Kirk Cousins has been nothing short of royalty this season. He is the focal point of the Week 4 Minnesota Vikings fantasy football preview, while the passing game is the driving force behind what I’m interested in regarding the Carolina Panthers’ fantasy outlook.
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Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
- Spread: Vikings -3.5
- Total: 45
- Vikings implied points: 24.3
- Panthers implied points: 20.8
Kirk Cousins: Fantasy’s top-ranked quarterback through three weeks is on an absolute tear, and it doesn’t look that crazy; he’s simply maximizing the tools at his disposal. In the Week 3 loss, half of his targets went to Justin Jefferson or T.J. Hockenson — that’s just smart football.
With Jordan Addison or K.J. Osborn turning in a splash play every week, the weapons on this roster, combined with the defensive limitations, put Cousins in a fantasy-friendly position more often than not.
I don’t think the Carolina Panthers (425 yards allowed to the Seattle Seahawks last week) are what slows this offense down, though I do have my concerns about the Carolina offense pushing Minnesota the way the Los Angeles Chargers did last week.
No, I don’t think Cousins throws for over 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns like his September pace would suggest, but I do think he is a top-10 option until something changes.
Andy Dalton: With Bryce Young sidelined last week, the Panthers elected to open up the playbook — and guess what? It worked. Well, sort of. They held a halftime lead as a 4.5-point underdog in Seattle and flirted with 400 yards of total offense when all was said and done.
Sure, they lost by 10 points, but it certainly wasn’t the fault of the offense, and it’s not crazy to think something similar could happen again this week. Dalton had 20 more completions than the Panthers had rushing attempts, something that simply was never going to happen with how this offense was operating with Young at the helm.
We will get to what this offense could look like when Young returns when the time comes, but with Dalton penciled in, it’s clear that this coaching staff is comfortable airing it out. I find it unlikely that he will repeat his QB7 finish from Week 3, but a top-15 effort is very possible and a great find for Superflex managers or DFS risk-takers.
Alexander Mattison: He’s still seeing north of 80% of the RB work in Minnesota, and until I see that change with my own two eyes, Mattison will be ranked as an RB2 for me. He set season highs in carries (20), catches (five), targets (seven), and scrimmage yards (125) last weekend in the crazy loss to the Chargers, flashing a usage level that only a handful of backs can claim.
His productive day could have been even better if not for a dropped red zone pass that could have turned into a touchdown with one missed tackle. The addition of Cam Akers looks like a depth move more than one of true competition to me.
That’s my view from a distance, given the draft capital spent and the limited success of Akers in Week 1 with the Los Angeles Rams (22 carries for 29 yards).
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Could I be wrong? Of course. It wouldn’t be the first time and certainly wouldn’t be the last, but until I have a tangible reason to fear Akers, I refuse to do so. In a spot like this or in the Week 4 Cheat Sheet.
Cam Akers: Follow the money. It may be cliche, but in a world where we often have to react to how a team uses a player to inform us what they think of him, the cost associated with acquiring a player is as good a sign of what the team anticipates that player to offer as anything.
Akers was acquired from the Rams last week, along with a 2027 seventh-round pick for a 2026 sixth-rounder. At that cost, the Vikings are not committed to making Akers work. They identified an underpriced asset and took a shot. Akers should be on the field and get some work in his Vikings debut, but he’s nothing more than roster depth until proven otherwise.
Miles Sanders: Carolina’s feature back has seen both his touch count and his yards per carry decline each week this season, obviously ominous trends. While those numbers are moving in the wrong direction, he is still the clear-cut option in this backfield and on a 68-catch pace.
Top 10 RBs in Expected Fantasy PPG
(23.7) Austin Ekeler
(22.8) Tony Pollard
(19.8) Alex Mattison
(19.6) Kyren Williams
(19.4) Zach Moss
(18.5) Christian McCaffrey
(17.6) Miles Sanders
(17.4) Saquon Barkley
(17.2) Kenneth Walker
(16.1) Josh Jacobs
— Alex Caruso (@AlexCaruso) September 27, 2023
He’s no different than a guy like James Conner: limited per-touch upside in a bad offense but a secure role that carries a reasonable floor. I’m not telling you Sanders will win you this week or a title this season, but I’d be surprised if he let you down in such a way that neither was possible. He’s right back in that RB16-20 range for me this week.
