If not for a fumble in the last minute, the Broncos might have won five of their last six games, but not with fireworks.
They’re playing it conservative right now, with the offense averaging only 283 yards in those six games, with 12 TDs. Similarly, Minnesota’s defense looks dramatically different if we set aside the high-scoring losses in September against the Eagles and Chargers. Since then, they’ve been more of a top-5 defense, allowing an average of only 298 net yards, with 11 touchdowns in seven games. That makes this look like a lower-scoring game. The money line has Denver as a 2-point favorite, with an over-under of 43.5 points, but we’re chalking it up to come in lower than that. …
Russell Wilson is playing smarter, chipping in a few key plays, but the overall numbers aren’t great. He went over 300 yards in the losses in Weeks 2-3, but that version of the offense is gone. He's averaged only 169 passing yards in his last six games, finishing under 200 yards in each of his last five. That’s the offense now: run the ball, avoid mistakes, play defense. That’s not going to change this week. Not against this defense.
The Vikings have similarly righted the ship since getting carved up by the Chargers in Week 4, allowing 454 yards and 4 TDs through the air. Brian Flores has things more dialed in now. The Vikings have allowed an average of 232 passing yards in their last seven games, with 7 TD passes. So should be another sub-200 game for Wilson. His prime selling point right now is that the Broncos have scored all but 1 of their 19 touchdowns on pass plays. If they score 2 TDs this week (and they probably will), he’ll probably be throwing both of them. And Wilson can still use his legs. He’s not the dynamic athlete he was in the past, but he’s averaging 26 rushing yards, with over 30 in four of his last five games – he’s got a good feel for when to take off.
The running game looks good, with Javonte Williams leading the way. It seemed to be an afterthought early in the season – a modest committee of backs – but they’re sticking to the run now, and they’re running it effectively. They’ve averaged 135 rushing yards in their last five games. Williams is their lead guy; he’s averaged 19 carries for 75 yards in his last four games. And they’ll use him in the passing game; he’s caught at least 3 passes three games in a row, with 2 TDs. Don’t count on many touchdowns; the Broncos have run for only one touchdown all year. And the matchup isn’t great. Since getting steamrolled by Philadelphia in Week 2, the Vikings have allowed an average of only 82 rushing yards in their last eight games. But on usage, Williams is a fantasy starter kind of guy.
The other backs are more contributors than guys you would ever want to actually use. No doubt they’ll work in Jaleel McLaughlin for a half dozen touches. He's averaged at least 7.6 yards per carry in four of his last six games. He’s also caught at least 2 passes in all but one of those games. But he’s not playing enough to actually be usable. Similarly, Samaje Perine, he’s effective when they use him. He’s caught at least 2 passes in every game, averaging 10.6 yards on those plays. But he’s carried the ball only 4 times in the last four games – they don’t like him as much as Williams and McLaughlin.
With the Broncos employing a conservative approach, the wide receivers aren’t putting up headliner numbers. Since they dialed things back following Week 3, both Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are averaging just under 4 catches per week. In those six games, 44 yards per game for Jeudy and 41 per game for Sutton. Nominal stuff. But Sutton is the dominant figure in the red zone. He’s caught touchdowns in seven of their nine games (including wildly impressive grabs at KC and Buffalo). Jeudy, on the other hand, has just one touchdown all year. We don’t envision either guy lighting up the stat sheet this week, but Sutton – with the hot hand around the end zone – is probably worth using. As the pro gamblers say, you always try to ride a streak.
Let’s bookmark Marvin Mims. He’s caught only 2 passes for 4 yards in his last six games, so we won’t recommend using him. But Sean Payton keeps saying they’re going to use Mims more, and they had him on the field for over two thirds of their plays on Monday night. Mims demonstrated some ability to get downfield earlier in the season, with 5 receptions of 35-plus yards. He’s also scored on a kickoff return and had 4 punt returns of 25-plus yards. The hunch here is that he’ll hit some big plays in December.
The Broncos don’t have a tight end of any relevance. Adam Trautman is logging the most playing time, but he’s caught only 8 passes in his last eight games. Greg Dulcich is eligible to return next week off IR, but we’ll see. They added Lucas Krull to their roster last week; he caught 38 passes and 6 TDs at Pitt last year.
Wil Lutz looks like a middle-of-the-pack kicker. He’s scored 12 and 13 points in two recent games, but only 20 in his last four other games. Minnesota’s defense has allowed multiple field goal attempts in six of its last seven games.
The Broncos Defense looks like a lesser choice. It’s been playing better recently, but it doesn’t have a strong pass rush, with only 17 sacks all year. It’s facing Joshua Dobbs, which might seem like a selling point, but he’s taken only 21 sacks, with 5 interceptions, in his 10 games. He’s been a little loose with ball security at least, with 11 fumbles (losing 6). And give Denver a plus for special teams, with Marvin Mims having already produced 5 impact plays in the return game.
This report is just a small snippet of the Week 11 edition of Fantasy Index Weekly, part of the In-Season Analyst package. The newsletter includes our player rankings and 20-plus pages of matchup previews, plus stat projections and custom rankings for the games being played this weekend.