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 Detroit Lions are a frustrating defense to face in fantasy, not because of their stinginess, but because of their unpredictability. Each week there will be points to be had, but where they come from is a mystery. D&D will help you sort through the clutter, but is coming off a bit of a down week, as the Jaguars were not as productive as expected. Week 12 brings back a familiar foe, but will the outcomes be the same as three weeks ago?
The Vikings rank 25th with 16.0 PPG from their quarterback spot, and Sam Bradford was barely over this mark against the Lions in Minnesota. Since then, he had a good week against Washington but a rough outing against Arizona. During that time the Lions have gotten healthier and the Vikings have moved the other direction. Not a good sign for Bradford.
However, he should be encouraged that the Lions are still giving up the second-most points to opposing quarterbacks in fantasy, and while the game is on the road for him, it is being played in a dome. Still, Bradford seems hard to trust, especially if his main target is out (more on that later), and most fantasy teams should have a better option at quarterback.
Minnesota is not good at running the ball. Against the Lions three weeks ago, the Vikings managed just 12.6 fantasy points between three different backs, and the leader among them is no longer on the roster. As a team, they rank 31st in fantasy production at the positions, which makes even the Lions look good.
After facing the Jacksonville run game, Detroit moved up to eighth in fantasy running back scoring, allowing under 18 PPG to opposing teams and just 12.6 PPG to RB1s. For Minnesota, the top runner should be Jerick McKinnon who is averaging only 5.0 PPG on 10.8 carries and 2.1 targets. Starting him in fantasy would be a huge gamble given his limited success this season.
Matt Asiata is hardly a better option, although he is more likely to snag a touchdown given his work at the goal line. Asiata is averaging 7.5 PPG despite just 10.4 touches per game, thanks to his four scores this season. The Lions still have only allowed one touchdown on the ground to opposing running backs, so banking on a score from him is not the best strategy.
Things could get interesting on Thursday at the wide receiver position. During the first matchup, Stefon Diggs owned the Lions, tallying 13 catches for 80 yards and 15.7 points. He would be a great top-15 option this week... except for a sudden change in injury status. He still should be started if he plays, but he very well could be limited by injury. If healthy expect big things, but unfortunately that seems pretty up in the air.
If Diggs does not play, look for Adam Thielen to take a bigger role. The Vikings WR2 had 68 yards against the Lions earlier this year and has averaged 11.4 PPG over his last six games. Even if Diggs is active, Thielen will still be a factor, but without Diggs look for a top-30 output from him this week.
The third receiver is Cordarrelle Patterson who totaled 7.5 points in Week 9. Patterson has only averaged 30.9 yards per game this season. He did have a return touchdown last week, and he could also break off a long sweep, but look elsewhere in fantasy in Week 12. The Lions rank 15th against fantasy wide receivers this year.
While Kyle Rudolph only had one yard against the Lions a few weeks ago, his single catch occurred in the end zone. Rudolph has been one of the better tight ends this season, and look for him to bounce back on Thursday. He is averaging 6.8 targets per game and over 40 yards, so Week 9 seems like an anomaly in terms of yardage.
Detroit is still one of the worst teams when it comes to defending tight ends, and improvements in the health of the defense should not be enough to deter a player like Rudolph. Start him in all leagues, and if Diggs happens to be limited he could end up as a top-5 scorer.