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Thursday Night Game – Week 8
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers – 7:20pm CT on NFL Network
Josh Freeman – Freeman has strung together a few nice games now and is starting to be talked about around the fantasy water fountain. While he certainly looks better than he did in his first three games, a closer look at the numbers and facts needs to happen before anointing Freeman a viable fantasy option. Josh has thrown for 1,047 yards, seven TDs and just two INTs during these last three games. Not too shabby at all. However, despite the nice TD:INT ratio, his accuracy was still pretty bad coming in at 58.9 percent. A completion percentage like that won’t bring in usable fantasy numbers against good defenses, which by the way, Freeman has NOT faced during this latest streak (Was, KC and NO are all in the bottom seven). Not only that, but all three games were in Tampa Bay as well. Basically what I’m saying here is that Freeman, like most other QBs, can be plugged into fantasy lineups if optimal circumstances are presented.
Fantasy Call – Freeman will NOT be working under the best-case scenario this Thursday night, as the Vikings possess a very unforgiving defense this year and an especially unforgiving home crowd. I simply can’t see Big Josh’s hot streak continuing in this game, especially on a shortened week where the Bucs will have less time to prepare a solid game plan. He’s a low-end QB2 this week with not a lot of upside.
Christian Ponder – You have to hand it to him—when Christian Ponder wants to suck for your fantasy team, he really can suck with the best of them. His performance against the Cardinals last week was almost Gabbert-esque in terms of suckiness, but to his defense, the Vikings didn’t really need him to throw the ball to win that game. In fact, Ponder’s three worst fantasy performances this season have all come during wins for the Vikings. Tampa can be absolutely crushed through the air if need be, I’m just not so sure the Vikings will need it this Thursday.
Fantasy Call – I’m expecting Minnesota to try and climb on Peterson’s back for the win this week, but Ponder will still have to do a little work, especially around the red-zone as the Bucs have allowed just four rushing touchdowns to RBs this season. Their pass D, however, has allowed the second-most yards per game (323), so with the majority of Tampa’s attention being focused on stopping AP, Ponder could do a little damage in this one as a mid-tier QB2.
Doug Martin – It’s taking him a little time to get used to the speed of the NFL, but Doug Martin may finally be in a rhythm now after back-to-back weeks with double-digit fantasy points. He’s averaged 126.5 total yards from scrimmage the past two games and put up his second rushing touchdown of the year against the Saints last weekend, but I don’t believe his ascent will continue this Thursday night against the Vikings. Minnesota has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to RBs this season giving up just two rushing TDs and 3.2 yards per carry to them in the process.
Fantasy Call – Even with Martin maybe taking on all red-zone opportunities going forward after LeGarrette Blount proved once again last week that he’s not the goal-line back you would think he should be; Martin won’t be more than a low-end RB2 this week against this stifling Vikings rush D. If he puts up 75 yards of total offense this Thursday night, I’d consider it a minor victory for both Martin and his fantasy owners.
LeGarrette Blount – If there’s one thing you’d expect a 250-pound running back to do, it would be to gain one yard on three carries from the opponent’s one-yard line. However, LeGarrette Blount has defied this type of logic throughout his career and may never get another chance to prove the theory. Just when he was starting to gain some momentum putting up TDs in his previous two games, LeGarrette came out last Sunday to rush for negative-two yards on five carries against an awful Saints defense that was allowing over five yards per carry on the season. Not good, to say the least.
Fantasy Call – Minnesota was going to be tough to run on in the first place, but now that he’s in the doghouse and likely to see just a handful of carries this Thursday (if that), you can’t expect Blount to be a legitimate option for your fantasy team unless it’s as a flex in a deep, 16-team league.
Adrian Peterson – Peterson has had 20 or more touches in five straight games now and just put up his most total yards in a game last week with 159 (153 rushing, 6 receiving). He’s also been running with some serious ferocity lately and seems to be getting better and better every week. Like I said before the season, every time Purple Jesus feels his domination as a running back is being questioned, he responds by taking the collective feet of the questioners and shoving it straight back into their collective mouth. As for this week’s game, the Buccaneers have been surprisingly effective against the run this year, much like Arizona was before AP dismantled them last weekend. With the way Peterson is running right now, fantasy owners shouldn’t be worried about the Bucs game-planning against him.
Fantasy Call – Look for the Vikings to run Peterson as much as possible until they gain enough of a lead to get him some rest. However, because Tampa’s pass defense is so inept, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Christian Ponder tossing the pill around a bit so AP may not go totally ballistic in this game. He’ll put up RB1 stats for sure, as he’s averaged 102.5 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs throughout his career, but I expect him to be more in the mid-range grouping as opposed to the high-end.
Toby Gerhart – Gerhart has been a relative non-factor this season with Purple Jesus on a mission to prove himself to the world. In fact, he’s only received two carries (for two yards) over the last two games.
Fantasy Call – He’s unplayable at this point. That being said, I do believe he’ll get around 8-10 touches in this game whether it be in mop-up duty with a Vikings win well in hand, or simply to give AP intermittent rests throughout the game due to the shortened week.
Vincent Jackson – Last week I stated that if there’s one thing Vincent Jackson does well, it’s that he takes full advantage of poor pass defenses. Well, he did just that last weekend as he tore the New Orleans Saints pass defense apart to the tune of seven catches, 216 yards and one touchdown. This week will prove to be a bit different with the Vikings pass D playing real well against the opposing team’s WR1. In fact, Minnesota came out to say that their game plan last week was centered around stopping Larry Fitzgerald, which they did very well. They did the same thing to Calvin Johnson back in Week 4 and accomplished their goal in that one, too.
