This article is part of our Showdown/Single Game DFS Breakdown series.
Monday night gives us a big NFC North battle, with the 10-4 Vikings 5.5-point home favorites against the 11-3 Packers. Both teams have already clinched playoff berths, with Green Bay having a number of tiebreakers in their favor (including a 21-16 Week 2 win over the Vikings) that they can win the division even if they lose Monday, though that will likely require a Week 17 victory over the Lions in Detroit. Minnesota is pretty much locked into the six-seed, with the outside chance they win the division by beating the Packers on Monday and then the Bears in Week 17 coupled with a Packers loss then. Needless to say, this game has implications but they aren't quite as huge as they seem on first glance.
Both teams have been solid defensively against quarterbacks this season, with the Packers allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the position on DraftKings and seventh-fewest on FanDuel, while the Vikings are 11th and 10th, respectively. Green Bay has allowed multiple touchdown passes just once in the past six games, something the Vikings have done twice in their past seven. Neither quarterback was particularly good in their first matchup, with Aaron Rodgers ($10,400 DK, $15,500 FD) completing 22 of 34 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns while losing a fumble, and Kirk Cousins ($10,200 DK, $15,000 FD) was much worse, completing 14 of 32 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown, though he also threw two interceptions and lost one of two fumbles. Both players have had their ups and downs this season, though Rodgers seems to be closer to a game manager at this point than what we're used to seeing from him, as he comes in with six consecutive games of fewer than 250 passing yards, including three with fewer than 200, and he threw for one or zero touchdowns in all but one game in that span.
Meanwhile, Cousins has reached 300 yards once in the past seven games, but he's at least thrown for multiple touchdowns four times. Rodgers has at least supplemented his poor passing numbers with decent rushing totals, though that capped out at 29 since he rushed for 46 back in Week 4. It's kind of an odd thought that we'd have a game with these two players and it might not be ideal to roster both or either, but they will be owned because they're quarterbacks. However, if the game plays out that neither is overly successful in terms of volume, taking their pass catchers could be more beneficial since they earn more points for each pass connection, especially on DraftKings.
While the defensive numbers against quarterbacks are similar, we don't have the same situation with running backs, as the Packers have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to the position on DraftKings and eighth-most on FanDuel, while the Vikings have given up the eighth and ninth-fewest on the two sites, respectively. There's theoretically some positives for the Packers, as they've allowed just one running back touchdown in the past three games, though they've also allowed multiple touchdowns four times this season. The difficulty for the Vikings on Monday is that they'll be without star running back Dalvin Cook because of a chest injury, taking away the most expensive player on DraftKings, while FanDuel adjusted their pricing to make him the eighth-highest priced player. In addition to Cook, the Vikings could also be without backup Alexander Mattison ($9,200 DK, $11,500 FD) because of an ankle injury, one that is making him a game-time decision. Fantasy players are likely hoping Mattison doesn't play, if only because it opens up the path for Mike Boone ($9,000 DK, $12,000 FD) to get a vast majority of the running back opportunities.
Mattison has had one limited practice in the past two weeks, so even if he is active for the game he's likely to be hampered, so the path for Boone to have decent volume is certainly there. Boone is coming off the best game of his career, rushing 13 times on 21 snaps for 56 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers, a game that included six red-zone carries (four inside the 10 and one inside the five). He's hardly cheap on FanDuel because he's priced as if he's the starter, but the DraftKings price is one that will likely make him very popular if Mattison sits out. If that happens, Ameer Abdullah ($2,200 DK, $6,000 FD) will get the backup touches, though he'd theoretically be viewed as a complementary piece to Boone rather than a replacement in DFS lineups. Boone as captain/MVP will be popular because of the Packers' defensive struggles and his expected workload (again, if Mattison doesn't play) for a home favorite, though it won't be as much if Mattison is good to go. One other possibility is fullback C.J. Ham ($1,000 DK, $5,000 FD), who doesn't run much but caught all six of his targets for 80 yards in the past three games while also getting one goal-line carry in that span. He is hardly a captain/MVP consideration, but it wouldn't be a bad move to consider him instead of one of the lower Vikings' wide receivers, who we'll get to later.
Meanwhile, the Packers have an excellent running back in Aaron Jones ($10,800 DK, $14,000 FD) except for the fact that they don't seem to realize it, which is why Jamaal Williams ($5,200 DK, $7,000 FD) keeps getting as many touches as he does. Jones co-leads the NFL with 14 rushing touchdowns this season, which is pretty impressive since he's only scored in seven games, including three of the past nine. Additionally, he hasn't gotten more than 16 carries since Week 5, though his targets are generally higher than Williams. Here's a breakdown of their touches for each game this season:
It's not that Williams is doing enough where we should consider him over Jones (at least for those who player fewer lineups), it's that he's getting enough opportunities to make us not want to play Jones because he's not getting workhorse volume despite being priced as such. Williams had a receiving touchdown in the previous matchup this season, though Jones rushed a season-high 23 times for 116 yards and a touchdown while catching four of six targets for 34 receiving yards, a situation that we could theoretically see again Monday in terms of a split workload that could or could not cap Jones' upside. Fantasy players who believe in the Packers should consider Jones because he is their starting running back with the most volume, but there are enough reasons to be hesitant, especially when choosing him as a captain/MVP.
