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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy implications for Detroit-Washington

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Until they prove otherwise, there is no reason to fear the Lions defense.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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.

I had faith in the Lions passing defense. I really did. Instead, Case Keenum looked like a Pro Bowler and Kenny Britt was somehow the No. 2 overall wide receiver in Week 6. Of course, with the passing game going so well, Todd Gurley landed outside the Top-15, while Lance Kendricks snuck into the Top 10. If the Los Angeles Rams can pass all over the Lions, then there is no reason to think the Lions could stop anyone. D&D will now endorse all passing offenses facing Detroit. You like that??

Quarterback

Kirk Cousins has struggled to match his Top-10 performance from last season, as he and the Washington pass game currently sit at 17th in fantasy production. After posting 29 touchdowns to 11 interceptions a year ago, Cousins has thrown for just nine scores with six picks this season. He has bounced back from a poor outing to start the year by putting up over 20 points in four of the last five weeks, but he has yet to have any superb outings.

However, this might be the week for the Holland, MI native. The Lions still rank at the very bottom in fantasy quarterback defense, allowing 2.8 passing touchdowns a week to go with 29.4 points. It has been abundantly clear that the Lions cannot stop anyone through the air, so Cousins is a great Top-10 option in Week 7.

Running back

Sophomore Matt Jones became the lead back this offseason as Alfred Morris made his way to Dallas. He has done decently well, averaging 72.2 yards per outing and 11.8 PPG. He only has three rushing touchdowns this season, but he has added one in the air. Jones has alternated between good and bad weeks and is coming off of a strong performance against the Eagles.

Like many teams, Washington has a primary pass-catching back in Chris Thompson. Though he only averages 3.2 targets a game and 24.0 receiving yards, he is also adding about 20 yards on the ground each week to give him 7.7 PPG. Overall, Washington ranks right in the middle of the pack in running back performance, totaling around 20.9 PPG at the position.

The Lions are now a Top-10 fantasy defense when facing running backs, but a lot of this has to be attributed to usage. With teams finding so much success through the air, the ground game has not been the primary focus. Detroit ranks near the bottom in allowing 4.7 yards per carry and have given up 6.0 receptions a game to running backs. Jones probably reaches the Top 20 this week, while Thompson is only a play in deeper leagues.

Wide receiver

Washington is another team who distributes the ball fairly evenly between its three main receivers. Pierre Garcon leads the way with 7.2 targets per game, but DeSean Jackson (6.8) and Jamison Crowder (5.8) are not too far behind. All three players fall between 3.5 and 5.0 receptions per game and all three average between 45 and 60 receiving yards per contest.

Garcon and Jackson essentially average the same amount of points per game, coming out to around 8.4. While Jackson has more of a deep-play threat, he has failed to put up any big numbers the last three weeks despite keeping up the targets. Not coincidentally, Garcon has enjoyed his best two weeks most recently, although he only has a moderate ceiling. Either (or both) could fall in the Top 30 against this defense, which ranks just 28th against the receivers, but given the questions about Jackson’s health, Garcon looks like the better choice.

The most interesting of the trio is Crowder, who averages a point more per game than his comrades and has snagged an extra touchdown. Crowder has seen much fewer targets the last three weeks, but does have a punt return score. He is the riskiest play of the three and probably needs a touchdown to be a competitive option, but the Lions do rank 30th against WR3s.

Tight end

With 6.0 receptions per game, no team feeds their tight ends more than Washington. Against a Lions defense that ranks in the bottom five defending fantasy tight ends, this matchup has huge potential. The problem is that Jordan Reed, one of the best at his position in the league, is not going to play this week. Reed would be an absolute nightmare for Detroit he has dominated when healthy, averaging 6.6 catches on 9.2 targets for 63.2 yards and 12.0 PPG.

With Reed out again, the next man up is Vernon Davis, who filled this role last week. Davis only saw four targets against the Eagles, but he did turn them into 50 yards and 12 fantasy points. Washington has been the fourth-best team in fantasy when it comes to tight ends, and even though most of this damage came via Reed, Davis is still a Top-12 play against the Lions.