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.
The recipe for fantasy players is becoming more and more clear: start your quarterbacks and your tight ends against Detroit, but good luck guessing which backs and receivers will go off. However, fear not, D&D will try to guide you in the right direction. Last week saw both Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder sneak into the top 20, but the real value was found in Kirk Cousins and Vernon Davis, who lived up to the hype. Hopefully you had them in your lineups.
Like many fantasy owners, the Houston Texans made a bold decision during the offseason and have yet to see it pay off. Going all-in on Brock Osweiler looked risky at the time and looks just foolish now. Osweiler has thrown for 219 yards per game with equal numbers of touchdowns and fumbles, and he is averaging only 13.8 PPG. The Texans rank 31st in quarterback fantasy points this season…
But of course, the Lions rank 32nd in quarterback points against. The Lions gave up 35.5 points to Case Keenum, who has an even lower average than Osweiler when playing non-Detroit defenses, so anything is possible. Most fantasy owners will not be this bold, but I like Osweiler as a top-16 play. He will make some mistakes, but he should also be good for a couple of scores.
Lamar Miller has struggled to live up to his expectations before the season, and he barely sits in the top 20 of fantasy running backs. With 19.4 rushing attempts and 3.6 targets per game, the usage is certainly there, but he has gone without a touchdown in six of seven games this year. He does average nearly 100 totals yards though, and he is a top-10 play despite going up against the 12th-ranked Lions defense.
The Texans’ RB2s rank just 29th in the league, as Miller receives almost all of the work. Alfred Blue did rush 11 times for 63 yards against Denver when Miller was bothered by an injury, so he is worth monitoring in case Miller winds up being too hurt to play. However, Blue only averaged 3.2 attempts during the first six games, so he is off of the fantasy radar this week if he does not get the start.
For the first time in a few weeks, the Lions are facing a truly dangerous receiver. DeAndre Hopkins has struggled to make a big impact this year because of Osweiler, and he currently sits outside the top 30. However, this is probably the week where he explodes. He may only be averaging 10.7 PPG, but he is seeing almost 10 targets each game. Hopkins is an easy top-10 pick at wide receiver this Sunday.
I also think that Will Fuller will be near the top 20 against Detroit, despite some recent injury troubles. He is actually averaging more fantasy points than Hopkins is and has a return touchdown on the year to go with 58.2 yards per game on 4.0 targets. Again, Osweiler is a big question mark, but Fuller has the talent and opportunity to put up some numbers.
The Lions rank 24th against wide receivers as a whole, while the Texans rank just 28th, so there is not a sharp lean toward one unit over the other. The third option for Houston is Jaelen Strong, but he has yet to make a huge impact this season. It could be Strong that gets the nod over Fuller for one reason or another, but with just 3.4 PPG this season he would be a risky play.
Rinse and repeat. The Lions rank 30th against tight ends in fantasy and the Texans rank ninth at the position. This week’s lucky winner is C.J. Fiedorowicz, who will give the Lions defense as many fits as his name did to his school teachers. Fiedorowicz is only scoring 6.6 PPG this year but do not let that fool you; this figure is up to 11.1 PPG over the past four weeks.
During this span, Fiedorowicz is averaging 6.8 targets and has found the end zone twice. The Lions’ issues against tight ends do not need to be repeated, but just know that this is an extremely juicy matchup. Fiedorowicz is a top-10 tight end play this week with a good ceiling. Pick him up and start him.