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Fantasy Projections for New England Patriots vs. Minnesota Vikings
I declared at the open of last weeks column that the Patriots are judged by their own standard. In many ways I was suggesting that while it is a compliment, it can be misleading. Fans and the media don’t seem to believe this Patriots team is as dominant or as strong as past ones. Their defense appears to struggle like they always seem to while their offense looks more pedestrian than it has in the past. What everyone seems to be ignoring or downplaying is how strong their schedule has been.
The Patriots defense has faced three of the five highest scoring offenses in football (Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears). They beat them all.
The Patriots offense has faced five of the top ten and seven of the top 14 ranked defenses in yards allowed per game and four of the top ten ranked in points allowed per game.
The Patriots face a Minnesota Vikings defense that ranks 10th in points allowed per game, 3rd in total yards allowed and an offense that ranks 14th in yards per game and 16th in points scored per game.
With all of the weapons on the Minnesota offense, it’s surprising that the statistics suggest that it’s the Vikings defense that should worry New England fans. The Patriots have been able to defeat the highest ranking offenses on their schedule (Chicago Bears/Chiefs/Colts/Houston Texans/Green Bay Packers) while they have struggled or lost to the strongest defenses (Bills/Jaguars/Titans/ Lions).
The Patriots strongest wins and best overall performances were against the Packers, Colts and the Chiefs while their weakest were against the Bills, Lions, Jaguars,Titans and Bears. The Bills and Bears were victories, but underwhelming ones, while the Titans, Lions and Jaguars were embarrassing losses where the Patriots didn’t look like they belonged on the field.
The Vikings are a lot more like the Lions and Bears than the Chiefs, Packers or Colts and that could be a problem Sunday. A key difference and it could be the explanation for it all. The ugliest performances, win or lose, have been on the road while the best were at home. This one’s at Gillette.
On paper, the Vikings look like they could be the best team not named the Kansas City Chiefs on their 2018 schedule. Adam Thielen, Stefon DIggs, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook are one of the stronger offensive units the Patriots will face this season. This looks like a game that the Patriots could be in trouble and based on their history under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, one they could come out and dominate. The Patriots have found a way to play some of their best games after ones that they have looked their worst in matchups that look the toughest. Thats the scenario they find themselves in this week.
The Vikings haven’t been the same team as they were in 2017 and the Patriots haven’t been the same team at home as they have been on the road in 2018. The Patriots have looked impressive against the Texans, Colts, Chiefs and Packers at home and with the exception of the Packers, they have all been better than the Vikings this season.
The numbers and the head-to-head matchups tell me that I should be more reserved and not predict it to happen, but the Patriots anecdotal history suggests that this is one of those spots where they punish a team that looks like they could give them trouble. The Vikings have a lot of weapons in the passing game and thats where the Patriots struggle.
Week #13 vs. Minnesota Vikings
This is a game where the Vikings will look to exploit the Patriots struggles defending the pass. The Patriots rank 23rd in passing touchdowns allowed and 25th in passing yards allowed and thats with opponents like the Buffalo Bills and Derek Anderson, the Miami Dolphins who started Brock Osweiler, Blake Bortles for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets with Josh McCown on their schedule. Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and even Dalvin Cook out of the backfield, should catch a lot of passes for a lot of yards in a friendly matchup for the Vikings today.
Dalvin Cook and complimentary back Latavius Murray haven’t run the ball effectively and the VIkings rank 30th in rushing yards per game (85.3) while the Patriots run defense has allowed 107.7 yards per game and ranks 14th. And, the Patriots rank tied for second in rushing touchdowns allowed with five. This is going to be a game overloaded with passing attempts and limited rushing ones.
Kirk Cousins, QB
* Ranks 5th in Passing Yards per game (299)
* Ranks 9th in Touchdown Passes (22)
New England Patriots Pass Defense:
* Rank 25th in Passing Yards Allowed per game (270)
* Rank 23rd in Touchdowns Allowed (22)
* Rank 24th in Fantasy Points Allowed to QBs (19.4 per game)
Cousins is one of the Top 10 to 15 quarterbacks in the game, regardless of the opponent, and this week he finds himself matched up across from one of the five or 10 worst pass defenses in football.
Cousins is a a Top 10 QB this week in yearly leagues and a viable consideration in Daily Fantasy as well because of the matchup. My concern with Cousins in DFS formats is primarily anecdotal. Historically, the Patriots play well at home and in games where they look like they could be in trouble after struggling and thats exactly what we have here. You can’t cash in DFS without three or four touchdowns from your quarterback and I am concerned that the end result won’t reflect what looks like a very friendly matchup for Cousins.
