Temptation is a hell of a drug. It makes otherwise sane men eat a Dorito taco shell, because why the hell not. It makes children lick icicles, and it made us watch a reality TV show that started the gradual decay of society. But hey, girls and boobs, right?

So I understand the Josh Freeman temptation you’re feeling this morning. You’re itching, jittery, and scared. This especially applies if you’re in a league that allows quarterbacks to be played at the flex spot, or if you’re the very concerned owner of a QB in the muddled second tier who has a less than ideal matchup this week (HI, Matthew Stafford). You’re heavily considering starting Freeman tonight, partly because of the preceding sentence, but also because you hate yourself after he sat on your bench last week.

That’s when Freeman posted 420 passing yards on the Saints with three touchdowns while adding 13 rushing yards just because. It was the highest single-game passing yardage total of his career, and it wasn’t even close, as Freeman’s previous high was 342. He led Week 7 in passing yards and finished third in passer rating (115.2), and this outstanding outing came during a season in which he was beginning to trend upwards anyway, partly because up was the only direction possible for a QB who spent a season spiraling last year.

A week ago you watched as that explosion against the Saints and their atrocious secondary detonated on your bench. Freeman’s Week 7 totals added up to 29 fantasy points using ESPN standard scoring, which was tied with Drew Brees to lead all quarterbacks. That means Freeman was more productive that other dudes named Aaron Rodgers (25) and Robert Griffin III (22), and he made some other guy named Tom Brady look like a chump (18).

Yet whereas those other QBs are elite, regular fantasy starters, Freeman was only started in 14.6% of ESPN leagues last week. That’s why some serious frothing self-hatred rage may have built up this week amongst his owners, with the standard second-guessing that’s inherent in fantasy circles building to a head-spinning circle of self distrust. Man, this game is so much fun.

But ask yourself this question, and even do it aloud while sitting in your cubicle, because surely you’ve asked stranger questions to yourself, by yourself: how much of Freeman’s upward trending is really Freeman, and how much is it a product of his weak, basement resident recent opposing defenses? As Pro Football Focus Fantasy quite correctly observes, that streak of weaklings will end abruptly tonight:

While you likely didn’t start Freeman last week, don’t compound that mistake by starting him this week. The Vikings defense is a stingy one that has only surrendered eight passing touchdowns in seven games and is giving up 9.1 yards per completion. Freeman’s dominant performance included 17.5 yards per completion last week, a stat that has no chance of being duplicated this week.

He also connected on two plays of at least 40 yards last week, but the Vikings have excelled at stopping the big play — only one play of 40+ through the air.

Let’s explore those yards per pass attempt a little further, because it’s a metric that illustrates the wretched stench of Freeman’s recent opponents. Over the past three weeks he’s had the pleasure of chucking against the Saints, Chiefs, and Redskins, pretty much passing for 300 yards in all three games (if you’d like to bicker over his 299 yards against Washington, well, I hate you). More specifically, in those three games he averaged 349 yards, and two of his three opponents (Saints and ‘Skins) currently rank 30th and 32nd respectively against the pass. He also averaged a pretty video game-like 10 yards per pass attempt during those games after moving along at a clip of 5.8 per pass and just 163.6 per game over his first three games.

There’s some old hackneyed cliché about players and teams only being able to beat the opponents which are on the schedule. This seems to be true, unless Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hacked the league’s scheduling and created the most desirable scenario. But the overlying message we get when looking at his splits and averages over Tampa’s first six games is that like any QB2 he’s still only in spot starter territory, and he’s pounced on ideal matchups, while showing only flashes of productivity against other more difficult defenses.

Tonight will very much be the latter and a step in a backwards direction with the lack of aerial scoring surrendered by the Vikings, their pocket pressure (22 sacks), and their protection against the long ball and likely shut down of Vincent Jackson. At nearly the halfway point of the 2012 season, the longest reception the Vikings have surrender was only 41 yards.

This night won’t end well for Freeman, or you if he’s on your starting roster.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • Those who own either Mario Williams in IDP leagues or the Bills defense — all nine of you — are rather interested in the state of the handsomely-paid defensive end’s wrist. Don’t bother asking Chan Gailey. He knows nothing. [John Kryk]
  • Pierre Garcon will see a foot specialist today. He should still be rostered in most leagues, but only as a depth option now (WR5), as we’re slowly reaching the point where he’s essentially an injury flier, and you’re banking on him finally getting healthy near the end of the season just in time for the fantasy playoffs. [USA Today]
  • So you’re telling me that Cortland Finnegan isn’t the NFL’s most hated player? [Forbes]
  • Early in his career Eli Manning tried to keep veteran receivers happy, and that created bad habits. [Newark Star-Ledger]
  • DeAngelo Hall doesn’t think Victor Cruz is all that great. Also, brother Eli isn’t a rocket scientist. [Newsday]