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.
Golden Tate and Marvin Jones
The health of Matthew Stafford makes this a little tricky, but on paper both Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have excellent matchups. The Detroit receiving duo has helped the Lions rank second in fantasy points at the position this season, with top-four rankings at both WR1 and WR2. Tate and Jones can each be started confidently this week.
Tampa falls exactly on the opposite side of the rankings against wide receivers. They have been one of the worst defenses against receivers and consistently give up double-digit performances. An injured Stafford is something to consider, but that does not change a mediocre secondary.
Start the Lions receivers against the Buccaneers, but hold off on Eric Ebron. While they have been burned by many pass catchers this season, they have been the toughest team against opposing tight ends, giving up just 7.2 PPG to the position. With someone as volatile as Ebron, this becomes a red flag.
Ebron has had exactly four receptions in each of the past three games, but this will not be enough volume to be effective in fantasy. Tampa has not surrendered over 10 points to a tight end yet this season, and they have only given up three total touchdowns. Keep Ebron on the bench this Sunday.
Much like Stafford, the health of Doug Martin will be something to watch heading into the matchup. However, even if he is healthy enough to go, Martin would be a tough start. After a strong return from suspension earlier in the year, his fantasy results have really tapered off recently.
The Lions are nothing to fear against the run, but the Buccaneers are not a fearsome team on the ground. If Martin is not healthy enough to go, Peyton Barber may get the start, but he is unlikely to repeat his strong performance from last week. Turn away from the Tampa Bay backfield.
The Buccaneers have not shied away from using the tight end, and the most likely beneficiary against Detroit is Cameron Brate. Though the team drafted the talented OJ Howard this spring, Brate remains a big part of the offense. Brate has five double-digit performances this season and could be in line for another against the Lions.
The Detroit defense has been moving in the wrong direction, and tight end defense remains suspect. Over the past three weeks they have allowed an average of 14.1 PPG against TE1s and there is no reason to believe this will not be exploited by Tampa. Brate might not be a lock, but he looks like a good start this weekend.