Come Here Rud(olph) Boy, Boy

Only three games were projected to be lower scoring this weekend than the Giants/Vikings game on Monday Night Football, per Vegas over/unders. In a battle between two of the league’s better defenses, offense is likely to come at a premium. Staring at the standings on FantasyDraft can be a bit nerve-racking if sitting just slightly inside or outside the cash line of a contest but owning players from this game should ease those concerns. Assuming you find yourself in a situation where tonight’s game can make or break the weekend, here are my projections for the game tonight that will help make your likely fate abundantly more clear:

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

Quarterbacks: The Vikings defense has played two of the elite quarterbacks (QBs) in their first three games and Aaron Rodgers/Cam Newton only combined for 475 yards passing and one passing touchdown (TD) against them. There is no question this defense is one of the top few in the NFL and it quite possibly is the best in the league at this point. In other words, they present a very difficult challenge to Eli Manning and the Giants. Sure they have allowed the 14th fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs but those numbers are even inflated due to their opponents through three games. Can you imagine if they had played the Rams and Browns instead? No, the Giants are not the Browns and their offensive line is improved, but this is still a tall task. On the other side, the Giants look like an improved defense but Sam Bradford is going to have to air it out by default since the Giants are quite stout against the run and the Vikings’ run game simply stinks. Bradford attempted 31 passes a season-high 31 passes against the Packers in Week 2 and it wouldn’t be surprising if he were forced to exceed that total in this game when they have to abandon a non-existent running game. With weapons like Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs at his disposal, expect Bradford to exploit a secondary lacking any player that grades in the top 25 at their position. Projections: Sam Bradford 25 fantasy points, Eli Manning 13 fantasy points

Running Backs: Neither running game is in a particularly good spot. In fact, both draw pretty horrendous matchups against two of the top nine run defenses in terms of rushing yardage allowed. The only prayer of productive days from the Vikings running backs (RBs) are either a big run from Jerick McKinnon or a goal line TD or two for Matt Asiata. Otherwise, it should be more of the same with each averaging under 2.5 yards per carry (YPC). At least the Giants backfield shouldn’t morph into much of a committee with both Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings out. Orleans Darkwa is expected to carry a majority of the load but good luck against a defense allowing just 3.5 YPC. If you used any of the backs involved and are in a close fantasy matchup, you better start praying. Projections: Orleans Darkwa 11 fantasy points, Matt Asiata nine fantasy points and Jerick McKinnon eight fantasy points

Wide Receivers: Although the Giants corners are respectable, none of them are dominant to the point where they should be able to completely shut down Stefon Diggs. However, according to Pro Football Focus, Adam Thielen draws the best individual advantage for any receiver on the Vikings (23.8). While Diggs is working on Eli Apple, Adam Thielen and his 78.6-percent catch rate should be burning Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Quietly, I think he could have a sneaky solid PPR day having caught 13 passes in just three games. On the other side of the ball, I don’t feel overly enthusiastic about any option other than Odell Beckham Jr. Yesterday, Julio Jones proved what a top receiver can do against a defense without a true shutdown corner. Trae Waynes, the man guarding Beckham, has graded as the team’s worst corner this season and he will draw the matchup against the star receiver most of the time. Literally all of the other corners are extremely respectable so the only matchup to pick on here would be Beckham and it’s still not that encouraging considering the Vikings’ defensive results thus far. Per Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic, WR1s have fared slightly above average while both WR2s and other WRs have fared between three and 60-percent below average. Projections: Odell Beckham Jr. 17 fantasy points, Stefon Diggs 17 fantasy points, Adam Thielen 14 fantasy points, Victor Cruz 11 fantasy points and Sterling Shepard seven fantasy points

Tight Ends: Giants’ TEs can be avoided at all costs against a top tier defense especially considering they eat into each other’s production on a weekly basis. They cannot be counted on in great matchups so there’s no reason anyone should have been starting them in an awful one. Even so, there is a TE worthy of fantasy consideration in this matchup: Kyle Rudolph. After being targeted 73 times in 2015, Rudolph is on pace for 139 targets this year and 11 TDs. With Bradford under center and Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner running the show, Rudolph appears to be developing into a true TE1. In 2012, he scored nine TDs but only accrued 493 receiving yards. To this point, he is on pace for nearly 900 receiving yards. Even assuming he falls a little short, it’s clear he has a big role in this passing attack and the 2015 Giants were one of the worst defenses against the position. There’s no doubt they have improved but not enough to project them to shut down a rising star like Rudolph. Look for him to be busy moving the chains and to see at least a red zone target or two. Projections: Kyle Rudolph 17 fantasy points, Larry Donnell six fantasy points and Will Tye four fantasy points

Defense: Both defenses were worthy of consideration heading into this game so it’s likely tons of fantasy dollars are resting on their outcomes. Targeting the Giants made sense if you were a non-believer in Sam Bradford and the Vikings offense. Personally, I think this is a nice spot for the passing offense and the Giants have played over their heads to this point. The real deciding factor in this game will be the play of the dominant Vikings defense who lead the position in fantasy points per game. Can they manage to get to Eli despite the improved offensive line? Can they force turnovers against a suddenly more careful Manning (only three INTs this year after 14 in consecutive seasons)? The answer to all of the above is probably yes since this is the best defensive unit by a large margin in my opinion. If they could slow down elite offenses, they certainly should be able to take care of the Giants sans an adequate running game. Projections: Minnesota Vikings 19 fantasy points and New York Giants five fantasy points

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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