GAME OVERVIEW ::
By Hilow >>
- Slew of “DNP” to start the week for the Vikings, with all of linebacker Anthony Barr, wide receiver Justin Jefferson, running back Alexander Mattison, and wide receiver Adam Thielen held out on Wednesday.
- After missing Week 5, Dalvin Cook started the week with a limited session.
- Christian McCaffrey currently dubbed as 50/50 to suit up this weekend after getting in another limited session to start the week.
- Although unlikely to alter the overall state of the game, injuries could play a big part in potential fantasy appeal here.
HOW MINNESOTA WILL TRY TO WIN ::
The most telling stat to describe how Minnesota has run their offense so far this year is found when examining their per-down situation-neutral rush and pass rates. They fall smack dab in the middle of the league in pass rates on first and second down, but rank fourth in the league in pass rate on third down all the way up at 87%. This is very much a team that wants to set up the pass game through the establishment of the run, which is likely to become an issue in short order against a Panthers team allowing only 94.2 rush yards per game. Further uncertainty is introduced by the multitude of players with missed practices this week, including Justin Jefferson (DNP both days), Adam Thielen (DNP both days), Alexander Mattison (DNP then limited practice), and Anthony Barr (DNP then limited practice). The overall outlook for this offense is difficult to get excited about against a defense leading the league in opponent plays per drive and drive success rate allowed.
The ground game yields a disgusting 3.815 net-adjusted line yards metric, again for a Vikings team that builds its offense around the run. Not only have the Panthers allowed the second fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, but they have filtered only 22 targets to the position through five games, or just over four per game. That’s not to say to expect low pass game usage from the Vikings backfield here, just that Carolina linebackers represent the second best unit in coverage through five weeks. Not much else to say from this backfield other than sledding is likely to be tough both on the ground and through the air here.
We aren’t done any favors with the pass game either. Both Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen have yet to practice this week and there aren’t any viable reports indicating their expected game-day status one way or the other. The viability of any Minnesota pass-catchers obviously is heavily influenced by the status of those two, which very likely could come down to game-time decisions. Justin Jefferson represents the best chances at aerial success as the one true hole on the Panthers defense is with the safeties in coverage (whose coverage grades are more so depressed because of the heavy zone this defense plays). Carolina ranks fourth in the league in opponent completion rate allowed at just 58.90% and also ranks highly in yards per completion allowed (sixth), which is a difficult feat to be good at both.
HOW CAROLINA WILL TRY TO WIN ::
Carolina’s defense has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2021 NFL season. The unit currently ranks third in the NFL in points allowed per game, eighth in rush yards allowed per game, and have allowed the fewest pass yards per game on the backs of a low 58.90% completion rate allowed (fourth) and 9.4 yards allowed per completion (sixth). They’ve thus far leveraged the success of the defense by utilizing a slow pace of play (21st-ranked situation-neutral pace of play) and balanced rush-pass rates (43/57). They’ve largely been successful on both sides of the ball despite injuries to two of their largest contributors in running back Christian McCaffrey and standout rookie corner Jaycee Horn. Following Horn’s injury, Carolina made big splashes in the trade markets by bringing in corners CJ Henderson and Stephon Gilmore in addition to the offseason acquisition of AJ Bouye. It is clear the emphasis of this team is on limiting splash plays and forcing teams to march the field, and it all starts with a heavy zone scheme with speed and athleticism on every level.
The matchup on the ground yields a modest 4.395 net-adjusted line yards metric, boosted by Minnesota’s bottom three marks in that regard. The Vikings have really struggled with running backs in the second level and the potential absence of Anthony Barr only serves to increase that deficiency. Consider the Vikings the softest matchup for this Carolina run game to date (yes, better than the Jets and Texans). That’s a welcome site for a team whose running backs haven’t averaged over 4.7 yards per carry in any game through five weeks. Running back Christian McCaffrey followed up a limited showing on Wednesday with a full absence from the media portion of practice on Thursday, so keep a close eye on his level of involvement as the practice week closes on Friday. In Week 5, Chuba Hubbard saw his first game with a snap rate over 55%, logging a 65% snap rate which he turned into a very CMC-esque 30 running back opportunities. It is fair to expect a similar level of involvement should CMC miss his third consecutive contest. Furthering the case for whatever running back starts for the Panthers is the heavy 23% running back target rate for Carolina over the first five weeks. Quarterback Sam Darnold rather quietly has five rushing scores on only 21 total carries this season which should be considered highly unsustainable. I say this to highlight the expected positive regression in the touchdown department amongst a running back corps with only one combined rushing or receiving score on the season.
