Week 6 Preview: Packers vs. Vikings

Week 6 is upon us, and on tap is an NFC North showdown between longtime foes as the Green Bay Packers head into U.S. Bank Stadium to take on the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers (4-1) are currently 1st place in the division, while the Vikings (3-2) have dropped a game back and sit behind both Green Bay and the Detroit Lions (3-2), who topped the Vikings earlier in the season. Both teams come into this one off of victories in week 5, but for anyone who watched both games, I think we would agree the wins feel slightly different.

My prediction for last weeks game, “Packers win a shootout 37-31″ and while I was off just slightly as Green Bay comes in off a thriller in Dallas, where Aaron Rodgers looked impressive all day and ultimately lead the Pack down the field in 1:13 for a miraculous comeback yet again, knocking off the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) 35-31. For Minnesota, they faced off in a divisional game agains the Chicago Bears (1-4) and Rookie QB Mitch Trubisky making his NFL debut. Trubisky was able to make throws against this Viking defense that give me confidence that Aaron Rodgers will once again be able to do what he wants in the passing game.

Preseason in my Green Bay Packers Season Preview I actually floated the possibility that this game might be a stumbling block for the Packers this season. That was prior to knowing this game will likely be an Aaron Rodgers/Case Keenum showdown, give me Green Bay in that matchup. The Vikings will  come into this game without Starting QB Sam Bradford (Knee), No.1 WR Stefon Diggs (Groin), and leading rusher rookie RB Dalvin Cook (ACL). Offense will be at a premium for Minnesota, which doesn’t bode well for them when facing a player like Aaron Rodgers.

Packers Injury Updates:

Ty Montgomery: Ty Montgomery has been a full participant at practice this week, look for him to play in this one despite being listed as Questionable (Ribs). The Packers will probably scale back his workload early in the recovery process, especially with the big game from rookie Aaron Jones last week.

David Bakhtiari: Listed as Questionable (Hamstring) once again, it is appearing that David Bakhtiari will miss another game as he has been limited in practice all week.

Bryan Bulaga: Bryan Bulaga started last week and played every offensive snap for the Packers but is still listed as Questionable (Ankle) for this one. Facing a front like the Vikings, his presence on the offensive line would be welcomed once again.

Kevin King: The rookie was looking impressive before suffering a Concussion last week. Kevin King comes into this one as Doubtful as he remains in concussion protocol.

With injuries on both sides, I’m going to change my pick. With the lack of offensive playmakers at their disposal, I think the Vikings will just not be able to keep up with Green Bay. The Packers seem to be hitting their stride offensively after stringing together multiple impressive outings.

My Week 6 Prediction: Packers go on the road and take out Minnesota 32-17.

Follow me on twitter for more insights @brando_sports 

and as always, #GoPackGo.

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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets (Week 6)

In last week’s article I touched on the major injuries around the league, but this week was even worse. Starting with the entire Giants receiving core including OBJ going down for the year and JJ Watt’s season also coming to an end. Week 5 was a hard one and it can seem impossible to replace players in fantasy leagues. Which it is, but the only way to salvage your fantasy season is to hope to claim a gem off of waivers. Below are six waiver wire targets that could help save your injury plagued season.

1. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Last week Latavius Murray was sitting in this spot, but his counterpart, Jerick McKinnon, outperformed him 26.60 to 6.30 in PPR leagues. McKinnon’s point total was boosted by a 58 yard touchdown, but even minus that play he would have had a great game. He participated in the passing game as well, catching six passes for 51 yards. Both of the backs will continue to split touches, but after one game it appears that McKinnon will see the bulk of the touches. (Percent owned: 3.2 NFL, 29.3 ESPN)

2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Adrian Peterson was traded to the Cardinals today for a conditional pick. This is one of the rare trades where it works out for all parties. New Orleans was a poor fit for the 32 year old running back. AP mustered only 81 yards on 27 carries this season and the Cardinals need help at the position. It is yet to be seen if Peterson has anything left in the tank, but if he does the pay off for adding him is astronomical. (Percent owned: 62.4 NFl, 47.5 ESPN)

3. Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Jacoby Brissett has proven to be a more than capable backup quarterback in Luck’s absence. He is also a good plug and play option if anyone has a QB on a bye or is suffering from having the five interceptions, Big Ben. He posted a career high in passing yards last week and is facing the weak Titans defense this week. (Percent owned: 3.5 NFL, 15.9 ESPN)

4. Roger Lewis, WR, New York Giants

Due to season ending injuries to Odell Beckham Jr., Dwayne Harris, and Brandon Marshall and a multiple week injury to Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis is slotted to start at receiver this week. Lewis has not scored a lot of points this season, but this week will not be without opportunity for the young player. It will be interesting to see if he will be a viable fantasy option. (Percent owned: 0.2 NFL, 0.2 ESPN)

5. Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Alex Collins is splitting carries with Javorius Allen, but still managed over 50 yards each of the last three weeks. He rarely sees any passes thrown his way and is yet to score a touchdown. However, he is a solid start and consistently scoring over five points each week. When he finally reaches the end zone look for his point total to hit double digits. (Percent owned: 10.9 NFL, 33.3 ESPN)

6. Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Marlon Mack had a breakout game last week against the 49ers and is facing another soft defense this week in Tennessee. He had 91 yards on the ground and a touchdown. If he can get more involved in the passing game, his fantasy numbers will be hover around 20. He did suffer an elbow injury and is listed as questionable, but he claims that he will not miss any time. (Percent owned: 0.8 NFL, 3.4 ESPN)

 

Photo Credits: Star Tribune

Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets (Week 5)

Four weeks have gone by and the NFL is proving impossible to predict. No one predicted the Bills and Rams to have more wins than the Patriots. However, one thing has held true from previous years, big time injuries happen. From Dalvin Cook‘s torn ACL, to Derek Carr‘s fractured back, injuries are a weekly occurrence. As devastating as these injuries are, it is important to take advantage and add players that will see an increase in playtime. Here are six top waiver wire adds for week five.

1. Latavius Muray, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Dalvin Cook went down with a devastating non contact ACL tear that ended his rookie season just as he was picking up steam. Latavius Murray, and Jerick McKinnon look to split the carries, but Murray out touched his fellow back nine to two. Murray looks to receive more carries, but he is not going to produce like Cook did. However, he is a must add for any owners that had Cook. (Percent owned: 47.7 NFL, 17.1 ESPN)

2. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

Aaron Jones is another top waiver target due to his starter’s injury. Ty Montgomery suffered broken ribs, and although there are reports that he could play this weekend, even if he does he will be on a limited snap count. Jones, the rookie back filled in well for the starter. He produced a touchdown and nearly fifty yards. If you own Montgomery, Jones would be a good fill in until he is back. (Percent owned: 0.5 NFL, 1.3 ESPN)

3. Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills

Charles Clay has been tearing it up this season. In PPR leagues, he is the fourth highest scoring tight end, but his ownership percentage does not yet reflect that. If he is available in your league, add him immediately. He has been Tyrod Taylor‘s favorite and most reliable target this season. Look for Clay’s numbers to stay in the top tier of tight ends. (Percent owned: 34.1 NFL, 75.2 ESPN)

4. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson led the Texan’s offense to a 57-14 point victory over the Titans. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for another one, accounting for five total touchdowns on the day. He shouldn’t be counted on to produce like this on a weekly basis, but with weapons like DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller he should consistently put up points. If your team’s starting quarterback is struggling or you need a solid back up, Watson is gold. (Percent owned: 14.8 NFL, 29.6 ESPN)

5. Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans

Will Fuller was another player that benefited from the Texan’s offensive explosion last week. In his first game this season after suffering a broken collarbone he scored two red zone touchdowns. He saw six targets on the day and if him and Watson can continue to hook up, he could be a solid WR2 or flex option on a weekly basis. (Percent owned: 2.8 NFL, 18.9 ESPN)

6. Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Wendell Smallwood is in a running back by committee approach with LeGarrette Blount, but that does not take away from his fantasy value in PPR leagues. He caught four balls for 45 yards, and ran ten times for 34 yards and a touchdown. He should continue to see a lot of catches out of the backfield and is a solid flex option in deeper leagues, (Percent owned: 7.9 NFL, 47.2 ESPN)

Winners and Losers from Steelers Game 2

The Steelers beat the Minnesota Vikings 26-9 in their first home game. This was expected to be a tough game, but they received a break when Sam Bradford could not play due to a knee injury. The offense looked better than last week and the defense had another good game.

Winners

Martavis Bryant

For months I’ve been saying Martavis Bryant is the key to the Steelers offense being great and yesterday we saw why.  Bryant had 3 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. His speed caused all kinds of problems (and pass interference penalties) for the Vikings. If he continues to get more comfortable in this offense, it can live up to it’s potential as one of the best in the league.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster had 3 catches for 16 yards on 4 targets.  He also had his first touchdown reception on a shovel pass. JuJu is becoming a bigger part of this offense, delivering great blocks like Hines Ward used to.

Defensive Line

For the second straight week, the defense shut down the running game and put pressure on the quarterback. Cameron Heyward is wreaking havoc on opposing offenses and the line has much better depth this year. Case Keenum and DeShone Kizer are not Hall Of Fame quarterbacks, but so far the defense has looked very good.

Anthony Chickillo

When T.J. Watt left the game with a groin injury, it was Anthony Chickillo that stepped in for him, not James Harrison. Chickillo had another solid game, as he recorded 5 tackles. It appears he is the main option to play when Bud Dupree or T.J. Watt are not playing.

Losers

Offensive Line

The offensive line looked better this week, only allowing 2 sacks and helping Le’Veon Bell record 87 yards rushing, but it’s still not great. This is supposed to be one of the best offensive lines in the league, and they look off. Players mentioned they are still working on becoming a cohesive unit, but isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in training camp and preseason?

T.J. Watt

Watt had to leave the game early with a groin injury. It sounds like it’s minor and they’re being extra cautious. Watt was awesome last week, so hopefully he can return soon.

James Harrison

James Harrison didn’t play a snap in this game, despite T.J. Watt going out with an injury. He was supposed to be the “relief pitcher” for the outside linebackers, but it sounds like that plan has changed. It seems as if Anthony Chickillo has taken on that role.

 

Photo Credits: PennLive.com

Steelers vs Vikings Preview

The Steelers play the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday. Both teams are coming off victories, with the Steelers beating the Browns 21-18 and the Vikings beating the Saints 29-19. The Vikings looked dominating in their win as Sam Bradford threw with great accuracy, the running game with Dalvin Cook looked strong and the defense shut down the powerful Saints offense. Is that what we’ll see on Sunday or will the Steelers prevail? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Vikings Offense vs. Steelers Defense

This game will be a major test for the Steelers defense. They had 7 sacks and an interception against the Browns, but…well…. that was the Browns. Sam Bradford is a not a rookie and if he has time to throw, he can pick apart any secondary. He’s also not going to hold the ball too much. The offensive line was a weakness last year, but only gave up one sack last week.

Rookie Dalvin Cook ran for 127 yards on 22 carries. If the Vikings can establish the run, it will be a long day for the Steelers defense.

The Steelers defense put a lot of pressure against the Browns quarterback, DeShone Kizer, and stopped the run. Their secondary was considered a weakness but looked better against the Browns.

Prediction: The Steelers are known for their blitzes and will throw a lot of them at Bradford to get him off his game. Bradford won’t get sacked much, but he will throw the ball away and the offensive will be ineffective.

Edge: Steelers

Steelers Offense vs. Vikings Defense

The Steelers offense did not look very good against the Browns last Sunday for the most part. Why? Were they rusty because they hardly played in the preseason? Was it the Browns defense making them ineffective? Whatever the reason, I expect a better game this week. There’s too much talent at the skill positions and offensive line to have another bad game. The Steelers offensive line is considered one of the best in the league.
The Vikings defense is also considered one of the best in the league.

