-green second-year man Mitchell Trubisky, the new-look Packers defense under Mike Pettine played with six or more defensive backs on the field on an incredible 62.9% of their snaps. Pettine has made a few statements this summer that indicate this will be a regular approach, as the Packers join the other elite teams that are perfectly content to give up yards on the ground if this means they are making things more difficult through the air. Throughout the season, we should see opponents lean more run-heavy against this Packers team compared to season-long averages, which needs to be taken into account when projecting how the Vikings are likely to attack.
Last week, the Vikings threw the ball 36 times while divvying up 27 carries between Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook — ranking ninth in pace of play under new OC John DeFilippo, after ranking 25th last season under Pat Shurmur. Another 30 to 35 passes here is a good expectation for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings this week.
Last week, Adam Thielen was the go-to man for Cousins, and with Thielen seeing a spike in slot usage in both the preseason and Week 1 (53% slot rate last week), it looks like this will continue. Thielen ran a pass route on 97.7% of Cousins’ drop-backs, and he hauled in six catches on 12 targets.
Stefon Diggs saw six targets last week, which should be about his floor this season. He has room to grow from there, and has big-play upside — though the Packers will be aiming to take away perimeter passing routes, which keeps Diggs’ floor in check.
Somehow, Kyle Rudolph has not yet caught the eye of Kirk Cousins, as they didn’t show much rapport in the preseason, and Rudolph saw only two targets in Week 1. The Packers were above-average against tight ends last season, allowing the tenth-fewest yards and the sixth-fewest touchdowns to the position.
VIKINGS RUN OFFENSE
Rounding out this “passing attack” is Dalvin Cook, who saw seven targets last week and grabbed six catches, while running a pass route on 72.1% of Cousins’ drop-backs. While Murray mixed in for 11 carries of his own, Cook played on over 80% of the Vikings’ snaps and was clearly the lead dog in this backfield — soaking up an additional 16 carries of his own. This shapes up as another 20-touch spot for Cook, against a team that invites opponents to run against them and is content to give up shorter passes as well. Some of the team’s carries inside the three-yard-line are still likely to go to Murray, but Cook retains a solid floor with a high, talent-driven ceiling.
Murray could slide into a cheap impact role if Rodgers happens to miss this game, as this would turn game flow more heavily in the Vikings’ favor. Otherwise, he is nothing more than a bet-on-touchdown option. Murray was uninvolved in the pass game last week, with only two pass routes run all game.
PACKERS PASS OFFENSE
To reiterate some statistics from last week:
The Vikings’ pass defense allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game in 2017, and they allowed the fewest passing touchdowns. They also allowed the fewest points per game, the second-fewest rushing yards per game, and the fifth-fewest rushing yards per attempt. Last season, Minnesota was able to get away with rushing only four guys on 73.3% of their snaps (well above the league average of 65.8%), and they generated pressure at a top-ten rate when doing so. The Vikings were top three last season in both catch rate allowed and yards-after-catch allowed per reception.
One of the most important things to remember in DFS tourney play is that a difficult matchup does not make it impossible for an elite player to reach his ceiling; instead, a difficult matchup A) lowers an elite player’s floor, and B) makes it far less likely that this elite player will hit his ceiling. This is the position in which Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams find themselves this week. Each has the talent to still post a big game; but each has a lower floor than usual, and is less likely than normal to approach their ceiling.
Out of 43 total drop-backs last week for the Packers, we saw the following participation percentages among route runners:
97.7% – Davante Adams
93.0% – Randall Cobb
93.0% – Jimmy Graham
79.1% – Geronimo Allison
No other player topped 42%, with Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery sitting right below that mark, and everyone else far behind. If taking a tourney shot on this passing attack, Geronimo Allison stands out as a sneaky bet after seeing eight targets last week and such a high percentage of the passing downs. Rodgers is comfortable feeding his second perimeter receiver (Davante Adams had a few monster games a couple years ago when Jordy Nelson was the clear Number One), and Allison should draw fewer routes against super-stud corner Xavier Rhodes, who is not expected to shadow Adams, but will certainly be on him a decent amount.
PACKERS RUN OFFENSE
As noted last week, Jamaal Williams has topped 82 rushing yards only once in his career (and he has topped 67 rushing yards only twice). A matchup against an elite Vikings run defense would appear to be an unlikely spot for him to post his second career 82+ yard game.
Williams and Ty Montgomery were each involved in the pass game, with 35 routes run between them, though they combined for only two catches on five targets. Unsurprisingly, only seven teams allowed fewer receptions to running backs last year than the Vikings allowed. Only one team allowed fewer receiving yards.
With a low Over/Under, an elite defense on one side, and a defense on the other side that aims to force teams to the ground, this is not a standout spot for DFS production. But the flip side is that guys like Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Geronimo Allison all have clear 20-point upside even in this unfavorable setup.
My favorite play of the bunch is Dalvin Cook, who will likely be the only guy I’ll consider in cash games here, as his price tag has not caught up to his usage — especially on FanDuel, where he somehow can be had for only 10.8% of the salary cap, and is priced alongside Isaiah Crowell. (Cook will cost you 12.3% of the cap on FantasyDraft and 13.0% on DraftKings.) While his touchdown upside is capped a bit by Latavius Murray, his overall upside is worth considering at this price.
Thielen is a solid tourney bet, even against a team that is aiming to take away the pass, as the Vikings have such a narrow distribution of targets, we know Thielen will get his looks. He’s unlikely to break your roster with a dud, and he always carries a big ceiling.
Diggs is a little tougher to bet on after how low his volume was in Week 1 — and concerns are heightened by what Green Bay is looking to do on defense; talent would be the justification for rostering Diggs here.
Rodgers, Adams, and Allison are all sneaky upside plays with lowered floors. Allison’s cheap price makes him an interesting “spiked week” target in tourneys, as the difficult matchup doesn’t change the fact that he should still see six to eight targets.
Obviously, this is not a premium game on this weekend. But there are still some interesting pieces to consider.