Minnesota and New York meet at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 13 in a game with plenty of intrigue.
One team has an offense built for a Super Bowl run. The other a defense that’s championship-ready.
Here’s our shortlist of fantasy options for Sunday’s Vikings-Jets showdown:
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson | Confidence Clip: 100%
The lowdown: Again, Jefferson will be tasked with following up an outrageously productive line of 9-139-1. On Thanksgiving against New England, the third-year superstar feasted, and even completed his second pass on the season for 11 yards – for those keeping score, Jefferson is 4-for-6 with 69 yards and a 105.6 passer rating in his career. He probably learned a thing or two from his older brother Jordan who played quarterback at LSU from 2008-11. OK, let’s get back on topic. The Jets are outstanding defending wide receivers, limiting the position to 16.73 fantasy points per game (fourth fewest in the league), but they’ve kind of lucked out schedule-wise, having played Miami when it was missing QB Tua Tagovailoa. There’s certainly precedent for Jefferson to entertain with a big game against New York – Cincinnati’s WR trifecta of Tyler Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins combined for 227 yards and two TDs on 15 catches in Week 3; Cleveland’s Amari Cooper had nine receptions on 10 targets for 101 yards and a score Week 2 and Bills standout Stefon Diggs finished seven receiving yards shy of 100 on Nov. 6. Jefferson, for the umpteenth time this season, is our lock of the week to rock. We just made that up, and we totally love it.
Jets WR Garrett Wilson | Confidence Clip: 100%
The lowdown: Wilson has looked every bit like the 10th overall draft pick. He ranks second among rookies with 628 receiving yards and 49 receptions – behind college teammate Chris Olave of the Saints in both categories (822, 56) – and has recorded 90+ yards in four of 11 games (six starts). He’s already New York’s de facto No. 1 receiver, and could be a fantasy-league winner due to his obvious rapport with Jets quarterbacks not named Zach Wilson. What do we mean? Wilson, Garrett has four touchdown catches, with a pair in games against Cleveland (Week 2) and Chicago (Week 12). In the former, veteran Joe Flacco, the MVP of Super Bowl 47, got the start for New York and tossed four touchdowns to complement 307 yards passing. Mike White – who we’ll expand on in the Talker section – had a similar game this past Sunday vs. the Bears. The truth is silly, but simple: Wilson is the Jets’ X factor under the right circumstances – i.e. if he’s catching balls from someone capable and not afraid to stretch the field.
Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson | Confidence Clip: 60%
The lowdown: Try not to get confused. Hockenson doesn’t belong on your bench. He’s played 86% of the offensive snaps, been targeted 34 times in four games with the Vikings – just nine fewer targets than he received in seven contests this season for Detroit – and scored his fourth touchdown of 2022 and first in Minnesota on Thanksgiving. That said, he might not be the best available option in Week 13. The Jets have given up just 5.55 fantasy points per game and zero receiving touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Are we mildly infatuated by Hockenson and his usage since swapping teams in the NFC North? Heck yes. But are we too stubborn to at least eye the wire for a Sunday streamer? No, we’re not. Here are a couple dudes to consider: Raiders TE Foster Moreau, who has two TDs in his last three games, and … drum roll please … former Vikings and current Jets TE Tyler Conklin, who we address below in our Talker segment.
Vikings WR Adam Thielen | Confidence Clip: 30%
The lowdown: Say whaaat?! We’re listing Thielen as a Mocker this week – even after setting season highs in catches (9) and targets (10) against New England last Thursday – because, as previously stated, the Jets are tough on wide receivers. We suppose Thielen could find liberal work in the passing game if New York uses impressive rookie CB Sauce Gardner to shadow Jefferson – Gardner has been lights out in coverage, allowing 23 catches on 53 targets (43.4%) and a single touchdown but doesn’t generally follow a specific player; he regularly lines up as the Jets’ left cornerback – but that’s a gamble. If you discard Thielen’s big game on Turkey Day, he’s not been much of a fantasy threat, topping 70 yards just once. Similar to Hock’s case, there’s a WR possibly worth picking up and starting from The Gang Green Nation.
Jets RB Zonovan Knight | Confidence Clip: 60%
The lowdown: OK, you’re probably scratching your head. Or, you’re nodding it in approval. You either know of Knight after he made franchise history in his NFL debut last Sunday, totaling 103 scrimmage yards – the most by any Jets player in their first game – or you’re late to the party and missed grabbing him off waivers. We’re rooting for Knight, who was undrafted out of North Carolina State and only active Week 12 because New York made James Robinson a healthy scratch wanting to try something new in its running game. Of course, Knight wasn’t RB1 in Robinson’s stead. The former stepped up after Michael Carter exited against the Bears with an ankle injury. The lead back since star rookie Breece Hall tore his ACL, Carter was called day-to-day by coach Robert Saleh on Monday and apparently has a chance to play this weekend. Carter, however, sat out practice Wednesday … and ankle injuries can be tricky. That’s why Knight is the one New York running back we’re listing, with one caveat: Ty Johnson, a sixth-round pick by Detroit in the 2019 NFL draft, also broke out for the Jets after Carter went down, rushing five times for 62 yards and a touchdown and catching one pass for another 16 yards. Johnson has more familiarity in the Jets system – he’s toted the rock 129 times for 584 yards (4.5 avg.) over parts of three seasons – but we think Knight is the leader in the clubhouse for more carries considering he played almost half the snaps in New York’s 31-10 win vs. Chicago. FYI, Knight has a great RB nickname: “Bam”.
