Minnesota Vikings (0-1, 0-1 ATS) at Arizona Cardinals (1-0, 1-0), 4:05 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Vikings 23.5, Cardinals 27
Spread/Total Movements: 4.5 to 3.5, 51 to 50.5
Vikings Injuries to Watch: LB Anthony Barr (knee, out), OT Christian Darrisaw (groin, out), DE Everson Griffen (concussion, out), LB Eric Kendricks (quad, questionable)
Cardinals Injuries to Watch: OT Kelvin Beachum (ribs, questionable)
Brolley’s Vikings Stats and Trends
Minnesota has failed to cover in eight straight games, and the Vikings have failed to cover in four straight road games.
The Vikings have played over the total in four straight games.
Dalvin Cook averaged a meager 3.1 YPC (20/61/1 rushing) against a weak Bengals run defense from a year ago, but he still paid off for fantasy with a touchdown and 6/43 receiving. The Cardinals defensive line just stifled the Titans O-line and held Derrick Henry to 17/58 rushing (3.4 YPC).
Kirk Cousins has thrown for multiple TDs in nine of his last 10 games with just three INTs in that span after recording 351/2 passing (7.1 YPA) in a loss to the Bengals. He’s also attempted 30+ passes in nine straight games after reaching 30+ passes just twice in the first eight games of last season. The Bengals pressured Cousins on 31% of his dropbacks last week and the Cardinals sacked Ryan Tannehill six times and pressured him on 40% of his dropbacks.
All Adam Thielen does is score touchdowns after finding paydirt twice in the season opener — he finished with an extremely efficient 9/92/2 receiving on 10 targets. He’s now scored 16 times in his last 16 games dating back to the start of the 2020 season. This is a beatable matchup if Minnesota’s O-line can give Cousins time to get the rock to his WRs.
Justin Jefferson had to settle for 5/71 receiving on nine targets after he just missed a touchdown on a long catch and run. Jefferson has now seen 8+ targets in seven straight games and he’s hit 70+ yards in six of those contests. A.J. Brown posted 4/49/1 receiving on eight targets in this matchup last week.
Tyler Conklin ran 32 routes compared to Chris Herndon’s seven routes in the season opener, and he caught all four of his targets for 41 yards. Perhaps of bigger concern for these TEs is how much 11 personnel the Vikings ran in the season opener with K.J. Osborn posting 7/76 receiving on 47 routes. The Cardinals allowed just 3/19 receiving to Titans TEs in the season opener.
Brolley’s Cardinals Stats and Trends
The Cardinals are 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.
Arizona is 5-1 toward overs in its last six home games.
Kyler Murray is 2-5 ATS as a home favorite.
DeAndre Hopkins got back to owning the souls of the Titans after moving to the desert last season, hanging 6/83/2 receiving on eight targets in Week 1. The Vikings allowed a 100-yard receiving game to Ja’Marr Chase in his professional debut.
A.J. Green led the Cardinals’ secondary WRs with 32 routes but he, of course, did nothing with them with another inefficient 2/25 receiving on six targets. He owns a 44.5% catch rate and he’s averaging 5.0 YPT since the start of last season.
Christian Kirk ran 22 routes in the season opener, but he made the most of his opportunities with 5/70/2 receiving. He now has three games with multiple scores in his last 11 contests, and he now has four career games with multiple scores and just five games with a single score. He ran 96% of his routes from the slot, where Tyler Boyd managed just 3/32 receiving on four targets last week.
Rondale Moore ran a slightly concerning 14 routes in his pro debut but they fed him the rock when he was in the game with 4/68 receiving on five targets. He passed the first test and he should see more work going forward.
Chase Edmonds posted 12/63 rushing and 4/43 receiving on four targets while playing 58% of the snaps. He played more snaps than James Conner (49%) and outrushed him by 10 yards despite seeing four fewer carries. Conner also didn’t run a single route while Edmonds ran 25 routes in the opener. Joe Mixon ripped the Vikings for 33/150/1 scrimmage in the season opener.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 20.2 (2nd)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 79 (5th)
Week 1 – Pass: 71.8% (8th) | Run: 28.2% (25th)
Week 1 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 23.9 (18th)
Week 1 – Plays per game: 70 (15th)
Week 1 – Pass: 51.4% (27th) | Run: 48.6% (6th)
While Cowboys-Chargers is the No. 1 matchup in my pace / plays model in a landslide, Vikings-Cardinals is the second-best game from that perspective by a pretty decent margin. We know Arizona plays fast and that allows for more opportunities in the game overall – they’ve been the quickest team to the line of scrimmage in each of the last two seasons – but the Vikings are quietly a shootout team to boot. HC Mike Zimmer is going to try to improve his defense over the course of this year, but we saw another high-scoring affair in OT against the Bengals combine for 51 points in the season opener. This means that, over the Vikings last 17 games dating back to Week 1 of last season – their games have combined for an average of 56.2 points per game. Whew. In fact, the Vikings are 9-3 towards the over in their last 12 games with 10-of-12 scoring 50 or more points. This game is ripe with fantasy upside.
