The Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos Sunday night game in Week 11 probably induced groans from football fans when they saw it on the schedule a month ago. But the two teams have since resurrected their seasons, and their upcoming primetime matchup has plenty of players who could deliver for fantasy rosters. Fantasy analysts Scott Pianowski and Jorge Martin play a little game of "Would You Rather" and take a side for which offense they like most in this matchup.
The Case for the Broncos
The Chiefs and Eagles play the game of the week, maybe the game of the year, Monday night. It's a Super Bowl rematch and maybe even a Super Bowl preview, two heavyweights slugging it out after bye weeks.
But I'm also plenty interested in the primetime undercard: the Minnesota at Denver game, Sunday night. These two teams went from shipwrecked to rescued awfully quick.
You're not supposed to overreact to outlier performances, good or bad, but when Miami pasted Denver by a 70-20 count back in Week 3, I figured the Broncos were toast for 2023. Denver dropped to 0-3, with the first two losses against ordinary Washington and Las Vegas teams. Heck, even the Bears and Jets — two offenses no one trusts — rolled up a collective 878 yards of offense against Denver in Weeks 4-5 (I swear Breece Hall had 300 yards himself). The only time I had deep thoughts about the Broncos in October was when I was making up trade destinations for Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton. Of course, nothing came together.
And everyone figured Minnesota's season was over when Kirk Cousins got hurt in Week 8. Kevin O'Connell is a good coach, but nothing torpedoes a team like an injury to a star quarterback.
So here we are. Denver's on a three-game winning streak, upsetting the Packers, Chiefs and Bills. The Vikings have now won five in a row, including two since the Cousins injury. Sutton is on a four-game touchdown streak for the Broncos, including the end-zone grab at Buffalo that broke Next Gen Stats. Joshua Dobbs, American hero, is here to save the Vikings. He has a four-touchdown streak, too, scoring four straight times on the ground.
Minnesota's probably the buzzier fantasy offense, especially when Justin Jefferson returns (please let it be this week; I want to see him match up with Denver cover ace Patrick Surtain II). But I have a soft spot for what the Broncos are doing.
Sutton's season is all about the touchdown deodorant. He's 38th in wideout targets, 43rd in wideout yards and yet 21st in basic scoring leagues for receivers (bump him three slots for PPR). When Denver gets inside the 20-yard line, Wilson locks in on No. 14; Sutton has 14 targets in that area (catching 11, seven for touchdowns). The rest of the Denver wideouts and tight ends have 17 targets, total, inside the 20.
I get it when the Regression Police screams at this, sure Sutton is going to fall off. But if a play works, don't you keep calling it? Sutton must show me multiple clunkers in a row before he falls from my lineups. My leagues run a little deeper than average (three wideouts, plus multiple flexes), but Sutton has earned universal WR2/3 value.
And maybe I've buried the lede — I could see Javonte Williams being a league-winner. He's turned into the rare 2023 bell cow, racking up 18, 30 and 25 touches in the last three weeks. Denver's pass-run split for touchdowns is crazy — 18 air, just one ground — but eventually Williams is too good not to fall into the end zone a few times. And he's scored a couple of times on nifty Wilson passes the last two weeks; Sean Payton loves to show off his play design.
Wilson? Most of his efficiency stats have been ordinary. But he's still running some, and at least the touchdown split is in his favor. I think we know what he is now, a QB2 most weeks, with occasional QB1 upside (he's cracked the top 12 three times). Hey, it's more than I expected.
Denver's fantasy playoff schedule includes a trip to Detroit (possible shootout?), before hosting the Patriots and Chargers. No nightmare defenses to be found. You might be Mile High Saluting these guys all through December. — Pianowski
The Case for the Vikings
Why can't I get the lyric, "Rocky Mountain high, Colorado" out of my head? Well, it's probably because what the Vikings are doing is leaving me light-headed. It's just inconceivable.
How invariably 2023 it is that the Passtronaut Joshua Dobbs would parachute in to Minnesota and resurrect hope in the Twin Cities just when it looked like it had all snapped with Kirk Cousins’ Achilles? To say that Dobbs has been good is an understatement. He’s been bordering on run-into-the-burning-building-get-the-baby heroic for the Vikings’ prospects of remaining in the NFC playoff race. Yes, if you don’t like Dobbs, you’re either an NFC North rival fan or someone should check your heartbeat.
A wise man pointed out that Dobbs now has five games of 20-plus fantasy points this season, which is more than Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, (ahem) Trevor Lawrence and Jared Goff. And that’s the same as rookie sensation CJ Stroud. This is the man who’s been on more NFL teams in the last year than some people have pairs of shoes.
While Dobbs gives fantasy managers quite the floor with seven games rushing for at least 40 yards, he’s been making plenty of plays via the air. He had 268 yards and a touchdown last week, adding to his legend. It won’t be easy this week against a Denver defense that’s put the clamps on Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes the past two games.
Still, who’s betting against Dobbs this week — or any other week?
As of now, there’s no word on if Justin Jefferson is going to be ready to come off the IR from his hamstring injury. If he plays then, come on, this is Justin Jefferson. I'm with Scott, I want to get my popcorn ready and just watch the iso-cam on JJ and Surtain going toe-to-toe. If JJ gets the green light, get him in the lineup and just wait to see all the targets he’ll get.
Aside from JJ, the cupboard is far from bare for the Vikings’ pass catchers. T.J. Hockenson is coming off a TE1 week when he had 11 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. He’s going up against the Broncos defense that is allowing the most fantasy points per game to tight ends. I think he’ll take another shot at TE1 for the week.
In the last four weeks, Jordan Addison is the WR5 with 32 targets, 23 catches for 326 yards and three scores. The Pittsburgh/USC product won’t have it easy at Mile High, but when a team is improbably streaking like the Vikings, you just ride them like a hot streak at a Vegas craps table. Roll with Addison.
It’s hard to predict how the running backs are going to line up this week, as Alexander Mattison is still in the concussion protocol. Ty Chandler has gotten a bump in rostership in Yahoo leagues from 8% to 47%, with many opportunistic fantasy managers grabbing him just in case. The wild card is Kene Nwangwu, who unofficially ran a 4.29 40 at Iowa State’s pro day in 2021 before the NFL Draft.
And is the Minnesota defense trending up? The Vikings have eight sacks, four interceptions and a fumble recovery over the last three games. Could they make life rough for Russell Wilson? Bank on it.
The Vikings have a tempting fantasy playoff schedule as well, with a trip to Cincinnati in Week 15, followed by home games against the Lions and Packers. I didn't figure I'd ever be excited about a Joshua Dobbs-quarterbacked team, but here I am.
There’s a chance of showers on Sunday in Denver, so cue up Prince’s "Purple Rain." I only want to see the Vikings win in Purple Rain. Purple Rain. Purple Rain! — Martin