Is the Detroit Lions offense morphing from a pass-first to a run-first attack? Is it time to give up on Stefon Diggs? Is it time to give up on a certain tight end…take a guess…in the NFC East? Is there a tight end in the AFC East who could help your team? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson tackles those questions in his newest edition of “Traps & Trends.”
We’re just seven weeks into the NFL season, but…
1. Is a high-powered Detroit Lions passing attack that usually operates in overdrive downshifting into first gear?
The Damage: The usually pass-happy Detroit Lions crossed up a lot of fantasy owners by running a lot more than usual and passing a lot less during their Week 7 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Paced by Kerryon Johnson’s career-best rushing effort of 158 yards (longest run was 71 yards) on 19 carries (8.3 yards per carry) and LeGarrette Blount’s 50 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries, the Motor City Kitties racked up 248 yards. It was the team’s highest rushing output in a contest since the 1997 season.
With the Johnson/Blount duo powering the offense, Matthew Stafford and his wideouts moved into secondary roles. Stafford attempted just 22 passes against Miami, which was the third-lowest single-game total of his 10-year career. While he still threw for a modest 217 yards and two touchdowns, Stafford’s wideouts posted very disappointing outings. Kenny Golladay made two grabs for 37 yards on two targets, and Golden Tate notched four receptions for 36 yards on six targets, which were season-worst performances by both. Marvin Jones compiled his second-worst outing of the season, catching three balls for 29 yards on four targets. Are the Lions transitioning into a more balanced offense and should Stafford, Golladay, Tate and Jones owners panic?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes. During the offseason, new Detroit head coach Matt Patricia told offensive boss Jim-Bob Cooter make it a priority to re-energize a ground game that finished dead last in the NFL last season. The Lions added some offensive line help, signed power back Blount and, of course, drafted Johnson. Detroit running backs won’t be able to pound out 29 rushing attempts each week, but the team clearly is going to go run heavy when it can. Demote Stafford to a matchup-dependent No. 2 fantasy passer. Consider Golladay and Tate mid-range No. 2 fantasy wideouts while the fading Jones looks like a low-end No. 3/high-end No. 4 fantasy wideout.
2. There’s a really good reason why a certain quarterback that had averaged 361.3 passing yards and 1.8 touchdown tosses per contest from Week 2 through Week 5 hasn’t topped the 200-yard mark in two straight.
The Dude: Deshaun Watson
The Damage: Expected to rack up gobs of fantasy points each week, the dual-threat triggerman has been a major disappointment two weeks in a row. During a Week 6 home victory over the Buffalo Bills, Watson attempted what was at the time a season-low 25 passes, amassing 177 yards and one touchdown. He also carried just two times for two yards. This past Sunday, Watson took a backseat to Lamar Miller in the offense during the team’s surprising road win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, putting it up just 24 times for 139 yards and one score. The second-year pro also chipped in a soft seven carries for 13 yards. Will Watson’s passing production slump continue?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Things aren’t looking good for Watson for at least the next two weeks. The Houston Texans finally confirmed that Watson, listed on the injury report with a chest ailment two weeks in a row, is dealing with ribs and lung injuries that prevented him from flying to Jacksonville with his teammates. Instead, Watson took a 12-hour bus ride to make it to the Week 7 contest. Assuming the Texans don’t wise up and park the very banged-up Watson on the injury shelf, it goes without saying that he’s an injury risk and likely to rack up at least two more dud fantasy outings.
Houston’s next contest is Thursday night at home versus the Miami Dolphins. Since the Dolphins are very soft against the run, look for a big workload for Lamar Miller and yet another small one for Watson. Before the Texans’ Week 9 bye, they’ll travel to Denver to face a resurgent Broncos defense that squashed the Arizona Cardinals offense last Thursday night. If they decide to shut Watson down for a while, he could miss multiple games, too. If you own Watson and don’t have a good second quarterback on your team, you need to get one quickly.
3. Will we start digging Stefon’s fantasy production again anytime soon?
The Dude: Stefon Diggs
The Damage: While his wingman, Adam Thielen, cranked out his seventh straight 100-yard game and fourth straight with a score this past Sunday during the Minnesota Vikings’ road victory over the New York Jets, Diggs took a backseat in the offense again. Two weeks ago, he struggled against shadow coverage by Arizona Cardinals elite cornerback Patrick Peterson, amassing just three catches for 33 yards on five targets. In the Jets game, Diggs caught eight balls for only 33 yards on 14 targets while struggling against Jets defensive back Morris Claiborne’s coverage most of the afternoon. Is it time for fantasy owners to park Diggs on the bench?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
No. Diggs has two upcoming favorable home matchups versus the New Orleans Saints (Week 8) and the Detroit Lions (Week 9). He usually draws coverage from the top cornerbacks, while the red-hot Thielen, for reasons that I don’t completely understand, faces lesser defensive backs and single coverage despite his recent success. Diggs, considered a very good wideout, isn’t an elite talent capable of beating the top-notch defensive backs regularly. The Vikings also frequently target Diggs close to the line of scrimmage, which explains why sometimes he racks up a decent number of catches but not big yardage or touchdowns. Relax, Diggs owners. Better fantasy days are ahead for him.