A defense that has ceded the lowest number of plays per drive and lowest opponent drive success rate on the season has led to a tight range of offensive plays run from scrimmage per game for the Panthers, with four of five games checking in between 71 and 76 plays. This has led to a tight range of expected pass attempts for Sam Darnold up to this point, with between 35 and 39 attempts in every game. Wide receiver DJ Moore leads the team with a 28.7% team target market share, but his mediocre-at-best 9.4 aDOT has left a lot to yards after the catch and touchdown efficiency. The good news is Moore is averaging a solid 5.1 yards after the catch per reception, which isn’t solely a reflection of his ability in that area as he is consistently schemed the ball on first reads on routes designed to place him in the best situation to maximize his skillset. This idea is in stark contrast to the Panthers of 2020 who primarily utilized Moore on deep routes and low probability passing. This is also highly important for us to understand moving forward and Matt Rhule has designed an offense to best maximize the talents of his playmakers. Furthermore, Rhule has demonstrated a knack for sticking to his game plan (an objective term to describe the relative aggression through play calling) deep into games regardless of the results on the scoreboard. With that in mind, the bulk of this offense revolves around the running backs and DJ Moore. Behind those players, Robby Anderson holds 31.9% of the available air yards through five contests, but his low 16.1% team target market share, deep 15.3 aDOT, and low 41.4% catch rate highlight the areas of the field (and routes) he is operating in. Terrace Marshall, Jr. has not enjoyed a level of success to match his preseason hype thus far, holding a low 6.5 aDOT, moderate 65.0% catch rate, and only 11.5% team target market share.
LIKELIEST GAME FLOW ::
This one is a difficult game to get an early-week read on based on the wide range of potential outcomes regarding potential game flows (and injuries). The best way to put it is there likely isn’t “one likeliest game flow,” rather numerous with close to equal chances of transpiring. When we dig deep into how each team is trying to win games, it is likeliest we see a relatively conservative start to their Week 6 contest, with the Panthers dictating the ultimate path the game takes. I say that because they are the team best equipped to be able to dictate the flow of the game, while the Vikings are the team likeliest to be able to make up ground late if forced into that scenario. This creates a likeliest scenario that really only involves about a half of a football game, where we see a relatively slow start from each team in a battle for field position. The second half carries about as wide range of outcomes as there is this week and largely depends on the Vikings’ ability to generate splash plays against a defense designed to limit opponents in that regard. That said, the end result could appear like anything from a traditional slugfest to an all-out shootout, but the majority of any damage is likeliest to come in the latter half of the game.
DFS+ INTERPRETATION ::
Considering the wide range of potential game flow outcomes, the most certainty we get from this game is from the Carolina running back position, which currently involves a great deal of uncertainty with respect to Christian McCaffrey and his injured hamstring. He completed a full week of limited practices last week before starting the week with the same status on Wednesday and being held out of practice on Thursday. The coaching staff in Carolina has shown a propensity to side with caution when it comes to injured players, leading me to believe that if CMC plays, we should expect a full workload. Should CMC miss, expect Chuba Hubbard to see 65-70% of the available running back snaps and one of the largest expected workloads on the slate.
For game scripts that see Minnesota break through in the second half, DJ Moore and Justin Jefferson (two straight days of DNP) carry the most appeal and can be paired together as correlated plays (the optimal way to play either). Often we hunt for spots that leave you with multiple “outs” when it comes to expected fantasy production, and the story for these two receivers this week involves very specific game scripts in order to hit (and it happens to be a scenario where it raises the likelihood of each hitting together, hence the assertion of the optimal way to play them). As such, both Moore and Jefferson are likely best left to MME play.
It is difficult to not have interest in the remaining Vikings core players, but this game will serve as their most difficult test to date, which represents an interesting underweight proposition considering public sentiment and to-date production. We also currently have a good deal of unknowns surrounding this team with both Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson having missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday, while Alexander Mattison improved to a limited practice and Dalvin Cook improved to a full practice on Thursday. The big picture with the entirety of the Vikings is that we just don’t have enough information at this time based on potential available personnel.
Both quarterbacks are likely to be left out of my late-week condensed player pool in a game with such a narrow likelihood of blowing up. Finally, the secondary pass-catchers from the Panthers should all be considered wide range of outcome plays, bringing low floors and moderate ceilings.
I love how Hilow laid out the likely slower-starting nature of this game. “Close game // second half football” is a great way to look at this one. It should be noted, of course, that just last week we saw a couple shootouts that were almost entirely second-half-based (and this game is number five (out of 10 games this week) on my list of “game environments I like”), but given that these guys are priced appropriately, the likely second-half-lean of this game makes “had to have it” scores less likely, while increasing the chances of disappointing scores. Speaking from a DFS perspective, I’ll be approaching this game with the following mindset: “stack this game, or leave it alone.” In other words: bet on this game shooting out; and recognize that I’m otherwise just trying to “blind squirrel” my way to a big score by attempting to cherry-pick appropriately-priced players from a “second half” game in which I’m saying (due to my lack of game stack) that I don’t expect a shootout.
The one exception, of course, is the Carolina backfield — with Chuba again set to make the “Bonus” section of my Player Grid if Christian McCaffrey is out, and with CMC set to be listed as a Light Blue Chip if he plays (being downgraded from “Blue Chip” only because of the slight uncertainty we would have around his health).
Summing up this game, for me:
“Game stack or nothing, with the exception of the Carolina backfield.”
