Matthew Stafford confidently walked onto the field Sunday as the highest-paid NFL player in history. He promptly threw a touchdown… to an Arizona defender. The rest of the first half didn’t go very well, either, until he made a nifty escape from a pass rush and hit Marvin Jones on a tough throw for Detroit’s first touchdown.
In the second half, things went much better for the Lions and particularly well for Stafford. Three more touchdown passes ensued on his way to going 29-41 for 292 yards and the third-highest fantasy point total of the week. He even threw in 14 rushing yards. And It could have been better if his receivers didn’t drop five passes.
Coming off a game like that, Stafford has to be a must-start, right? It would appear so, but nothing in life or NFL fantasy football is a sure thing. Let’s see how he did it and factor the odds that he can do it again next week.
Arizona led this game 17-9 with five minutes to go in the third quarter. On their next possession, David Johnson took a handoff and gained five yards before fumbling the ball on the Cardinal ten-yard line. An earlier wrist injury was more serious than thought. Johnson was knocked out of the game.
When someone like David Johnson, arguably the best running back in the NFL, gets knocked out a game, things can happen. In this case, it is hard to discern if Arizona fell into a funk or if the Lions became energized with hope, but Detroit was in control the rest of the contest.
Stafford threw touchdown passes on the Lions’ next three possessions to put the game away. The question today is, does Stafford’s fourth quarter performance carry over into week two? Or will he need another game-changing event to jump start him again?
Stafford and the Lions take their act on the road in Week 2, facing the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. That’s a different atmosphere than opening day in Detroit. Which Matthew Stafford will show up?
He faces another tough defense in the Giants. Last season, New York allowed only six touchdown passes in eight home games. They gave up one last week in Dallas at the end of a half in which they were on the field for almost 25 minutes. Giants defenders are not blaming the time of possession, field position or fatigue for their unacceptable (in their minds) performance. They promise fans turnovers, sacks and no touchdowns in Week 2.
Stafford would do well to find the Lions’ running game or a short enough passing game to wear out the New York defense like Dallas did.
The verdict is… cloudy. NFL fantasy protocol says you play the hot passer, regardless of matchup. If you have another good quarterback with a much better matchup, you could be excused for making the switch. But Stafford is technically a must-start as arguably the second-best NFL fantasy quarterback so far.
Just don’t expect four touchdowns. Stafford will face an excellent pass defense that has playmakers at all three levels and are playing angry. One of Detroit’s best wide receivers, Golden Tate, will play with an injured finger. Lastly, Detroit may be the only team to challenge the Giants’ status as the worst rushing team.
The Giants do give up some yards and Stafford could easily sneak in a touchdown pass. I expect an average NFL fantasy score from Stafford based on the matchup, but I seem to remember that Arizona was supposed to be a tough matchup, too. I would start him… nervously.
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