If both of these teams were healthy, this would be one of the most exciting games of the year for DFS players, as the Bucs are natural shootout-producers — with an aggressive mindset on offense, a quarterback who doesn’t mind taking chances, two elite wide receivers, and a run defense that smothers opponents and forces them to the air vs a mediocre pass defense. The Lions, meanwhile, are one of the more vertical-minded offenses in the league, with a unit that is built around “running the ball (ineffectively) to set up the deep passing game” — a deep passing game that boasts a pair of borderline-elite wideouts in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. But while the seeds of these elements are all still in place, the Lions are down Kerryon Johnson, Marvin Jones, T.J. Hockenson, and Matthew Stafford, while the Bucs are down Mike Evans (and they have showed us multiple times over the last month that they are willing to slow down and lean on the run if they have a lead to protect). And that’s really the big question here: can the Lions keep pace with the Bucs.
We’ll begin, then, with a reality check :: David Blough is not an NFL starter. The Lions have a bad offensive line and only one high end wide receiver. They have a one-dimensional backfield, and the Bucs have shown an ability to get after the quarterback, while also working to confuse quarterbacks before the snap with disguised looks designed to mask their lower-end cornerback play. The likeliest scenario in this spot has Blough making a handful of plays but mostly having a difficult time out there, with the Bucs breaking through on offense by the end of the first half against the Lions weak defense so that by the second or third drive of the second half they can start to really throttle down and salt away this game. This “likeliest scenario” would be enough to make Jameis Winston a solid play and Chris Godwin a strong play (with upside for Godwin to turn into an elite play even if this game slows down early, vs a secondary that has boosted aDOT by 26% (the highest mark in the league) while giving up the sixth most catches and the fifth most yards to the wide receiver position), and there would also be opportunity for one or another of the tight ends or remaining wideouts to contribute a solid price-considered score in this likeliest scenario as well. None of these ancillary players would jump out as “must haves” in this scenario, but these guys would certainly be in the mix, while the Lions would follow up as lower-percentage bets with garbage time or multi-touchdown games the likeliest path to ceiling.
Alternately :: David Blough — who has shown a willingness to be aggressive, and who had a tougher test the last two weeks against the Bears and Vikings — could keep the Lions in this with passes to Golladay (recent target counts of 9 // 5 // 4 // 5 // 8), and could trigger continued aggressiveness from Tampa Bay as a result. This is a less likely scenario, but it’s nevertheless enticing to consider in large-field play for the sort of upside it could provide.
If moving beyond Golladay // Blough on the Lions side, Bo Scarbrough is a yardage-and-touchdown bet in a tremendously difficult run game matchup, while Danny Amendola has solid recent target counts of 9 // 5 // 3 // 8 // 8 — though these short-area looks with poor quarterback play have led to only one game north of 34 yards (a tepid 4-47-0 line agains the Cowboys). Chris Lacy was promoted to fill the void left by Marvin Hall, and he’s likely to now step in for Marvin Jones. The Lions will likely run more 12 personnel after featuring this alignment on a handful of snaps last week, though they haven’t shown much inclination to throw to tight ends with Hockenson out. If Detroit keeps pace enough to turn this into a typical “vs Tampa” game (rather than allowing Tampa to grab a lead and kill the clock), Golladay and Amendola could be in line for notable target bumps. Lacy would be dart-throwy behind them, but he would at least be interesting if building for this scenario as well.
Behind Godwin, the Bucs have shown a willingness to really spread out volume lately, and Scotty Miller now appears on track to return, which would likely lead to a rotation of Breshad Perriman // Justin Watson // Scotty Miller alongside a heavier dose of 12 personnel that gets Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard on the field together. If not building for a scenario in which the Lions keep pace, these guys are simply “bet on big play or touchdown” options; but if betting on the Lions keeping up in this game, one or two of these players would be in line for a nice volume boost. Watson was the most direct replacement for Evans (albeit with a far less explosive role), while Perriman and Miller were splitting snaps before the latter went down, introducing further guesswork here. (If Miller misses, Perriman will have a near-full-time role, and he’ll be a solid bet for five to eight targets, depending on game flow.) Howard was the clear tight end leader last week (68 snaps to 24 for Brate) and is also an interesting option if trying to capture the missing volume from Evans.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Both of these backfields are hands-off for me, as the Bucs’ side is a guessing game while the Lions’ side is just hoping for touchdowns. If Jameis happens to miss this game with his thumb issue, all bets are off in this spot and I’ll almost certainly skip this game altogether; but assuming Jameis plays, he and Godwin will be interesting Tier 3 options — with most outcomes for this game giving them a high floor; and with some paths available to these two posting slate-breakers.
If betting heavily on these two Bucs pieces this week, I’ll almost certainly bring back those bets with some pieces from the Lions, as the likeliest path to a slate-winning game from Godwin and/or Jameis is for the Lions to keep pace. This bet will not be a staple for me, but the ceiling is high enough in this spot that I won’t be surprised if I mix in a few shots on Golladay here, and I’ll likely expand at least a bit into cheaper pieces behind Godwin — essentially placing some bets on this game tilting the right way, and in a back-and-forth affair emerging as a result.