Game Previews: All Fantasy Relevant Players For Week 3
Bills vs. Vikings
The Bills passing game took a step forward last week with QB Josh Allen under center, will he be able to build off his first career NFL start against a strong Vikings pass defense?
Bills QB Josh Allen was 18-for-33 with a touchdown and two interceptions last week against the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the rookie’s first-career start and he showed flashes of why the Bills moved up to select him 7th overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Now he has his first-career start on the road against an elite Minnesota Vikings defense that is currently tied for fifth in both sacks and interceptions with 7 and 3 respectively. This presents a big challenge for Allen!
The Vikings sack total and the pressure associated with it is of particular concern as Josh Allen so far has posted just an 11.8 passer rating on throws while under pressure. That is the lowest rating by a rookie quarterback in his first two games since Matt Ryan in 2008. He’s been under pressure a lot too with 44.3% of his dropbacks being of the pressured variety. In addition, Football Outsiders suggests that the Vikings defense is one of the best in the league with their DVOA ranking 7th.
The Bills will need to protect Allen better to get the most out of him, the offensive line currently ranks 25th best in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. New center Ryan Groy has been the main problem as his 41.8 overall grade is the lowest at the position in the NFL. Look for Safety Harrison Smith and CB Xavier Rhodes to take advantage of the rushed throws by playing aggressive on the ball to try and create some turnovers.
Will RB LeSean McCoy be healthy enough to play this week, and if not, what will the RB touches breakdown look like?
So far this season RB LeSean McCoy hasn’t got things going. Through two games he only has averaged 30.5 rushing yards per game. That’s not all on McCoy though as the offensive line have not opened up effective running lanes consistently. Game scripts have also played a factor for Buffalo’s lack of running game success so far as the team has fallen behind in both of their first two games early and have had to abandon the run.
McCoy enters this week’s game with some uncertainty over whether he will play and how effective he would be as he tries to recover from a rib injury that he suffered last week when center Ryan Groy fell on top of him at the end of a play. McCoy also has been dealing with more off-the-field allegations this week on top of the injury and there’s a whole lot of uncertainty here. I would probably sit him this week if possible.
If McCoy is unable to play in this week’s game, RBs Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy will get bigger roles. Marcus Murphy has been the change of pace back thus far this season, receiving more touches in both games than presumed #2 RB Ivory. Murphy is certainly more explosive, and is a much better fit in the passing game than Ivory and so I would expect him to be the more valuable RB this week and the one to start in the event that McCoy does not play. Ivory will likely be the 1st down RB and will get the “goalline” carries, but I don’t think there’s enough of an opportunity for that usage to be beneficial in fantasy. Additionally, if the game goes as many expect and the Vikings start to pull away in the first half, the Bills will likely be in a position to abandon the run again.
The Bills receiver group have yet to return much value in fantasy, is this the week that someone finally does?
With the Vikings being talented on both sides of the ball, I expect the Bills to be playing from behind and the result is likely a Bills offense that needs to push the ball in the air. This could mean some fantasy relevance for the receiver group based on volume alone. Presumed #1 WR Kelvin Benjamin could return some value but it’s so difficult to trust. He has struggled to create separation this year with just a 1.4 avg yards of separation at target which is tied for the 3rd worst in the NFL. That means he has to rely on winning contested catches which he hasn’t done effectively, in part due to poor effort. The upside is that Benjamin seemed to be the number 1 option in the red zone for the Bills last week where he secured a TD and he could be in a similar situation again this week. WR Zay Jones has shown the best and most consistent effort over the team’s first two games among the receiving group, and I think he could continue to become one of the most trusted targets for Allen. He’s caught 5 of 9 targets so far year despite a poor 1.9 avg yards of separation mark so far including a 57 yard gain last week. Overall, creating separation could continue to be a problem against a quality Vikings pass defense and so I would only play them in fantasy if desperate.
