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Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown: Tennessee Titans vs. Minnesota Vikings

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The 2-0 Titans head to twin cities to take on Kirk Cousins and floundering Vikings. Can Tannehill take the Titans to 3-0 or will Kirk keep the Vikings from sliding to 0-3? 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 13 games on tap for Week 3 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 Titans-Vikings for your NFL DFS lineups.

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Tennessee Titans (24.75) @ Minnesota Vikings (22.25) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Titans Passing Game

The Titans enter week 3 as slight road favorites against a Minnesota team that has wildly underperformed, particularly on defense, to begin 2020. The Vikings defense is currently dead last in both team defensive expected points metrics mentioned Tuesday’s data deep dive on Awesemo.com, and PFF ranks the Titans offense as having the top net pass grade advantage on the slate.

Ryan Tannehill, at the helm of the third most conservative offense in the league (by true neutral early down pass rate) has continued his efficient play on limited attempts. His 23rd highest total in passes per game and 28th highest air yards per pass attempt is augmented by his top-7 adjusted yards per attempt and top-11 quarterback composite efficiency score (via the Awesemo data deep dive). He’s fourth in fantasy points per dropback, and third in catchable target rate. And he’s doing it all without 2019 breakout star receiver A.J. Brown, who has already been declared out with a bone bruise in his knee.


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That means the primary receiver role, for the second straight week, belongs to fourth year receiver Corey Davis. Davis had a quiet week 2, while primarily matched up against Jacksonville’s standout rookie corner C.J. Henderson, but still managed a touchdown on one of his three catches, saving his fantasy day. Because of the low volume nature of the Titans offense, Davis must be efficient with his 6.5 targets per game (32nd among receivers), but Tannehill has been putting players in a position to do exactly that since he took over as the starter last season, and especially this weekend, when Titans’ receivers have the 10th highest net route running advantage (compared to Minnesota corners) in week 3, Corey Davis isn’t the worst person to bet on at $5,300 on DraftKings.

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Jonnu Smith (15% of true weighted opportunity share), Cameron Batson (10%) and Anthony Firkser (10%) round out this passing game. The tight end Smith has been impressive thus far, ranking 2nd at his position in yards per route run, and top 12 in targets, receptions, target share, red zone targets, and touchdowns. At $5,600, Smith prices out as the tenth highest tight end, and while he absolutely has the potential to continue scoring against a woeful Vikings secondary, the Awesemo.com projections remain bearish on Smith compared to salary-based expectation.

Titans Running Game

Derrick Henry isn’t having as transcendent a start to the season as the Titans would like, but Tennessee hasn’t wavered in their offensive approach one iota. Henry ranks number one in opportunity share, number one in carries, and number one in red zone touches. He’s yet to break any long runs, but 14 evaded tackles rank sixth. Even after a disappointing finish in week 2, henry is a lock for 25 touches, and could crest 30, as he did in week 1. Even at his RB5 price and top-3 overall projected ownership, Awesemo.com’s projections love Henry this weekend.

Vikings Passing Game

The Vikings are playing poorly as an entire team through two weeks, and Kirk Cousins isn’t helping. He’s 31st in pass plays per game and 30th in pass yards. He’s inexplicably outside the top-32 quarterbacks, already, in red zone pass attempts. His one redeeming quality, at least on a per-target basis, are his air yards (10.4, third among quarterbacks), but he’s so far translated that into the 32nd best fantasy points per game output of the young season. In short, it’s been incredibly rough. From an advanced metrics perspective, things don’t seem quite as horrible. Cousins ranks 23rd in quarterback composite efficiency score, and his career numbers put him right at 2020’s average, but this offense won’t be able to function until Cousins converts more drives into scores, and increases his efficiency on pass plays.

The Titans defense enters week 3 in the bottom-third of NFL defenses according to overall PFF grades, with a particularly struggling pass rush (28th in PFF). Tennessee makes up for the lack of pressure with top-10 coverage ratings in their secondary. Their top cornerback, Jonathan Joseph will almost certainly spend a majority of the game covering Adam Thielen, who leads the league in air yard share and true weighted opportunity share, and is second in the NFL in deep targets. Frustrating for fantasy gamers, Thielen’s catchable target rate of 70% is outside the top 80 receivers and his QB rating when targeted is outside the top 75. These erratic accuracy numbers will create inconsistent outputs, despite stable underlying usage (Thielen’s had 8 targets and 130-plus air yards each game). The volume is worth betting on, even at a high salary (WR7 on DraftKings), especially when considering Awesemo.com’s rosy projection for Thielen this weeknd.

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The target distribution behind Thielen is extremely flat, so it’s very hard to bet on any. Olabisi Johnson (14% of true weighted opportunity share) and Justin Jefferson (11%), are both outside the top 50 in nearly every important volume metric. Irv Smith, Tajae Sharpe, Alexander Mattison, and Kyle Rudolph all have a true weighted opportunity share ahead of Dalvin Cook, which is disastrous for Cook’s floor.

Vikings Running Game

Cook remains the focal point of the Vikings ho-hum offense, but he’s received a disturbingly low amount of work. His 65% backfield opportunity share is still top-12 at the position, but his targets and receptions are outside the top 35. He’s still top-15 in both breakaway runs and avoided tackles, indicating he’s likely the same highly skilled player he’s always been, but due to the conservative nature of the offense, lack of scoring drives, and lack of receiving opportunity, Cook is quickly turning into a boom-bust play at the position. One positive note heading into this week, Minnesota has the third best net run blocking advantage (via PFF) on the slate. This presents as a much more appetizing matchup on the ground (how Minnesota prefers to play) than the first two weeks. Still, as the third highest priced running back on the slate, fantasy gamers will have to trust that the strange lack of usage is just a product of randomness, and that Cook’s usage returns to 2019 form, or (even better) that the Vikings pass game plays efficiently, creating a positive game script, where Cook thrives. Until then, he’ll be a tough back to pay up for. Alexander Mattison is simply the change of pace back and doesn’t threaten Cook for touches whatsoever.

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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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