Monday Night Football
Minnesota @ NY Giants
Coming off their most promising 2013 performance and an 11-day break to heal up, the Giants have another get-well matchup at home against the sieve-ish Vikings. Not only does Minnesota's defense rank 31st in yards allowed, it'll be minus top safety Harrison Smith (turf toe), while rookie CB Xavier Rhodes has battled recurring ankle woes. QB1 streamers ought to give Eli Manning a long look. The Vikings get gashed in the air because they can't generate pressure, with 13 passing scores allowed in five games. They're 29th in sacks. It's a defense capable of making bad offensive lines look good. ... Speaking of that Giants O-Line, it's finally stringing together some continuity. For the first time all season in Week 6, New York started the same five linemen as the week before. The Giants bullied an admittedly depleted Bears front for year highs in yards per carry (4.7), rushing yards (123), and rushing scores (2) while allowing just one sack. Week 7 foe Minnesota ranks 18th in run defense and has allowed six rushing TDs through five games. The Giants project to move the ball on offense, setting up opportunities to score. With Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) not expected to play Monday night, rookie Michael Cox and street free agent Peyton Hillis are players to monitor. My guess is they will form a rotation against Minnesota, with Hillis handling pass-protection work and most of the touches, and Cox primarily mixing in on early downs. The Giants have not shown trust in Cox to this point, but I watched him throughout the preseason and came away impressed. He has quick feet, burst, and lateral moves. I would want him on my Dynasty roster.
You could argue Victor Cruz has the best on-paper matchup of any wide receiver in football this week. Vikings slot corner Josh Robinson has been torched to the point that he was benched for special teamer Marcus Sherels in last week's loss to Carolina, although Robinson had to reenter due to Rhodes' ankle setbacks. This has the look of a slump-buster game for Cruz, who hasn't cleared 70 yards or reached pay dirt since Week 4. ... With Rhodes hobbled and the rest of Minnesota's secondary in shambles, Hakeem Nicks remains on the WR3 radar, though he'll likely spend most of Monday night in top CB Chris Cook's coverage. Cook has been up and down this year, but he is a long-armed, 6-foot-2, 212-pound press-man corner who can disrupt receivers’ routes at the line of scrimmage. Regardless of matchups, Nicks' inconsistency makes him an every-week roll of the dice. ... Third receiver Rueben Randle again has a plus matchup, and again is a boom-or-bust WR3/flex. Fantasy owners can't ignore the upside, but have to be aware of the risk. Randle has cleared 75 yards and/or scored a touchdown in 3-of-6 games this year. He's been held scoreless and/or to 40 or fewer yards in the other three. So he's a classic high-risk, high-reward fantasy option. Perhaps the Giants will go pass heavy due to their minefield running back situation. That approach would certainly improve the Monday night outlooks of Randle and Nicks. ... Giants TE Brandon Myers has been injured and ineffective as a blocker, which may combine to explain his season-low 30 snaps in last Thursday's loss to the Bears. He could score a fluky red-zone touchdown against the Vikings, and would still be fantasy waiver-wire fodder.
The Vikings have handed the keys to their
ferrari kit car to Josh Freeman just in time to face a Giants defense that ranks last in points allowed and 24th in yards. Similar to the Vikings, the G-Men can't generate enough up-front heat to mask their deficient secondary. They entered Week 7 having given up a league-high 14 passing TDs, and ranked dead last in sacks. On paper, this is the kind of cake setup that could bait fantasy owners and perhaps even the Vikings into thinking erratic Freeman is a long-term solution. I'd give him serious consideration as a two-QB-league start. ... Freeman's strength as a passer is throwing the "big ball" -- deep shots downfield where he relies on receivers to make contested plays. The Vikings don't have a wideout that fits that mold, although Jerome Simpson is closest. Simpson, unfortunately, is one of the most inconsistent players in the league both in real life and weekly box scores. Start him as a WR3 at your own risk. ... Minnesota's best, most reliable pass catchers are slot/Z Greg Jennings, and tight end Kyle Rudolph. The bulk of Jennings' usage comes near the line of scrimmage; he's not been a deep threat in the Vikings' 2013 offense. Rudolph truly has poor man's Gronkian-type ability, but Freeman has never been an efficient or accurate short to intermediate thrower. I am intrigued by these players' fit with a new quarterback, but would chalk this up as a wait-and-see week in terms of fantasy start-ability.
When Freeman has experienced NFL success, he's been protected by a high-volume, foundation run game that keeps safeties honest and moves the chains so that his low-percentage passing doesn't result in continual three-and-outs. The Vikings obviously have that in Adrian Peterson, who on Monday night faces a Giants defense that ranks 26th against the run. Minnesota's formula will remain unchanged despite the quarterback switch. Peterson is going to get a ton of carries, and the Vikings will try to kickstart their play-action passing game with an emphasis on increased downfield shot plays. ... Cordarrelle Patterson's snaps have indeed risen the past three weeks, though he's still not a key figure in Minnesota's offense. He's been a 27% player during that span, and is coming off a two-catch, three-yard game. Patterson needs to start playing more downs to become a fantasy asset. Hopefully, playcaller Bill Musgrave will begin putting Patterson in position to make plays because he possesses video-game talent with the football in his hands.
Score Prediction: Giants 24, Vikings 20