Jets WR Elijah Moore | Confidence Clip: 50%
The lowdown: Moore is the player we were hinting at in Thielen’s blurb. A second rounder in the 2021 NFL draft by way of Ole Miss, Moore has had a tumultuous second NFL season. He had multiple catches and 40+ yards in the first four games this year and then caught one pass for 11 across the next five weeks. What in the world? That’s probably what Moore was thinking too when he requested to be traded. Which, obviously, didn't come to fruition. Any decision to claim or perhaps start Moore on Sunday against Minnesota will involve trepidation – mainly because his snapshare has fallen off a cliff. In Weeks 1-4, Moore didn’t play any less than 87% of New York’s offensive snaps. He’s hovered around 50% in the weeks since, with a season-low 10 snaps, good for a 17% share, Oct. 30 against New England. So, why are we spending valuable time discussing Moore? Well, White seems friendlier than Zach Wilson. That could be worded better, ha ha. White, in his first start this season, connected with Moore for a 22-yard touchdown, the receiver’s first since Dec. 5 last year. Moore also had a 42-yard catch Week 12. Here’s maybe the most interesting stat in this week’s article: Of Moore’s six career receiving TDs, just one has been thrown by Zach Wilson, aka the franchise QB. Two via White, two via Flacco and one from Josh Johnson. Even if you don’t wind up rolling with Moore this week, he might be worth stashing due to his potential. During a six-game stretch last season, from Oct. 31-Dec. 5, Moore posted a receiving line of 34-459-5.
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook | Confidence Clip: 70%
The lowdown: “The Chef” didn’t feast on Thanksgiving – but all the ingredients were at his disposal. Cook rushed 22 times, a season high, against a strong Patriots front … for just 42 yards. The 1.91 average was third worst in a single game in his career – and signaled his first time in 67 appearances posting a yard-per-carry average below 3.0 when garnering 20+ carries. Cook also saw 5+ targets, for the sixth instance this season, vs. New England but managed just 14 yards on four catches (3.5 avg.). The sledding doesn’t get any easier for Cook in Week 13. The Jets are fierce defending the run, limiting teams to 4.1 yards per rush and rank just outside the top 10 in fewest yards allowed per game on the ground (111.3). We’re not exactly sure what to make of Sunday’s matchup. We think Cook again could see plenty of work if Minnesota tries to possess the football and keep it out of White’s hot hand – a strategy that would give the Vikings defense the chance to put a premium on points – but we’re not sold that’ll be the approach. For all the reasons above, Cook is shaping up to have another Boom-or-Bust performance on his ledger.
Jets TE Tyler Conklin | Confidence Clip: 70%
The lowdown: Hello, old friend. Drafted in the fifth round by Minnesota in 2018 out of Central Michigan, Conklin spent four seasons wearing purple, recording 93 receptions for 922 yards and four touchdowns. He parlayed a breakout campaign in 2021, admirably taking the job of an injured Irv Smith Jr., into a three-year, $20.25 million deal with New York to operate as TE1. Across 11 games in 2022, Conklin has secured 38 of 56 targets for 381 yards and three touchdowns, the latter matching his career high (2021). Is Conklin trending in the right direction? Eh. Not really. He was more involved at the start of the season, seeing 29 targets over the first four games – he’s been targeted seven times in the past three – but we love ourselves a revenge game, even if there’s no bad blood between Conklin and the Vikings. What’s the best-case scenario? Conklin replicates his line from Week 3 or Week 8. Against the Bengals, Conklin grabbed all eight of his targets for 84 yards, his best game as a Jet until compiling 79 yards and two TDs on six catches vs. the Pats. The one constant to Conklin’s game: His snapshare hasn’t dipped below 67%.
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins | Confidence Clip: 80%
The lowdown: December usually is a tough month for Cousins. In 35 December games, he’s gone 16-19 with a 63.6% completion rate, a 56:27 touchdown-interception ratio and averages 233.3 passing yards. That stinks compared to 31 November starts where Cousins has won 19 games and averaged 272.0 yards at a 67.8% clip and a TD-INT ratio of 64:15. Anyhow, bad stats in the past don’t mean squat for Sunday, we just wanted to give a glimpse of what we thought was a stark difference in results for the veteran QB. What you need to know is Cousins shredded a sticky New England secondary on Thanksgiving, tossing three touchdowns for the first time since last year’s finale vs. the Bears. As you’re well aware by now, the Jets can cause problems for QBs. Best example? In New York’s 20-17 win over Buffalo back in Week 9, the Jets held MVP candidate Josh Allen to 205 yards on 18-of-34 passing, which amounted to a 46.8 rating. They also intercepted Allen twice – and have picked off 12 passes as a unit, T-4th most in the NFL. We’re a bit biased – and high off No. 8’s Turkey Day pageant – but very unafraid to keep Cousins in our lineup.
Jets QB Mike White | Confidence Clip: 80%
The lowdown: Off the bat, Minnesota’s pass defense is suspect. Actually, it’s horrible. No team has given up more yards through the air per game than the Vikings (276.1). Only two teams – Chicago and Cleveland – have permitted a better average passer rating to opponents in its past three games than Ed Donatell’s group in Minnesota (109.2). Now, about White. … The 27-year-old former fifth-round draft pick – selected by Dallas out of Western Kentucky in 2018 – plays with fire, i.e. he’s a gunslinger. Last Sunday, it worked for White, as he passed for 300+ yards and three TDs against the bad news Bears. It also worked for White on occasion last season, starting three games and appearing in another off the bench. His 2021 was highlighted by going 37-for-45 with 405 yards and three scores in an improbable win over the eventual AFC champion Bengals. Of course, when you play with fire you risk getting burned. That’s what happened to White on Nov. 14, 2021 in a divisional bout with the Bills. In that game, White finished 24 of 44 with 251 yards, no touchdowns and … wait for it … four INTs. Ouch! The bottom line: Sunday either will be a monster day for White or Minnesota’s secondary. There’s zero middle ground.