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Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown: Minnesota Vikings vs. Houston Texans

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The Vikings and Texans are two playoff teams from a season ago who seem to have lost their way. With both teams off to slow starts, which squad can turn things around and get in the win column in Week 4? For the 2020 NFL season, Matt Savoca will be providing his weekly NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown column, going through every single game and offensive and defensive matchup, every week of the season. For your viewing convenience, we have broken up the matchups breakdown into several single columns, each one covering a single game. You can find links to every game right here. We have 12 games on tap for Week 4 NFL DFS and NFL Fantasy Football, so let’s dive in. The entire matchups article will be available in podcast form, every Friday afternoon on the Awesemo Podcast Network. Let’s get into the Titans – Vikings fantasy football matchup for your NFL DFS lineups.

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Minnesota Vikings (24.75) at Houston Texans (28.75) – 1 p.m. ET

Minnesota Passing Game

Kirk Cousins returned to competency in Week 3 after an abysmal Week 2 in Indianapolis. Against the Titans last week, Cousins completed 16 of 27 passes for three scores, but his turnover woes continued, tossing his fifth and sixth interceptions of the season. Cousins excelled particularly when the Titans did not bring extra pressure, finishing with an 85% adjusted completion percentage when not blitzed. The Vikings line also held up relatively, only conceding two sacks. Cousins was only hit as he threw three times all game. This week, he’ll face a Houston squad that similarly struggled to get to the quarterback in Week 3. The Texans only forced two sacks, and Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t hit while throwing the entire game. This bodes well for the Vikings, who will need to keep pace with Deshaun Watson, as Watson is unlikely to have much of a problem moving the ball against the young Vikings secondary. As one of only four games on the slate where both teams come into the game with team PFF pass grades above the 50th percentile, this game has the potential to shoot out even beyond its lofty 53.5 point total. It will only get there if Cousins plays above his his 29th-ranked passer air conversion ratio (PACR) and 31st-ranked EPA per game.

 

Adam Thielen ranks second in true weighted opportunity share behind only Keenan Allen but ranks an astonishing 27th overall in targets. His true target share is still top 10 at the position, but the raw target number is a strong reminder that the Vikings prefer to limit the number of plays in a game (by relying on their running game), which lowers the potential of the offense as a whole unless forced by game situation to continue passing. He saw a season-low five targets, catching just three for the second week in a row. His touchdown saved what would have been another sub-five-point performance in a row. Despite the massive usage, there’s significant downside to using Thielen in lineups. At WR11 however, he’s worth considering, as Awesemo’s projections rank Thielen in line with DraftKings salary.

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Justin Jefferson’s usage spiked noticeably in Week 3. After averaging out at a 13% target share the first two weeks, Jefferson was targeted at 35% rate against the Titans, hauling in nine catches for 175 yards and a score. The big total and the 71-yard touchdown catch and run are exactly what the Vikings need to see from their 2020 first-round pick as they continue to try and fill the role previously played by Stefon Diggs in the Gary Kubiak offense. While a single 175-yard explosion does not guarantee Jefferson as a bona fide Diggs replacement just yet, it’s a reminder that when this Vikings offense has functioned at its peak, they tend to volley their big receiver days back and forth between their two primary targets. It’s possible we will return to a game scenario that favors Thielen once again over the speedy Jefferson, but it is not out of the question that both will succeed this weekend, especially given the high Vegas total. Houston has so far struggled to contain primary receiver pairs, as Kansas City in Week 1 (96 yards and two touchdowns for Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill) and Pittsburgh in Week 3 (140 yards and a touchdown for Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster) got premiere production from their elite play makers against the Texans.

Olabisi Johnson has faded into a tertiary role in the Vikings pass attack. With a true weighted opportunity share that ranks outside the top 80 receivers, he can’t be considered more than a speculative dart throw play at this point. The two tight ends Kyle Rudolph (who made a beautiful end zone grab last weekend) and Irv Smith continue to take valuable targets away from one another, they rank 37th and 41st among tight ends in true pass volume share, respectively. Priced at TE25, you could do worse than hoping for another score from Rudolph. He’s projected as the 21st tight end on the slate on Awesemo.com.