Justin Jefferson: What do you want me to say about this guy? Even in a week where he barely catches half of his targets, he turned around and gave you 24.4 half-PPR fantasy points, highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown where he showed route-running expertise in dismantling the Chargers’ zone coverage.
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With 117 yards this week, he will bump his career per-game average to 100 yards. How crazy is that? For most receivers, 100 yards is a benchmark that deserves recognition. For Jefferson, it’s just another day at the office.
Jordan Addison: Was Week 3 a turning point? I’m not making an overly aggressive ranking move yet, but it is possible that in two months, we look back and circle Week 3 as the beginning of a serious run.
Yes, Addison scored in each of the first two weeks and didn’t in Week 3, but he finally out-earned K.J. Osborn in a significant way (eight targets to three), potentially signaling the earning of a role. We will see if the WR2 role is truly his moving forward (a role I have a top-25 spot in my WR ranks reserved for should an option emerge). I have him ranked as a low-end WR3 this week and am ready to move him up should we get reports of a role upgrade.
K.J. Osborn: His 36-yard touchdown featured a perfectly timed dive to the pylon, but it was his only reception of Week 3 (three targets). We’ve seen a secondary Viking receiver haul in a 30+-yard touchdown in all three games this season, and as long as Osborn’s name is in that mix, he deserves to be rostered.
I do think Addison wins this role, but I acknowledge that it is still a competition. Osborn is on the outside looking in at my top 45 at the position as I am reading more into the low usage from last week than the singular big play.
Adam Thielen: The veteran receiver has posted consecutive top-20 finishes and has hauled in 80% of his passes this season. The veteran is a proven touchdown maker, so if we get to blend efficiency and volume with that profile, we might be onto something. Assuming Dalton is under center, and thus the entire playbook is available, Thielen makes for a decent Flex play in PPR formats.
If you’ve made it this far, first of all, thank you. Thank you to the editors for the patience it takes to get to this point and to you, the reader, for listening to me ramble about fake football in a long form. I’ll reward you the only way I know how to: with a quirky stat!
Since 2019, one of every 6.9 Thielen catches has resulted in a TD. Let’s put some context on that. We are talking about the same rate as Randy Moss’ first five seasons and better than Calvin Johnson’s first five (7.5). Thank you again for your loyalty in reading this piece: now take that nugget to your Week 4 watch party and be the star of the event!
DJ Chark Jr.: Big receivers who see targets in bulk are a reasonable roll of the dice in a pinch, and the 6’3” Chark seeing 11 targets last week certainly has me interested.
The opportunity is more likely than not to dry up when Young returns, but if you’re chasing upside without any concern for downside (DFS GPP, an undermanned team in a survivor format, etc.), you could do worse (career: 14.5 yards per catch).
Jonathan Mingo: A concussion limited him to just 18 routes last week, and if you’re playing in an ultra-deep league, Terrace Marshall Jr. was the fill-in option. Neither is worth a look in most leagues, but if you want a cheap piece of this game for DFS, there’s your depth chart update.
T.J. Hockenson: The fact that he averages 7.8 yards per catch isn’t great for his ceiling, but are you chasing a ceiling? No. No, you’re not. You want him to be consistent and to give you an edge on 90% of your league at the tight end position.
He’s doing just that. He is currently pacing for 130 receptions, and while I don’t think he gets there, the fact that you can lock him in for 10 points per game is unbelievably valuable at the tight end position.
Hayden Hurst: From a process standpoint, Hurst deserves a mention. He doesn’t carry much upside, but considering that he ran a route on 81.3% of his snaps in Week 3, he’s on my list of punt TE plays for Week 4.
Should You Start Jordan Addison or Garrett Wilson?
It was Osborn with the score last week, but as mentioned above, it was Addison filling the WR2 role in a significant way. That has me optimistic about his outlook for both this week and moving forward.
I can’t say that about Wilson and a Jets offense that is stuck in the mud. He is always going to carry elite, one-play upside, though this team is clearly having a hard time capitalizing on it. If I can bet against the Jets’ offense, I will, and getting to do so with the league’s leading passer makes this an easy call.
Should You Start Adam Thielen or Rashid Shaheed?
Benching Thielen for Shaheed after two different Week 3 performances may sound crazy, but that’s fantasy. Last week is in the past, and for this week, Shaheed takes on a poor pass defense with an aggressive quarterback.
Meanwhile, Thielen’s offense could go back into a shell with Bryce Young back under center.
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