The matchup everyone wants see is how Antonio Brown will do against cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The strength of the defense is considered the line. They limited the Saints to 60 yards rushing and you know Adrian Peterson was dying to have a big game against his old team. It’s going to be fun to watch a very good defensive line go against a very good offensive line.

Prediction: If this game was in Minnesota (by the way the Super Bowl is also in Minnesota this year..hmm), the edge would go to the Vikings. However, it’s in Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger is excellent at home. Expect the Steelers offense to have a few big plays to put them over the top.

Edge: Steelers

Game Prediction

This game is going to be fun to watch. Could it be a Super Bowl preview? I predict it’ll be low scoring, but the Steelers offense should score just enough to put them ahead.

Steelers 20, Vikings 17

 

Photo Credits: NFL.com

Minnesota Vikings Season Preview Vol. 2

After watching the first Sunday of regular season football of 2017, I’m going to try to predict the outcome of each Minnesota Vikings game of the season. However, before that, let’s go over some of the Vikings changes from last season, when the Vikings were 8-8.

Additions:

RB Latavius Murray (FA), RB Dalvin Cook (2nd Round), RT Mike Remmers (FA), WR Michael Floyd (FA), QB Case Keenum (FA), DE Datone Jones (FA), T Riley Reiff (FA)

Losses:

RB Adrian Peterson, CB Captain Munnerlyn, LT Matt Kalil, WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, T Andre Smith, WR Charles Johnson

Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook will lead the way in the running game, with the help of Jerick McKinnon. Patterson has been replaced with Rodney Adams and McKinnon returning kicks. They have been doing a nice job of it in the preseason. Stacy Coley also helps replace the loss of Charles Johnson, as well as LaQuon Treadwell stepping up and playing a bigger role in the offense to go alongside Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Bucky Hodges has also been impressive as a second tight end option with Kyle Rudolph.

So with that, week by week predictions for the Minnesota Vikings season:

Week 1, vs. New Orleans Saints: 31-27 Vikings

The Saints generally have a high-powered offense, but the Vikings solid defense, and especially their secondary anchored by Harrison Smith, will be able to keep Drew Brees and the Saints in check. Adrian Peterson’s return to Minnesota will result in a loss for the running back. The offense of the Vikings should have no problem putting up points against the always weak Saints defense.

Week 2, at Pittsburgh Steelers: 21-20 Vikings

This should be a good matchup. The Steelers are a solid football team, but were a blocked punt not happening away from losing to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Antonio Brown is a beast, but the Vikings have the secondary to keep him under control. The Steelers were not too impressive Sunday. This should be a close game, advantage: purple.

Week 3, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 24-14 Bucs

The Buccaneers have gotten a lot better over the past couple of seasons. Jameis Winston is a very good quarterback and Mike Evans is a nice receiver for him to have. The Vikings offense can’t click every week. I predict this to be an off-week for Minnesota, Bucs take advantage.

Week 4, vs. Detroit Lions: 31-17 Lions

The Lions got off to a slow start this week, but Stafford was very impressive and led a nice comeback. This offense has a lot of power and is very good through the air. I think the Vikings run defense will not be able to fully show off this week and that could lead to troubles.

Week 5, at Chicago Bears: 30-13 Vikings

Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky, whoever the quarterback will be, they’ll have a tough time with the Vikings defense. The Bears defense is decent, but the Vikings offense should be back in shape. The Vikings should have no problem with the Bears at Soldier.

Week 6, vs. Green Bay Packers: 28-10 Packers

The Packers are really good. Their defense was stout against the Seahawks, allowing only three field goals from the leg of none other than Blair Walsh, who, of course, was 3/3 on the day. The Packers have lots of talent and will be a tough team to beat this season.

Week 7, vs. Baltimore Ravens: 20-13 Vikings

The Ravens were good today, but Andy Dalton was also really bad. This will be a good win for the Vikings over a quality Ravens team. Joe Flacco is quietly one of the best quarterbacks in the league. This will be a true test for the Vikings and I think they can come out on top.