(Note: We’re dealing with very small sample sizes early in the season – so I’m saving the deep dive into play-calling tendencies until Week 4.)
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
We need to see if it sticks, but new Viking OC Klint Kubiak utilized spread personnel on over three-fourths of snaps last week, likely as a response to the Irv Smith injury (new acquisition Chris Herndon played just 12 snaps in Week 1). Considering they used a rate 52% less than last season, we already saw how it can alter the fates of its WRs after KJ Osborn posted a 7/76/0 line. One aspect Kubiak left intact was the heavy usage of Zone blocking — it would have been an absolute stunner if that was changed.
Before the season, I circled this matchup as one to target for Viking QB Kirk Cousins, because last year, Cardinal DC Vance Joseph utilized a ton of Cover 1, which Cousins shreds. However, Joseph’s defense was one of the most complex and fun to watch of Week 1, and he mixed up his coverages brilliantly, disguising the Cardinals’ weaknesses at the cornerback position. I’m a lot less bullish on this matchup for Cousins than I was before the season, let’s put it that way.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Minnesota remains one of the easiest teams in fantasy football to break down, so I’m not going to break any news when I say that Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook are virtually impossible to bench in season-long formats.
As Wes noted above, Kirk Cousins is a tougher call because of the surprising defensive scheme Vance Joseph threw out there against Tennessee. It clearly took the Titans by surprise, and while the Vikings have a week of tape to study, there are so many good QB options this week that Cousins is more of a high-end QB2 than a QB1.
One thing to keep an eye on going forward is if the Vikings continue to trot out more 11 personnel than expected, with KJ Osborn as their slot receiver, and Tyler Conklin as their lone TE. The Vikings did swing a trade for Chris Herndon prior to the season and could just be getting him more up to speed in the offense before unleashing their heavy sets, but Osborn had a great Week 1 with 7 catches, and Conklin is a worthwhile dumpster-dive TE after posting 4/41 in the opener.
For Arizona, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are locks. Duh. Minnesota got shredded by Joe Burrow in Week 1, and both CBs Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland had major problems with Ja’Marr Chase.
Ja'Marr Chase snatching souls with this route 😳💨— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 15, 2021
(via @thecheckdown, h/t @JetPackGalileo)pic.twitter.com/1CBDM7bIHJ
The backfield and secondary receiving options are where the real debates come in.
I have to be super encouraged by what I saw from Chase Edmonds in Week 1. He posted 12/63 rushing and 4/43 receiving on 4 targets, while playing 58% of the offensive snaps in a blowout of the Titans. He played more snaps than James Conner (49%), and while Conner got more carries with 16, Edmonds actually outrushed Conner by 10 yards. Moreover… Edmonds ran a route on 68% of Murray’s dropbacks, compared to just 24% for Conner. Edmonds outsnapping Conner in a game the Cards had in control from the opening kickoff is a super encouraging sign, as is of course posting 106 yards from scrimmage. The Viking run defense was bad last week, so Edmonds is an RB2 and Conner a desperation FLEX.
WR Christian Kirk is one of the all-time legendary fantasy teases. After a 2-TD game in Week 1, fantasy players are drooling. But it’s worth pointing out that Kirk has 14 TD in four NFL seasons. NINE of those touchdowns have come in multi-TD games. In his four career games in which he’s scored multiple TDs, Kirk averages 26.3 FPG. That’s not surprising — scoring multiple TDs really boosts scoring. But in his other 36 career games, Kirk averages 9.9 FPG. For comparison, that’s the difference between what would be the WR1 season in 2020… and the WR60. So 90% of the time, Kirk hasn’t been a guy worth rostering, let alone playing. I don’t want to get fooled again, but it’s possible the primary slot role could be a boon for Kirk if he keeps it.
Kirk (23) was also third on the Cards in routes run among WRs in Week 1, behind Hopkins (35) and AJ Green (32). I’m out on Green; his 2/25 performance on 6 targets was eerily reminiscent of his inefficient and terrible 2020 season, despite Murray doing whatever he wanted in Week 1. All three ran significantly more routes than rookie Rondale Moore (13), but Moore averaged a staggering 5.2 yards per route run, which was 4th-best in the league in Week 1, his NFL debut. That’s the guy I’m most interested in for the long term.