Lions at Redskins gives us the golden matchup of Jeff Driskel against Dwayne Haskins — every NFL ticket-holder’s dream! (But wait! — that’s not all. You also get Matt Patricia and Bill Callahan on the sidelines. Welcome to the land of milk and honey.)
Since Matthew Stafford went down (and somehow went from back-to-back game-time decisions to “probably out at least a couple more weeks”), the Lions have tried to make ends meet by allowing Driskel to throw the ball 72 times (with 13 attempts added on the ground) while calling on the scintillating backfield timeshare of Paul Perkins (since released), Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, and the great Bo Scarbrough to run the ball 41 times. These 41 carries have led to 135 yards (3.29 yards per carry).
While Driskel has been passing more, he has (as explored last week) been leaning on downfield throws less often than Stafford. And yet — Driskel is still throwing downfield more than the field might expect, with eight passes of 20+ yards across the last two weeks. Driskel is still not in the “19.2%” range for 20+ yard attempts that Stafford (first in the NFL in aDOT) left behind, but this offense — coming off tough matchups vs the Bears and the Cowboys — is certainly not left for dead.
Since Driskel took over, Kenny Golladay has seen 14 targets (19.4%), Danny Amendola has seen 13 targets (18.1%), Marvin Jones and McKissic have each seen 11 targets (15.3%), and T.J. Hockenson has seen eight targets (11.1%). With Driskel under center and pass-catcher pricing still hedged in case Stafford returns, and with the Lions no longer set to be chasing points as they were the last two weeks, nothing in this spot really pops off the page; but Washington is allowing over nine yards per target to wide receivers, and they have allowed 1.3 receiving touchdowns per game to the position. It isn’t a bad spot for the Detroit passing attack to potentially click once again.
On the Washington side, there is potential that this game remains close enough that they can get back to leaning on the run after the Jets forced them away from this approach a week ago. Unfortunately, Washington ran a three-man timeshare last week, with Wendell Smallwood seeing 28 snaps, Adrian Peterson seeing 17, and Derrius Guice seeing 20. If Chris Thompson returns this week, he’ll take over the Smallwood role, while Peterson and Guice will likely continue splitting snaps/touches — with Guice seeing his share of the work grow, but with Peterson almost certainly not going away. Guice carries interesting per-touch upside in a matchup that tilts in his favor, though he’ll almost certainly need to do his damage on 15 or fewer touches.
In the pass game, Terry McLaurin did see a downfield target last week (hooray) — yet somehow, he managed to be fed only four looks, while Trey Quinn, Kelvin Harmon, and Steven Sims all matched or passed that number and Jeremy Sprinkle // Smallwood each finished only one behind that mark. McLaurin will do battle with sometimes-really-good corner Darius Slay, though the bigger obstacle to production is Haskins (and the bigger obstacle for both of them is Callahan). Ultimately, Washington’s offense is a layer of conservative thinking/strategizing/play-calling added on top of another layer of conservative thinking/strategizing/play-calling. Before the fourth quarter last week, Washington had gone 16 consecutive quarters without producing a touchdown. In all, they have produced five offensive touchdowns in their last seven games.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Last week, we highlighted the Lions in the Player Grid as one of a small number of offenses worth considering in game stacks (and hit them up again on the Run To Daylight podcast — always linked at the top of the Player Grid), but while the matchup this week is softer, the need to be aggressive will be lessened against the poor offense of the Redskins. I had 10% Driskel exposure last week, with 15% Marvin Jones (and, disappointingly, 15% T.J. Hockenson), and at the mid-point of this week, I imagine I’ll call that enough Lions exposure for a two-week span. With that said: if we took price out of the equation on the Lions pass catchers and just talked about chances of a couple big plays hitting, I certainly wouldn’t be against playing them — and as such, I certainly think they are viable in tourneys this week.
“Viable in tourneys” is more than I’m likely to be feeling for the Redskins, as McLaurin and Guice are “bet on talent beating coaching and a bad overall offense” options. While both certainly carry some upside, I’ll hope to be looking for plays with a bit more certainty behind them for my rosters. (I should also note that it’s the last week of the “regular season” for the Best Ball Championship, and I’m on track to pass through 50% more teams than the standard pass-through rate — with several other teams positioned to push that number even higher. Guice was one of my higher-owned mid-round running backs, and McLaurin is one of my highest-owned players, as I soaked him up in the final rounds every chance I had. As such, I’m considering that to be my “Guice and McLaurin exposure” at the moment, as I’ll be thrilled if one or the other somehow falls into a monster weekend (and helps make up for my enormous exposure to O.J. Howard…). Take that for whatever you feel it’s worth — though I still don’t imagine I’d be wanting to roster one of these guys even if that were not the case.)
There is an alternate scenario to all this in which you expect the Lions to remain aggressive with downfield throws even without Washington necessarily keeping pace — in which case, the Lions pieces could end up producing at a level commensurate with salary. (A likely lack of aggressive-style volume is a much bigger obstacle here than matchup.)
There is also an “alternate alternate” scenario in which Washington successfully responds to an aggressive attack by the Lions. A lot of imagination is required to see this one; but on a slate like this, it’s at least not as crazy as it would be in most other weeks.