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.
Somewhat quietly, Ameer Abdullah has posted three-straight weeks of double-digit fantasy points. Finding the end zone in each of these games has played a big role in his success, and do not overlook his red zone work. Still, this week is a tough challenge for Abdullah and the Lions run game.
The Vikings are generally a tough matchup against opposing running backs and rank in the top five this season. Though Abdullah had his best fantasy game of the year against Minnesota—18.4 points with 94 rush yards—he is unlikely to repeat this performance. Be cautious starting him, especially on a short week.
To be clear, Eric Ebron is no more than a dart throw as a fantasy starter, but that represents most tight ends. He saw seven targets against the Bears a week after finding the end zone and seems to be at least an option for Matthew Stafford. Ebron is never someone who can be started with confidence, but his arrow is trending up.
Minnesota is extremely tough against opposing quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, but they are mostly average against tight ends. They have yet to surrender any super big weeks, but that should not be the expectation for Thanksgiving anyway. There are safer plays out there, but Ebron owners could be in for a decent week.
The Vikings are somehow set at quarterback with Case Keenum, and he has improved as the season goes on. From a fantasy perspective, he has been somewhat startable, although he has posted more down weeks than stellar outings. Keenum has a tough matchup against Detroit and should be avoided this week.
Over the past five weeks, the Lions are giving up 18.3 PPG to opposing quarterbacks, with the only performance over 20 points coming from DeShone Kizer. Detroit handled Keenum well during Week 4, giving up a season-low 8.8 points. While he probably beats this number on Thursday, the Lions have been generally stingy against the position.
Losing Dalvin Cook was a big blow for Minnesota, but they have a pair of running backs who do not look too bad in his stead. While Jerick McKinnon probably has the higher ceiling of the two, it is Latavius Murray who has looked better in recent weeks. Murray has seen a slightly higher amount of touches and has found the end zone four times in his last four games.
The Lions are very vulnerable to opposing running backs and are coming off an awful pair of performances during the last two weeks. There is no reason to think that the Vikings will not take advantage of this, and both backs may be in for a good game. Murray is a smart start in Week 12 and should post a solid fantasy stat line against the Lions.