The Matchup ::
:: Powered by Lex Miraglia
- MIN has played 3 top-5 pass efficiency offenses, all on the road, allowing 26 to KC (Moore), 24 to DAL, & 37 to SEA.
- Drew Brees has played 7 home playoff games as a Saint. The last time he threw for less than 2 TDs was 2006.
- Terron Armstead played through illness in W10 vs ATL and missed W13 vs ATL. Those are the only 2 games NOR has failed to score 30 points with Brees.
- Brees’ averages in the other 8 games: 308.75 yards, 3.25 TDs, 0.38 INT
- NOR returned all 5 O-Line starters in W17 for first time since W10
- MIN D vs WRs has allowed the 2nd-most receptions, 9th-most yards, T-9th-most TDs
- In 6 home games with Brees, Michael Thomas has hit 10 rec and 100yards in all 6, along with 4 TDs
- MIN has allowed the 8th-most receptions to TEs, but an NFL best 1 TD all year
- Jared Cook has 5 TDs and 61.5ypg the last 4 weeks on just 3 targets per game. The last time he exceeded 4 targets was W13.
- MIN D is 10th in RB rec allowed, 8th in RB rec yards, and T-9th with 12 total RB TDs
- Both TDs & 109 of Aaron Jones’ 160 yards in Week 17 came after Kendricks left the game late 2nd Q (he remains Questionable)
- Since returning from INJ in W10, Kamara is averaging just under 19 touches per game with only one game above 20 touches. He hasn’t topped 30 rec yards since W12.
- In 2 full-time games vs MIN, Kamara is averaging 12 att, 44 yards, & 5.5 rec (7.5), 46.5 yards with 3 total TDs
- NOR hasn’t allowed an individual RB to top 100 rush yards since W11 of 2017 and they rank 2nd in RB rush yards allowed in 2019.
- Dalvin Cook’s last four total yardage totals: 43, 75, 64, 57
- NOR has faced the least amount of rush attempts in NFL this year
- NOR has allowed the 6th most receptions to RBs but ranks middle of the pack in rec yards allowed.
- Dalvin Cook has 3+ catches 10 times and 5+ catches 5 times in 2019
- In the 2018 matchup, Cousins was sacked 4 times by Rankins and Davenport, both of whom are currently on IR.
- 16 of 28 Cousins sacks came in 3 games vs CHI, GB, DEN
- NOR has played 4 top-10 pass efficiency offenses (SEA, DAL, SF, TEN), with those quarterbacks averaging 312.5 yards, 2.25 TDs, 0.5 INTs through the air
- In 2 games vs Dennis Allen’s Saints D, Cousins has topped 300 yards both times with a 5:1 TD:INT ratio
- NOR has allowed 6 WRs to top 100 yards: Hopkins, Kupp, Lockett, Godwin, Moore, Sanders
- NOR has allowed 4 WRs to score 2 TDs: Hopkins, Godwin, Moore, Sharpe
- In 3 MIN games vs Allen’s D, Diggs & Thielen have played with Bradford, Keenum, & Cousins, while NOR has paired Lattimore with PJ Williams, Ken Crawley, & Eli Apple
- Diggs is averaging 116 ypg with 4 TDs in these games (96 ypg without miracle play)
- Thielen is averaging 111.33 ypg with 1 TD in these games
- Diggs has topped 100 yards once since W8, while Thielen has one game all year over 100 yards (W5 pre-injury)
The Game ::
The Saints are going to have an opportunity to close the circle on the last two years (the circle that has led to one of the best teams in the NFL getting bumped out of the playoffs earlier than they should have each of the last two seasons, and that has led to the best team in the NFC landing the number three seed this season) with a game against the Vikings team that knocked them out with the Minneapolis Miracle on January 14, 2018. The Saints are currently 7.5 point favorites (making them the largest favorites of the first round).
These teams are fairly evenly-matched on paper — with the Saints ranking four spots behind Minnesota in defensive DVOA and six spots ahead in offensive DVOA, while these two both rank top eight in scoring and top 13 in point prevention — but with Drew Brees healthy and this game being played at the Superdome, New Orleans has a legitimate edge. This is the team from the Wild Card round with the best shot at making a run at the Super Bowl — though don’t discount the chances (pegged by Hilow at about 30%; pegged by EV Analytics at about 22%) of the Vikings pulling off the upset here, and of fantasy points falling accordingly.
As we have explored throughout the season, the Saints are going to play slow and focus on the short areas of the field — with a focus on efficiency over explosiveness — and the two key components for this attack will (as always) be Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Given the other options on this slate (the conservative Bills // the inconsistent Texans taking on the stout Bills defense // the Titans on the road against New England // the non-explosive, spread-the-wealth Patriots // the run-focused, “play for the fourth quarter” Seahawks // the banged-up, low-wattage Eagles), this game is sure to be a focal point for fantasy lineups, and the Saints (with the highest Vegas-implied total on the slate) are sure to be leaned on heavily by the DFS community. With Thomas standing out as the key piece on the Saints, he has a shot at being the most popular player on this slate — and yet, it’s tough to find an argument against that play beyond “building around outlier scenarios,” as Thomas should be a lock for double-digit looks in this game, against a secondary that has been hit for the second most wide receiver catches and the ninth most wide receiver yards on the year. This will be an opportunity for Thomas to show off his elite skill set on the national stage.
