Welcome to the Fantasy Football Forecast! My goal with this weekly column is to get you actionable information as quickly as possible, regardless if you're playing season-long fantasy, DFS, or are grinding player props. If you're just looking for fantasy football rankings and only have 10 minutes to skim through for your sit/start decisions, then head over to the "Forecast" sections below where I project each player's PPR finish based on a 12-team league. But if you want to get your research on, then I have full player breakdowns. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have questions.
Teams will be listed in order of their Vegas projected team points on Friday.
Page 1: LAR, NE, NO, SEA, PIT, DET, HOU, GB, ATL, IND
Page 2: TEN, JAX, SF, BUF, TB, CHI, OAK, KC, NYG, PHI
Page 3: ARI, DEN, CAR, LAC, NYJ, CIN, CLE, MIA
TNF: MIN, WAS
Byes: BAL, DAL
Vikings (29.25 expected points, -16.5 point spread) vs. WAS
Kirk Cousins is obviously due for negative touchdown regression -- his current 6.9 TD% is way higher than his career average (4.9) and two-year average in Minnesota (5.4) -- but catching the middling Redskins Defense at home on a short week sets up nicely in terms of staying hot as an efficient passer. The issue with the matchup is projected play volume. The Vikings are 16-point favorites and are likely to run the ball a ton in the second half, as we saw them do in blowouts against the Falcons (10 attempts), Raiders (21 attempts), and Giants (27 attempts) earlier this season. Cousins is a low-end QB1 who I’d be slightly more confident in with Adam Thielen healthy. … Dalvin Cook's per-game averages: 19.0 carries, 103.6 rushing yards, 1.14 rushing touchdowns, 3.4 receptions, and 31.4 receiving yards. Yeah, you might want to play him as two-plus-touchdown favorites at home. … Alexander Mattison, one of the elite fantasy handcuffs, is somewhat interesting in single-game DFS slates. The rookie has averaged 9.8 carries in the five games Minnesota has won by double-digit points.
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Stefon Diggs is leading the NFL in yards per route run (3.25, min. 20 targets), and he should see WR1 or WR2 usage with Adam Thielen out. The Vikings would be smart to keep Diggs, one of the best route runners in the league, away from PFF's No. 1 CB Quinton Dunbar, who (as Ian Hartitz points out) primarily plays on one side of the field. I'm betting that happens, so Diggs is a top-15 WR with upside. … Olabisi Johnson will have some WR4 and single-game DFS appeal as well. Johnson had season-highs in targets (8) and offensive snaps (52) last week after Thielen left early. The rookie has 4.51 speed with a bouncy 38-inch vertical, so Johnson has enough explosion to make a play. Helping his cause is the Redskins' No. 32 DVOA against opposing No. 2 receivers. … Kyle Rudolph also had a season-high in targets (6) last week, but some of that can be attributed to the shootout, not necessarily a dramatic shift in his role on the team -- Rudolph still only ran a route on 61% of Vikings’ dropbacks in Week 7. He’s a TE2 who should see 4-6 targets. … I don’t hate second-round rookie TE Irv Smith in single-game DFS stacks with Kirk Cousins. The Alabama alum ran just two fewer routes (20 total) than Rudolph last week, catching 5-of-6 targets for 60 yards. In college, Smith averaged 11.5 yards per target and showed decent 4.63 wheels at the combine.
Redskins (12.75, +16.5) @ MIN
The Vikings are third in PFF’s pass coverage grade, and Vegas projects the Redskins to score 13 points. Case Keenum is only a contrarian QB option in single-game DFS slates. And a thin one at that. … Adrian Peterson is questionable and likely would be playing through his injury if he were to suit up. AP is an unappealing flex play given the injury, the matchup (see above chart), and his recent production. If AP is ultimately ruled out, Wendall Smallwood would draw the start.
Terry McLaurin is 14th in yards per route (2.16) run among receivers with at least 20 targets and has had WR2 usage in 5-of-6 games. That’s the good news. The bad news is, well, everything else. McLaurin has less than five receptions in the last three games (although we can throw out last week’s game due to field conditions) and faces a Vikings’ defense that has completely eliminated completed passes 25-plus yards downfield (see chart below), a place where McLaurin has had some success this season. He’s also a negative touchdown regression candidate since he has five TDs on 24 receptions. The rookie is a low-floor WR3. … Trey Quinn and Paul Richardson are single-game DFS punt plays. Richardson has more upside of the two. Both have zero floors given their weekly targets and air yards (see above chart).
The rest of the Fantasy Football Forecast will be posted on Friday. Be sure to catch me on Thursday's Game Preview Podcast and Sunday morning's Rotoworld Live Show as well. Here's a tweet as a preview to what's coming: