Vikings @ Saints (51.5) -7
Cousins is the QB11 through the season, with 3569/29 receiving. He is 8th in passing TDs, 10th in deep ball attempts, and 13th passing yards with all-star receivers. His fantasy finishes in the last six games are (11), (4), (4), (11), (21), (14). The Vikings play the Saint this week, and both teams, are coming off of back-to-back losses. This game would be a potential bounce-back spot for the Saints, but the Vikings have nothing to lose here. I imagine the Saints were not expecting to lose to the Eagles but knew there would be a hard-fought battle with Mahomes. I suspect they come out on top here, and the Vegas line has them pinned as seven-point favorites. Cousins could find himself in a negative game script, but I would think to shy away from him in redraft 12 man leagues this week as a streamer against a worthy Saints defense ranked 3rd in pass defense 2nd in rush defense DVOA (according to FO). Cousins O-line has attributed to 34 sacks, and the Saints have 40 sacks for the year, which is 6th in the league. With the Saints playing for pride and playoff positioning, I would venture to say Cousins is a middle of the pack QB2/QB3 this week.
Brees finished as the QB13 in his first game back from a rib injury with 234/3/1 against the Chiefs. Brees has broken the top-12 four times this year out of eleven games. The Saints are coming off of two losses, and this is a potential bounce-back spot for them against the Vikings if things go their way. They are 7 point favorites, and the Vikings are middling in pass defense and are ranked 20th in rush defense DVOA (according to FO). I would feel Brees is a capable high end QB2 to low-end QB1 with room for more if this game swings towards him getting TDs vs. Kamara rushing for them.
Dalvin Cook/Alexander Mattison
Cooks is the RB1 for the year with 1484/15 rushing and 42/349/1 receiving. He is 1st in redzone touches, evaded tackles, and TDs. You aren’t sitting Cook if you own him, but this is a tougher matchup with the Saints. He has proven to be a capable RB against higher-ranked rush defenses like Tampa Bay and Chicago, which he finished as the RB3 against last week and RB11 the week before. Start him with confidence as your RB1. Matteson isn’t expected to be back by Christmas from the concussion protocol, which helps Cook even more.
Alvin Kamara/Latavius Murray
Kamara is the RB2 for the year with 777/10 rushing and 80/739/5 receiving. Kamara’s targets have shot back up the past two games to 10,6 from 1,2,3 in weeks 11-13. Saints get a potential bounce-back matchup with the Vikings, who rank 20th in rush defense DVOA (according to FO), after coming off of two losses with the Eagles and Chiefs. The Saints are favored by 7 in this affair. Pencil in Kamara as an upside RB1 for your fantasy finals week. It also bodes well for him that Thomas is out. Murray is a sit.
Adam Thielen/Justin Jefferson
Thielen is the WR11 for the year with 771/13 receiving, and Jefferson is the WR8 with 1182/7 receiving. Thielen has been a little more volatile this season with six top-12 finishes, one 12-24 finish, and six below 36 finish. So basically, you are 50/50 on booms or busts. This week he has a capable but more challenging CB matchup with Janoris Jenkins (PFF grade of 73.8), who he sees on potentially 46% of his routes. The other 54% will go to less formidable matchups. Jefferson will run potentially 42% of his routes against Marshon Lattimore (PFF grade of 52) and 25% against Janoris Jenkins. This would be potentially 75% of his routes vs. less formidable CBs vs. 54% for Thielen. Both have the upside potential, but possibly not both at the same time. Jefferson is a WR2/1 this week, and so is Thielen, but underneath Jefferson. Chad Beebe, Olabisi Johnson would dart throws one game DFS plays.
Emmanuel Sanders/Tre’Quan Smith
Sanders is in a prime matchup sans Thomas and possibly without Smith this week against the Vikings in a potential bounce-back spot for the Saints. Sanders should get WR2 treatment based on opportunity alone. He finished as the WR37 last week with 4/76/0 against the Saints. If you have him because you picked him up via Thomas’s exit, he is a viable option for your fantasy finals. Smith doesn’t look as if he will be playing this week. Michael Burton went 1/9/0, Lil’Jordan Humphrey went 2/29/1, Juwan Johnson went 0/0, and Tommy Lee Lewis went 0/0. All four of these players are shot in the dark one game DFS plays. Or Harris if he plays. Marques Callaway may make his return this week, and if he plays, he will also be a sneaky DFS option.
I was expecting more out of Cook in a potentially high-scoring affair with the Saints, but he didn’t land his shot last week on a quality 82 air yards, which was the highest he had all season. He had five targets but went 2/29/0. Cook is a hard to trust boom or bust TD dependent tight end that could hit paydirt this Christmas against the Vikings. Treat him as a TE2/3 in this matchup, but I could understand it would be worrisome for you to start him out of the gate, and if he doesn’t take off, you will feel crushed through the weekend. I wouldn’t mind myself going back to the well if I were in the position. I will play him on a one-game DFS slate for Friday. It also bodes well for Cook that Thomas is out and possibly Tre’Quan Smith.
Irv Smith Jr./Tyler Conklin/Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph was sidelined for Tuesday’s practice, and it’s uncertain if he will return this week. If he does, I would bank on sitting all three tight ends. If he doesn’t play, Irv is a streaming option, but I wouldn’t entirely trust him in your fantasy finals unless you have no other choice. Irv finished with 3/37/0 against the Bears in a negative game script, but 4/63/1 against the Bucs. Conklin was the TE18 and TE9 in the last two games and has played around 64% of the snaps. Irv is a TE3 to fringe start, and Conklin is a sit. Either has the potential to hit paydirt in a possible negative game script with the Saints. Conklin would be a contrarian one game DFS slate pick if you were to play both Brees and Cousins depending on his cost.