Kickoff: Sunday, December 5th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Betting Odds: MIN -7, 46.5 total via Oddsshark
Writer: Bryan Sweet (@FantasyFreakTN on Twitter, @bsweet0us on Reddit)
Kirk Cousins (Start, QB1)
Even though Kirk Cousins doesn’t have the strongest arm or the most rushing ability or the gaudy numbers, he is currently on pace for one of his best seasons since entering the NFL in 2012. Cousins is averaging nearly 275 yards per game through the air and leads the NFL in interception percentage with a paltry 0.7%. Cousins has yet to have a game in which he doesn’t throw a TD pass and has multiple passing TDs in all but three games this season. Back in Week 5, when the Vikings squared off against the Lions the first time, Cousins provided 275 yards and one TD, although he did toss one of his three INTs that game. Detroit is a bad team defensively and Cousins should have no problem reaching, and possibly eclipsing, his stats from the first meeting. Look for Cousins to settle in the bottom half of the QB1 ranks this week.
Alexander Mattison (Start, RB1), Kene Nwangwu (Sit)
In a case of history repeating itself, the Week 5 game against Detroit was also a game in which Dalvin Cook missed with injury, giving Alexander Mattison the start in that game. Well, here we are in Week 13 and Cook is out with a shoulder injury and Mattison will be starting in his place. Mattison is one of the best backup RBs in the NFL and Minnesota’s offense doesn’t have to alter the playcalling with Mattison because he is such a valuable asset in both the rushing and passing game. Mattison had his best game of the season back in Week 10 as he gashed Detroit’s defense for 113 rushing yards and caught all seven of his targets for 40 yards and one TD. This should be a game in which Minnesota controls the ball and the clock, giving Mattison plenty of opportunities to find himself comfortably within the RB1 ranks once again this week.
The duties of providing relief for the starting RB this week will fall to Kene Nwangwu who has played sparingly in the backfield this season (two carries) but has been the primary kick returner for Minnesota since Week 8 and has provided two return TDs since then. Nwangwu likely won’t see more than a handful of touches, making him mostly irrelevant for fantasy managers, but if something were to happen to Mattison, Nwangwu looks like the next man up for the Vikings.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Adam Thielen (Start, WR1), Justin Jefferson (Start, WR1), K.J. Osborn (Sit), Tyler Conklin (Sit)
Minnesota fields one of the best 1-2 punches at WR in the NFL with veteran Adam Thielen and second-year player Justin Jefferson doing most of the heavy lifting in Minnesota’s passing game. Thielen has been as reliable as they come since 2016 when he proved to the then-coaching staff just how good he is. Thielen trails only Jefferson in targets this season with 90 and has nearly doubled everyone else on the roster in that department. Thielen is no longer putting up numbers to rival his 2017 and 2018 seasons and is having his lowest yards per reception average of his career (10.9 YPC), but looks like he’ll shatter his career-high in receiving TDs (14) as he currently leads the NFL with 10. Thielen is so involved in the passing game that he has a solid floor every week and a matchup with a bad Lions’ team should keep him firmly in the WR1 conversation for Week 13.
The other half of Minnesota’s receiving duo is building on his impressive rookie campaign and leads the team in every major statistical receiving category except TDs with 99 targets, 67 receptions, 1,027 receiving yards to pair with his six receiving TDs. Jefferson is on pace to eclipse his rookie numbers and is almost a guaranteed WR1 every week for fantasy managers. Jefferson was instrumental in Minnesota’s victory over Detroit in Week 5 as he gathered seven receptions on eight targets for 124 yards. I don’t see any more resistance from Detroit’s defense this week and Jefferson should join Thielen as an easy WR1 this week for fantasy managers.
