Minnesota Vikings (2-3, 2-3 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (3-2, 3-2), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Vikings Stats and Trends
The Vikings are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games
Minnesota has played over the total in four straight road games.
Kirk Cousins opened the season with 22+ FP and 2+ TD passes in three straight games, but he’s scored just 25.6 FP on two TD passes in his last two games, which included a great spot against the Lions last week. The Panthers have given up 23+ FP to both Dak Prescott and Jalen Hurts the last two weeks, but neither QB hit 200+ passing yards.
Justin Jefferson has scored 18+ FP and 6+ catches in four straight games after posting his second 100-yard game of the season last week. The Panthers are giving up the sixth-fewest FPG (29.3) to WRs and DeVonta Smith posted 7/77 receiving in this matchup last week.
Adam Thielen has just 13.6 FP in the last two weeks after he topped that number in each of his first three games. He’s failed to find the end zone and he’s fallen below four catches and 50 yards in consecutive games. Amari Cooper posted 3/69/1 receiving in this matchup in Week 4.
Tyler Conklin saw a season-low three targets last week, and he has a combined 6/43 receiving in his last two games after posting 7/70/1 receiving in Week 3. The Panthers are giving up the 13th-fewest FPG (10.9) to TEs this season.
Dalvin Cook sat out his second game in three weeks because of his lingering ankle issue, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they let him rest again to give him extra rest with their Week 7 looming. Alexander Mattison has seen exactly 32 touches in each of his two games without Cook, which he’s turned into 324/1 scrimmage. The Vikings are giving up a league-low 12.7 FPG to RB, with Zeke Elliott (20/143/1 rushing) being the only RB to reach 11+ FP.
Brolley’s Panthers Stats and Trends
The Panthers are 4-1 toward unders and they’re 7-1 toward unders in their last eight games dating back to last season.
Christian McCaffrey is expected to return to the lineup off of his hamstring injury early in Week 3 after the team released Rodney Smith early in Week 6. CMC posted 324 scrimmage yards with 14 catches and one touchdown in his first two games. D’Andre Swift posted 17/104 scrimmage in this matchup last week.
Sam Darnold is reverting back to his previous Jets’ form with five interceptions the last two weeks after averaging just 4.8 YPA against the Eagles last week. It’s no coincidence that his performance has dipped in muddier pockets in recent games. He’s been pressured at the second-highest rate in Weeks 4-5 (45.5%) after being pressured on just 32.5% of his dropbacks in Weeks 1-3. The Vikings have limited Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield to 358/0 passing in the last two weeks and only one QB (Kyle Murray) has topped 19+ FP. He’s at least seen 18 targets (25% share) the last two weeks, but he’s caught just 39% of his targets.
D.J. Moore fell below 15+ FP for the first time last week with just 5/42 receiving on a team-high seven targets against the Eagles. He’s still posted 5+ catches in every game after he hit 75+ yards in each of the first four games. The Vikings are giving up the 12th-fewest FPG (36.4) to WRs this season.
Robby Anderson hasn’t reached 10+ FP or 50+ yards in a game since he caught his only pass in the season opener for a 57-yard touchdown. The Vikings are giving up 14.2 YPR to WRs this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.7 (7th)
Plays per game: 69.6 (12th)
Pass: 61.3% (14th) | Run: 38.7% (19th)
Pace: 29.2 (21st)
Plays per game: 73.0 (2nd)
Pass: 59.3% (19th) | Run: 40.7% (14th)
Last week’s start by Sam Darnold was… inauspicious to say the least. Darnold threw three picks, his first of which was a throw he simply can’t make into bracket coverage while his third pick was a back breaker. While it is scary to see the Jets version of Darnold pop back up, the Panthers getting Christian McCaffrey back would obviously provide a much-needed jolt just in time to face this soft Vikings run defense. Opponents facing Minnesota are running the ball against them at the sixth-highest rate above expectation (+5.3%) because the Vikes’ front-seven is coughing up 4.75 YPC (sixth-most) and 119.8 (seventh-most) to RBs. If CMC can play, this sets up as another game for the Panthers to continue to play slow and lean on the run.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are the same team every week: They’re going to play fairly fast and be balanced overall in terms of their pass/run ratio. After their defense got whipped for 27 and 34 points in Week 1-2 (vs. Bengals / Cardinals), Mike Zimmer’s unit has held the Seahawks (17 points allowed), Browns (14), and Lions (17) in check and that led to three-straight unders hitting. We’re going to need Sam Darnold to put his ghosts behind him and find his game that we saw in the opening month for this game to shootout.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
It’s the schematic match for Minnesota’s passing game that has my attention in this game, especially in regards to WR Adam Thielen. Panthers DC Phil Snow will want his current CB1, Donte Jackson, defending Justin Jefferson on as many snaps as possible. With Jaycee Horn on IR with a broken ankle and the release of Rashaan Melvin, 2021 fifth-rounder Keith Taylor received the start at right CB last week. He played well in coverage of fellow rookie DeVonta Smith in Week 5, but Thielen will present him with a different beast entirely.
