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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy implications for Lions-Titans

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A look at how the Tennessee fantasy players match up against the Lions in Week 2.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions defense led to a fantasy gold mine during Week 1, as the Indianapolis Colts lit up the scoreboard. Defenses and Dragons correctly pointed you toward Andrew Luck, Dwayne Allen and Donte Moncrief, but was expecting a bit more from T.Y. Hilton and Frank Gore. The Lions defense was largely invisible for most of the afternoon, which could bode well for fantasy players if the trend continues. The Tennessee Titans hope to take advantage during Week 2.

In case you missed last week’s article, Defenses and Dragons takes a look each week at the key skill players that will go up against the Lions by comparing their fantasy output to that allowed by the Detroit defense. All scoring and rankings use six points per passing touchdown and half a point per reception, and the notation RB1 refers to a team’s top running back (with the same notation for WR1, WR2, etc.).

Quarterback

Luck and the Colts destroyed the Lions through the air, earning the most points at quarterback across the league during the first week. It would be unlikely for the Detroit secondary to suffer as badly in Week 2, as the Titans do not possess the same talent as Indianapolis at most skill positions. However, the Lions will have a different challenge in Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota who has the ability to make big plays with his feet.

Mariota had a modest Week 1, throwing for 271 yards and a couple of scores. He also ran four times for 19 yards, which is close to his 2015 average of 3.1 rushes per game for 22.9 yards. It seems like the Lions should be able to bounce back from last week, and Mariota has only twice thrown for over 300 yards in the air. Most fantasy teams should have a better option to start at quarterback.

Running back

DeMarco Murray had a mild day on the ground against the Vikings, but made the most of his seven targets. He rushed 13 times for 42 yards and added five receptions for 35 yards and a score. Last week the Lions ranked 14th against running backs, holding Frank Gore to 59 rushing yards and 19 receiving yards, an output that looked similar to Murray’s, just without the scores.

The Titans also feature Derrick Henry, who averaged less than a yard per carry on each of his five touches. However, he gained 41 yards on passes and will likely see a bigger role in the offense as the season progresses. Both Murray and Henry are more explosive than Gore at this stage in his career, but only Murray warrants a start in fantasy this week, projecting to land in the back half of the top-20.

Wide receiver

Hilton, Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett enjoyed a productive afternoon against the Lions secondary, combining for 16 catches, 237 yards, and a score. The Titans do not offer the same caliber of weapons, but have to be happy about seeing the Lions struggle. Rishard Matthews came into the season as the top receiver on the depth chart, but ended fourth in targets against the Vikings. He should not be a big factor on Sunday.

Instead, the hype is building around rookie Tajae Sharpe, who led Tennessee with 11 targets and seven catches during Week 1. He did not find the end zone but totaled 76 yards, and he looks like Mariota’s favorite option. After seeing how the Lions secondary played against the Colts, it might be worth taking a shot on the youngster as a third wide receiver or flex.

Andre Johnson and Harry Douglas will both see the field against the Lions, but neither should be expected to do too much. Johnson grabbed three catches for 30 yards against Minnesota and Douglas had a pair of receptions for 21 yards. Neither player will do enough to be a valuable fantasy play during Week 2, nor is the injured Kendall Wright, who has been declared out this week. Sharpe is the only receiver of the five that merits any consideration against the Lions.

Tight end

The Colts absolutely crushed the Lions at tight end, with both Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle finding the end zone. Detroit gave up a total of 30.3 points to the duo, which were the most points allowed to tight ends in the league. Tight ends averaged 12.2 PPG against the Lions last season.

Delanie Walker had just three catches Week 1, but is coming off a great 2015 season that saw him total 94 catches, 1088 yards and six touchdowns. The Lions had no answer for the Indianapolis tight ends last week and Walker was one of Mariota’s go-to-targets last season. He should be seen as a top-end option at the position in Detroit.