K.J. Osborn got a lot of attention following his Week 2 game against Arizona in which he had 91 yards on five receptions and scored his first NFL TD but he’s been mostly an afterthought in the offense since. Osborn has had only one other game of note (Week 6 against Carolina, 6-78-1) and simply can’t be trusted as a starting option given the amount of work both Thielen and Jefferson receive. Despite the juicy matchup, I simply can’t recommend a player who rarely receives more than three targets as a viable starting option.
The third-best receiving option for Minnesota this season has been Tyler Conklin. Conklin has been a trusted target for Cousins as Conklin has a 72% catch rate and provides a big body in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, three receptions for 25 yards doesn’t move the needle enough to consider Conklin as a starting consideration because he sees so few targets. Conklin is good for Minnesota but doesn’t have enough upside for fantasy managers this week. Sit him.
Jared Goff (Sit)
I don’t want to say Jared Goff is a bad QB, but he is when looking at him through the lens of fantasy football. Goff’s 6.4 yards per attempt is better than only Trevor Lawrence and Cam Newton when looking at current starting QBs and Goff doesn’t bring any sort of rushing upside to the position like Newton and, to a slightly lesser degree, Lawrence does. It doesn’t help when Goff is throwing to a WR corps that consists of guys who most people can’t even name and the team’s most dynamic player, D’Andre Swift, is going to be out with an injury. Detroit knew what it was getting into with Goff and he’s simply captaining a sinking ship right now. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but Goff isn’t even a consideration in leagues that allow for more than one starting QB. Don’t just sit him, cut him.
Jamaal Williams (Start, RB1), Godwin Igwebuike (Sit)
There was some optimism among Lions fans that the injury Swift suffered on Thanksgiving would be minor enough that the extended time off would allow him to play this week but it doesn’t look like that will happen. This means first-year Lion Jamaal Williams will get his first start of the season and has a chance to provide some late-season help to fantasy managers who have held him this season. Williams has been a great fit for Detroit as his skill set meshes well with Swift’s and gives Detroit two reliable options in the backfield. Projecting a full workload for Williams against a Minnesota defense that has shown vulnerability against RBs might push him into a low-end RB1 conversation. Williams has also proven he is an asset in the passing game, and given Goff’s proclivity to throw the short pass, that bumps up Williams’s floor some. Consider him a solid RB2 with RB1 upside as you make a push for the fantasy playoffs.
There are some questions about how the backfield will shake out behind Williams this week, but Godwin Igwebuike saw work after Swift’s injury last week and Jermar Jefferson seems like he’ll miss another week. Igwebuike should provide breathers for Williams but is too much of an unknown to even project fantasy stats for. Pass on Igwebuike this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Josh Reynolds (Sit), Amon-Ra St. Brown (Sit), Kalif Raymond (Sit), T.J. Hockenson (Start, TE1)
The only reason Josh Reynolds is listed first in this section is that he has a history with Goff during their time together with the Rams. Reynolds was easily the most productive WR for Detroit last week and had Detroit’s first TD last week. He’s been with the team for just two games, but he’s got the most chemistry with Goff by far as a result of injuries and inexperience among the rest of Detroit’s WRs. Still, I can’t suggest any of Detroit’s WRs as a starting option given the deficiencies of the offense and the QB. If any WR were going to have any sort of fantasy relevance, however, the most likely candidate would be Reynolds.
The other WRs projected to see the most work are Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown, but there’s just not much to say here. Both players saw four targets last week against Chicago with Raymond catching three for 16 yards and St. Brown hauling in all four for 23 yards. I’m not going to waste any more of your time on these guys, just know that they shouldn’t be started in your league. Moving on.
The only player worth considering seriously among the Lions receivers is T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson leads the team in every statistical category with 76 targets, 57 receptions, 534 yards, and three receiving TDs. Hockenson has had some disappointing games this season, but he provides such a high ceiling at the position it’s hard to sit him unless you’ve got another option on your team. With Swift out, Hockenson could see more targets come his way. Are there better options at TE? Sure, but only a few, so I recommend continuing to roll Hockenson out as your starting TE again this week.