Get Excited Lions (Fantasy) Fans!
This week brings another great matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis as the Detroit Lions face the Minnesota Vikings. The two bottom dwellers of the NFC North bring one of the more exciting football matchups of the week...at least in terms of fantasy. A game currently sitting at an O/U 52.5 and the Vikings only favored by four leaves plenty of room for touchdowns to be scored by both sides.
Jumping right in, Minnesota’s defense and Detroit’s offense are a perfect pairing for the Lions. Through eight weeks, the Vikings defense has established itself as one of the weakest pass defenses in the league. In .5 PPR scoring, Minnesota is allowing the 31st most points to wide receivers (39.3 ppg), 27th most points to quarterbacks (22.3 ppg), 19th most points to tight ends (11 ppg). A nice pairing with a Lions offense that passes 60% of the plays and has been more successful recently in the air.
Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford is coming off back to back 340 and 336-yard passing games, one against the Atlanta Falcons and the other against a stout Indianapolis Colts defense who have been one of the more difficult defenses to play as a quarterback. The Vikings have allowed an average of 296 passing yards and 2.5 touchdowns through the air per game. Stafford will air it out plenty as the Vikings run defense is stronger than their passing defense, and Detroit’s run game has not been an envious one this season. Also, considering the Lions weak defense lines up well with Minnesota’s strengths, we should see Stafford and the Lions needing to rely on the passing game to stay competitive.
As far as who stands to benefit the most from the Lions’ wide receiver room, the call is tough to make. With wide receiver Kenny Golladay exiting last week’s game against the Colts before halftime, Detroit will likely be calling upon the talents of fourth-year wideout Marvin Hall. When Golladay left the contest, Hall stepped into his role as the outside receiver and lit up the deep game producing four receptions for 111 yards. If we are to see Hall assume the same role as last week, he will be in the best position to succeed at wide receiver. The cornerbacks have been the weakest point to attack when facing the Vikings, and particularly the left cornerback, Cameron Dantzler. (At the time of writing, Dantzler is doubtful to play due to an injury sustained in week 8, and rookie backup Harrison Hand could be put into the starting role). Teams have been focusing on Dantzler and the outside plays each week. This has led to great wide out performances by Seattle’s DK Metcalf (6/93/2), Houston’s Will Fuller V (6/108/1), Tennessee’s Kalif Raymond (3/111), Atlanta’s Julio Jones (8/137/2), and in two games Green Bay’s Davante Adams (21/209/5). A mixed list of superstars and solid receivers who could not be stopped by Minnesota’s poor efforts on the outside and Marvin Hall looks to join them. While his seven targets last week also matched wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr’s, his alignment in the offense as the outside deep threat points to a potential breakout.
A wide receiver to be on the watch for is rookie Quintez Cephus. When Golladay was out the first two games of the year, Cephus assumed the outside role in his place. Almost 80% of his snaps were split between the left and right outside positions, and he played triple the snaps of previously mentioned Marvin Hall. However, ever since the Lions bye week Cephus has been a healthy scratch. It’s unclear as to an exact reason, and that is of no help pertaining to fantasy. As the week goes it will be good to review Lions practice reports and see if Cephus is seeing any signs of playing this week.
One last piece of the Lions offense that is most likely to perform exceptionally well in this matchup is tight end T.J. Hockenson. The target leader last week when Golladay exited and the TE4 on the season should eat this week. The Vikings cannot seem to get it together when defending the pass on the outside or the big guys in the middle. The Vikings have allowed an average of 69 yards per game to tight ends throughout the season, including the monster performance in week two by Mo Alie-Cox catching five for 111 yards. Hockenson will undoubtedly be the most talented tight end to face the Vikings so far, and with Golladay out, it’s clear that Stafford will look to target him.
Ultimately, Stafford and Hockenson plays are easy calls this week and are generally already rostered players. Marvin Hall, however, is listed as 0% rostered in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues. I feel confident in Hall starting over Cephus as the outside receiver. Hall proved his worth last week against a tough secondary, and has been above Cephus in the depth chart ever since the bye week. If you’re looking for a fill-in due to injuries or bye weeks, Hall is a great dart throw and likely a low bid in FAAB leagues.
EDIT: Stafford has been placed on the COVID/Reserve List, meaning he may not play Sunday against the Vikings. In that case Chase Daniels will get the start at quarterback. Most players still retain their same roles in the offense, but will not be as high value as with Stafford.