Kickoff: Sunday, December 12th at 4:05 PM ET
Location: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Betting Odds: DEN -8, 42 total via Oddsshark
Writer: Bryan Sweet (@FantasyFreakTN on Twitter, @bsweet0us on Reddit)
Jared Goff (Sit)
Despite leading the team on a last-minute drive to knock off the Vikings for Detroit’s first win of the season last week, Jared Goff is still a poor fantasy QB. Goff had his best statistical day of the season by far last week with 296 passing yards and three TDs against just one INT but the Lions won’t get the benefit of facing a banged-up defense missing two of the better pass-defending LBs in the NFL again this week. Denver just held Patrick Mahomes to 184 yards and no TDs while registering an INT last week and nobody will confuse Detroit’s offense for Kansas City’s. Goff is going to continue to throw short, safe passes to his RBs and TEs and put up meager passing statistics which will leave him out of the conversation for fantasy consideration this week. Move along.
Jamaal Williams (Start, RB2), Godwin Igwebuike/Jermar Jefferson (Sit)
On Wednesday, HC Dan Campbell indicated D’Andre Swift is “improving” as he works his way back from a shoulder injury, but as of this writing expectations are that Swift will miss at least one more game. In his stead, Jamaal Williams had a respectable performance against Minnesota with 17 carries for 71 yards. Somewhat surprisingly, Williams wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game with just a single target which he corralled for nine yards. Williams also saw a smaller snap share than many were expecting with 34 snaps (47.2%) but did have the majority of the carries by a considerable margin. Denver has stiffened up against RBs over the past five games, allowing just one TD to the position but they have been susceptible to RBs as pass catchers over the last two games in giving up 80+ receiving yards in each. Williams should continue to dominate the touches among the RBs for Detroit and if he can see a bit more work in the passing game should finish as an RB2 this week.
Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson spelled Williams last week but neither produced much with the opportunity. Jefferson was the second-most used RB against Minnesota with five carries and a single target but was able to manage just 18 yards on those touches. Igwebuike saw more snaps than Jefferson but didn’t see any more opportunities with just two each of carries and targets for a combined 21 yards. I’d expect a similar output from both this week and they are no more than bit pieces of Detroit’s offense. Sit both of them if you were thinking otherwise.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Amon-Ra St. Brown (Sit, possible low-end Flex), Kalif Raymond (Sit), Josh Reynolds (Sit), T.J. Hockenson (Start, TE1)
As a Lions fan, I had high hopes for the fantasy prospects of rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown after he was drafted by the team. Detroit had a clear need at WR and St. Brown displayed good route running and hands in what I saw of him at USC. St. Brown FINALLY had a game to get excited about as he led the team in targets (12), receptions (10), receiving yards (86), and caught the game-winning TD on the game’s final play. It remains to be seen if this is the start of a budding relationship between Goff and St. Brown or if it was a matter of taking what the defense was giving, but it’s encouraging to see that level of trust for a Detroit WR this season. I’m giving it one more week before I fully trust St. Brown as anything more than a Flex option, but I think he’s a fine choice for this week if you’re struggling with injuries and/or BYEs.
Outside of St. Brown, there wasn’t much left for any of Detroit’s other WRs. Josh Reynolds was once again a favorite of Goff, likely stemming from their time together with the Rams. Reynolds saw seven targets on the day and converted them into four receptions for 69 yards. Kalif Raymond was the third WR on the field for Detroit, seeing just two targets, but catching both for 28 yards and a TD. Detroit’s passing game is unfriendly for fantasy purposes as Goff rarely takes shots down the field which plays into the strengths of St. Brown’s route tree and hinders guys like Reynolds and Raymond until the Lions approach the red zone. It’s hard to see either of these guys having a fantasy-relevant day if St. Brown gets the same amount of attention as he did last week, so I’d recommend sitting both Reynolds and Raymond this week.
The one certainty among Detroit receivers is T.J. Hockenson is going to be a big part of the team’s game plan. Hockenson continues to be a trusted outlet for Goff as he trailed only St. Brown in targets with eight and compiled 49 yards on four receptions and added a TD as well. Hockenson has such a high upside as, until last week, the primary option in Detroit’s passing game and should continue to be a primary focus for Goff. Hockenson has had some duds this season, but you’re not likely to find a better option most weeks. If you’ve got him and don’t have one of the elite options as well, start him in Week 14.
