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Vikings vs. Eagles TNF Start 'Em, Sit 'Em - Justin Jefferson, Alexander Mattison, T.J. Hockenson, Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, Kenneth Gainwell, D'Andre Swift

Jalen Hurts - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, Draft Sleepers

Could it possibly be that we have two straight intriguing games for Thursday Night Football to start the season? The NFL has really tried to do a better job of showcasing their best teams in this primetime spot in 2023. After so many years of horrific Titans-Jaguars debacles, it's not until October 5 when the Chicago Bears travel to the Washington Commanders that we have the potential for a pitiful matchup.

For Week 2, the Minnesota Vikings travel to the Philadelphia Eagles in a battle of teams that both have a lot to prove after their games in Week 1. If you pinned them down, I imagine both teams would say they supremely underachieved on Sunday. Minnesota lost at home to Tampa Bay and was only able to muster 17 points against a shaky defense. Philadelphia was up by 16 points against the Patriots in the first half, but let them come back where New England had the ball and a chance to win at the end of the game.

Both teams have a lot to prove in Week 2 and will especially be looking to iron out the wrinkles in their offense in this game. I will be bringing you Thursday Night Football analysis all year long, focusing on who to definitely start, who is on the fence, and who should find the bench. Let's dive into this second Thursday Night matchup of the 2023 season.

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Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles - 8:15 pm ET

Notable Injuries:


The Vikings-Eagles Matchup

On paper, this looks like a matchup where the Eagles should clearly dominate, which is why there is a seven-point spread in favor of the home team. One thing the Eagles were especially poor at in Week 1 was their passing game. That makes sense with the strength of the New England defense, but that won't be the case this week. Minnesota allowed the second-most passing yards per game in 2022 (266.9 yards) and the fourth-most yards per completion to opponents (11.1 yards). Both Pro Football Focus and Sharp Football rank the very inexperienced Vikings' secondary as a bottom-five unit this year, so it should be bombs away for Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, and A.J. Brown.

The Eagles look like they will be without their starting running back from Week 1 in this one. Kenneth Gainwell will not plan with a rib injury, which means lightly-used D'Andre Swift and Week 1 healthy scratch Rashaad Penny will be called into more action. Based on what happened in Week 1, the Eagles clearly do not trust these two as much as Gainwell, which is more evidence the game plan might center on Jalen Hurts using his arm and his legs.


Must-Starts for Fantasy Football Lineups

Jalen Hurts (QB, PHI)

There is a very compelling case to be made that Jalen Hurts just had the worst game of his career in Week 1 (170 yards passing, one score, 37 rushing yards). Now, Hurts gets to come home against a Vikings defense that just hemorrhaged fantasy points to quarterbacks and wide receivers last season. Minnesota allowed the sixth-highest fantasy points per game to the position in 2022, including the second-most passing yards allowed. Baker Mayfield just threw two touchdowns with no interceptions and one sack against them. That should give us supreme confidence in this one.

A.J. Brown (WR, PHI)

In terms of wide receiver target distribution, Week 1 went just about how we expected it would for the Eagles. Both A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith saw a 33% target share and both caught seven balls. Brown saw the longer passes with 71 more air yards, but the reason why both of these two players were drafted in the first three rounds of fantasy football drafts this offseason was clear. Brown is a set-it-and-forget-it starter this week.

DeVonta Smith (WR, PHI)

Smith also gets the lock button this week because of just how awful this Vikings pass defense is likely to be this year. Minnesota allowed the most receptions and yards to wide receivers last year and the fact that they only gave up 13 receiving touchdowns is as fluky as their 11 one-score wins last year (an NFL record). The air yards and big plays may oscillate between Brown and Smith this year, but it's clear both are going to be heavily targeted every game.

Justin Jefferson (WR, MIN)

I mean, you don't really need me to tell you to start the number one overall pick right? If the game prognosticators are right, and the Eagles get out to a big lead over the Vikings, that's even better news for Jefferson. Jefferson saw a 29.3% target share in Week 1 (12 targets) and was once again a master in yards after the catch. He compiled 150 receiving yards on just 115 air yards. He led all wide receivers with 67 yards after the catch last week.

