Merry Christmas and happy holidays! What an exciting weekend coming up with a Christmas day game and football all weekend long. Not only is Santa Claus gifting us with football Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but it’s also Championship Week for most leagues. A fantasy win could be just what we need to salvage the year 2020.
The Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints have had a tumultuous history. In their last four games, the Saints have lost three of them, including the division playoffs when WR Stefon Diggs pulled of the infamous Minneapolis Miracle.
Both teams need a win tonight. For the Saints, it’s to remain at the top of the NFC South ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are only one game behind at 9-5 and will face the Detroit Lions this weekend. For the Vikings, a win would help keep the flickering heartbeat of their playoff hopes alive.
QBs Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees remain a constant for the Vikings and the Saints, but their surrounding pieces this time around will be rather different than previous matchups. The Vikings are down one wide receiver in Diggs and they will also be without the holiday-appropriate TE Kyle Rudolph. The Saints, meanwhile, have only one wide receiver in Emmanuel Sanders (yes, that is an exaggeration) with both Michael Thomas and Tre’Quan Smith sent to injured reserve.
While Minnesota is without Diggs, they did add the super talented rookie Justin Jefferson this season who is having a phenomenal first year. Hopefully, he and Cousins consider last week’s cussing-out water under the bridge. (In case you missed it, Jefferson was caught yelling at his QB during their game against the Bears.) They also still have WR Adam Thielen who is a phenom at wide receiver and RB Dalvin Cook who makes mincemeat out of defenses. Rudolph the red-zone reindeer may be absent, but TE Irv Smith has been filling in nicely.
As I mentioned, the Saints are down to only one known commodity at wide receiver in the veteran Sanders. Last week, Lil’Jordon Humphrey found the end zone on four targets, and Tommylee Lewis and Juwan Johnson were also involved with five combined targets. They have also activated WR Marquez Callaway from injured reserve. His main production came in Week 5 and Week 7 where he combined for 16 targets, 12 receptions, and 109 yards. It’s not an ideal situation for Brees who will be playing his second game after breaking 11 of his ribs a month ago.
RB Alvin Kamara, who averaged just under nine targets a game with Brees at QB, only had six targets last week in their loss to Kansas City. That may have been due to the Saints' two-touchdown deficit. Of course, it was RB Latavius Murray who was the back who logged the receiving touchdown on three targets, two receptions, and 26 yards.
There shouldn’t be anything fancy about this game. For either team to succeed, it will boil down to the run game.
Luckily, the Vikings and the Saints are in no short supply of talent at RB, sporting the number one and two fantasy running backs in Kamara and Cook.
Unfortunately, those are about the only startable fantasy options aside from Jefferson. The rookie WR has surpassed Thielen in target share and outperformed him in PPR scoring. He is currently ranked as the WR7 while Thielen is the WR12 who has boom or bust potential. It will be an uphill battle for Cousins and his receivers against a Saints Defense ranked fourth-best against the position in the last four weeks.
Even though Sanders is the main show in town, I would pivot away from him for better options. Brees spread the ball around to 10 different pass catchers and was tied for second in targets with Cook behind Kamara. He is a touchdown-dependent WR3 even in a good matchup against the Vikings.
Whether you have any fantasy pieces playing today, the game should be a good one with so much on the line for both teams.
Good luck this week and hopefully you will get a solid leg-up for the Saturday and Sunday matchups and bring home that championship title.
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Quick Hits and Injury News
The Lions will be without interim head coach Darrell Bevel and a majority of the defensive coaching staff due to COVID-19 close contact. QB Matthew Stafford is questionable with a rib and thumb injury. WR Kenny Golladay is ruled out for this week’s game. … 49ers TE George Kittle will play on Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals. … Raiders QB Derek Carr was not on the final injury report after a groin injury. WR Henry Ruggs was activated off the COVID-19 reserve list. … Ravens WR Marquise Brown missed practice Thursday with a knee injury. … Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds is questionable with a knee and ankle injury and was limited at practice. TE Dan Arnold is questionable with a back injury. … Bears WR Allen Robinson did not practice on Thursday with a hamstring injury. … Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott was limited in practice on Thursday. … Saints have activated Marquez Callaway from injured reserve. … Chargers place TE Hunter Henry on COVID-19 reserve. WR Keenan Allen will be a game-time decision. … Bills WR Stefon Diggs practiced in full. … Falcons WR Julio Jones remained sidelined on Thursday. … Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill returned to practice. … Steelers RB James Conner practiced in full. … Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay did not practice on Thursday and will be a game-time decision. … Bengals QB Brandon Allen will return in Week 16 but a starter has not been named. … Packers RB Jamaal Williams did not practice Thursday. … Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph is ruled out of Week 16 with a foot injury. … Washington’s RB Antonio Gibson took part in individual drills but was still considered limited. QB Alex Smith also took part in individual drills and was limited. WR Terry McLaurin did not practice on Thursday with an ankle injury. … Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones remains on the COVID-19 reserve list and will not play this week.