Kickoff: Sunday October 1st,2023 at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Betting Odds: Car +2.5, 44.5 over/under total via Oddsshark
Writer: Dustin Ludke (@TheDunit13 on Twitter)
Kirk Cousins (Start, QB1)
All this talk about how the Minnesota Vikings should trade Kirk Cousins is just insane to me. Kirk Cousins has been a certified baller most of his time in the land of a thousand lakes and this year is no different. If you waited to draft Cousins you have been rewarded with a QB2 and two QB1 finishes. He comes in hotter than a Carolina summer and should continue his dominance. He has the weapons and he has the skills to carve up the Carolina Panthers. Despite the fact that they are giving up the sixth-fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks they are only ranked as the 19th-best team in coverage but 5th in coverage.
Cousins at times does struggle with pass rush but the Vikings have designed plays for him to get the ball out quickly. He is currently getting the ball out of his hands or seeing pressure in 2.6 seconds which is the 7th longest in the NFL. With the weapons around him, I expect Cousins to perform. I think he might be at the lower end of the QB1 range this week but you can still start him with confidence.
Alexander Mattison (Start, RB2), Cam Akers (Sit)
The rumors of Alexander Mattison’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Mattison went out in Week 3 and put up 93 yards on 20 carries and added five receptions on seven targets for 32 yards. The fact that the Vikings went out and traded for Cam Akers last week doesn’t worry me much. Akers was inactive this week. You would expect he wasn’t ready to play but we have seen running backs play with less time on a team and Akers knows the system due to his time with the coaching staff during their stint with the Los Angeles Rams.
I’m not starting Akers yet. He didn’t show much in his one game this year and until I see it I won’t believe it no matter how good the matchup is or how much I believe in his talent. The matchup for the running backs is a juicy one. If not for the Miami Dolphins duo of rushers we all would be talking about the massive day that Kenneth Walker for the Seattle Seahawks had against the Panthers this past week. Currently, the Panthers are giving up the 3rd-most points to fantasy running backs and rank 23rd in run defense by PFF.com. I expect the Panthers to focus on that more in practice this week and not surrender massive points but Mattison should be able to put up solid RB2 numbers.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
Justin Jefferson (Start, WR1), K.J. Osborn (Sit, Flex), Jordan Addison (Sit), T.J. Hockenson (Start, TE1)
Should you start a guy getting double-digit targets every week? Yes, you should. That’s what Justin Jefferson has been. He has been everything we thought he would be. It doesn’t matter that the Panthers are giving up the 6th fewest points to fantasy wide receivers. They do not have a corner that rates in the top 50 for coverage by PFF.com. I will temper expectations with Jefferson a little. I expect a ton of safety help coming his way in the form of Xavier Woods. Woods rates the 6th-best coverage safety at 80.4. He plays a ton as free safety but also lines up as a slot cover man which has been an area where Jefferson has found success. I’m still starting Jefferson is locked into your lineup. I think he might be on the cusp of the WR1/WR2 range. I think he will end up just outside the top range due to the bracket coverage and the need for Cousin to have to get the ball out quickly.
Those quick throws will benefit tight end T.J. Hockenson. His ADOT (Average Depth of Target) is the lowest among the main pass catchers for the Vikings at 5.8 yards. It’s a juicy matchup against the Panthers who are giving up the 10th-most fantasy points to tight ends. Hockenson has been lining up all over the field. He has played in line, slot, and wide snaps. He has a huge opportunity this week to cement himself in that top group of fantasy tight ends. Fire him up as a locked-in TE1
The question of starting any other pass catcher for the Vikings comes down to K.J. Osborn and Jordan Addison. The personnel matchups are good based on the PFF.com rating. The pass rush is what scares me. Both have ADoTs over 10 yards. I would lean toward starting Osborn over Addison. First Osborn has been playing on more snaps. Osborn has been on the field for almost every snap, averaging 93.6% of the total snaps. Addison is only averaging 65.3%. Osborn has also been there longer and has the trust of Cousins. When there is pressure in a quarterback’s face they will look to someone they know they can count on. Osborn has had some drop issues but his availability due to snaps and his history with Cousins puts him as a low-end flex play this week. I probably won’t start him. He doesn’t have the upside I like in my flex plays. Addison has provided fantasy value due to scoring in his first two games. I’m not sure the game script this week calls for that. I’m sitting with him this week.
