We’ll start this game between the Giants and the Lions (where else?) in the Lions’ backfield, where sixth-round rookie Ty Johnson will be taking over this week (and, presumably, moving forward) for the injured Kerryon Johnson.
What do we know about Ty Johnson?
- He’s fast
- He can hit big plays
- He can try too hard for the home run
- He was limited in his pass-catching role at Maryland
- He struggled in blitz pickup in college and was often subbed out on passing downs
What do we know about this matchup?
- The Giants rank 25th in adjusted line yards on defense
- The Giants have given up the second most rush plays of 20+ yards (funny side note: they’re second with eight; the Bengals are first…with 14)
- The Giants have allowed the fourth most rushing yards to running backs
- The Giants are getting hit for 4.48 yards per carry by enemy backs
- The Giants have allowed the second most rushing touchdowns
- The Giants have allowed the fourth most receiving yards to running backs
Last week, Ty Johnson played 49 snaps to 16 for J.D. McKissic, and he ran 33 pass routes and caught four of four targets for 28 yards — encouraging usage given his supposedly suspect pass-catching chops coming out of college. Because this is the Lions — where Matt Patricia is doing his best to blindly imitate what he thinks Bill Belichick would do — there is a non-zero chance that the Lions more heavily involve McKissic this week with extra time to prepare a new plan for this backfield moving forward. But the likeliest scenario has about 75% of the snaps going to Ty — and with the Lions likeliest to play with a moderate lead, things set up well.
The matchup is also warm and comfortable for the Lions passing attack, as they will be taking on a Giants defense that ranks 27th in DVOA and has allowed the fourth most wide receiver yards — while contributing at least a 6.5% boost to all of aDOT, catch rate, and YAC/r rate. The Giants rank ahead of only the Dolphin and Raiders in expected yards allowed per target.
Before last week’s usage bomb, Kenny Golladay had been given eight to 10 targets in every game — and he is likely to see eight to 10 targets once again even without this game turning into a shootout, giving him a nice floor and ceiling in this spot. Golladay ranks fifth in the NFL in average depth of target, and the Giants have given up the second most pass plays of 20+ yards.
With only two games this year north of six targets, Marvin Jones is more volatile than Golladay — but it goes without saying that the upside is obviously in place.
Behind these guys, the Giants don’t force many short-area throws, so T.J. Hockenson and Danny Amendola should take a backseat — though both have proven to have enough ceiling to chase if building around this game.
Can the Giants keep it close?
Because the Giants are so short-area focused (and because they don’t have many pieces that can help them break out of that), it will be difficult for a true shootout to develop in this game; but if the Giants are able to keep this game close, this spot could become at least somewhat exciting as a whole. The Lions defense ranks only 26th in drive success rate and 18th in opponent red zone touchdown rate, so there are certainly available paths for the Giants to put up points.
The best way for the Giants to move the ball (maybe someone can call Pat Shurmur and tell him?) is on the ground against a Lions team that ranks 21st in DVOA against the run and 28th in yards allowed per carry — with 4.76 yards per carry given up to the position. The Lions have also allowed the seventh most receiving yards to running backs in spite of having already had their bye.
As with the other side of this game :: coaching is the biggest issue, with Shurmur truly dunce-level as a head coach. (I was actually thinking the other night how crazy it is that there are only 32 of these highly-coveted jobs…and Shurmur has one of them.) Saquon Barkley has yet to top 21 touches in a game this year (which is stunning, and embarrassing). He carries a steep price on DK/FDraft, but he also carries the best raw running back projection on the slate. On FanDuel, where running back pricing is more condensed, Saquon is a blue-chip play.
Like the Patriots, the Lions are a man-heavy coverage scheme that generally plays the same assignments all game. The toughest matchup falls to Golden Tate in his revenge game, vs Justin Coleman. Volume should show up for Tate regardless, so you can bet on high efficiency or a broken play or a touchdown if you want to go here. None are crazy bets (especially with volume in his favor) — though obviously, Tate is not a staple piece this week as a short-area route runner with little explosiveness to his game.
It currently looks like Sterling Shepard will miss another week — but if he returns, he’ll be playing on the outside (where his skill set doesn’t fit quite as well — but where he’ll also have a bit more upside). He’ll be a boom/bust option vs a strong secondary.
Detroit has struggled at times with big plays as teams attack relentlessly downfield against them (tight coverage + a weak pass rush = time, time, then a shot downfield; leading to a low catch rate and a low YAC/r vs the Lions, but to a few big catches downfield hitting). This creates a few paths for Darius Slayton to hit.
Meanwhile, Evan Engram scuffled last week against the Cardinals and now has only two games this year over 54 yards. With Tate added to the mix, Engram’s targets have become less reliable, and with such a short-area role, he needs a big YAC play (or he needs his one or two downfield shots to hit) in order to reach ceiling. The floor is decent for Engram at his price, but some of the paths to ceiling have gone dry, making him more speculative than he was earlier in the year.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Ty Johnson is a “don’t overthink in cash games” play, as he’s almost certainly locked into 18+ touches and is underpriced for the work on all sites. Ownership is also likely to be high enough that it’s probably just not worth the risk of trying to get cute in cash.
In tourneys, Johnson is also a solid play — with a decent floor, a solid ceiling, and most of his paths leading to him out-producing salary. He’s viable in all contest types (especially on a week without a ton to love at running back) — though due to the risk factors (primarily: Patricia), a strategic tourney fade of Ty is also viable. If he puts up 12 FanDuel or 15 DraftKings/FantasyDraft points, that will be solid for those who rostered him; but it would by no means be a “must have,” and it could enable you to find a way to soar past the field. Add in a few slim, slippery paths to duds (the Giants jump out to a lead; or again: Patricia), and Ty becomes more “strong play” than “must play” in GPPs.
Saquon is also strong — with only his coach to hold him back. It’s also viable to play both backs from this game, as the likeliest path has this game played close enough that game flow won’t have a major impact on either (plus, Saquon has his pass game role if the Giants fall behind — which is the likeliest way for this game to play out).
In the passing attacks, Slayton is interesting in large-field play, and you could probably make a case for other Giants in the hopes of capturing lightning; but the play that stands out the most is Golladay. As we saw last week :: a good matchup for Golladay could turn into a monster game for Jones; but it’s likeliest that things swing back toward the Lions’ alpha this week.
Finally — with Kerryon out and a good matchup on tap — you could lean on Matthew Stafford as a sneaky bet in tourneys. If the Giants are able to keep this game close enough, Stafford has an outside shot at lighting it up in this spot.
:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!