There has been a little buzz in Detroit about just how good this season’s Lions could be. They were buzzing about a potential 1,000-yard running back. They were buzzing about their passing game. They were buzzing about their defense. Then the 2-0 Lions met Tom Brady and the Patriots. Now, they just feel stung.
After posting eight sacks and shutting down their first two opponents, Detroit’s defense was a step behind every Patriots receiver. Brady dissected them to the tune of three touchdowns and a field goal with time remaining in the first quarter.
Detroit’s first offensive play resulted in a Golden Tate fumble. Things didn’t get much better until late in the second quarter when Marvin Jones beat Malcolm Butler on a 23-yard touchdown.
The second team made things respectable, actually taking the lead at one point. But if Detroit needed to be brought back to earth after picking on the Jets and Colts earlier in the preseason, the Patriots more than obliged. There was a moment at 21-0 that the Detroit defense seemed almost paralyzed by the precision and speed of the New England attack.
What did we learn?
Once the initial onslaught was over, some positive things happened for the Lions. Their running game is developing nicely, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Ameer Abdullah is looking more like the real deal every week. New England linebackers had trouble covering him out of the backfield and he ran with quickness and anticipation. It looks like Detroit’s string of no 100-yard rushers will be over soon.
Theo Riddick made a cameo appearance coming off his wrist surgery. He was not targeted, but coach Jim Caldwell mentioned that Riddick looked like he was hitting his marks well. They are optimistic he is ready for week one.
If not, Dwayne Washington continues to look like he will win the backup job. His per-rush average was low, but he ran with power on short yardage and hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Quarterback Matt Stafford went 4/4 on a 70-yard touchdown drive and finished 11/17 for 125 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His interception was tipped away from the intended receiver by rookie Kenny Golladay.
Detroit’s offense will have to anticipate high scoring affairs like this one unless the Lions can develop a pass rush. They registered three hits and no sacks against Brady. Last season, they were next-to-last in quarterback sacks and do not seem to have added any sure threat there. The Lions boast a talented secondary, but it was picked apart by an unmolested Brady.
Stafford and his receivers have the makings of some good fantasy days. Marvin Jones looks ready to take the number one slot from Golden Tate III, but they are truly a 1 and 1A. If Eric Ebron can stay on the field and Riddick is back in form, their job will only get easier.
Tate is boasting a worthy fifth round WR25 ADP. Jones, however, is a bargain at his 10th round WR44 ADP. The rookie Golladay is considered a potential sleeper based largely on his red zone presence, but he is drafting only one round behind Jones. Jump on Jones who could easily finish 2017 with more than 1,000 yards and six to eight touchdowns. Tate is about right at WR25.
Stafford is entering a contract year with a full stable of receivers and a running game to keep defenses honest. He is a safe bet at his current QB15 and is a threat to finish in the top ten.
Detroit’s coaches are very high on running back Ameer Abdullah. There is virtually no one who doesn’t expect him to top 1,000 yards this season as the first and second-down back. His touchdown total could be tempered if Dwayne Washington wins the role as the power back. Zach Zenner will also get touches.
Despite the hype out of Michigan, Abdullah’s ADP of fifth round, RB24 has remained consistent. It could prove to be a bit of a bargain, although the impressive passing game will keep him out of the top tier. Riddick is drafting in the tenth round (RB47) as the third down back. That seems about right.
Those other fantasy guys
Tight end could become a lost position for the Lions as Eric Ebron still has not made it through a full practice all preseason. Tim Wright is the only recognizable name on the roster after Ebron. He caught three passes against New England. If Ebron can get back on the field, he is a pass catcher, but only had one touchdown last season. I am keeping him off my draft board.
Matt Prater kicks indoors and has some leg. He is drafting as the ninth kicker after a seventh-best finish a year ago. He is definitely worth a roster spot.
Detroit’s defense is getting no respect on the draft boards and rightfully so. With a rookie middle linebacker who may be emotionally scarred for life after what Brady, Edelman, and Gronkowski did to him this week and no pass rush, it looks like the Lions will have to rely on scoring lots of points to win games this year.
And that’s that.
Detroit seems to realize what they are: better than the bad teams and not as good as the good teams. What they do have, however, is a team that will have to score a lot of points to win games… and that makes fantasy owners very happy.
Riddick and Ebron warrant monitoring for their injury status. Marvin Jones is the best potential bargain with Ameer Abdullah probably a little undervalued as well. With a strong armed QB playing for a contract, you can justify taking a chance on any of the receivers in silver and blue. Keep checking back at RealSport for updates on who else is stepping up in the Motor City.
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