That’s not to say I don’t like Jefferson — far from it. But Thielen has the juicier matchup. And it’s a great stylistic match for Kirk Cousins, as well.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook was a full participant in practice on Thursday, which obviously indicates that he’s going to be ready to go in a return from his ankle injury. Sitting him in Week 5 — especially with Alexander Mattison running well — was the right call. As it relates to Mattison, it’s obviously worth pointing out that he had a terrible fumble at the end of the game that should have cost them their matchup with the Lions. Maybe that will earn Mike Zimmer’s ire, maybe not.
But what we can look at are the facts — in four career games without Cook active, Mattison averages 21.2 FPG. That would rank him as the RB3 this year, behind Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler. In all other career games, Mattison averages 4.9 FPG. That would rank him 63rd this year, behind Ty Johnson. Anticipating a split if Cook is active isn’t prudent, as everything about Mattison in his three-year career has indicated the Vikings view him as a backup. He’s a damn good one, and probably would start for numerous teams in the NFL, but if Cook is active (he doesn’t even have an injury designation, so he almost certainly will be), you play Dalvin and sit Mattison. It is worth pointing out the Panthers give up the fewest FPG to RBs, however, and they could be down both LBs Shaq Thompson (foot) and Kamal Martin (concussion).
Wes outlined above why he likes Adam Thielen and Kirk Cousins, and though Justin Jefferson has the tougher matchup with CB Donte Jackson, you obviously ain’t sitting that guy.
The Panthers are giving up the 6th-fewest FPG to WRs, so I’d probably look elsewhere — i.e. not KJ Osborn — for other options, especially since Dede Westbrook (remember him?) played a season-high 21% of the snaps last week. You’ve also likely moved on from Tyler Conklin after a couple of disappointing weeks.
Panther QB Sam Darnold has come back to earth the last two weeks, throwing 5 INT to 3 TD in two games without Christian McCaffrey, as opposed to 3 TD and 1 INT in three games with him. Unfortunately, after a midweek downgrade, CMC ia out Sunday, which opens the door for Chuba Hubbard again. The Vikings give up the 12th-most FPG to RBs. Hubbard is an RB2.
For what it’s worth — not much — the Panthers aren’t calling this a “downgrade” for CMC.
Matt Rhule said Christian McCaffrey tested out the hamsting on Wednesday at practice but "he's just not there yet. We hope to have him out there next week" at practice. Rhule would not say if McCaffrey had a setback.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) October 15, 2021
Although Darius Slay did a hell of a job shadowing DJ Moore last week, holding him below 10 FP for the first time this season (actually, his first time below 14 FP), Moore should bounce back against the Vikings this week, as they don’t have a CB with Slay’s talent.
Last week, we got a real “grease the squeaky wheel” game when Rams WR Robert Woods through a public hissy fit in Week 4, prompting coach Sean McVay to say he needed to get Woods more involved. In Week 5, Woods had 12/150 receiving.
Well, Robby Anderson isn’t Woods, Math Rhule isn’t McVay, and Darnold sure as hell isn’t Matthew Stafford, but Anderson did throw a very public hissy fit of his own after yet another disappointing day.
Robby Anderson is visibly upset on the Panthers sideline right now. pic.twitter.com/JBFrfhcoL6— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 10, 2021
To be fair to Anderson, Darnold’s erstwhile favorite target when both were with the Jets, it wasn’t happening for almost the entire Panther offense in Week 5 against the Eagles, but his struggles are painful. Anderson caught just 2 passes for 30 yards on 7 targets, and the only time he’s gone over 10 FP in a PPR league this year was in Week 1… when his only catch went for a 57-yard TD. Anderson got behind the Eagle defense, which has been strong at preventing big plays all year, just once in Week 5, but Darnold hung the ball up a little too long and Eagle DB Avonte Maddox made a spectacular play tipping it away. The irony is it might have been Darnold’s best throw of an overall awful day. But with Darnold really struggling the last two weeks against actual NFL teams after picking on an easy early schedule, we wonder if there are enough footballs to go around when Moore is the clear preferred target.
Robby Anderson says sideline outburst shows his passion to win. https://t.co/acwunOW7Lf— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 14, 2021
Anderson, the PPR WR70 through five games, is droppable in shallow leagues if he doesn’t get it done this week, but I do have a funny feeling that Rhule will like Anderson’s passion. If Darnold can take advantage of that is the question.