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

Something’s cookin’ in Minnesota.

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/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.

Ameer Abdullah

There is still plenty of reason to believe in Ameer Abdullah. Admittedly, starting him last week was not as fruitful as hoped, but he did post 10.1 points and ranked in the top 30 at the position. It was not an amazing performance, but it was his best to date. While better days are definitely ahead for Abdullah, Week 4 against a tough Vikings defense will probably be a step back.

Minnesota enters this week as the toughest fantasy defense against running backs and RB1s. They have not given up more than 11.1 points this season and have held Le’Veon Bell and the Saints backfield in check. Theo Riddick is not much of a start either, and he had less than 6.0 points in a game against the Falcons that looked like a favorable matchup. Sit the Lions backs this week.

Golden Tate

While starting Abdullah last week would have been passable, sitting Golden Tate, who was inches away from finishing as WR11, was an even worse call. Lesson learned: start up Tate this week and most others. After a down performance against the Giants that was dictated by game script, he earned 11 targets in Week 3, giving him almost double the next closest Lion on the year.

The Vikings’ secondary is led by Xavier Rhodes, but opposing receivers have scored the second-highest total against them on aggregate. Tate is versatile enough to move around, and Rhodes may very well be matched up against Marvin Jones instead. Last season, Tate had a memorable day in Minnesota. Expect another solid performance in 2017.

Dalvin Cook

Like many rookie running backs, Dalvin Cook has not been shy to start off the season. The Vikings have shown their complete faith in him, giving him an average of over 20 carries during the first three weeks. With two performances over 15 points already, no one is thinking of benching him. Cook should make his owners happy again, as the Lions look like an exploitable matchup for the young back.

David Johnson was mostly limited before his injury, but both Falcons running backs showed a great hole in the Detroit defense. As a result, the Lions rank in the bottom 10 against the position in fantasy, and Cook has both the ability and the opportunity to take advantage in Week 4. Game script may be a factor, but Cook could be looking at an RB1 output.

Stefon Diggs

With four touchdowns and almost 300 yards, Stefon Diggs has been one of the best receivers in fantasy in 2017. He has seen 25 targets so far and has two absolutely stellar performances, including 33.3 points last week. However, expectations should be lowered for his matchup against Detroit. Facing an improved defense and potentially Darius Slay, Diggs in a good bet to post greatly reduced numbers this week.

The Lions have done well to limit stars like Larry Fitzgerald, Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones, and Slay is up for the challenge regardless of the opposition. Diggs will still get targets and should have an opportunity to perform, but his ceiling is significantly lower this week compared to recent outings. With an ailing linebacking corps, expect shorter passes to backs and tight ends opposed to deep shots downfield.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.