T.J. Hockenson (TE, MIN) 

Hockenson got a sneaky nine targets on Sunday (22% target share), but his aDOT was abysmal (3.5 yards) so it only resulted in 35 receiving yards. We will take that kind of usage against an Eagles defense that funnels opponents' passing games to their tight ends to limit big plays. The Eagles allowed an average of 9.9 yards per reception to the tight end position last year.


Solid Starts for Fantasy Football Lineups

D'Andre Swift (RB, PHI)

Calling a guy a solid start against the Eagles when he had one carry and one target in Week 1? What can go wrong? This play is completely predicated on the knowledge that Kenneth Gainwell will miss this game and Swift will step into the "next man up" role for the Eagles. The Vikings allowed the ninth-most receiving yards to running backs last year, so perhaps Hurts can get Swift involved in the game that way. But there is certainly risk involved here.

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI)

Goedert put up an air-ball on Sunday going for zero catches and zero yards against New England. More concerning, however, was the one target he saw all game. I am not giving up faith just yet after Goedert was drafted as a top-six tight end. Considering the state of the position last week, you probably don't have better options on your roster. He played 92% of snaps and led the position in routes run last week. I'm calling it a fluke.

Alexander Mattison (RB, MIN)

Mattison was the workhorse bell-cow we all hoped for in the preseason, but that doesn't mean it immediately parlayed into efficiency. Mattison was third with a 78.9% opportunity share in Week 1 and was eighth with a 73% snap share. He also scored a touchdown, but his 11 carries turned into just 34 yards and his four targets gained him just 10 more. He will likely get there on volume in this game, but it might be a rough climb to fantasy points.

Jordan Addison (WR, MIN)

It was a dynamic debut for rookie Jordan Addison who took over all the Adam Thielen snaps as well as his end zone looks. Addison saw a meager 15% target share but saw 24.6% of the air yards and was the consistent downfield look for Kirk Cousins. Things will get tougher this week, so Addison is a flex play for me this week. The Eagles led all teams last year with just 5.5 yards per pass attempt allowed to opponents.


Consider Sitting for Fantasy Football Lineups

Kirk Cousins (QB, MIN)

Our consensus staff rankings of quarterbacks this week have Kirk Cousins ranked 20th at the position, and that's right about where I have him slotted as well. To me, Cousins is a Superflex or desperation Aaron Rodgers fill-in at best this week. If you're starting cousins against this stout Eagles defense, you are hoping for a lot of garbage time stats and some soft secondary, prevent coverage towards the end of the game. The Eagles defensive line might also just eat Cousins alive.

Rashaad Penny (RB, PHI)

Penny was a surprise healthy scratch in Week 1 against New England, much to the delight of Kenneth Gainwell managers. He will have to be active in this game since Gainwell will miss it, but can we trust someone the coaches didn't even deem worthy to be active after they just signed him in the offseason? The Vikings allowed 4.5 yards per rush attempt to opponents last year so I can see it if you're in a very deep league. He won't be in my 10- or 12-team league plans.

K.J. Osborn (WR, MIN)

After Week 1, it's clear that Jordan Addison is the WR2 in this offense and Osborn is the fifth option on offense, at best. Hockensen got everything short, Jefferson got every target in the middle of the field, and Addison (12.2 aDOT) got all the long stuff. Osborn just got the targets that were left over.

Boston Scott (RB, PHI)

In a game where one of the primary backs on the offense was scratched, Boston Scott still only managed one carry and one target. If Swift and Penny play on Thursday, Scott likely sees another very limited role for Philadelphia. Call me when he plays the New York Giants as he always scored a touchdown against them (nine touchdowns in eight career games).


Kirksey’s Picks

Thursday Night season record:

Spread (0-1), Over/Under (1-0)

In the end, it's hard to overlook the fact that the Vikings had trouble scoring points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 1. If that's the case, how exactly do we expect them to keep up with the powerhouse Eagles on the road when Philadelphia has a huge chip on their shoulders? I don't see how the Vikings will be able to slow down this Philadelphia offense even with Kenneth Gainwell not playing.

Even if the Minnesota front seven does a decent job of containing the running game for the Eagles, their secondary is likely to be torched by the Brown-Smith-Goedert combo. That might lead to a lot of garbage-time fantasy stats for players like Justin Jefferson and Alexander Mattison, but in the real world, Philadelphia is not going to toy with them in their own house after a scare against New England in Week 1.

Picks: Eagles -7, Under 49

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