Andy Dalton (Sit, QB2), Bryce Young (Sit)
Let’s start with the fact I do not believe Bryce Young will play this week. We still haven’t gotten an update on his ankle injury or when he will be able to play. He was drafted first overall to be the franchise and the Panthers are going to rush him back and risk additional damage to his ankle.
That puts veteran Andy Dalton back under center. Dalton did admirable in Week 3 throwing for 361 yards and two touchdowns. My issue is that came on 58 passing attempts. To put that in perspective that is the most in Dalton’s 13-year career. The Minnesota Vikings are giving up the 4th-most fantasy points to quarterback but that also came playing against Baker Mayfield, Jalen Hurts, and Justin Herbert. Two of those are in the top five in the league and the other is having a renaissance in his career. Also, all three of them have a dynamic pair of wide receivers. Dalton doesn’t exactly have that. I’m not willing to bank on the volume from last week or that Dalton can elevate his game enough. He probably gets into the QB2 range but I would be looking for other options
Miles Sanders (Start, RB2), Chuba Hubbard (Sit, Flex)
I was expecting a lot more work from Miles Sanders last week with the backup quarterback in the game. Sanders only got nine carries. He wasn’t great on those with a 2.67 yards per carry average. His fantasy day was salvaged by a rushing touchdown, and catching five of his nine targets for 38 yards. He now faces a Vikings team that is middle of the road in terms of points surrendered to the running back position but who ranks in the bottom five by PFF.com for overall run defense. The disparity could be that the running backs they have faced are Rachaad White, D’Andre Swift, and Joshua Kelley. Outside of Swift, they haven’t faced a back who is capable of putting up big numbers. Sanders is better than both Kelley and White. I think he will see enough volume in a game that probably won’t get out of hand score-wise. He’s a solid RB2. He gets enough passing work to keep him locked in that range.
Chuba Hubbard is nothing more than a change of pace back for the Panthers. He has a very similar skill set to Sanders so when he comes in the team can run the same plays. He has managed to have one decent week because he caught all five of his targets which puts him in Flex range. I don’t believe with Dalton at the helm that they will get too exotic and mix up the offense enough to get Hubbard enough opportunities.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Adam Thielen (Start, WR2), DJ Chark (Start, Flex), Terrace Marshall (Sit), Jonathan Mingo (Sit), Hayden Hurst(Sit),
We called for a smash week last week and we are calling for it to continue for veteran Adam Thielen. At this point if you have him on your fantasy roster and aren’t starting him why bother having him at all? He saw a massive 14 targets in Week 3. He played on 92% of the snap and ran a whopping 59 routes. Now we have already talked about the massive volume of passing that the Panthers had against the Seahawks and how that won’t be replicated this week. One of the reasons we liked Thielen last week was the matchup and it’s just as good this week. Going against the Vikings who are giving up the second most points to wide receivers. A spot they are tied with the Seahawks in. Thielen will most likely see coverage from Josh Metellus who is the slot cover guy. He rates at 72.98 by PFF.com in coverage. It’s not as juicy of a matchup as last week but I expect Thielen to be targeted early and often.
Another concern for Thielen is that rookie Jonathan Mingo is currently in concussion protocol. It takes away another weapon on the opposite side of the field and could tilt safety help more toward Thielen’s side.
DJ Chark will have to channel whatever he was doing last week and pick up the slack. Chark has been underwhelming the past few years until last week where he posted four receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown. He also saw 11 targets. I don’t expect him to see that volume again nor do I expect that kind of efficiency. Chark is worth a dart throw as a flex play this week. The game could end up being a shootout, and maybe there is one more magical game left in the Red Rifles arm.
Terrace Marshall saw an uptick in snaps with Mingo being injured so it’s worth monitoring. It’s a concussion for Mingo, so that could mean he could play with very little practice as long as he clears the protocol. I’m not risking a pivotal Week 4 fantasy matchup on Marshall getting a flukey touchdown. Sit him this week.
Tight end Hayden Hurst burst on the fantasy scene like the Kool-aid man back in Week 1 but since has looked more like he couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag. He has been a letdown for fantasy managers who thought they found a tight-end sleeper. His snap share barely broke the 60% mark. The Vikings are middle of the road in terms of giving up points to tight ends and have a solid group of cover linebackers and safeties. Even with the massive passing volume in Week 3, Hurst only saw three targets. If he isn’t seeing opportunities in one of the highest passing games we have seen in a long time then I don’t expect him to get them on a normal week. Sit him.