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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy implications for Lions-Saints

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It could be a super fantasy day in the Superdome.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-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.

In a bit of a surprising Thanksgiving twist, it was the Vikings running backs who had a nice day as opposed to the wide receivers. Both Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon found themselves in the top 25, while neither Adam Thielen nor Cordarrelle Patterson could make that claim. But like the rest of the world, D&D was right about Sam Bradford (garbage) and Kyle Rudolph (money). This week’s matchup looks even more straightforward on paper.

Quarterback

If you play fantasy football, there are probably a handful of mantras that you live by, and one of them is likely “Play the Saints at home.” Indeed, Drew Brees and company have been dominant in New Orleans, although the Saints offense has been good basically everywhere this season. Brees is averaging over 300 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game, good for a crisp 28.7 PPG. That puts him as the top quarterback in fantasy.

Brees is the best choice at quarterback across fantasy this week. The Lions rank just 28th against opposing signal-callers, surrendering 261.4 yards, 2.0 touchdowns, and 22.9 points per game at the position this season. If there ever was a week to go all-in against the Lions, this would be it. Brees could have a field day and should put up some very healthy fantasy numbers.

Running back

As mentioned in previous editions, the Lions actually defend the running back position pretty well in fantasy, sitting as the 10th best at limiting production. However, the Saints rank first in the league in total running back fantasy points each week and are ninth in RB1 PPG and second in RB2 PPG. If healthy, the RB1 will be Mark Ingram, who has averaged 13.6 PPG despite losing some carries in recent weeks. He averages over three touches a game as well to give him almost 90 yards per scrimmage.

His backup is Tim Hightower, who is having a decent season as well. Hightower has posted double-digit points in four of the last five weeks and would be an excellent play if Ingram is ruled out injured. If both were to play, Ingram is a top-10 option while Hightower is more of a top-25 look, but a start by Hightower could push him into the top 15.

Wide receiver

Continuing the trend of top performers, New Orleans wide receivers have been phenomenal this season. They rank second in PPG as a unit, and in the top four in WR1, WR2 and WR3 production. The Lions do rank 12th in defending wide receivers, but the Saints are a good bet to exceed the combined 29.1 PPG given up by Detroit.

Coming into the season, the top Saints receiver was Brandin Cooks, but his points total has almost been doubled by Michael Thomas over the past four weeks. Thomas has averaged 7.3 targets per game during this span, tallying 289 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Cooks has cooled off a bit, getting shut out last week and averaging just 8.7 PPG in recent weeks, but he has the perfect opportunity to bounce back against the Lions.

Both Thomas and Cooks should be seen as top-10 plays at wide receiver against Detroit. The Saints offense does have room for a third receiver, and Willie Snead has done quite well this season, averaging 7.0 targets and 59.3 yards per game. He has scored four times on the year for a 10.9 PPG mark, and he could be a top-30 receiver this weekend.

Tight end

The biggest fantasy surprise for the Saints has to be Coby Fleener, a player who was expected to have huge production from their tight end. Instead, Fleener has averaged just 8.1 PPG, a decent number but barely within the top 20 at the position. The Saints rank around the middle of the pack in tight end production this year, with Josh Hill averaging about four points in each game he has played as well.

Of course, the Lions still rank dead last in preventing tight end fantasy scoring, but Fleener is not a sure play this week. Brees will throw the ball a lot, but expect the backs and receivers to get the majority of the targets. Fleener’s day could be made by a touchdown, but he does not look like a top-10 scorer this week. He is a fine streaming option, but he is primed to let down many fantasy owners who are playing him with big expectations.