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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy implications for Lions-Bears (Part 2)

This week’s opponent is a pretty bear-en wasteland.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aaron Doster-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.

Well, that was a bit of a surprise. Perhaps using a tagline of “Start your Saints!” was not the best idea last week, even though all signs pointed to a huge offensive explosion. The only Saint that D&D wasn’t afraid of was Coby Fleener, who was the only player to reach the top 25 at his position against the Lions. So is the Detroit defense legit? We might have to wait another week to answer that question, since holding down the Bears this Sunday is more of an expectation than a challenge.

Quarterback

Matt Barkley is the third player to start at quarterback for the Bears this season, and neither he nor his predecessors have been too successful. Chicago ranks 28th in quarterback fantasy production and the starters have scored less than 10 points as often as they have exceeded 20 points. Two weeks ago, Barkley threw for over 300 yards with three touchdowns and scored 26.6 fantasy points. Last week he threw for under 200 yards and scored under eight fantasy points.

The Lions still rank just 25th in defending opposing quarterbacks, but they have been much better over the past five weeks, giving up just 11.7 PPG on average. Barkley falls into a group with players like Brock Osweiler, Blake Bortles and Sam Bradford, who have had very limited success against Detroit this season. Do not try starting Barkley this week.

Running back

Just like the quarterbacks, Chicago has had a few different players take the lead at running back. The expectation was that Jeremy Langford would be the RB1 this season, but an early injury opened the door for Jordan Howard. In 11 games this season Howard has averaged over 16 carries per game and has scored five touchdowns, good for 14.3 PPG. He will benefit from a high volume of carries this weekend.

Both Langford and Ka’Deem Carey could steal a few touches and targets, but neither should be a big factor. The Bears rank 11th in RB1 fantasy production this season, but just 21st at the position overall, meaning it has been difficult for anyone other than the top back to have a decent day. The Lions are 12th best at defending the position, and are the fourth-stingiest defense against RB1s. Howard should have a solid day, but expecting a top-10 score might be a stretch. Stay away from Langford and Carey.

Wide receiver

The cast of characters at wide receiver is a little scarce. With Alshon Jeffery out due to suspension, Cameron Meredith seems like the player to benefit the most. He has had some good performances this season, logging double-digits on three occasions. But at just 7.9 PPG this season, he is probably outside the top-30 this weekend against an improving Lions defense.

The secondary options are Marquess Wilson and Josh Bellamy, but they are far from locks. Wilson has actually averaged 8.8 PPG in three contests this season, but at just 5.3 targets a game, his production is hard to rely on. Bellamy was the target leader last week, but that was his only notable outing this season. The Lions have entered the top 10 in fantasy wide receiver defense, and starting any Bears receiver would be risky.

Tight end

Zach Miller was having a nice season until his year was unfortunately ended due to injury. Miller found the end zone against the Lions in Week 4 and scored 10.6 points in total. The new starter at the position is Daniel Brown who has just six targets over the last two weeks. He did score against the Titans, but is averaging under 20 yards per game.

While the Lions do struggle against tight ends and still rank near the bottom at defending the position, it seems like the only way Brown makes any sort of impact is if he scores. Banking on that happening is a foolish move, and there should be plenty of better options available in most fantasy leagues. Stay away from Brown and all other Chicago tight ends.