Minnesota Running Game

Dalvin Cook has averaged 70%, 79% and 70% of the Vikings’ rushes. His 51 total carries are three times the amount of backfield mate Alexander Mattison, and no other player on the Vikings has more than a single carry. Cook no has a score in each of the first three weeks despite ranking just 63rd in quality opportunities (targets or carries within the opponent 10-yard line) among running backs. This is an indicator that Cook is reliant on his long runs, such as the 31-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter against Tennessee. Cook remains a strong consideration in all fantasy football formats.

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Houston Passing Game

Watson had his first multi-touchdown day of the season in Week 3 at Pittsburgh. Faced with arguably the toughest schedule of any quarterback Week 1 through Week 3, Watson emerged with the 22nd-best expected points added per game and 25th best passer air conversion ratio. In Week 4, they finally get what appears to be a reprieve as PFF ranks Houston as having the fourth-highest net passing grade (Texans’ passing grades vs. Vikings pass defense grades) of any team in Week 4. The Vikings defense ranks in the bottom three in defensive expected points subtracted per play (EPA allowed) and bottom two in defensive expected points per drive. In short, they’ve been a sieve to opposing offenses, and Watson should feast on the Minnesota cornerback corps that doesn’t have a single cornerback ranked inside the top 50 in coverage grades. Only one (Cameron Dantzler, No. 60) ranks inside the top 90 cornerbacks. This is as exploitable a secondary as there is in the league, and Watson must make them pay by pushing the ball downfield consistently. Look for Watson to increase his 15th-ranked average depth of target well beyond his 8.0 average on Sunday and for him to continue his three game streak of at least one of his wide receivers hitting 95 yards receiving. Awesemois also very bullish on Watson’s projection, particularly related to his price of QB8 on DraftKings.

Will Fuller returned from a Week 2 leg injury that forced him to exit before recording a single catch, but he still didn’t command usage anywhere near similar to what we saw against the Chiefs in Week 1. He only grabbed 19% of the Texans’ targets 20% of the air yards last Sunday (compared to 31% of targets and 23% of air yards in Week 1) but still caught his first touchdown of the year. He still may not be 100%, but the fact that he emerged from the game relatively unscathed is good for his future production this season, as Fuller has struggled to put up numbers when playing hurt in past years. If you exclude his Week 2 goose egg, Fuller is top 10 among all players in receiving expected points added and top 20 in true weighted opportunity share. At WR20 in DraftKings salary, he’ll need a monster to be extremely valuable, but Awesemo’s projections indicate that’s not out of the question. Fuller’s projection ranks him just below his salary, but only by a hair.

Brandin Cooks hasn’t caught a touchdown yet but leads the team in targets the last two weeks with 13. His true weighted opportunity share ranks 32nd among wide receivers, and his raw target average ranks 36th. As the 40th-most expensive wide receiver on DraftKings, Cooks should be considered one of the best value receivers on the slate. Randall Cobb slides in at a distant third in Texans’ passing game, ranking 79th among receivers in true weighted opportunity share. Minnesota’s top slot corner, Jeff Gladney, ranks eighth worst in receiving yards allowed per snap among all corners with at least 20 slot coverage snaps. This could be an exploitable matchup that Watson ends up leaning on. An interesting note on Cob: He’s not being limited to just underneath work in Houston. In Weeks 1 through 3, Cobb commanded an average target depths of three, six and nearly 18 yards, averaging out to a deceptively normal 8.8.

Kenny Stills (104th in true weighted opportunity share), Keke Coutee (142nd) and tight end Jordan Akins (28th) round out Watson’s weaponry. Stills could be an interesting tournament play, as he only needs about 10 DraftKings fantasy points to be considered a valuable pick this week.

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Houston Rushing Game

David Johnson has performed admirably yet unspectacularly with the backfield essentially all his own since Week 2. His 36% share of team opportunities since Week 2 ranks ninth among all running backs, but his 31 total opportunities ranked outside the top 25, and he’s only found the end zone once since the Texans’ opening drive of the season. Moreover, his receiving game work is not something we can count on either, as Johnson ranks outside the top 20 running backs in target share since Week 2. And yet, his ninth-highest salary among running backs is quite intriguing, as his probability of being in a positive game script is higher this week than it has been all season. Awesemo’s projections have him as a mispriced play compared to his ceiling this weekend. Fantasy gamers will have to deal with the lackluster floor.

Prediction: Texans 31, Vikings 24.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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