There is nothing stopping football anymore, folks. The season got going last Thursday with the Detroit Lions pulling off a one-point upset of the reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs, so expect the unexpected going forward.
Kicking Week 2 off will be a matchup between the Minnesota Vikings (0-1) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) on the second Thursday Night Football of the year. Although the records speak of contrasting results, the Vikings lost their season opener by three points while the Eagles surrendered a 16-point lead and barely hung on to win by five points Sunday.
Although this matchup isn’t projected to be the highest-scoring affair of the week, the 48.5 over/under ranks second in Week 2, with the Eagles playing at home and entering the contest as the favorites by seven points.
How do the Vikings and Eagles arrive at their TNF matchup?
As mentioned in the introduction, the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles earned opposite results in their first games of the season. The former fell to a surprising Bucs squad led by Baker Mayfield while the latter struggled to fend off the Patriots’ comeback effort but did enough to get the W.
It’s funny because the Vikings were so close to coming back from behind but ultimately failed to capitalize, while the Eagles hit the floor running wildly but spent the last few minutes looking at the clock waiting anxiously for the final whistle.
Even funnier: the Vikings had three players (QB Kirk Cousins, WR Justin Jefferson and TE T.J. Hockenson) inside the top 10 fantasy players at their respective positions while Philadelphia didn't have a single performer finish even inside the top 15.
Again, Minnesota lost its game, 17-20 and Philadelphia won its matchup, 25-20. Fantasy football in a nutshell.
TNF Week 2 - Injury Report
One of the main storylines involving Week 1 and the first TNF game of the season was the availability (or not) of Chiefs and fantasy TE1 Travis Kelce, who was ultimately ruled out.
That’s not the case entering Thursday when it comes to the main performers present on both sides of the field tonight — at least not those with fantasy football implications. The Vikings and the Eagles are carrying some banged-up bodies and have ruled out some guys already, but only one of them is who you’d consider an impact player in the fantasy realm.
All of Minnesota’s skill-position players escaped Week 1 unscathed and should be ready to go. That said, Minnesota will be without starting center Garrett Bradbury and could also be missing LT Christian Darrisaw, which sounds ominous for their veteran quarterback’s upside.
Philadelphia’s lone injury concern (in fantasy terms) earlier this week turned into a very harsh reality Wednesday following the release of the final injury report: RB Kenneth Gainwell suffered a rib injury following Sunday’s season opener, was listed as a “non-participant” Tuesday and was ultimately ruled out for TNF on Wednesday.
The Eagles are erring on the safe side by putting Gainwell on the shelves for a week so he doesn’t suffer any setback after he led Philly’s backfield in Week 1. The Eagles have a rather deep backfield too, though, so even with Gainwell out the team would probably not miss him that much as it’s not that he’s so much better than the other players available. However, this calls for the start of D’Andre Swift in nearly every league and DFS contests this week (more on that later).
In other news, the Eagles will miss defensive backs Reed Blankenship and James Bradberry, perhaps making it easier for Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison (more on him later) to rack up numbers on TNF… if they have enough quarterback help.
One stat that can swing the balance
The Eagles have limited the Vikings to just seven points in each of their last two meetings while scoring 24+ themselves.
That statistic might not be too relevant if you look at when those two meetings happened, but it should still hold some weight with the latest matchup between these two happening almost exactly one year to this day.
The Vikings and Eagles faced each other in the 2017 NFC championship game and the Eagles demolished Minny 38-7 on their way to winning Super Bowl LII over New England. Last year, they faced each other in mid-September with Philadelphia winning that game by an equally solid 24-7 score.
It’s fun to point out that Philadelphia allowed the second-most fantasy points among Week 1 QBs to Patriots starter Mac Jones. They let him attempt 54 passes for 35 completions and reach 316 yards and three touchdowns (against just one interception). The Eagles also allowed the most fantasy points (19.2) to New England’s tight ends, so keep an eye on T.J. Hockenson having a big game this week.
The Vikings were good against the run in Week 1, limiting the Bucs to the fifth-lowest fantasy tally. They struggled to contain Tampa Bay's passing offense, however, on their way to surrendering the eighth-most fantasy points to the Bucs' WRs
As nonsensical as it sounds, the Eagles should bounce back from their Week 1 outing while the Vikings might have already shown what they’re capable of in terms of their ceiling, so they could regress facing a stronger opponent in Philadelphia.