Week 8, at Cleveland Browns IN LONDON: 31-7 Vikings

The Vikings are gonna put on a show in London. Deshone Kizer is a good quarterback and the Browns will be able to put some first downs together, but nothing special. The Vikings defense will be in good midseason shape and the offense should be rolling too.

Week 9, BYE

Week 10, at Washington Redskins: 23-20 Vikings

Kirk Cousins and the Redskins are a quality team, but they will make mistakes. The Vikings should be able to take advantage of just enough of these mistakes to come out on top in Washington. Also, Kai Forbath misses his first extra point of the season against his former team.

Week 11, vs. Los Angeles Rams: 27-17 Vikings

Okay, the Colts are bad, especially without Andrew Luck. But, the Rams were the real deal Sunday. They did a lot of good things and put up a lot of points. This game could potentially be trouble for the Vikings. Jared Goff is good, but the lack of solidified playmakers will hurt the Rams. Vikings win streak extends to four.

Week 12, at Detroit Lions: 35-24 Lions

I just do not like the matchup for the Vikings. Lions take both games this season. Matthew Stafford will eat up the secondary of the Vikings and the Vikings won’t be able to answer offensively.

Week 13, at Atlanta Falcons: 24-21 Vikings

The Falcons aren’t quite what they were last year. They played well and got the win today, but need to improve in lots of areas. I think the Vikings offense can get enough done against the Falcons defense to defeat Julio Jones and the Falcons.

Week 14, at Carolina Panthers: 27-14 Panthers

Cam Newton could be a matchup nightmare for the Vikings. Mobile quarterbacks have always had their way with the Vikings. Christian McCaffery and Jonathon Stewart also make for a tough offense to stop if they’re clicking. Luke Kuechly makes offense difficult, I think the Panthers have an advantage in this one.

Week 15, vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 31-10 Vikings

The Vikings bounce back with a big win against the Bengals. The Vikings sweep the AFC North for 4 of their 10 wins. The Bengals defense is not going to be able to hold up and slow down the Vikings enough to prevent them from putting pressure on Dalton and the Bengals early and they’ll never look back.

Week 16, at Green Bay Packers: 28-3 Packers

No chance in Lambeau for the Vikings. This could easily be the ugliest game of the season for the Vikings. The Packers are a Super Bowl caliber team this season and should not trip over the Vikings in week 16.

Week 17, vs. Chicago Bears: 28-24 Vikings

Vikings squeak one out against the Bears and finish 2-4 in the NFC North, despite a 10-6 overall record. The Bears will be decent this season and definitely respectable especially by the end of the season. The Vikings should have what it takes to finish the regular season with a victory.

FINAL RECORD: 10-6

 

Photo Credits: Daily Norseman

Minnesota Vikings Season Preview

Few things in pro football rile up a fan base and the media more than a good old-fashioned quarterback controversy. Unfortunately, for the Minnesota Viking faithful, the quarterback controversy barely matters. Anyone head coach Mike Zimmer and his staff decide to put behind the a porous offensive line in recent years runs a very good chance of dying.

I jest. Mostly, or at least about the dying part. I’m quite serious about the state of the Viking offensive line. Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, Mitch Leidner, the ghost of Norm Van Brocklin, it doesn’t matter. Whomever gets the reins to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s offense should plan to either run for his life or become the master for the master of the outlet route (see Bradford’s 2016 season that saw him set the single season completion percentage record at 71.6%).

The Viking front office brought significant off-season changes to an offense that finished 28th in the league last year. Looking to improve on an 8-8 campaign, where a 5-0 start led to a 3rd place NFC North finish as they limped to the finish line at 3-8, this year’s version returns an elite defense with 5 returning pro bowlers, a rookie of the year candidate in the backfield, and wholesale changes on the offensive line and kicking game.