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
We have some elite pass catchers in this game, though neither quarterback seems to be taking advantage of late. The Packers' passing game continues to be dominated by Davante Adams ($11,400 DK, $14,500 FD), the most expensive player on DraftKings (not counting Cook). Despite playing only 10 games this season, Adams still leads the team in targets (98), receptions (63), receiving yards (788) and air yards (983), while his four receiving touchdowns are second-most after he failed to score in his first six games. With at least 10 targets in all but one of his last seven, Adams figures to be the most popular Packers wide receiver in terms of ownership, though his price is certainly one where you kind of have to build around him. That being said, the other wide receivers simply haven't done enough on a consistent basis to be that trustworthy for cash games, as Geronimo Allison ($2,600 DK, $5,500 FD) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($800 DK, $5,500 FD) are the next-most targeted wideouts on the team, but they've combined for 54 catches on 97 targets this season. If anything, Allen Lazard ($5,400 DK, $6,500 FD) will be the one people turn to if they want exposure to more of the Packers' pass catchers, as he's had three targets in each of the past three games, something Allison and Valdes-Scantling can't say themselves. Obviously any of them can score touchdowns at any time, so they will certainly not be ignored by people with multiple lineups, but it's tough to make a case for any of them in cash games because of their inconsistencies.
Otherwise, tight end Jimmy Graham ($3,200 DK, $6,500 FD) is a possibility because he's had nine targets in the past two games, though that only led to only four catches for 49 yards, of which three catches, four targets and all the yards came in Week 14. Additionally, Graham has just three touchdowns all season, with his last one coming in Week 7 while the first two were in Weeks 1 and 4. Backup tight ends Robert Tonyan ($200 DK, $5,000 FD) and Marcedes Lewis ($400 DK, $5,500 FD) are hardly replacements, combining for eight targets in the past three games. If you want to take a long-shot, Jake Kumerow ($1,200 DK, $6,000 FD) has the second-highest aDOT on the team at 13.6 (Valdes-Scantling leads the team at 17.2), but he has just one target in the last three.
The Vikings' pass catching has been dominated by Stefon Diggs ($9,600 DK, $12,500 FD) this season, as he leads the team in targets (89), receptions (60), receiving yards (1,073), air yards (1,308) and aDOT (14.9), though a lot of that had to do with Adam Thielen ($8,600 DK, $10,500 FD) missing five games while playing 16 total snaps in two other games due to injuries. Thielen returned last week and caught all three targets for 27 yards while rushing once for three yards, and the expectation is that he'll see a lot more than the 33 snaps he played in that one. That isn't to say Diggs, who had nine targets in each of the two games before last week, will take a big step back, but slightly reduced volume wouldn't be surprising. The problem is that he wasn't a high-volume receiver to begin with, with just one game this season getting more than the nine targets he recently saw. Thielen was more of a possession receiver than Diggs (his 11.9 aDOT helps show that), so he likely needs more volume in terms of targets and catches to match Diggs if the latter can get on the end of a couple long plays, which he's certainly capable of doing. Both players are likely the first places to look when considering Vikings pass catchers, though playing both of them is tough given the salaries (you'd likely fade Cousins in that instance with the expectation no other receivers really do much).
Tight end Kyle Rudolph ($6,400 DK, $7,000 FD) is the next most-popular pass catcher in terms of targets, but like most tight ends he gets low-yardage catches, as evidenced by his 6.6 aDOT and 299 air yards versus 360 receiving yards on 48 targets (38 receptions). However, Rudolph co-leads the team with six receiving touchdowns (tied with Thielen), and he leads them in red-zone targets (11) and targets inside the five-yard line (four). We're unlikely to get enough out of Rudolph if he doesn't score a touchdown, but when the Vikings get close to the goal line and look to pass, Cousins looks to his tight ends. That situation also puts backup Irv Smith Jr. ($3,000 DK, $8,000 FD) on the radar, as he's second on the team in red-zone targets (nine) and targets inside the five (two), with both of those coming in each of the past two games, a span that saw him catch five of seven targets for 29 yards and a touchdown. Like Rudolph, Smith needs a touchdown to make value, so while he could get some consideration (seemingly more on DraftKings because he's so much cheaper), using him as captain/MVP doesn't produce much optimism for winning.
The return of Thielen pushed down some longer-shot wide receivers, specifically Bisi Johnson ($1,600 DK, $7,500 FD) and Laquon Treadwell ($1,600 DK, $7,000 FD), who combined for one target last week, which Johnson caught for 19 yards (he also rushed once for six yards). Treadwell is second on the team with a 13.9 aDOT, so while he could theoretically get on the end of a deep ball from Cousins, it remains unlikely enough that he's probably better off being ignored unless you're making dozens of entries. That's why considering Ham over these guys makes sense.
A hard-fought divisional game can always become a dogfight, which puts both kickers in play. The Vikings' Dan Bailey ($4,000 DK, $9,000 FD) has been more successful of late, scoring at least 10.0 fantasy points in each of the past two games, while the Packers' Mason Crosby ($3,800 DK, $9,000 FD) has hit 8.0 twice in his last three. There aren't a ton of points expected to be scored even though both offenses have shown at times that they can really move the ball downfield, so either kicker should be considered in cash games because of their somewhat reliable floors based on their prices in relation to the backup running backs, wide receivers and tight ends in their salary ranges.
The two teams' defenses combined for 18.0 fantasy points in the first matchup this season, with the Packers ($4,400 DK) scoring 12.0 thanks to four turnovers and one sack. However, the Vikings ($4,600) are coming in off a massive 27.0 last week against the Chargers thanks to seven turnovers, three sacks, a defensive touchdown and only 10 points allowed. That level of production can't be expected Monday, especially since Rodgers has thrown only two interceptions on 474 passes this season, though he's been sacked 32 times in 14 games. Meanwhile, Cousins only has five interceptions on his 413 passes, and 25 quarterbacks have been sacked more times this season. None of this is to say that the defenses can't have big games, but it's incredibly difficult to project turnovers and touchdowns, and there doesn't seem to be an obvious reason to play either one Monday night other than the expectation that variance will fall in your favor.