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

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The Giants were one of the toughest fantasy defenses last season. Are the Lions moving in that direction?

Detroit Lions v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/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

Only one quarterback posted more fantasy points than Matthew Stafford in Week 1, and after a four-touchdown performance there is very little to criticize about the Lions’ leader. Not only did he post a completion percentage over 70 percent, but his 41 pass attempts against the Cardinals put him tied for third at the position. Stafford should be a viable quarterback during most weeks this season.

All that being said, teams should think twice before slotting Stafford in their starting lineup this week against the New York Giants. The Giants were the second-toughest teams against fantasy quarterbacks last season, and Stafford was held to just 10.22 points in their matchup last year. Dak Prescott was not stifled against New York in Week 1, but he did not have his best game either. Expect the same from Stafford this week.

Golden Tate

It may seem contradictory to advocate benching Stafford and starting his top target, but Golden Tate has an outside chance at a big week. Tate’s 12 targets were fifth-best among all receivers in Week 1 and the chemistry with Stafford was clearly on point. Looking for double-digit receptions and over 100 yards each week is not a great approach, but Tate should see a rise over last season’s four touchdowns.

The Giants were tough against receivers in 2016, ranking in the top 10 against the position as a whole. However, New York did look more vulnerable than last year during Week 1, and while the Cowboys did not do much on the receiving end, the Lions’ trio of Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay should post a bigger threat. While Tate was the only one not to find the end zone, he is easily the most consistent of the three and should see a healthy volume of targets all over the field.

Odell Beckham Jr.

Assuming Odell Beckham Jr. is healthy enough to play, every fantasy team will add him back into their starting roster. This is not a call to bench a stud wide receiver against a Lions defense who was porous last season. In fact, Beckham posted 16.30 points against Detroit last year and has the ability to the do same during Week 2.

However, the Giants’ offense and Eli Manning looked pretty bad in their first game. New acquisition Brandon Marshall did very little, and New York failed to reach the end zone at all. Meanwhile, the Lions looked much better than expected, and the secondary held their own against the Cardinals. Beckham should still be started, and he will not be shut out completely, but lower expectations for this matchup.

Evan Engram

Aside from Beckham, most Giants should be benched in fantasy this week. Both the passing game and running game struggled mightily in Week 1, and the Lions defense might actually be competent this season. If there was one player to take a shot in the dark on, it may be rookie tight end Evan Engram. In most leagues, Engram should be available, and he may be quietly becoming a reliable option for Manning.

Just to be clear: Engram is as touchdown-dependent as any other non-elite tight end in fantasy. He will likely not rack up many yards or receptions, and touchdowns seem hard to come by for New York. Still, he did receive Manning’s first target of 2017 and later saw two more passes on third downs. He also had a nice 31-yard reception, with about half of the yards coming after the catch. Engram is a dart throw, but the Lions have been known to give up some quality fantasy games to opposing tight ends.