TE Charles Clay was able to bounce back from a 0 catch outing in week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens with a completely mediocre and fantasy useless 2 catch day for 29 yards on 3 targets last week. It’s becoming clear that QB Josh Allen is less reliant on his TEs than last year’s QB Tyrod Taylor and that Clay should likely be downgraded to a bench role in fantasy.
The Bills secondary is dealing with injuries and the aftermath of CB Vontae Davis’ stunning halftime retirement from last week, can they slow down the Vikings impressive pass offense?
The secondary of the Buffalo Bills defense is off to an unimpressive start to the 2018 season. Through two games, the group allowed 75.4% of passes to be completed, which is the second-highest rate in the NFL so far. This could mean big days for the Vikings impressive WR duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. It will be interesting to see which WR the Bills line CB Tre’Davious White against as he has largely been avoided by opposing QBs so far this season. Whichever WR gets to line up against the likes of Phillip Gaines, Lafayette Pitts, Taron Johnson, or Ryan Lewis should be in a good position for a big day. The likely outcome is White against Diggs so look for Thielen to have a big day!
The Bills aren’t getting a lot of help in pass coverage from rookie LB Tremaine Edmunds who has allowed 2.69 yards per coverage snap and a passer rating of 123.7, which are both the worst marks among linebackers so far. This benefits QB Kirk Cousins and he will likely look to do what Chargers QB Philip Rivers did last week by isolating and targeting the raw linebacker in pass coverage.
The Minnesota Vikings have started the season with a win and a tie and now get a home matchup with the Buffalo Bills who have started the season 0-2 and look like they are headed for a lot more. The Vikings are salivating over the matchup and so should you if you have any of the Vikings playmakers on your team.
With the spread being -16.5 in favor of the Vikings this week, do you think that the Vikings cover the spread?
The Buffalo Bills lost by 34 in week one and then 11 last week. They may be without starting RB LeSean McCoy this week and they are facing one of the most prolific passing attacks and defenses in the NFL . It is my guess that Kirk Cousins and company come into this game and lay a smackdown on the hapless Bills and cover the spread of -16.5. We will get into projections later on, but there is a reason that the Bills have people retiring at halftime… ahem… Vontae Davis. They are terrible and they will struggle to win games against mediocre teams this year, to which the Vikings are not.
Game Prediction: 37-10 Vikings
Will Kirk Cousins be needed much in what should be a blowout win?
I can see where this would be a concern. When teams get out to a big lead early, It usually means that the QB and WRs are taken out of the game. Well with this team, a big lead early most likely means a few touchdowns from Captain Kirk to one of his many weapons. I am not concerned at all about Cousins getting his and neither should you. While I don’t think his numbers pop off the page like last week, he will be slinging it early and often in this one and send the Bills packing.
Fantasy Prediction: Kirk Cousins – 20/29 239 yards 2 TDs
How will the stats break down between Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen this week?
My favorite part of every week. The easy job of saying that both of the Vikings WRs are surefire WR1s. Last week, we saw some insane stat lines from these guys. Stefon Diggs went for 9 catches to go along with 128 yards and 2 TDs while Adam Thielen popped off 12 catches for 131 yards and his own TD. This week is more of the same, albeit in a smaller dosage because of the lack of shootout impending. As always, I lean towards Thielen in PPR to be the the high scorer, but you are starting both anywhere you have them.
Adam Thielen – 7 catches 84 yards 1 TD
Stefon Diggs – 4 catches 60 yards 1 TD
With Josh Allen under center, how high will the Vikings Defense fly this week?
This one is easy. Josh Allen is talented and we don’t want to take anything away from him. But a rookie QB with a bad offensive line and a bad supporting cast on the road versus arguably the top defense in the NFL means that it could get ugly. I have the Vikings defense ranked as my top defense this week and think that Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, and company will be all smiles at the end of the day.
Fantasy Prediction: 3 sacks, 2 INT, 1 FR, 1 TD