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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy implications for Lions-Cowboys

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It all comes down to this.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-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.

If you are still interested in fantasy football, then congratulations for making it this far! Most of us are in a championship game or two, and the stakes have never been higher. I just wanted to say thanks for sticking with D&D over the course of the season, and hopefully you were able to find some help along the way. Just as it is for the Lions and Cowboys, every little decision can have a huge impact around this time of year.

Quarterback

Few very people saw Dak Prescott being a top-10 quarterback this season, but here he sits at 21.5 PPG. He has thrown for 244.1 yards and 1.4 touchdowns on average, while also showing some versatility on the ground. The last few weeks have been a little lighter for Prescott, as he has only averaged 13.7 points. However, with an average of over 30 pass attempts each week, the potential for success is always there.

Eli Manning was the first quarterback to top 20 fantasy points against the Lions since Kirk Cousins in Week 7. A defense that was absolutely decimated by opposing quarterbacks during the first half of the year has been much better as of late. Given this improved defense and the Cowboys dominant running game, Prescott is best thought of as outside the top-12 this week.

Running back

While one rookie in Dallas has been a big surprise, the other is doing what everyone expected. That does not make Ezekiel Elliott’s season any less impressive, though; with 21.1 PPG, Elliott ranks third overall at the position and has rushed for 13 touchdowns during his first season in the NFL. His 22.1 carries and 110.8 yards per game have made him an almost unstoppable force for opposing defenses.

The Lions have moved up all the way to sixth in defending fantasy running backs and are the second-best team in the league at limiting RB1s, allowing just 11.7 PPG. Despite this success, it is hard to see Elliott scoring that low, and there is no way anyone will sit him during their championship game. Elliott is a top-five play—or better—every single week, while no other Cowboys back is worth starting.

Wide receiver

It will be interesting to see how the Dallas wide receivers fare in fantasy this week. The Lions have been middle-of-the-pack defensively against the position, but WR1s have done well, especially lately. Five of the last six (and seven of the last nine) WR1s have scored at least 10 points against Detroit, and Dez Bryant should be able to add to that number. Though he has been up and down at times, Bryant has a high ceiling and sees 8.2 targets per game, making him a clear top-10 play.

Secondary options like Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams have had their moments, but the Lions have made most receivers risky plays if they are not the top target. Neither player is a sure thing, and with the reliance on running the ball, there is just not enough volume to feel safe starting either. Both Beasley and Williams are better off on your bench, as neither looks like a top-40 option.

Tight end

Like against quarterbacks, the Lions have been much better at defending tight ends during the second half of the season. Over the past five weeks, TE1s have only scored 7.3 PPG against the Lions, thanks to zero total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Jason Witten is scoreless in his last six games, averaging just 5.4 PPG. This seems like a tough week for him to break out.

Witten is tied for second in targets per game, but he has only caught two touchdown passes this season. Week 16 is not the time to get cute in fantasy, and he is too big of a risk to provide little-to-no value this week. View him as outside of the top-10 against the Lions and instead find a tight end that at least has the potential to make an impact for your team.