Monday Night Football
NY Giants @ Minnesota
Vegas Projected Score: Vikings 24, Giants 19
Fantasy expectations need to be lowered across the board for Monday night's Giants-Vikings battle, which pits against each other two teams that rank bottom 12 in both points allowed and offensive plays run. Dating back to last season, Minnesota has permitted 17 points or fewer in seven straight games with point totals allowed of 14 (Packers), 10 (Seahawks), 17 (Giants), and 17 (Bears) in their last four games at home. The Vikings lead the NFL in quarterback hits (24) and sacks (15), and their first three quarterback finishes allowed to start the year are QB16 (Cam Newton), QB20 (Aaron Rodgers), and QB14 (Marcus Mariota). Eli Manning's fantasy owners need to find a streamer this week. ... Minnesota is similarly stingy on the ground, having held Panthers, Packers, and Titans RBs to a combined 56-172-0 (3.07 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-3. The Vikings' only two rushing touchdowns allowed were run in by Rodgers and Newton. Even with Shane Vereen (triceps) on I.R. and Rashad Jennings (thumb) not expected to play, I'm putting a full fade on the Giants' backfield in this matchup. And things won't loosen up for New York's running game anytime soon with the Packers, Ravens, and Rams on deck. Orleans Darkwa, Bobby Rainey, and Paul Perkins look like traps.
Manning's Weeks 1-3 targets: Odell Beckham 30; Sterling Shepard 19; Victor Cruz 15; Larry Donnell and Will Tye 11; Jennings 4; Darkwa and Rainey 2. ... Before holding Kelvin Benjamin catch-less in Week 3, the Vikings ceded 7-76 to Tajae Sharpe in Week 1 and 5-73-1 to Jordy Nelson in Week 2. They did not use Xavier Rhodes to shadow Benjamin. While this remains a difficult matchup for Beckham, he is always a WR1 regardless of opponent. OBJ ranks ninth in the NFL in catches (19) and eighth in receiving yards (280), and he piled up nearly 90 of his 121 yards last week against Josh Norman. OBJ also had Norman beat for a would-be 90-yard TD in the second half, only for Eli to mistakenly throw the ball elsewhere. ... Complementary receiving options are tougher sells in a game where Eli seems likely to struggle to reach 200 passing yards. Through three weeks, Sharpe is the only enemy wideout to clear 75 yards against the Vikings, and only two (including Jordy) have cleared 65. Shepard has earned every-week WR3 treatment in season-long leagues by going for 100-plus yards and/or a touchdown in each of his first three NFL games, but that streak is a good bet to end Monday night. Shepard's best comparable among receivers Minnesota has faced is Randall Cobb, who managed 5-42-0 against them in Week 2. ... Averaging only five targets per game, Cruz will be worth WR3/flex consideration when the Giants face easier foes than this. ... The Vikings have checked Delanie Walker (3-42-0), Jared Cook (4-31-0), and Greg Olsen (6-64-0). Ignore the Giants' tight end committee.
This won't be an easy road for the Vikings' offense either based on New York's to-date defensive play. Despite offensive line and overall running-game ineffectiveness, Minnesota tried to maintain a balanced approach in last week's win over the Panthers, dialing up 24 runs compared to only 30 called passes and failing to execute a competent rushing attack. The Vikings currently rank last in the NFL in yards per carry (2.1), while the Giants have held enemy running backs to a combined 66-220-1 (3.33 YPC) rushing line. Jerick McKinnon did work as Minnesota's clear Week 3 lead back, logging 17 touches on 65% of the snaps compared to Matt Asiata's 7 touches on a 35% playing-time clip. In a tough matchup, McKinnon is best viewed as a low-end RB2/flex play. Asiata remains a threat for goal-line work, but he is unlikely to pay dividends without an easy score. ... After lighting up Green Bay for a top-12 fantasy finish on Sunday Night Football in Week 2, Sam Bradford regressed to last week's QB24 in Carolina. Quarterback finishes allowed by the Giants are QB27 (Dak Prescott), QB21 (Drew Brees), and QB10 (Kirk Cousins). While I'm balking at streaming Bradford as a QB1 this week, he remains firmly in play in two-quarterback leagues with some intriguing matchups to exploit in a banged-up New York secondary.
Bradford's Week 2-3 target distribution: Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs 18; Adam Thielen 9; Charles Johnson 4; McKinnon 3; Asiata 2. ... The Vikings have a shallow ball distribution with Rudolph and Diggs as the clear top passing-game dogs, which should help stabilize their weekly floors. For the most part, we know where the ball is going in this offense. Annually wrecked by tight ends, the Giants have given up the eighth most receptions (16) to the position through three games. With the NFL's highest target share (28%) among tight ends, Rudolph isn't going away this year. He's an every-week starter at the weakest position in fantasy. ... Giants CBs Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and FS Darian Thompson (foot) are all dealing with injuries. Thompson won't play, his backup Nat Berhe is in the concussion protocol, and Apple and DRC both look questionable at best. Running over 40% of his routes in the slot, Diggs will take on a Giants defense that's been shelled by slot men, serving up 4-78-1 (Jamison Crowder), 5-54-1 (Willie Snead), and 8-65 (Cole Beasley) in Weeks 1-3. Diggs runs the rest of his pass patterns out wide, where New York also got flamed by DeSean Jackson (5-96-1) last week.
Score Prediction: Vikings 20, Giants 14