If owners want to take the risk and potentially be rewarded with a significantly more affordable quarterback this week, rostering Cousins and spending the budgetary savings elsewhere is a prudent play, in spite of my concerns.
Adam Thielen, WR
* Ranks 2nd in Yards – 1,138
* Ranks 2nd in Targets with 124 (one fewer than Julio Jones)
* Ranks tied for 5th in Touchdowns with eight
New England Patriots Pass Defense:
* Rank 13th with 35.5 Fantasy Points Allowed per game
* The Patriots have allowed 12 touchdowns and 141 receptions
Thielen has emerged as one of the best wide receivers in football in every statistical category and he has been targeted second most to only Julio Jones. The Patriots are a prime matchup for Thielen and because he runs most of his routes out of the slot he could avoid Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots best cover cornerback.
Thielen is always a must-start in yearly leagues and when the matchup is a juicy one like it is today, it makes it worth paying top dollar to roster him too. Seven to 10 receptions, 100-130 yards and a touchdown or two would be a league-leading type of day and while I am typically more conservative in my predictions, that kind of performance is possible against the Patriots. He is priced second among wide receivers today, but in this matchup it’s justified and worth the investment.
Stefon Diggs, WR
* Three Consecutive games with a Touchdown
* Eight, 13, 10, and eight Receptions in four consecutive games
* 77, 126, and 119 Receiving Yards in three consecutive games
Diggs has been dealing with a knee injury but by all reports he is expected to play. His recent performance has been exceptional and he faces a Patriots pass defense that is worse than all but one of the opponents he faced in those games. He has a chance to have a huge day today.
When facing a friendly matchup it is smart strategy for DFS players to target a teams second and third best wide receivers because they can better exploit the weakest of an already weak unit and they cost less as well. The problem here is that Diggs could actually draw the Patriots best cover corner in Stephon Gilmore and he is only slightly cheaper than Thielen on most DFS sites.
Diggs is a must-start player in yearly leagues, he has been great recently and while I expect him to be a popular choice in DFS. However, I am hesitant about making a relatively significant investment in a player that my projected gameflow suggests he could have a tougher than expected matchup. I am looking elsewhere to spend my money. Fade Diggs today in DFS.
Kyle Rudolph, TE
New England Patriots Pass Defense:
* Rank 29th in Fantasy Points Allowed per game with 15.6
* Tied for 31st in Touchdowns Allowed with Seven
A common thread in my weekly column is that the Patriots defense struggles against the tight end and Rudolph is the guy in the best spot this Sunday.
He isn’t having the kind of season he is used to, but he has four games of 48 yards receiving or more and five games of five receptions or more. Five receptions and 50 receiving yards is a 10 point Fantasy day from a position that is low on talent and thats without Rudolph finding the end zone.
Rudolph is cheap and in a great matchup. That’s all I need to know when deciding whether to roster him or not in DFS. He is a must-start in all formats today.
Dalvin Cook, RB
* Patriots have allowed Seven total touchdowns to running backs
* Four Rushing – Three Receiving
New England Patriots Defense:
* The Patriots rank 11th in Fantasy Points Allowed per game with 23.3
Dalvin Cook has yet to have a game where he has had more than 10 rushing attempts and he has rushed for over 40 yards only once. He has one touchdown on the season and that was last week and it was a reception, not a rushing touchdown.
Early in the season Cook was effective in the passing game and he had a productive game against the Green Bay Packers in Week #12. That makes him a Flex starter in yearly leagues.
The Patriots rank 11th in Fantasy against running backs, they are stingy in the red zone and the Vikings have shown that they aren’t committed to high-volume touches for Cook. All good reasons to fade him in DFS formats.
New England Patriots
The Patriots offense hasn’t been the gang busters unit that fans have become accustomed to seeing on Sundays, but they are explosive enough to have a multiple of must-start players in yearly leagues. This week they face a Minnesota Vikings defense that is one of the better on the Patriots schedule to date.
Relevant Fantasy Stats:
Vikings Defense Points Fantasy Points Allowed to Position
* Rank 6th with 16 Fantasy Points Allowed per game (fewest passing touchdowns allowed)
* Rank 6th with 20.1 Fantasy Points Allowed per game (Three rushing and Three passing touchdowns allowed this season)
* Rank 5th with 30.3 Fantasy Points Allowed per game – tied for 2nd fewest touchdown passes allowed
* Rank 14th with 11.7 Fantasy Points Allowed per game – Three touchdowns
There isn’t an easy Fantasy matchup for a Patriots player to exploit and to the contrary, this is one of the worst matchups on the Week #13 slate. The Vikings rank sixth or better in Fantasy Points Allowed against quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers and where they “struggle” they still rank 14th.
