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Week 14 Start/Sit: Monday Night Football Matchup Analysis

The Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks Monday night while still possessing a very legitimate shot at their second-straight NFC North championship. It would take time travel, combined with several injuries or random kidnappings, for the Seattle Seahawks (7-5) to prevent the Los Angeles Rams from claiming the second-straight NFC West title which they've already clinched and celebrated.

While the result of this game won't make a difference in terms of the settled NFC West division race, if the Seahawks were to defeat this tough Vikings squad, they'd be served with a major confidence boost heading into the home stretch. With the Carolina Panthers and second place finisher of the NFC East/North breathing down their necks in the Wildcard race, it'd also serve as a bit of insurance. Likewise for the Vikings, with one exception - they'll face the NFC North division-leading Bears in Week 17. Minnesota controls their own playoff destiny at this point, and that destiny would look a lot more promising with a win on Monday night.

We've officially reached the portion of the schedule where the line of demarcation between having the postseason to play for, and having draft position to play for, isn't blurred at all. We've also reached the point where a lot of us fantasy footballers are beginning our own quest for a championship. These two are not mutually exclusive. Both of these squads need a win to help shore up a playoff berth, there are a few guys who will help them put another tally in the win column to aid in these efforts, and these same gentleman could concurrently lead us to the fantasy football Promised Land. These honorable men come to us as follows...

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Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks

Date and Start Time: Monday, December 10th at 8:15 p.m. EST
Game Spread: SEA -3
Over/Under: 45.5
Notable Injuries and Status:

Offensive and Defensive Rankings (per game):

Vikings Seahawks
Passing Yards 6th 26th
Rushing Yards 30th 1st
Pass Defense 9th 19th
Run Defense 7th 17th


Must Starts

Top Players That You Should Have In Your Lineup

Kirk Cousins (QB, MIN)

I have two Top-10 fantasy wide receivers (PPR scoring), a Top-12 tight end in terms of receiving yards, yet rank 14th in fantasy points per game at the quarterback position. Who am I?

Kirk Cousins.

Adam Thielen's 98 receptions are more than any other player in the NFL this season with his 1,166 receiving yards being good for the second-most. Stefon Diggs' 84 receptions are good for sixth-most with his 839 yards being good for 20th. Cousins has attempted more passes this season than every QB not named Ben Roethlisberger, his 3,490 passing yards are good for sixth, his 23 touchdown passes rank 10th, and his 2.6 TD:INT ratio is good for 11th. Even at a pedestrian 8.6 rushing yards per game, Cousins has clearly put up Top-10 numbers.

He's just not a Top-10 guy.

Let's take this one step further, though. The difference between No. 14 Kirk Cousins (18.7 fantasy points per game) and No. 10 Philip Rivers (20.2 fantasy points per game) is just 37.5 passing yards passing yards per game. Translation: it's a bit absurd to base his performance this season on an arbitrary ranking. Seattle's defense has allowed four-straight quarterbacks to put up at least 20 fantasy points; they've also surrendered two passing touchdowns to six-straight signal callers. Four of the last six QBs to face the Seahawks have thrown for more than 300 yards; Nick Mullens just dropped 414 yards on them last week. Seattle has allowed QBs a 66.8-percent completion rate which is tied for the 10th-highest; Cousins' 71.3-percent this season is second to only Drew Brees.

Russell Wilson (QB, SEA)

Some things can't be explained by crunching data or watching film, and Wilson emerging from the phone booth as Super QB Dude around Week 10, every year, is one such phenomenon. Maybe he just really loves hoodie season. Maybe he's figured out the perfect percentage of energy conservation early in the season which enables him to ration out just enough among the remaining games to ensure weekly domination. Maybe he has reverse arthritis and instead of his joints getting all tight when the temperature drops, his become more limber. Whatever the case, he always seems to ball out this time of year.

This season, Super QB Dude has been more like Wilson being the beneficiary of some pass-friendly defenses over the second half. Still, his rushing numbers have been on the rise. Not only is Russ averaging nearly two more rushing attempts per game over his last six, but he's also up almost three full yards per carry as well (a nine-carry, 92-yard rushing performance will have that effect). Most important of all for this space, he's averaged 22.3 fantasy points over his six games since the Week 7 bye after averaging 16.8 before the break. He's emerged from the booth and earns the nod based on a combination of pedigree and playing in front of the 12s - even given the far less than favorable matchup.

Dalvin Cook (RB, MIN)

If Cook isn't out/limited for most of the season, does Kirk Cousins average 41 pass attempts a game? Do the Vikings RBs have the lowest run rate in the league? The Vikings run/pass splits feel a bit like that chicken or egg conundrum. Case Keenum is not Kirk Cousins, so comparing this season to last doesn't offer much insight. The Vikings have a new offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo anyway. We may never know.

What we do know is that Cook has seen exactly 10 carries in four of his six appearances since receiving 16 in Week 1, and the other two games produced nine carries a piece. We also know he's averaging 4.6 targets in the passing game. He could see more volume as he continues to prove his health, yes, but until we see it, let's bank on the about 14 touches he's received per game and treat everything else as cake. Elite volume? No. However, the Seahawks have allowed five-straight backs to accumulate 100 yards from scrimmage, and at 5.9 yards per touch, they're allowing opposing RBs to pick up yardage at the second-highest clip.

Adam Thielen/Stefon Diggs (WR, MIN)

The answer here lies above. Scroll up and read that novel I wrote under Kirk Cousins' name. Then, add that the Seahawks have allowed five 100-yard wide receivers over their last six games (D.J. Moore came nine yards short of making it 6-of-6) to go with seven touchdowns.

Tyler Lockett (WR, SEA)

Quietly, Tyler Lockett is tied with Adam Thielen for fourth at the wide receiver position with nine receiving touchdowns. More than Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, and Odell Beckham Jr. Crazy, I know. Even crazier is the fact that he has zero multi-TD games meaning he's displayed a level of consistency this season -- finding the end zone in nine of a possible 12 games -- which is simply too real to ignore. Regardless of the matchup.

Coincidentally, the nine receiving TDs the Vikings have donated to opposing receivers are tied for the third-fewest of any team this season. The odds aren't in Lockett's favor in this one. However, four of those nine touchdown receptions the Vikings have allowed came in that Week 4 shootout with the Rams. Since everyone gives up TDs to the Rams, let's exclude them. We're now left with five, and three of those five have come over their last three contests. Things are starting to look up a bit, huh? Regardless, Lockett has gone over 50 yards in nine of the 12 games as well, and with Russell Wilson on the other end of his passes, at home, it's simply too tough to justify benching him at this point.


Must Sits

Players To Avoid Putting In Your Lineup

Mike Davis (RB, SEA)

It was a fun ride, but Chris Carson is healthy, Rashaad Penny looks to be the better runner (more explosive at the very least), Davis has seen just four carries in three-straight games, and J.D. McKissic returned last week to convolute this backfield further.

Rashaad Penny (RB, SEA)

Like Davis, Penny appears to be a casualty of an over-crowded backfield. Yes, he's shined with limited opportunity, but he's seen a total of zero targets head his way over the Seahawks last five games and simply doesn't receive enough carries to warrant a start this week given the matchup.

David Moore (WR, SEA)

Moore seems more likely to draw Xavier Rhodes in coverage than Lockett. He's the larger of the two, and while Rhodes is far from sluggish, he tends to deal with the bigger receivers while Trae Waynes handles the smaller speedster types. Yes, Moore ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at his pro day -- he's fleet of foot himself -- but hopefully, you get the point I'm somewhat unsuccessfully attempting to make here.

Let's just move on.

Rhodes is human, he's also dealing with a hamstring injury, so I'm not insinuating that drawing this matchup guarantees a poor outing. I mean, he has given up a TD reception in two-straight games. What I am saying is that choosing to go with a boom-or-bust option, in the fantasy playoffs, who also draws a less than favorable matchup, is not the recommended course of action. If we're talking DFS, this conversation goes in an entirely different direction, but, in terms of season-long leagues, there are likely much safer options available this week.

Kyle Rudolph (TE, MIN)

Seattle hasn't exactly gone through the tight end gauntlet, so while their numbers against the position may appear imposing, I'm not quite sold on the matchup being as tough as it seems. I guess they're something like the opposite of the objects in the mirror.

Rudolph hasn't found the end zone since Week 3, and the 4.9 fantasy points he's putting up are good for 21st among TEs. In the same breath, he has at least three receptions in eight of the Vikings 12 games while accounting for at least 30 receiving yards in each of those eight. Start planning the parade! I kid, nobody is excited about Rudolph. If you just need not a zero from your TE in a PPR league, Rudolph is your guy - a couple catches to go with 30-ish yards sounds about right. However, if upside is the objective, and/or you play in a standard scoring league, it's probably wise to look elsewhere this week.

Nick Vannett (TE, SEA)

One of my few memories from elementary school math is the number problems where there'd be a sequence of numbers, and you'd have to figure out what number comes next. Here's an example: 2, 2, 2, 1...

Those are the number of targets Vannett has seen over the last four weeks, and the answer to the what number comes next question is probably two. Unless one of those two passes winds up in his welcoming hands as he occupies the end zone, you're going to regret having him in your lineup.


Solid Options/Sleepers

Which Players Will Have Solid Games and Which Could Surprise?

Solid Option - Chris Carson (RB, SEA)

The Vikings boast one of the most stifling run defenses the game has to offer. In fact, Todd Gurley's 83 rushing yards in Week 4 mark the only instance in which a back has rushed for more than 75 yards against them this season. James Develin punched in two TDs from one and two yards against them last week, but even with those two, Minnesota has allowed just five rushing TDs to opposing backs all season. This is a volume play.

No team has run the ball more often than the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, and the 15.7 carries Carson has received per game are good for the 11th-most at the RB position. Minnesota has held backs to just 3.72 yards per carry, so some quick math gives us about 60 yards on the ground. He's also likely to pick up a few receptions and the Vikings are allowing 55.4 receiving yards to the position; sixth-most. Confidence is not exactly superfluous here, but a respectable performance is definitely within reason. He also handles the majority of work inside of the 10-yard line, making him the most likely Seattle back to showcase his dancing abilities.

Solid Option - Doug Baldwin (WR, SEA)

Baldwin's production has been virtually nonexistent this season, but he's seeing a decent number of targets and remains the leading candidate to benefit from the aforementioned Wilson magic. He's also the one guy who won't see much, if any, of Rhodes or Waynes.

Sleeper - J.D. McKissic (RB, SEA)

This is like half a bottle of NyQuil to the head, after being awake for 27 hours straight, sleeper. Nonetheless, McKissic made his return last week after being sidelined with a Jones fracture in his foot. He didn't do anything in his debut (he did see one target head his way), but he received as many targets as carries, more receiving yards than rushing, and found the end zone more times through the air than on the ground a season ago. He has one job, it's to catch passes, and again, the Vikings are allowing 55.4 receiving yards to the position; sixth-most.

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