Teddy Bridgewater (Sit)
Despite the juicy matchup against a poor Detroit defense, it’s hard to suggest starting Teddy Bridgewater this week because of what he’s shown us throughout the season. Bridgewater has failed to pass for more than one TD in each of Denver’s last five games and has topped 250 yards only once (last week against Kansas City). Denver’s identity is playing tough defense and utilizing a power running game to wear down opposing defenses while picking and choosing when to attack through the air. Denver is a comfortable favorite, which should lead to an even further reduced passing game, further limiting Bridgewater’s upside. Bridgewater lands near the middle of the QB2 tier with some upside given the defense he’s facing, but I’d recommend looking hard at other options for Week 14.
Javonte Williams (Start, RB1), Melvin Gordon (Sit, possible Flex)
One of the hottest names among rookies in the fantasy football community leading into the draft season was Javonte Williams from North Carolina. Williams had been sharing the rushing duties with Melvin Gordon but got the backfield to himself last week as Gordon was forced to miss with a hip issue. Williams took full advantage of his newfound opportunity to the tune of 102 rushing yards on 23 attempts and six receptions on nine targets for 76 yards and a TD. This week, Denver will get to face a defense that has struggled mightily against the run as Detroit allows an average of 107 rushing yards per game and almost one TD per contest along with 35 receiving yards. Williams might have to contend with Gordon returning this week but might have flipped the roles with his performance last week. Even if Gordon plays, Williams should have no trouble finding success again this week and should finish as no worse than a low-end RB1.
Turning to Gordon, reports coming out of Denver indicate the veteran is going to return to practice this week but there has been no definitive answer as to whether or not he’ll play this week. If reports continue to be positive concerning the hip injury, Gordon likely returns to the lesser half of the committee, making him less attractive as a viable option for fantasy managers. The matchup is tempting, so he could be an option as a Flex for those dealing with injuries or BYE weeks, but I wouldn’t expect much more than RB3-type numbers from Gordon. If you are considering him as an option, keep a close watch on practice reports this week to confirm whether Gordon plays or not on Sunday.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Courtland Sutton (Sit), Jerry Jeudy (Start, WR3/Flex), Tim Patrick (Sit), Noah Fant (Start, low-end TE1)
It’s been a long season already for Jerry Jeudy and fantasy managers that drafted him as he missed a stretch of six games after suffering an ankle injury in Week 1. Jeudy has ramped up over the past five games, however, and the abilities he brings to the passing game mesh better with Bridgewater than Courtland Sutton’s do. Jeudy is a skilled route runner and can gain separation on defenders in the intermediate area of the field which plays into Bridgewater’s strengths. As such, Jeudy is a more reliable fantasy asset because he is going to see more catchable targets even if they’re not considered “high-value” because of the lower likelihood they’ll result in TDs. Jeudy has outproduced Sutton in recent weeks and I expect that trend to continue in Week 14. Trust Jeudy as a reliable WR3 or Flex option against Detroit.
As I mentioned above, Sutton has seen a precipitous drop in receiving statistics since Jeudy returned from his ankle injury in Week 8. Since then, Sutton has no more than two receptions in a game and hasn’t broken 50 receiving yards. In addition, Sutton isn’t scoring TDs which makes him almost irrelevant in fantasy. Sutton has shown he can produce WR1 numbers, but recently he isn’t even worth rostering given his production. I’m not suggesting you drop Sutton, but I am strongly recommending keeping him on your bench once again this week.
Denver’s third WR, Tim Patrick, suffers from the same thing Sutton does as he is primarily a deep threat as a WR with great speed. Patrick has flashed more than Sutton since Jeudy’s return, but not in the last three games. Over that time, Patrick has seen 14 targets but has converted them into just six receptions for 49 yards without a TD. Denver should lean heavily on the run game in a game they’re expected to win handily, and I don’t see a path of reliable production from Patrick this week. Sit him.
Outside of Jeudy over the past few weeks, Noah Fant has been the most reliable receiving option for Denver. Fant rarely comes off the field (averages 75% of the offensive snaps) and has shown enough athletic ability that he can be a true weapon even if the team is between the 20s. With so few TEs that can be counted on each week, Fant sees enough volume that he is consistently at or near the bottom of the TE1 ranks. Expect more of that this week and drop Fant in as your starting TE unless you have a slam-dunk better option on your team as well.