LIONS // CARDINALS OVERVIEW
The only game on the Main Slate with a lower Over/Under than Lions // Cardinals (40.5) is Jets // Bills — and unlike that game (which will feature Josh Allen taking DGAF shots down the field all game long), this game pairs two of the least aggressive offenses in the NFL. Further lowering scoring expectations on this game is its locale — as the home team Cardinals boast a strong defense that should be able to slow down the preferred offense in this spot.
From a real-life perspective, this game also gives us little to be excited about, as each team is well out of the playoff hunt, and the rookie quarterback in this game is being developed through conservative, run-and-defense-first game plans, rather than through Josh Allen-like shots. Arizona ranks 32nd in both points and yards per game. Detroit ranks 23rd in both points and yards per game.
LIONS PASS OFFENSE
The best potential source of DFS-viable offense in this game comes from a disappointing Lions passing attack that struggled early in the year and then shed Golden Tate before losing Marvin Jones. Kenny Golladay is the last man standing here — and with Patrick Peterson finally being used by Steve Wilks to trail top receivers, he draws a difficult matchup. Working in Golladay’s favor is recent target counts of 13 // 15 // 8 // 8. Working against him is a 50% catch rate in his last four games, as defenses are able to pile as much attention onto him as they want right now with no other viable threats on this offense. Golladay retains sneaky upside in this spot as a guy who could still see 12+ targets (and who is the only viable downfield weapon on the Lions). But with this game likely to remain low-scoring, and with Detroit unlikely to be pushed to take the training wheels off this offense, Golladay’s likeliest scenario is a price-considered failure.
Part of the problem for Golladay has been the emergence of Bruce Ellington in the slot. It feels good for a quarterback to complete a pass — and so, Matthew Stafford has been relentlessly targeting Ellington two to five yards downfield instead of taking downfield shots to Golladay. This has led to Ellington piling up recent reception totals of 6 // 6 // 7 — but on these 19 catches, he has incredibly managed only 115 yards. Outside of touchdowns or broken plays, he’s a floor-only option in this non-aggressive attack.
Behind these two, T.J. Jones has seen exactly one target in three consecutive games. Blocking tight end Levine Toilolo popped off for a 4-90-0 line last week with the Lions leaning heavily on two tight end sets, but he’s nothing more than a “hope for another outlier” play.
LIONS RUN OFFENSE
The Arizona Cardinals continue to define the league-average in yards allowed per carry — with their opponent rushing numbers inflated by the outsized number of rush attempts this team has faced. No team in the league has faced more rush attempts than Arizona, which has allowed running back units to pile up yardage against them.
With Kerryon Johnson expected to miss another week, this backfield will again belong to the underwhelming duo of LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick. In two games without Kerryon, Blount has seen 19 and 16 carries, but he has only one reception. Riddick has seen 10 total carries and 10 total receptions across these two games. Blount is a yardage-and-touchdown back, while Riddick will need an unexpected spike in volume or a broken play in order to pop for a big game.
CARDINALS PASS OFFENSE
The Lions have been attackable through the air this year, ranking 30th in yards allowed per pass attempt — allowing an above-average catch rate and an above-average YAC/R rate on the deepest average depth of target in the league. Bringing the Cardinals’ expectations back to Earth are the loss of lone playmaker Christian Kirk (who was put on I.R. this week) and the inefficiency of Josh Rosen under center. On the year, Rosen has completed an embarrassing 54.2% of his passes, with an equally embarrassing 6.1 yards per pass attempt. Rosen has thrown 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has topped 208 passing yards only two times this season, and the Cardinals are looking to limit his opportunities right now as they try to build his confidence with a defense-and-run-first approach.
The loss of Kirk elevates opportunity for Larry Fitzgerald, who could rise to six to nine targets if the Cardinals end up throwing more than normal this week. Fitz has topped 50 receiving yards only one time with Rosen — creating a low floor here — and the Cardinals are very obviously looking to limit passing volume at this point, with a 45.45% pass play rate in their last three games (two of which were losses). The Seahawks have the lowest pass play rate in the NFL on the season, at 48.86%.
Behind Fitz, it will be some combination of Trent Sherfield, J.J. Nelson, and Ricky Seals-Jones seeing targets. Sherfield played 31 snaps last week and saw three targets. Nelson played 12 snaps, but saw zero looks. RSJ has topped 12 yards only once in his last six games. There is a chance Chad Williams returns this week to take on a couple downfield looks on the perimeter.
CARDINALS RUN OFFENSE
Time-machine ownership on David Johnson has kept his price higher than his production has warranted in this broken offense, as the Cardinals rank 31st in the NFL in yards per carry, and DJ has topped 71 rushing yards only twice on the year, with only two games all year above four receptions. He has recent target counts of 3 // 3 // 2, and he will be taking on a vastly-improved Detroit run defense that has given up only one long run to Dalvin Cook and a solid game to Todd Gurley since adding Snacks Harrison in Week 8, and has otherwise stonewalled running backs. Last week’s two-touchdown game from Chase Edmonds looked worse in the box score than it did in real life, with DJ still playing 52 of 62 snaps — but DJ does remain a low-floor play at his still-somewhat-elevated price tag. His ceiling is more than theoretical, but he has a tough time getting there in this offense. Perhaps he’ll see a bit more passing work with Kirk on the sidelines.
I am not seeing anything to catch my eye in this low-scoring game between two of the least aggressive teams in the NFL. As is the case in any game in the league (this being that perfect “any game” example), some things can go right to create a fantasy-viable play; but the style of play from these two attacks makes it nothing more than “guessing and hoping” to try to find that play. There are simply much better spots on the slate than this.
If I did go here, Golladay would probably be the guy I would take a shot on. I don’t expect the Lions to get aggressive, and the matchup is no good; but there is potential for another high-target game, which opens the door to upside. Fitzgerald, Blount, and DJ would be the plays to consider behind him.
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