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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy players to watch in Lions-Browns

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The table is set for a big day from Stafford and the Lions’ pass game.

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Each week, Defenses and Dragons will highlight two Detroit Lions and two opponents who stand out in the matchup, for better or for worse. It may be a stud who could struggle, or it could be a lower-level guy primed for a big game; either way, these are players who should over or underperform their typical output. D&D hopes to help out with crunch-time decisions by taking a closer look at the matchup through historical stats. All stated scoring assumes six points for all touchdowns and a half point per reception.

Matthew Stafford

Take away a subpar Week 4 against Minnesota and Matthew Stafford has been one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the league this season. A 22.2 PPG average outside of that matchup is no fluke, and the Lions do not look like they will take the ball out of their quarterback’s hands anytime soon. With a showdown against a bottom-five defense against the position this week, start Stafford anywhere possible.

The Browns have given up significant fantasy points to almost every opposing quarterback this season, and this Sunday will be no different. Stafford has helped seven receivers hit double-digits over the past three weeks and that trend should continue. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are both set for big days, and even TJ Jones could see some production.

Ameer Abdullah

Everything was set up for Ameer Abdullah against the Packers, and one or two plays could have significantly changed his day. While he did manage to find the end zone and carry the ball a season-high 21 times, the arrow is trending in the wrong direction. Fumbles and missed opportunities can be killer for a running back trying to establish his role in a pass-first offense, and the future became a little less certain.

To be clear, Abdullah will still be the lead back for the Lions and he will continue to see carries on Sunday. However, that may not matter against a Cleveland defense that has been extremely difficult on opposing ball carriers. In fact, the Browns rank in the top five against running backs and have given up just three touchdowns on the ground to the position. Sit Abdullah in a bad matchup after a rough Week 9.

Isaiah Crowell

Coming off of his best game of the season, it may seem questionable to sit Isaiah Crowell on Sunday. He may be the best skill player on the team, or at least the most fantasy-viable. However, just one double-digit performance all year has left most Crowell owners frustrated and ready to look elsewhere. The decision to avoid Crowell against the Lions is the right move.

RB1s have looked good against Detroit, and the defense has not been exactly stellar against opposing running backs. Still, the Cleveland passing game is unlikely to strike much fear in the defense, and one would think the Lions would be ready to stop the ground game. Crowell could land in the end zone, but expecting a lot of yards is not the way to go.

David Njoku

A player with a lot of talent, David Njoku is experiencing the typical rookie tight end season. He does have a trio of touchdowns this year, but no game has seen him snag more than three catches. With 17 total targets over his last three games, though, his reception total may be in line for a jump. Njoku is only a dart throw this week, but he may be the best option among Cleveland pass catchers.

The Lions have been improved against tight ends compared to last season, but against TE1s they are still only average at best. There were multiple times against Green Bay when the linebackers looked questionable, and this could be an area that the Browns try to exploit with a young quarterback. Njoku may not be in line for a dominant game, but do not be surprised to see him set a career high in fantasy points.