Fantasy Call – If I had to guess, I’d say the Vikings will apply the same game plan as last week to Vincent Jackson this Thursday, which could be bad news for V-Jax owners. With Jackson already showing to have trouble scoring fantasy points against better defenses, I wouldn’t expect much better than low-end WR2/flex numbers this week, if that.
Mike Williams – After two straight 100-yard games, Mike Williams was brought back down to earth last weekend grabbing four of his eight targets for just 36 yards. This week could be a little different, however, with the Vikings looking to shut down the man opposite him, Vincent Jackson. Williams will see one-on-one coverage all game long and should see a bunch of targets because of it.
Fantasy Call – The Vikings defense tends to give up a bunch of fantasy points to their opponent’s WR2, which in this case, is Mike Williams. Last week, Andre Roberts (the Cardinals WR2) caught seven passes for 103 yards and one TD. In prior weeks, Kendall Wright and Donnie Avery each caught nine passes while Cecil Shorts put up 74 yards and a TD. Don’t be shocked to see Williams put up solid WR2 numbers (with upside) in this game and out-perform V-Jax in the process.
Tiquan Underwood – Despite being targeted six times in Week 7, Tiquan could only pull down two receptions for 35 yards, but one of those catches went for a 13-yard touchdown to lead off the Bucs' scoring. The Bucs have been searching for a third wide receiver for quite a while now, and they just may have found that guy in Underwood. His playmaking ability has been on display lately, and it seems Big Josh has noticed, with Underwood's targets increasing by the week.
Fantasy Call – With Vincent Jackson drawing double-teams and Mike Williams stealing attention of his own, Underwood will see one-on-one coverage throughout the game and has a chance to put up some decent numbers. In deeper leagues or if you have receivers on a bye, he might actually be worth a risk as a flex play this week.
Percy Harvin – Harvin actually received the fewest touches he’s seen all year last week against the Cardinals, but was still able to put up double-digit fantasy points thanks to a second quarter, red-zone TD reception. The coaches had actually been talking about using him more in the red-zone, so it wasn’t surprising to see him come away with his three-yard score. The Vikings didn’t really need Percy all that much last week with Adrian Peterson running around like man possessed out there, but he figures to be a bigger part of the game plan against the Buccaneers this Thursday with the Tampa defense likely to be focused on Purple Jesus all game.
Fantasy Call – Look for the Vikings coaching staff to get Harvin’s multi-faceted talents involved a ton this week as they’ll want to give Peterson a bit of a break playing on such a short week. I expect him to see double-digit targets and put up a good eight to ten catches as well as receiving at least a few carries out of the backfield. With that kind of action, Percy should be good for some solid WR1-type numbers.
Jerome Simpson – After sitting out Week 6 with a lower-leg/back issue, Simpson returned to the starting lineup last week but saw just one target which was turned into an eight-yard gain. His season, otherwise, has been underwhelming as he continues to try and find a way into the flow of this Vikings offense.
Fantasy Call – This week could be the chance Jerome has been looking for to make an impression upon the coaching staff. The Bucs allow the fourth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers with a bunch of them going to the opposing team’s WR2. He’s a risky flex play, even in deeper leagues, but Simpson is no stranger to big games when you least expect it and could be primed for a decent one this Thursday.
Michael Jenkins – With Jerome Simpson back in the lineup, Jenkins falls back to the WR3 spot where he’ll see little to no action within this run-first offense.
Fantasy Call – You never know against a pass defense as bad as the Buccaneers have, but I still wouldn’t take the chance here.
Devin Aromashodu – With a whopping 10 catches on the season and zero targets in last week’s game, Aromashodu is definitely letting off some sort of aroma…
Fantasy Call – …and it’s not the flowery kind.
Dallas Clark – Clark finally had a game worthy of his years spent back in Indianapolis putting up five catches for 51 yards and a TD last week against the Saints. How he did it, I have no idea because if there’s one thing the Saints could actually do on defense this year, it was cover the tight end position. Does this make Dallas Clark worthy of being picked up and used on fantasy teams this year? Nah, but it was nice to see one of the old timers put up some numbers again.
Fantasy Call – The Vikings defense hasn’t been very good guarding tight ends this year as they’ve allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to them thus far. Clark COULD be used in desperation if your normal TE1 and TE2 happen to be on a bye, but don’t expect too much, even in a pretty decent matchup for him.
Kyle Rudolph – Wow! I’m having a bit of trouble trying to figure this kid out and how he fits into the Vikings offense, especially after his zero-catch/zero-fantasy points day this past Sunday. I realize the Vikings didn’t need to pass the ball at all in order to win the game, but a season-low four targets can’t make fantasy owners feel very optimistic. This week he’ll face off against a Bucs pass D that is merely so-so against tight ends, so we’ll see if Kyle can have himself a bounce-back game.
Fantasy Call – Just a couple of weeks ago, the Vikings were talking about getting their big, sure-handed tight end more involved in the offense, so I’m going to choose to believe their sentiment still holds water and say that Rudolph is worth playing this week against the Bucs, but I’m not exactly confident that he’ll put up anything more than high-end TE2 numbers. With his prowess in the red-zone, however, he definitely has the upside of a TE1.
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