I had myself a bye week of sorts last week and I can’t wait to get stuck back in to mouth-watering match-ups such as Bucs vs Titans, Chargers vs Bears, Jets vs Jags and we’re even being treated to Dolphins vs Steelers to round out the week on Monday Night Football… Safe to say, I took my bye week one week too early. Before all that though, we have what is expected to be a hotly contested match-up of two stud quarterbacks facing their old teams as the Washington Redskins and Case Keenum head to the land of 10,000 lakes to take on Kirk Cousins’ Minnesota Vikings.
I hope that wasn’t too much sarcasm for one paragraph. In all seriousness though, Kirk Cousins has been playing at a high level since his receivers called out the play calling on offense – look at that, it turns out running the ball on 65% of plays isn’t actually the most effective way of running an NFL offense. Who knew? Through the first seven weeks of the season, Cousins has completed 70% of his passes for 1,714 yards, 13 TDs with three interceptions, which has earned him a passing grade of 83.9 from PFF, good for fourth in the league.
It’s no secret that the key to getting Cousins going has been the increase in play-action, through the first four games of the season the Vikings used play-action on 27% of dropbacks, in the following three games that figure increased to 45.8%. The result was Cousins’ yards per attempt increasing from 7.5 yards through those first four weeks to a league-best 9.1 yards through Week 7. The effectiveness of the play-action is evident in the fact that Cousins has thrown just 10.6% of his passes into tight windows, that’s the smallest percentage in the league according to NextGen Stats. On the play-action passes alone in the last three weeks, Cousins is averaging 14.1 yards per attempt and has thrown for seven touchdowns with a league-leading 157.2 passer rating. You like that?
The two happiest guys on the team due to these changes are without doubt Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, although Thielen won’t be available for this one. Diggs is leading the league in yards per route run (3.25) of the offensive players who have run at least 140 routes this year, while he also ranks fifth in yards per reception (18.8) and fifth for average depth of target (16.2). He has caught 71.4% of his passes, accumulating 565 yards and four touchdowns. I think we see the passing game take a back seat here though. One of the best running backs in the league going up against a defense that has given up at least 84 rushing yards in every game this season will probably make too much sense in Mike Zimmer’s head for him not to just run the ball all night and preserve as much energy as possible for more important games ahead. The running back I’m alluding to is of course Dalvin Cook, who leads the league in rushing yards with 725 as well as eight scores. Cook is second to only Josh Jacobs in PFF’s rushing grades whilst he trails only Ezekiel Elliot and Leonard Fournette in rushes of 10-plus yards. The third-year back also sits fifth in the league among running backs that have at least 70 attempts in PFF’s elusiveness rating which accounts for missed tackles forced, yards after contact and a few other things that I won’t bore you with.
I really can’t get myself to write about the Washington Redskins, every stat I throw at you is going to tell you one thing – this is a terrible team and they may be in an even worse situation than the Miami Dolphins, at least the Dolphins have a plan. Head Coach Jay Gruden got his marching orders a couple of weeks ago and the man they replaced him with (Bill Callahan) uttered the words “rushing attempts and completion percentage matter” so that tells you all you need to know. I personally think some of these organisations are a joke and that’s about all the analysis I’m going to do on the Redskins.
So what’s the betting?
We keep getting these ludicrous spreads on Thursday/Monday Night Football and like I’ve said every other time, I will not be betting into a spread of -16. I can’t imagine the Vikings will have much trouble getting over the line here but I’m not willing to bet the Vikings will be too worried about running the score up on a short week so no bet there.
I always let a bit of doubt creep in when I’m looking at the total on games with these huge spreads but I’m pretty confident in the under 42 here. The over has actually been taking money but the Vikings defense always seems to be a lot tighter at home. In three home games this year, they have allowed 12, 14 and 20 points. The only thing that worries me in games such as this is the propensity for defensive scores but Keenum is in the bottom half of the league when it comes to average depth of target and aggressiveness so I’m not as apprehensive about that here, I’ll take the under on a Thursday night.
If 2/5 (1.4) favourites are your bag, then fill your boots on Dalvin Cook scoring but that’s not my thing. It was interesting to see TE Irv Smith Jr garner six targets last week with Thielen injured, catching five of those for 60 yards, this game could set up perfectly for him so I like over 2.5 receptions for him at 2.3 (Bet365).
For TD scorers, I’ll take a swing at Alexander Mattison at 3/1 (Bet365). You’d imagine Cook will be rested more than usual if this turns out how I’d expect, giving Mattison more opportunities. He scored in Week 3 against Oakland.
Under 42 points (1.91)
Irv Smith Jr over 2.5 receptions (2.3)
Mattison TD (3/1)
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