I expect the Patriots to play better than expected in a matchup that suggests, on paper, that they could struggle and that many pundits are picking them to lose. That being said. There isn’t an obvious place to focus or a clear choice to target for Fantasy owners.
Rob Gronkowski, TE
The Vikings biggest defensive weakness is against the tight end, but Gronk is already a must-start play in yearly leagues while he is the second most expensive tight end in DFS, making him more of a risk than a target in that format.
Gronk has two touchdowns (Week #1 against the Texans and Week #12 against the Jets) and one 100+ yard receiving game (Week #1 against the Texans) and he has been dealing with chronic flare ups in his back and an ankle issue as well. He has three catches in three consecutive games scattered between Week #6 and Week #12.
Owners can’t bench him in yearly leagues and they can’t pay top dollar to start him in DFS. Thats been The Gronk before, now and will be for the foreseeable 2018 future.
Julian Edelman, WR
Julian Edelman has been dealing with a recurrence of his foot injury, but he practiced fully and expects to be as close to 100% as can be expected this late in the season. He is the Patriots number one target and the receptions undoubtedly will be there, but he has only three touchdowns this season and until he reached the end zone against the Jets he had been held without a score to well before Halloween, October 21st against the Bears.
Edelman has five receptions or more in five of seven games and four consecutive games of 70 yards or more.
The matchup is a bad one, but I don’t expect it to have a significant impact on him today. Defenses don’t scheme to stop Edelman, he doesn’t make big plays down field or stretch the field and he isn’t a red zone threat. He is going to get his today, making him a must-start in yearly leagues and neither a good or bad value in DFS. If he fits well into your budget go for it, if not, don’t.
Josh Gordon, WR
Gordon has three consecutive games of 70 receiving yards or more, including 130 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay in Week #9.
Gordon is the Patriots most explosive player, if Gronk is excluded from the discussion, and the one the Vikings are likely to focus their game plan around stopping in the passing game. This is a bad matchup for Gordon and one that DFS sites are unlikely to properly discount for. Start him in yearly as a Flex and fade him in DFS due to the matchup issues.
Tom Brady, QB
* Ranks 13th in Passing Yards per game
* Ranks 15th in Touchdown Passes
* Ranks Seventh in Passing Attempts
Vikings Pass Defense
* Rank 6th with 16 Fantasy Points Allowed per game (fewest passing touchdowns allowed)
Brady hasn’t been a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback this season because of his lackluster touchdown totals and he faces a Vikings pass defense that ranks sixth in Fantasy Points Allowed to quarterbacks. Brady isn’t a must-start option in yeary leagues and he should be avoided in DFS.
The Vikings are a matchup to avoid for owners with viable alternatives and he doesn’t have enough upside to risk using in DFS even though he is one of the more affordable options this week. For a minimal amount more money owners can chase the upside of Lamar Jackson or Aaron Rodgers or save money starting Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum is very good matchups against the Patriots or Cincinnati Bengals.
James White, RB
The Vikings defense is stingy in the red zone and rank sixth in Fantasy Points Allowed to running backs. White is almost exclusively a pass catcher and while he is typically a Flex starter, he is borderline this week.
In back-to-back weeks he has one and five receptions and five and 31 receiving yards without a touchdown. He had an effective game rushing the ball against the Jets in Week #12, but the Vikings aren’t the Jets and the lack of receptions recently are a concern.
I can’t get near him in DFS and owners should be leery of assuming he is a must-start Flex. Most teams lack the depth to have a viable alternative, but if you were able to claim Spencer Ware or you have a running back that has emerged late or is receiving opportunities because of injuries, White could be benched with comfort this week. And, Rex Burkhead could see some run today, eating more into White’s touches and targets.
Sony Michel, RB
Vikings Run Defense
* 5th in Yards Allowed Per Game (93.6)
* 4th in Touchdowns Allowed (6)
* 1st in Fumbles caused
Michel carried a heavy workload against the Jets in Week #12, but this isn’t the week to do that. The Vikings run defense is one of the best in the NFL and if their offense can put up points through the air the Patriots may be forced to match them completion for completion and without attempts combined with the Vikings stingy red zone defense and touchdowns allowed, Michel isn’t going to be effective.
The Patriots have been focused on feeding Michel the ball but this isn’t the week to rely on it. He is a must-start in yearly leagues in spite of the matchup, but he is a player to avoid in DFS. The risk is too great because of game flow, game plan and the difficult of the matchup.
You can follow me on Twitter @CJMitch73 or participate in my Facebook group “The RotoExperts Fantasy Sports Show.” My weekly Fantasy Sports Column appears at RotoExperts.com and my bi-weekly content about Major League Baseball can be found at MinorLeagueBall.com.
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