*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
This was one of those ‘could’ve gone either way’ games. Fate just seemed on the Vikings side all game. A kind of fluky defensive TD (batted pass, up into the air, DL catch/rumble for 30+ yard score) for the Vikings gave them a 10-3 lead early. Eagles down 17-3 and driving to a goal-to-go situation, Jay Ajayi fumbled it away.
Mike Zimmer did what most all NFL head coaches do…get a lead, settle for FGs and punts trying to run the clock while the ‘good’ opponent races back into the game in a flurry in the 4th quarter. But, the Vikings held on 23-21. Minnesota should’ve won by more but were also ‘lucky to win’.
The Vikings go to 2-2-1 and have ARI and at NYJ ahead. They should go to 4-2-1, but if they lose one of those games their playoff hopes are probably over. They have a Murder’s Row of teams to face from Weeks 8-13: NO, DET, @CHI, GB, @NE. Going 2-3 in that stretch (assumed 2-0 the next two weeks) brings them to 6-5-1 for their final four games, likely needing to win 3 of their final 4 to make the NFC playoffs. They can’t afford a let down the next two weeks going into that stretch. We still project Minnesota winding up +/-1 for 8 wins.
The Eagles are 2-3 and not playing good football. They play like a scrappy 7-9 team more than a 9-7 playoff threat/defending champs. Some solace is on the way – they have yet to play any NFC East games. If you think the Eagles are bad…the rest of the NFC East is worse.
If the Eagles beat the Giants at NY on TNF this week, we think that sets off a 5-2 run over their next 7 games to jump to 7-5 setting up a critical Week 14 game at Dallas that may be for the division, in a sense. The Eagles are projecting for 8-9 wins, and either number could be good enough to win the NFC East in a cluster (or lose it).
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- The big news from this game was the news that Jay Ajayi (8-29-0, 1-5-0/1) is done for the season with an ACL. Already dealing with big back issue and having a degenerative knee problem…this ACL may be the bullet in his career.
Ajayi’s injury leaves a mess behind at running back to try to figure out. We’ll comment on each of the four options remaining, but you have to remember – Doug Pederson has never waivered from using an RBBC approach. NEVER. Every once in a while, one RB will get a big touch count, usually due to an injury, but then that one RB never has a follow-up game with major touches. Pederson is a true RBBC guy…which is the smartest way to use a backfield in the NFL – low cost, interchangeable, disposable diapers. The Eagles just won a Super Bowl with an RBBC, defeating the Patriots and their RBBC.
The low cost, high supply, and un-importance of the RB position in the NFL is why the Steelers are smartly not interested in giving Le’Veon Bell a major contract and is why the Eagles would not give much to acquire Bell. It’s not like the Eagles lost anything important with Ajayi that they have to/can’t easily replace in house.
Wendell Smallwood (3-27-0, 3-44-1/4) has been the guy I’ve been pointing to for 3+ weeks now as the best RB the Eagles have in their rotation. He’s markedly better than Ajayi or Corey Clement, but not so good everything has to be changed to Smallwood as the workhorse RB…Doug Pederson doesn’t want that, on purpose.
Smallwood is in a great spot to be ‘the lead’ guy of the group – 10 or so carries with 3-6 targets per game AT BEST. He’s the one I’d want to own.
Corey Clement has been out with injury, so he’s a bit forgotten the past few weeks – but he was playing all last year and early in this season while Smallwood was inactive. Clement got hurt a few weeks ago, Smallwood was elevated and showed out. Clement will probably ‘start’ this week, but that doesn’t mean anything with Doug Pederson’s system. If Clement gets hot, he’ll take the 10 carries…but I think Smallwood is showing enough in the passing game that he’d take equal/more targets regardless.
I think the fact that Smallwood is a better version of Clement means bad times for Clement ahead…just a 4-8 carries, 1-3 targets a game guy most games.
Darren Sproles could return and put a wrinkle in things. He’d take 2-5 carries and 2-5 targets a game and make the trio of Smallwood-Clement-Sproles all about useless for fantasy football…week-to-week flyers for the desperate. However, Sproles is out with injury…and unknown on his return.