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- Darnold has nearly as many 300-yd pass games with CAR (3) in five games as he did in three seasons with NYJ (4)
- MIN has allowed just one 300yd passer on the season (Kyler), and has allowed the 14th fewest passing yds so far
- Darnold has five rushing TDs on the season already
- QB rushing vs MIN: Kyler (5:31:1) // Russ (3:7)
- MIN ranks 6th in defensive pass DVOA
- Darnold has thrown five INT in the past two games vs defenses ranked 7th & 10th in defensive pass DVOA
- MIN’s three INT on the season rank middle of the pack
- MIN ranked 7th & 3rd in INT in 2020 & 2019
- Darnold scored 20+ DK pts in just 8/38 games with NYJ (just one of 30+)
- He’s already halfway to matching that total through five games in Joe Brady’s offense
- Darnold has scored 20.1, 22.9, 28.3, 36.5, 9.08 DK pts with CAR
- MIN has allowed the 7th highest yds/att, but it’s been trending downward as the defense has improved and faced lesser passers like Baker & Goff (it was 2nd highest two weeks ago)
- In Robby Anderson’s best game this year (W1), he caught just one deep pass for TD
- He has not topped 50 yds or 10 DK pts in the past four games
- After four weeks of consistency and multiple big scores, DJ Moore was slowed by the PHI defense for his worst game of the season (5:42)
- All these WRs vs MIN scored in the first three weeks: Chase (5:101:1), Higgins (4:58:1) // Hopkins (4:54:1), Moore (7:114:1), Green (3:44:1) // Metcalf (6:107:1)
- WRs in the last two games vs MIN: Odell (2:27), Higgins (4:63) // St. Brown (7:65)
- DJ Moore has 50 targets in five games; Anderson’s 29 are the next closest
- Home Favorite WRs averaging 10+ tg since 2014 (221) are averaging 19.77 DK pts/g
- Since Week 9 of 2018, CMC has scored under 24 DK pts just five times in 30 full games
- Two of those five came in W17 blowouts vs NOR in which multiple starters either didn’t play or finish game
- CMC has 30+ pts in 16 of those 30 games and 35+ in 8 of them
- MIN ranks 20th in defensive rush DVOA
- Backfields rushing vs MIN: CIN (149:1) // ARI (72) // SEA (88:1) // CLE (169:1) // DET (108:1)
- CMC touches in two full games this year: 21 att, 9 tg // 24 att, 6 tg
- RBs with 3+ rec vs MIN: Mixon (4:23) // Edmonds (5:29) // Homer (3:48) // Swift (6:53)
- Only one of five QBs vs CAR has even topped 200 pass yds
- Cousins has 200+ yds in every game thus far
- CAR has the highest pressure rate in the NFL through five weeks per PFR, with the 3rd highest rate of blitzes
- Cousins is averaging 4.2 yds/att on 67 pressured dropbacks (9 sacks)
- Cousins Big Time Throw Rate (PFF) jumps from 2.1% to 6.8% when not blitzed to blitzed
- Final game totals of Cousins 25+ pt DK scores with MIN: 2021 (51, 67, 47) // 2020 (51, 59, 63, 55, 72) // 2019 (50, 58, 72) // 2018 (50, 41, 69, 58)
- 13/15 games came in 50+ pt finishes, with 8/15 over 58 pts
- This game carries a 46.5 total; MIN has scored a combined 26 pts vs CLE & DET the last two weeks; CAR has allowed the 3rd fewest points through five games
- MIN vs CAR in 2020 finished 28-27 with MIN winning behind 307 yds, 3 TD from Cousins
- Jefferson has now out-targeted Thielen in 10 of the last 12 games
- Total targets this season: Jefferson (45) // Thielen (37)
- Jefferson’s lowest target total this year is 7, highest is 11
- Jefferson has 70+ yds in 11 of his last 13 games
- Before Week 4, Thielen had caught at least one TD in 13/19 games since last year, with four in the first three games of 2021
- In the last two games, Thielen has totaled 5 rec for 86 yds, 0 TD on 11 targets
- Team’s top WRs vs CAR: Davis (5:97:2) // Callaway (2:8) // Cooks (9:112) // Cooper (3:69:1), Lamb (2:13) // Smith (7:77)
- Jefferson finished with 7:70:2 vs CAR in 2020
- MIN lead RB touches by game: Cook (27, 25) // Mattison (34) // Cook (15) // Mattison (32)
- Dalvin missed the two games Mattison dominated touches
- Top RB yds vs CAR: Ty Johnson (26) // Kamara (30) // Ingram (20) // Zeke (143), Pollard (67) // Sanders (51)
- CAR ranks 12th in defensive rush DVOA and has allowed the 2nd fewest RB DK pts
- Total yds for lead MIN RB in 2021: 104 // 148 // 171 // 44 // 153
- Dalvin has scored at least one TD in 24 of his 33 games since 2019; seven 2+ TD games in that span
- As an underdog since 2019 (14 g), Dalvin has five games of 30+ DK pts & seven games under 20 DK pts
- Dalvin vs MIN in 2020: 18:61, 4:21