Kickoff: Sunday, December 13th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Betting Odds: MIN +6.5, 51.5 total via Oddsshark
Kirk Cousins (Start, QB2)
There is a lot to like about this matchup for Kirk Cousins in Tampa – fresh on the back of hurling 3 TD passes in 3 straight games for the Vikings, Cousins has found a rhythm behind a much-improved offensive line. The talent of Justin Jefferson and the experience of Adam Thielen are a perfect 1-2 combination for a quarterback with Cousins’ style. The Vikings have won 5 of 6 games and are now firmly in with a shout of making the playoffs. Their last 3 games have been settled by 3 points or less so every throw Cousins makes is meaningful right now. It will be no different against a stuttering Bucs team that needs to win this game as much as the Vikings do. The Bucs defense has given up 8 passing touchdowns in 3 straight games and multiple scores in 6 of their last 7 matchups. The over on 51.5 points total looks like a good call right about now.
Dalvin Cook (Start, RB1), Alexander Mattison (Sit)
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dalvin Cook is the RB1 going into the fantasy playoffs – he saw an unprecedented 38 touches in the win over the Jaguars and has now seen 30+ touches in 4 of the Vikings last 6 games. The only disappointing aspect is his failure to regularly score touchdowns despite his volume. After scoring in every game he played until Week 10, Cook has only notched one score in his last 4 games. You know that means he is due this weekend, right? Just in time for your key playoff game.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Adam Thielen (Start, WR1), Justin Jefferson (Start, WR1), Irv Smith Jr. (Start, TE2 if active), Kyle Rudolph (Sit)
Both Adam Thielen (204.6 points) and Justin Jefferson (209.10 points) sit comfortably in the top 10 fantasy wideouts so far this season. Not only do they complement each other with the versatility and ability to line up anywhere across the formation and make a significant impact, but there is also more than enough room to accommodate them both in this dynamic, multifarious offense in Minnesota. Thielen has 20 catches on 29 targets for 241 yards and 5 TDs over his past 3 games; Jefferson has 19 catches on 30 targets for 277 yards and 4 TDs in his last 3 games. Elite!
Kyle Rudolph has not been able to take advantage of Irv Smith Jr.‘s absence, and if the 2nd-year Alabama returns to the field on Sunday he has a promising matchup against a Bucs secondary that is in the top 10 for points allowed against TEs this season. It is a wait and see on the back injury so don’t be surprised if he is ruled out again on Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady (Start, QB2)
This is a dangerous matchup for Tom Brady who is enduring a Jeykll and Hyde season for his new team. The Vikings’ young corners, Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler have been improving with every snap and this Vikings defense has allowed the 7th-fewest yards per pass attempt (7.1) since Week 8. In the first 7 games of the season, they ranked 26th. Brady is coming off a bye, but 2 ugly losses to the Chiefs and Rams before that break is weighing heavy on our minds. The fact that this game is likely to feature a high score bodes well for Brady. He is a QB2 with potential for some passing TDs too.
Ronald Jones (Start, RB2), Leonard Fournette (Sit, FLEX)
It was encouraging to see Ronald Jones haul in a long Brady pass for a 37-yard score last time out. The Vikings have been very average against the run and if Erik Kendricks is again missing, the opportunity for Jones to shine will be there for the taking. It has been baffling how this offense has shuffled their running backs almost endlessly without a strategy or reason this season. Jones should similarly lead this backfield as Cook does for the Vikings, however, the cloud on the horizon is Leonard Fournette, who despite some poor drops in recent games continues to see his name called in to spell Jones all too often.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Mike Evans (Start, WR1), Chris Godwin (Start, FLEX), Antonio Brown (Sit, FLEX), Rob Gronkowski (Start, TE1)
Throwing Antonio Brown into the mix has really messed up this receiving corps and they have been nowhere near as effective since. Mike Evans has less than 77 yards receiving in each of his last 5 games. He does have 4 touchdown receptions in that time, however, saving his fantasy outlook. He has to be considered as a solid start against this young Vikings secondary with huge red zone upside, of course. Chris Godwin has shown signs he is back to his best in the last 2 matchups and he has 21 catches on just 25 targets for 242 yards and 1 TD in the last 3 games. After 3 lean weeks where Rob Gronkowski saw a bulk of his targets go to Antonio Brown, he became fantasy relevant once more by topping 100 yards on 6 catches, his best yardage of the season by some distance. He is a TE1 with a high ceiling and a high floor. That is a lovely thing for a veteran like Gronk.
-Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)