We all love football, right? But it’s not enough to just love football when it’s at its best, you have to love it when it’s clearly going through a mid-season crisis. You have to still love football when it decides to go out of its way to hurt you for no good reason. With this evening’s contest between the Vikings and Redskins, we’re about to kick off a week of prime-time games that not only feature the aforementioned hapless Washington team, yet also a Matt Moore-led Chiefs squad and the intentionally tanking Miami Dolphins.
However, it’s still football. What else are you going to watch? The Good Doctor? No. You’re not. You’re going to get through these contests like you always do, by playing a few Showdown slates on DraftKings. Let’s break down tonight’s tilt.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
It’s possible I’m mistaken when I say this, but, to my memory, Dalvin Cook ($13,000) is the first player we’ve had crest the $13K mark when it comes to salary on a Thursday Night Football slate in 2019. It’s hard to argue he isn’t deserving of that recognition, though. Cook is second to only Christian McCaffrey among all RBs in PPR points scored so far this season, with the Florida State product’s 0.55 PPR points per snap leading all running backs. Cook is also one of just five at the position to have accumulated in excess of 130 carries through the year’s first seven weeks and, of the 25 backs with at least 75 rushing attempts, he possesses the highest yards per carry figure (5.6). We’re not quite done with the accolades yet. On top of all that, Cook sits with an NFL-best eight rushing touchdowns; a mark he certainly has come about in a sustainable manner, by having garnered more carries inside the opponent’s 10-yard line (18) and 5-yard line (9) than any other player in the NFC. As the centerpiece in an offensive attack that’s run the ball on a whopping 52.8% of its plays, Cook is simply always viable. No matter the matchup. No matter the day of the week.
However, matchup might play a role in how you view Alexander Mattison ($4,400). The rookie’s been more involved than ever the past two weeks in relatively lopsided game scripts, logging a season-high 21 snaps in both contests and touching the ball a combined 21 times. This level of opportunity hasn’t exactly translated into a whole lot of fantasy success, but the general awfulness of the Redskins might change that. Washington’s average scoring margin is a putrid -12.3 points so far in 2019. Because it’s often trailing by multiple scores, teams have tended to run the ball against it more often than not, resulting in an NFC-high 25.9 opponent backfield carries per game. That’s volume. Efficiency is provided with the Redskins surrendering 4.55 adjusted line yards per rushing attempt — the seventh-highest mark in the league. Mattison’s floor is obviously a little shaky, yet you’d have to anticipate the Vikings trying to somewhat limit the workload placed upon Cook in a short week as overwhelming favorites, especially considering he was injured just last season playing on Thursday night.
That brings us to Minnesota’s resurrected passing game. Kirk Cousins ($12,000) has been absolutely incredible the past three weeks, averaging an absurd 0.81 fantasy points per drop back and tossing 10 touchdowns on a mere 90 attempts. He definitely is due for some major regression; however, you’d expect the pivot to want to perform well in his first meeting with his former employer of six years. I mean, it’s not as if the passing TD expectancy is low in this spot. Not counting last Sunday’s monsoon game versus the 49ers or Week 6’s meeting with the Dolphins, Washington’s conceded at least three touchdowns to all the quarterbacks it’s faced, aside from the rookie Daniel Jones. That also means good things for Stefon Diggs ($11,000), who leads all active and qualified WRs in Week 8 with 0.61 fantasy points and 3.14 yards gained per route run. It means good things for Olabisi Johnson ($6,200), who played a season-high 71.2% of the Vikings’ offensive snaps after the loss of Adam Thielen (hamstring). It means the possibility of good things for Kyle Rudolph ($5,400) and Irv Smith Jr. ($4,800), who equally benefitted from Thielen’s absence, with Minnesota more inclined to use “12” personnel. Basically, as you might expect when going up against a one-win team, there really aren’t any bad matchups on the board. It’s simply a matter of building a lineup comprised of these assets that makes sense from a game-flow perspective.
I can’t really start writing up the fantasy prospects of this anemic Washington offense without first offering its implied team total for Week 8. It’s a week-low 12.5 points. We’ve gone past the realm of sad and reached the point of pathetic. Honestly, most everything I write here is going to be more an endorsement in using Vikings D/ST ($6,200) than any particular Redskins player. Heck, even Terry McLaurin ($9,200) appears tainted by the stench of this team. While you might expect a squad that’s always behind on the scoreboard to be forced into passing the football, Washington apparently has opted to quicken its demise since Bill Callahan took over the reigns in Week 6 by going in the exact other direction.
The Redskins’ new strategy is to limit the amount of overall possessions by running the football all the time. It’s not necessarily a poor plan, it’s just one that’s not aesthetically pleasing. Washington’s run only 107 offensive plays the past two contests, a span that includes a 63.4% rushing ratio in last weekend’s scoreless defeat at the hands of San Francisco. As such, Case Keenum ($8,000) has been held to 37 pass attempts in this stretch, which has succeeded in ruining both his and McLaurin’s fantasy value. Sure, you can’t completely discount a wideout that’s generated a massive 0.49 fantasy points per route this season; yet it’s difficult to envision spending more than $9K on any element of this doomed roster. Not to mention one with sudden volume concerns.
Obviously, this trend isn’t specific to solely McLaurin. Paul Richardson ($5,000) hasn’t caught a pass since Callahan stepped in as head coach, and Trey Quinn ($3,600) has been held to exactly two receptions in each of the past two weeks. The latter case is especially unnerving considering Quinn, for the entire season, already was averaging the fewest yards per target of any wide receiver with more than 20 catches (5.1). Again, there’s just nothing to get excited about here. Most weeks, I could at least talk myself into a tight end archetype like Jeremy Sprinkle ($3,400) — someone who’s played 86.0% of the Redskins’ offensive snaps since Vernon Davis went down due to injury — but when would he even have the chance to be a red zone target? Washington’s managed a paltry 1.9 drives per game inside its opponent’s 20-yard line to this point in 2019 — the lowest mark of any NFC team. In fact, over the Redskins’ past three contests, it’s something they’ve been able to do only twice.
Even the one set-in-stone aspect of Washington’s offense can’t be easy. Adrian Peterson ($5,600) had cemented his viability by compiling an eye-popping 45 touches in 68 snaps since the beginning of Week 6, yet the veteran RB is dealing with an ankle issue. He remains adamant he’ll play this evening — and his surrounding cast makes even a questionable Peterson valuable — yet it does open the door to take a look at Wendell Smallwood ($1,800). The former Philadelphia running back saw 35.4% of his team’s offensive snaps with Chris Thompson (toe) sidelined last Sunday, and Smallwood averaged a respectable 6.8 yards per touch. The bar is incredibly low when it comes to the Redskins, but having Smallwood exposure is a must in the not necessarily unlikely scenario Peterson re-aggravates his high-ankle sprain or realizes he can’t play through it.
With the few desirable elements of Washington’s roster reasonably priced, I can see no good reason to not spend up and make Dalvin Cook ($19,500 CP) a Captain’s Pick on this slate. Simply put, he’s one of the last true “bell cow” running backs we have in the league and enters the always enticing script of being a massive home favorite for a team willing to feature him. I wouldn’t be opposed to have a few lineups constructed around Kirk Cousins ($18,000 CP) and the Vikings’ passing attack, yet I’m perfectly content living and dying with Cook this evening.
Final Score: Minnesota 27, Washington 7
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.