Fun trivia for you :: the Lions — who have played a schedule that includes the Chiefs, Packers, Vikings, Raiders, and Cowboys, and who have a record of 3-8-1 — have played only one game in which they have been separated from their opponent by more than one score at the end. Bonus point on that trivia: that only “non-one-score” game came in a 12 point loss to the Vikings. The Lions have been able to remain competitive against the Bears (twice), Cowboys, and Redskins with Jeff Driskel and David Blough under center — but this will be put to the test on the road against an 8-4 Vikings team that is pretty clearly in the top eight or nine units in the league.
We will get to the Vikings offense in a moment, but the starting point for the Lions is an expectation that the Vikings will be able to score points. With this assumption in place (backed up by Vegas giving the Vikings the highest implied team total on the slate and pairing them with the Packers as the largest favorites on the slate), we should expect a game plan for the Lions that eventually tilts toward the pass — where the Vikings have struggled this year to defend both wide receivers and tight ends. Only six teams have allowed more wide receiver yards than the Vikings, and only three teams have allowed more wide receiver touchdowns. Only six teams have allowed more yards to tight ends, and only three teams have allowed more receptions. The quarterback play of Blough will be a much bigger obstacle for Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones than the matchup.
The Lions passing attack is down T.J. Hockenson (I.R.), and while Logan Thomas (19 snaps last week) and Jesse James (25 snaps last week) will step in as touchdown-or-bust replacements, this should ultimately concentrate the passing attack even more fully on Golladay and Jones (with Danny Amendola working underneath) — making these two an interesting point of discussion on this ugly slate.
Golladay has seen his targets drop to 5 // 4 // 5 across his last three games, but he is maintaining the downfield role that has led to a breakout season. He is massively volatile at the higher ends of the price range with so few targets guaranteed to go his way, but he does have a legitimate shot at a big game if things fall in place. Jones has recent target counts of 5 // 11 // 6 and has been shifted into more of an intermediate role with the changing quarterback setup. His big role in the red zone (ninth most red zone targets in the league) has helped him find his way to nine touchdowns this season — and while he is somewhat touchdown-dependent for his ceiling right now, he has shown a fairly solid floor for his now-lower price. If the Vikings score the way they are expected to, there will be at least some targets going toward these two.
The final “core piece” on the Lions is Bo Scarbrough, who will be involved in the run game for as long as the Lions are able to lean on him (recent carry counts of 14 // 18 // 21). The Vikings are allowing 4.3 yards per carry to enemy backs — but as a true yardage-and-touchdown back (Scarbrough has only one target across three games), he’ll need this game to stay close (or he’ll need some touchdown luck) in order to prove a useful piece this week.
The Vikings, as we know, provide us with one of the more concentrated offenses in the league, focusing primarily on Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen when healthy — with much of the Thielen focus shifting to the tight ends when he is off the field. There are really no difficult matchups for this run-leaning Vikings team (30th in pass play rate), so the big question here is “floor and ceiling compared to the price.” Looking at things through this lens, we find a group of Vikings players who are fairly unattractive in more stable contests (double-ups, head-to-heads, ultra-small-field tourneys), but who nevertheless carry some flash potential in tournaments.
It would be preferable for us, from a DFS perspective, if the Vikings were to choose to give Cook and his ailing chest/shoulder a week to recuperate, as this would open opportunity for Alexander Mattison to take over a valuable lead role. At the front end of the week, however, it appears likely that Cook will play, making him a risk/reward option at the higher ends of the price range. If things go according to plan against a Lions team that faces among the most running back touches in the NFL and has given up the second most touchdowns to the position (10 on the ground; a league-high eight through the air), then Cook — who has five games of 25+ touches — would have a clear shot at one of the top raw scores on the slate. But there is also clear potential for Cook to see a bit less work than normal (or to be less effective than normal, given that he’s dealing with a “pain tolerance” issue). Perhaps the biggest risk here is a Vikings blowout that could open a path for Mattison to get all of the late-game work.
In the pass game, Diggs has seen recent target counts of only 6 // 5 // 9 in three games without Thielen, putting him in a position where he requires big plays in order to come close to paying off his gaudy salary. And yet, the Lions boost aDOT by over 25% (by far the largest boost in the league) and have allowed the third most pass plays of 20+ yards, while allowing the fourth most wide receiver yards in the league. The Lions have given up notable pass catcher stat lines that have been littered with big plays:
8-98-0 Keenan (15 targets)
Diggs is a scary-low-floor option on his uncertain target share, but he has elite ceiling.
If Thielen returns, he’ll step back into the role that yielded recent target counts of 6 // 8 // 8 // 2, with the biggest risk factor being the potential for low targets in a game the Vikings control. If Thielen misses, it will again be Kyle Rudolph (recent target counts of 5 // 5 // 5 // 6), Irv Smith (6 // 6 // 3 // 3), and Olabisi Johnson (2 // 4 // 9 // 3) pitching in. Thielen would be a slightly less volatile play than Diggs, though he still comes with floor concerns — especially in his first game back from injury. Rudolph has seen his price rise on DK off his touchdown binge (five in his last four games); and as touchdowns are the least predictable element in DFS, this makes him fundamentally a bit overpriced. Nevertheless — as with the rest of this offense — this overpriced status is in relation to floor // certainty, while paths to ceiling remain.
JM’s Interpretation ::
The prices on the Vikings and the quarterback situation for the Lions create a DFS situation that is not exactly stable; but there are some spots to consider here.
I’ll likely avoid Scarbrough myself, as I prefer backs with pass-catching roles; but he’s interesting for savings as a touchdown-dependent play. Golladay and Jones are also in the mix for big-play- and/or touchdown-driven ceiling, while each carries a scary-low floor with Blough at the reins.
On the Vikings’ side, Cook — with his injury concerns — is a lesser on-paper play than McCaffrey; but his ceiling in this spot certainly still makes him a player to keep in mind. The pass catchers are boom/bust options, with enough upside on those “booms” to still be kept in mind.
I may reserve this game primarily for game stacks — particularly if I can pair this spot with either some value I really like, or with a cheaper second game stack that can raise the point-per-dollar ceiling of this roster as a whole. To put that another way :: there are not a lot of individual pieces to just absolutely love this week; so if I can find a way to end up on two games that produce strong, steady production, I won’t really care what I paid for the individual pieces, so long as the combination of two correct stacks opens paths to the top of the leaderboard.