Just for context, Cousins and Jefferson put up 21.5 and 19.5 fantasy points respectively in Week 1, reaching 344 yards passing and 150 yards receiving, respectively. On the other hand, Hurts and Smith finished the week with 14.5 and 14.2 fantasy points respectively with 170 passing yards (one TD) and 47 receiving yards (seven receptions, one TD).
Two players to start, two to leave on your bench
Start: RB D’Andre Swift (PHI)
Nothing to fear anymore about starting Swift this week after Kenneth Gainwell was ruled out for TNF by the Eagles. After the post-game comments from Eagles coach Nick Sirianni — he said “I never want to come out of a game where Swift has two touches” — and knowing that Week 1 Eagles-RB1 Gainwell will be out, it makes sense to ride Swift’s wave when it’s at its highest.
This could be a week-winning, last-minute move you shouldn’t pass up if you have Swift.
The Eagles traded for Swift earlier this year and following a terrible Week 1 performance, Gainwell rushed the ball 14 times to Swift’s single carry and the former Lions running back was simply an afterthought. I expect a bounce-back from Swift as the other options in Philadelphia’s backfield are far from equally talented. The Eagles should lead and run down the clock, which can also boost Swift's numbers even further.
Start: WR Jordan Addison (MIN)
If you have WR Justin Jefferson, you’re going to start him. If you have TE T.J. Hockenson, you’re going to start him. If you have doubts about whether to start Addison or WR K.J. Osborn or simply have Addison rostered but have doubts, this could be a good day to go with the rookie considering the Eagles are missing two starters in their secondary.
The Eagles will key on Jefferson (who wouldn’t?) and Addison was the only touchdown scorer for the Vikings in Week 1 while hauling in four receptions on six targets for 61 yards. Only Jefferson topped those targets, receptions and yardage numbers among Minnesota’s pass catchers.
Addison is a first-round pick and that is always factored in by coaches when it comes to playing time and opportunities. Addison was also the only Viking with two red-zone looks in Week 1.
Bench: RB Alexander Mattison (MIN)
The expectation here is for the Eagles to lead this game easily from start to finish (they did it against New England in Week 1 already, going up 16-0 in the first quarter before crumbling later). Mattison isn’t a bad pass catcher but he’s the new No. 1 rusher of the team and he’ll always get more carries than targets. He rushed the rock 11 times last Sunday, but the game script likely won’t benefit with Minnesota most probably trailing and forced to go with pass plays.
Considering how Philadelphia limited the trio of Patriots rushers to no more than 29 rushing yards last Sunday, that they prevented the Vikings from scoring more than seven points in each of their past two matchups and that Cousins will be throwing the ball more often than not, Mattison doesn’t look like a great option for TNF.
Bench: QB Kirk Cousins (MIN)
Cousins is one of my favorite under-the-radar quarterbacks to draft every summer, and that’s been the case again entering 2023. He might not be the best passer out there, but he’s steady, solid and produces enough if you don’t want to spend a very high draft pick on one of the star players at the position.
The veteran proved it last week when he completed 33 passes for 344 yards and two TDs against one interception. He fumbled a couple of balls, though, and his rushing prowess is almost nonexistent. Facing Philadelphia in Week 2 a year ago, also on the road, Cousins had his third-worst game of the season (10.8 FP) going 27-of-46 for 221 yards and one TD against three interceptions (with a fumble).
Not liking Cousins as a starter/stream option this week, let alone with the starting center of the Vikings out and their left tackle also banged up with an ankle issue.
One player to scout as a prospective waiver wire pickup
TE Josh Oliver (MIN)
This is entirely dependent on T.J. Hockenson’s availability and health through the remainder of the season, and you won’t want to hoard tight ends just in case in most leagues, but it’s worth mentioning Oliver here after his efficient Week 1 performance.
Oliver caught all three passes from Cousins on Sunday, racking up 32 yards. One of them went for a single yard, but the other two were for gains of 13 and 18 yards, respectively. Oliver took 30 snaps (47%) to Hockenson’s 48 (75%), but he was fantastic at blocking and pass-catching duties with PFF giving him the second-best receiving grade among players at the position for Week 1, trailing only Kyle Pitts.
If Hockenson doesn’t get injured, Oliver is not going to factor nearly at all in fantasy leagues barring an odd explosion (a few grabs, one or two fluky touchdowns) in a random week.
But if Hockenson misses time for some reason, Oliver could turn into a league-winning addition.