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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy implications for Lions-Rams

The Lions defense may be bad, but the Rams offense is even worse.

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Defenses and Dragons takes a look each week at the key skill players that will go up against the Detroit Lions by comparing their fantasy output to that allowed by the Lions defense. All scoring and rankings use six points per passing touchdown and half a point per reception.

Hopefully you paid attention to last week’s preview of the Philadelphia Eagles. Aside from a down day by Zach Ertz, D&D correctly called Carson Wentz a top-10 option—he was 11th, close enough—and projected Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles as top-20 and top-30 plays—they fell 15th and 26th, respectively. D&D also warned against starting any Philadelphia wide receiver—none within the top 35. Not too shabby.

The Los Angeles Rams are currently tied for last in the NFL at 16.4 points per game—that would be actual points, not fantasy scoring. Accordingly, this has translated to very few fantasy points from any major contributor. The Detroit Lions have faced some mediocre fantasy offenses already this season, but none have been this barren.

Quarterback

While first overall pick Jared Goff sits patiently on the bench, Case Keenum has been making the starts for LA. With just four total touchdowns and five interceptions in five games this season, Keenum and the Rams rank dead last in quarterback fantasy points. Keenum is averaging 219 passing yards per week and has topped 20 fantasy points only once.

Of course, the Lions defense has been on the complete opposite end of the spectrum against quarterbacks. Detroit ranks dead last themselves in defending the position and have given up over 28 PPG. As vulnerable as they have been, it is still not bad enough to start Keenum and his 11.8 PPG. Not sure why anyone would even be rostering him anyway.

Running back

The Rams have exactly one dynamic player on offense, but even he has been uninspiring so far this season. No one is doubting Todd Gurley’s talent, but with offensive line woes and no passing game, defenses have done a great job limiting his production. Gurley still is averaging over 20 rushes a game and has three touchdowns this season. He has topped out at 85 rushing yards and is averaging only 11.9 PPG.

The Lions have been a great fantasy defense to play against this year, but they do excel in this one area. Through five weeks this season they still have not allowed a rushing touchdown, and they rank 13th overall against the position. While every other positional matchup is weakness-on-weakness, this battle should be a fun one to watch. A key factor could be Gurley’s usage in the passing game; he has received five targets in each of the pass two weeks, totaling 85 receiving yards. Combining this with his raw skill, Gurley still seems like a top-10 play this week despite a slow start to the season.

Wide receiver

Again, the Lions are bad against wide receivers—26th overall—but the Rams have not done well at the position either. Interestingly, their three main options have PPG figures all within .2 of each other, which makes for good secondary options but not a great top threat. It should be noted that the Lions do fair better against WR1’s than they do WR2’s and likewise WR3’s relative to the league, but often it is difficult to project which receiver will fall into which role.

Tavon Austin is the most dangerous of the trio, and he leads the way with nine targets per game. Though this has translated to just one touchdown and under 45 receiving yards per week, he also has a role in the running game, carrying the ball nine times this season. Austin is an electric player who always has the potential to do something exciting, but he sits outside of the top 30 this week.

The other two receivers are Kenny Britt and Brian Quick who have averaged 6.4 and 3.6 targets a game, respectfully. Quick has three touchdowns to Britt’s zero, but Britt’s 71 yards per game leads the team by a decent margin. One of these two could be an interesting play this week, but with the unreliability of Keenum, fantasy owners should look a different way.

Tight end

Even though the Lions played well against Ertz last week, they still rank in the bottom-five in defending tight ends. Continuing the trend of this matchup, the Rams are also a bottom-five team when utilizing their tight end and again the advantage should go towards the defense. Lance Kendricks is the main guy at the position, and he has averages 4.6 targets per game and a little over 30 yards. He has yet to find the end zone this season.

Kendricks has been hard to predict this year, and his best two games have come against Seattle and Arizona, two of the top five teams in limiting fantasy points to tight ends. It is possible that Keenum will want to use him as a check-down and give him a decent volume of targets, but there is no way to be confident in that. Pass on Kendricks and the rest of his teammates, aside from Gurley.