*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
Bit of a weird game here but ended with the expected outcome…40-17 Minnesota.
This was our best bet wager last week at -7.0 and -7.5, and everyone in our Handicapping Group picked it and many had it in their Blazing Five…and it paid off. It was easy – Miami bad on the road coming off a fluky, emotional win. The Vikings going home, coming off an embarrassing MNF loss to Seattle. Minnesota the better team…and with all the motivations and momentum – and they crushed it. But it was and wasn’t as easy at it seemed.
Minnesota drove right downfield, 1st drive, with a vengeance – a quick 7-0 lead to make a statement. The next thing you know it’s 21-0 after the 1st quarter and I’d already spent my wager winnings in my head. I didn’t focus much on the game at that point with 8 other games going on more interesting. Then I see Minkah Fitzpatrick get a pick-six to break the ice for Miami -- and then the next thing I know Miami is shutting off the Vikings onslaught and in the 3rd quarter the Dolphins had cut the lead to 21-17…someone stole my money/wager!!
The Vikings then re-put the hammer down and scored 20 unanswered to drub Miami in the end. Minnesota’s win gets them to 7-6-1 and their fate in their own hands for the final wild card. Two not easy games ahead. The Computer thinks Minnesota will lose to the Lions in Detroit…let’s say they don’t and go to 8-6-1. Week 17 with the Bears, and if the Bears need that game they will win that game and send the Vikings to 8-7-1. The only threat Minnesota really has is if the Eagles win out and get to 9-7. If Philly loses (and we assume Washington will too), all the Vikings need is one win in their next two games to claim a wild card. Probably happens…not a guarantee. As the #6 seed…they’d likely go at Chicago round one.
Minnesota is a very average/good team with cracks starting show all over. They should limp to the playoffs and then lose…or just miss out on the playoffs completely if the Eagles win out.
Miami is 7-7 and needs to win out and have help to claim a wild card. Three teams ahead of them at 8-6. They have an advantage over Tennessee (Week 1 win) but a loss to Indy Week 12 if they end up tied. I’m not sure Miami wins both of their next two games, so I’ll bet they don’t make the playoffs no matter what. Week 17 at Buffalo is a likely loss if Jacksonville doesn’t beat them this week.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I re-watched this mostly to re-visit what happened when Frank Gore went down. Instead of turning to Kenyan Drake (1-6-0, 3-28-0/3) Miami turned to barely having played rookie Kalen Ballage (12-123-1, 1-0-0/1) and he went for 100+ yards and sent everyone’s fantasy a flitter in the waiver wire process this week.
My position coming into this re-watch was – Ballage busted off a 75-yard TD run here, a bit of luck/a wide open hole to sprint untouched through to pay dirt. Other than that…nothing to write home about.
I also have scouted Ballage heavily for the NFL Draft and saw the same guy here as in the preseason as in his underwhelming college career – he’s a freight train moving straight ahead. He’s dead if he has to shift, find space, make a cut, etc. He goes from neat to awful when he has to ‘create’.
I also wondered if part of this was Miami getting thumped and going more with Ballage to get him ready. Leading me to theorize the Dolphins might go back to Kenyan Drake in crisis/a must-win week this week.
After re-watching, I walked away thinking – Miami’s going all-in Ballage as their Gore-replacement no questions asked. Come hell or highwater. Before you get too excited about that – remember that Gore was a zero for fantasy, so Ballage in the Gore role is not necessarily ‘awesome’. The Gore-Drake split has been an FF dud except Drake scores TDs.
Ballage will be the lead in Week 16…and it will probably be underwhelming…BUT he is going to get the chance and that means he could pop one if the opportunity arises (just like we could say about Adams, McGuire, Zenner, etc.). Ballage faces a pretty solid Jags defense…solid considering their season died weeks ago – solid but sometimes terrific. Ballage against them…I don’t know that I love it.
If Ballage doesn’t pop a 75-yard TD here, he was 11-48-0 with 1 catch otherwise. I am moving off my Drake as a sneaky #1 RB for Miami this week…I think it will be Ballage, and that renders Ballage-Drake not that exciting just like Gore-Drake.
-- I thought I noticed a little more Vikes rookie TE Tyler Conklin (2-53-0/3) creeping into the offense a week ago, and then he out does Kyle Rudolph (3-23-0/3) in this game…on half or less the snaps. Conklin is more a receiving threat TE than Rudolph.
The past two weeks (Conklin popping up):
1.5 rec. (2.5 targets), 32.0 yards, 0.0 TDs = Conklin
2.5 rec. (4.0 targets), 15.0 yards, 0.0 TDs = Rudolph
Conklin had 53 yards off his two catches in this game. Rudolph has had one game over 50+ yards in the past 10 games.
I’m not saying Conklin’s taking over, but his rise means any Rudolph hopes are pretty dead…deader than they were before.
-- Like Mike Vrabel, Mike Zimmer has an offensive dream – run on every play and win good old smashmouth style. I said it was coming with the O-C change – from an independently successful pre-Zimmer O-C (that he run off again) to his hand-picked internal patsy now…and their first game in charge of the offense together = 40 rushing attempts and just 14 completed passes. The perfect Zimmer-Vrabel-Wilks-Marrone-Carroll-McDermott (among others) game.
With that…Dalvin Cook (19-136-2, 1-27-0/2) will be more likely to be an RB1 threat each week and Latavius Murray (15-68-1) might get enough secondhand smoke to be viable in deeper non-PPR leagues.
-- Adam Thielen (2-19-0/2) looks fine to me…he’s just getting a lot of attention lately…thus the erratic tumble from his surreal start this season.
Also, to note – Minkah Fitzpatrick (6 tackles, 2 PDs, 1INT/TD) is filling in for Xavien Howard as a CB (he’s usually a safety) very nicely – and played Thielen well. I have said back to the draft – make Minkah a cornerback. He’s too gifted an athlete to waste at safety…like when Dallas wasted Byron Jones for years. Miami may be onto something with a Howard-Fitzpatrick 1-2 CB punch.
-- The Minnesota run defense the last five weeks…
Wk11: Bears run for 148 yards with Chase Daniel at QB
Wk12: Packers rush for 82 yards
Wk13: The Patriots blast for 160 rushing yards total
Wk14: Seattle rolls with 214 yards rushing
Wk15: Ballage, a rookie who struggled in college as a lead back, runs for 130+ and the team gets 156 on the ground.
Don’t fear the Vikings run defense anymore, not now.
-- Week 16 Outlook…
Miami host Jacksonville. Not great for a limited pass game as it is. Not sure it’s great for Ballage or Drake either…depends upon which Jags team shows up. I like the Miami-DST here, a little less if Fournette is clear…and it looks like he is.
Minnesota is at Detroit…a dome game is good for the offense and the Lions are not terrible on defense but not a killer either. Should be all-good for the Vikings weapons and solid for the Minn-DST but the Vikings defense has been floundering a bit.
Snap Counts of Interest:
51 = Rudolph
23 = Conklin
23 = D Morgan
42 = Cook
27 = Latavius
28 = Drake
26 = Ballage
51 = Stills
39 = Amendola
25 = Brice Butler
19 = DeV Parker
01 = Carroo