Kamara is a bit less secure (as we have explored basically all season), with his numbers this year rarely matching up with his price. Minnesota has allowed 4.39 yards per carry to running backs, while they have been middling against pass-catching backs, opening opportunity for Kamara to sneak an elite game onto the stat sheet — though as we continue to see, his touches will be capped in this offense, and he will need to pour in a couple touchdowns in order to truly make a difference. Thomas has 22 red zone targets (the second most in the league), while Kamara’s 26 carries in the red zone are less than half of league leaders Ezekiel Elliott (59) and Christian McCaffrey (54) — though he does have 11 targets in the red zone as well, and he’s still a bit behind pace in touchdown scoring for his role, if you want to play the “bet on regression” game. Behind Thomas and Kamara, of course, this offense is thin volume on a broad cast of characters, with the touchdown upside for Jared Cook providing the best bet for alternative paths to production (though with his ownership typically taking on more weight than his role actually supports).
Perhaps the most interesting offense on this slate — certainly an offense that has one of the clearest shots at becoming a difference-maker — is the Vikings, as the Saints have remained lights-out against the run, which has led to New Orleans facing the second highest opponent pass play rate in the league. The Saints finished the year ranked 13th in pass defense DVOA and 10th in yards allowed per pass attempt, but with this team facing so much volume, they ended up allowing the 10th most wide receiver receptions (and they were separated from the sixth place team by only three receptions), while giving up the seventh most yards and the eighth most touchdowns. Working against the Vikings’ pass catchers, of course, is the fact that “volume” has not been remotely bankable in this run-leaning offense, with Stefon Diggs topping nine targets only once (in spite of Adam Thielen missing a month and a half), and with Thielen failing to top eight looks all year. With the Saints shaving 3% off the league-average catch rate and 14% off the league-average YAC/r rate, a bet on these two would be more comfortable to make if volume could be counted on to cooperate, but both guys are worth considering for their moderate shots at breaking through in a below-average “per pass” matchup, or for their outside shots at breaking through on heavier-than-normal volume. Diggs should see the most of Marshon Lattimore on the outside — though he has enough “big play upside” to his game that he really only needs to break the matchup one or two times in order to pay off. Both of these guys can be considered viable tourney options.
The rest of this offense will flow through Dalvin Cook on the ground and some mix of Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, and Olabisi Johnson through the air. Cook is a “bet on talent in a tough matchup” option, while all three pass catchers behind Diggs and Thielen are “bet on time on the field and hope to guess right on a touchdown” plays.
JM’s Interpretation ::
The “Interpretation” section this week blends all four games, and can be found here. It is recommended that you read all four game writeups before reading the “Interpretation” section, as this will allow you to develop your own thoughts on this slate before comparing them against my own.
Playoff Contest Game Theory Breakdown ::
Xandamere’s Showdown Notes ::
- The game likeliest to turn into an actual back and forth shootout, but personally I think the way to play that scenario is to bet on it on the full weekend slate (where the Vikings offense is projected to go awfully low owned) and then hedge with betting on either a one-sided victory or a lower-scoring game in Showdown. This is an example of how I think about strategy on a slate like this and how you can use a full slate and a showdown to hedge each other. If you’re only playing showdowns, though, throw this advice aside.
- On the main slate Diggs and Thielen are projecting to go very low owned and represent interesting buying opportunities. On the showdown I’m not sure that they will go low owned, but they’re still high ceiling plays.
- I always have a hard time buying Alvin Kamara’s projections as while his floor is kept safe by his pass game role, his ceiling just hasn’t really shown up this year.
- After playing fewer snaps and seeing less volume for almost the entire year, Tre’Quan Smith played over 2x the snaps of Ted Ginn last week and caught 5 of 5 targets including a touchdown. I buy into the narrative of Smith passing Ginn in the depth chart here and think he’s going to be a key weapon for the Saints in the playoffs, and at just $4,400 he’s a great value play on this slate.
- Of the super cheap plays, Irv Smith is my favorite at just $1,400 as the Vikings have been running a lot of 12 personnel lately. Smith outsnapped Kyle Rudolph in Weeks 15-16 (in Week 17 Rudolph didn’t play as the Vikings rested starters, so I’m not counting that one).
- Taysom Hill is the bane of my showdown existence. I won’t ever try to predict that guy because I never get him right, but just be aware that he’s down there in value-land and that it’s entirely possible he catches a touchdown, or throws a touchdown, or rushes for a touchdown, or even all three.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
- Pair captain receivers with their QB (consider not doing so for MT just due the incredibly high price of both him and Brees)
- At most 1 of Smith and Ginn
( Player Grid Live :: TodFromPa, Hilow, and Lex Miraglia will be breaking down further thoughts on the slate Friday night at 8 PM Eastern on the Run to Daylight podcast here! Join us for the last show of the season! )