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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy implications for Lions-Vikings

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It could be another big day for a tight end against the Lions.

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Jamie Squire/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.

Fantasy is an odd game. What looked like a good matchup for a host of Texans turned out to be an average day overall. D&D probably should have pumped the brakes a little on Brock Osweiler, but the tight end excitement is here to stay; C.J. Fiedorowicz ended up as No. 6. Lamar Miller was decent and DeAndre Hopkins did enough, but the Lions played well against their toughest RB/WR combo in a while. There will not be another tandem like them for a few weeks.

Quarterback

There is not a ton to love about Sam Bradford this season, and he ranks outside the top 20 at his position. With only two games over 20 points and eight total touchdowns in six games, the Vikings rank 25th in fantasy quarterback production. Bradford has thrown for about 240 YPG and is safe with the ball, only throwing one interception. But with few strong pieces around him, the ceiling is pretty limited.

Another week, another face-off between a bad quarterback and the league’s worst quarterback defense. Five quarterbacks seen by the Lions this season sit near the bottom of the league, and their results against the Detroit are all over the board. Case Keenum had a monster day with over 30 points, Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer and Carson Wentz each posted a little over 20 and Brock Osweiler barely hit double-digits. Expect Bradford to fall into this middle section, which should be good enough for a top-16 output but not much more.

Running back

As what happens when you lose your best player, things did not go well for the Minnesota ground game once Adrian Peterson went down. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon have averaged about 20 carries a game between them, as well as a couple of targets each, but neither has made a significant impact yet. Each has found the end zone, but Asiata’s 28.6 YPG and McKinnon’s 36.2 YPG make even the Lions’ rushing attack look competent.

While the Vikings rank 30th in running back fantasy points, the Lions are actually No. 10 in this category. Only one rusher, DeMarco Murray, has scored more than 15 points against them, and no team has had two running backs both reach double-digits against Detroit. Regardless of which player gets more touches, neither should be expected to do too much. I see both Asiata and McKinnon outside of the top 30.

Wide receiver

For all of the troubles the Lions have had against quarterbacks, fantasy wide receivers have hardly burned them. Only seven receivers have recorded double-digit fantasy points against Detroit this season, and three of them play for the Indianapolis Colts. The Lions deceptively have been in the upper half of the league against wide receivers, ranking 14th in fantasy points against.

Meanwhile, the Vikings rank 23rd at the position and do not look too intimidating on paper. The one player who might have a day is Stefon Diggs, who is averaging 12.7 PPG on 8.7 targets and 77.7 YPG. Diggs may only have a couple of scores, but he sits among the top 15 of wide receivers in fantasy this season. In Week 9 he seems like a decent top-20 option.

Minnesota ranks 13th in WR1 scoring, but in the 20s for WR2s and WR3s. Adam Thielen has been the recipient of the second-most targets at the position, but he sits outside the top 50 in the league with just 8.6 PPG. Cordarrelle Patterson would be the third option, but with his 6.2 PPG he cannot be relied upon. Neither Thielen nor Patterson should find their way into fantasy lineups against Detroit.

Tight end

And now for everyone’s favorite part of the show. The Lions have faced some sorry teams this season, but for whatever reason, most have included fantasy-relevant tight ends. This week is no different, as Kyle Rudolph and the Vikings look to exploit this weakness. Detroit still ranks 32nd at defending this position, and six of eight opponents have had their tight end reach at least 10 points against them this season.

Rudolph is currently the No. 10 tight end in fantasy, averaging 9.4 PPG. His 7.7 targets rank second on the team, and he has three scores on the season to go with 46 YPG. With Bradford playing it safe more often than not and the Lions struggling to defend the middle of the field, Rudolph is poised for a big week. He comes in as a top-5 play at the position.