Sproles being out means rookie Josh Adams (1 carry, -1 yards) has a pulse, but it’s a feint one at best. In this game, second series for Philly, 3rd & 1…Adams was inserted into the game and got a misdirection pitch-out to go get the 1st-down. The Vikings were all over it, Adams wasn’t moving with urgency (to my eye) and he lost a yard and no 1st-down conversion…and Adams did not touch the ball again (or enter the game again).
I love Josh Adams but being a 3rd/4th-string guy in practice and getting 1-2 random carries in a game…it’s asking a lot to hope he makes magic, gets everyone’s attention, and a Disney story is written. Adams is a true workhorse RB. He needs 10+ carries to get going, to feel the defense, to find slivers and expose them. One carry on a pitchout with no blockers and the opposing defense is all over it isn’t going to light his fuse.
I think Adams is a super-talent, but he’s not treated as such and thus cannot be counted on to create any FF-magic here. It would take a Smallwood or Clement injury to give him a better chance…and that’s ‘hope’ but very limited. Not enough to roster him as a hunch in your normal 12-team redraft leagues.
I pray I’m wrong an Adams gets a little push to get up to speed more…but, sadly, I know I’m right. Even if he starts to show signs…Doug Pederson will still go with an RBBC/hot hand, etc. There’s almost no way Adams will matter for fantasy in 2018.
-- If Adams were on the Vikings, he might have a better chance…because apparently Mike Zimmer LOVES his UDFA RBs – more so than his expensive free agent from 2017, Latavius Murray (11-42-0, 2-14-0/2).
It was another week where Dalvin Cook was out with injury, and thus another week Murray started/got all the RB desperate in FF excited…and another week he mattered nothing at all.
When Cook is playing, Mike Zimmer cannot run him enough…even if gimpy. No Cook, you’d think Murray gets the same treatment – absolutely not. Murray had two carries against Buffalo as the starter with Cook out in Week 3.
In this game, Murray started first two plays…then Roc Thomas (4-8-0, 1-6-0/2) came in and took the Vikes first carry. In fact, Thomas took two of the first three carries for Minnesota. Mike Boone (1-1-0) got a touch early. It wasn’t until later in the game that Murray got a string of carries trying to salt the victory/clock away.
Murray hasn’t mattered when Cook healthy. Murray hasn’t mattered any time Cook has been out this year. If you’re hoping for as Murray hostile takeover of Cook…or Cook being out longer and getting some goodness with Murray for a bit – it has not even come close to happening this season. Not even any real effort to get Murray going.
-- Zach Ertz (10-110-1/11) has 10 or more targets in every game this season. Thus, Dallas Goedert (2-16-0/2) joins the wasted energy pipe dream list of players from this game.
Goedert is not pushing Ertz, if anything Ertz is getting even more work.
Josh Adams is not going to matter in the new Philly backfield.
Latavius Murray is a nothing sans Cook or with Cook in Minnesota.
-- In his last 4 games, Kirk Cousins (30-37 for 301 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) has completed 74.2% of his passes with 361 yards passing per game, 2.25 TDs/0.50 INTs per game – he’s one of the best performing QBs in the NFL right now. He has the best 1-2 punch of WRs and no run game…he’s a top 5-7 fantasy QB for sure this season.
-- If you have the Vikings-DST and think you’re safe…you are not. You are for two more weeks and then you’re cooked.
ARI-NYJ the next two weeks is great, then problems…
Brees-Stafford-BYE-Bears-Rodgers-Brady-Wilson Weeks 7-14.
When you see the Vikings-DST go onto waivers around Weeks 9-10…don’t be tempted.
Snap Counts of Interest:
57 = Ertz
34 = Goedert
29 = Smallwood
29 = Ajayi
01 = Adams
46 = Latavius
14 = Roc Thomas
01 = Boone
62 = Avonte Maddox (100%, full start)
40 = Sidney Jones