Key additions: RB Dalvin Cook, RB Latavius Murray, WR Michael Floyd, LT Riley Reiff, RT Mike Remmers

Key losses: LT Matt Kalil, LG Alex Boone, CB Captain Munnerlyn, WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson , LB Chad Greenway

Strengths

Defensive front seven – Five pro bowlers return to a defensive unit that saw little turnover during the off-season. The 2016 Minnesota defense finished 3rd in the league and 3rd in passing defense. Headlined by DE Everson Griffen, DT Linval Joseph and LB Anthony Barr, a stifling Viking pass rush tallied up 41 sacks, good for 5th best in the NFL. Longtime captain LB Chad Greenway retired in the offseason and 2017 4th round pick Ben Gedeon looks to fill the career Viking’s shoes in the linebacking corps.

Backfield – Adrian who? US Bank Stadium is now hosting the Dalvin Cook show. The rookie second rounder from Florida State has left no question as to who will lead the Viking backfield. Latavius Murray signed as a free agent from Oakland and figured to slide into spot left when Adrian Peterson went to New Orleans. Jerick McKinnon will get his share of work in the backfield in addition to returning kicks, and both will have roles in the offense. However, an impression preseason on the ground, catching the ball and displaying proficiency pass blocking all but secures Cook’s spot as the lead back heading  into week one.

Questions

Wideouts – Stefon Diggs is poised for the 3rd year wide receiver breakout year but questions about durability linger. Diggs led the Vikings with 84 receptions but, despite a burner ability, only found the end zone three times. Much of this can be laid at the feet of abysmal pass protection that saw QB Sam Bradford opting for short passes. Diggs’ potential to burn secondaries is there, but it remains to be seen if this offense can get him the ball. Adam Thielen, the 2016 yardage leader for Minnesota with 964 yards, saw his efforts out of the slot rewarded with an offseason contract extension. Free agent Michael Floyd came home to Minnesota after leaving Arizona but will start the first four games of the season on the suspended list, leaving the third WR spot open to either Laquan Treadwell or Jaruis Wright.

Quarterback – This season marks only the second time in his career that Sam Bradford enters the season with the same offensive coordinator. This inconsistency and a well-documented injury history comes with the former #1 overall pick. The Vikings traded a first round pick to Philadelphia during the 2016 preseason after Teddy Bridgewater sustained a season-ending knee injury. Bridgewater’s timetable for return is open-ended but the keys this season belong to Bradford. Last season while under constant harassment from pass rushers, Bradford managed to avoid injury and play in every game but week one as he adjusted to a new playbook, but regularly being hurried to throw and an anemic running game saw Bradford and the Vikings finish the season as the 28th ranked offense. The weapons are there for Bradford; if the revamped offensive line can protect him long enough, we’ll see if he can bring the big play back to the offensive game plan.

Weaknesses

Special Teams – Every kick returned by WR/KR Cordarelle Patterson was a potential touchdown. Patterson went west to the Black and Silver during the aoffseason, and RB Jerick McKinnon hopes to live up to his nickname “Jet” and provide his own highlight reel returns. Special teams vet Marcus Sherels will return punts again this season, but new to the Viking special teams units are K Kai Forbath and P Ryan Quigley . It’s not a unit that looked impressive in the preseason and could lead to field position headaches.

Offensive line – Four of the five positions on the offensive line will feature new starters. Three will play their first games as members of Vikings in week one, including rookie center Pat Elflein. The Viking coaching staff is projecting confidence in this revamped line going into the season, so much that after 5 games at center last year, they’re moving Nick Easton to left guard and released Alex Boone. Easton and big free agent signee LT Riley Reiff will be the wall separating opposing defenses from Sam Bradford’s blindside. Free agent RT Mike Remmers joins RG Joe Berger on the right side of the offensive line. Berger is the only Viking offensive lineman who remains his spot from last season’s dismal offensive line.  “Offensive” defined a lot of this unit’s play last season, and sometimes the idea of burning it all down and starting anew breeds success; despite a less-than-impressive preseason, this seems to be the blueprint for the 2017 offensive line.