What We Saw: Week 2 2018
Lions vs. 49ers
Another week, another new chance for the Lions to break your heart. That is, if you’re a fan. If you’re a fantasy football player with Lions on your roster (the correct ones that I’ve been telling you to have since pre-season), then this is another new chance for the Lions to solve your fantasy football woes. So, we had some questions from the game preview on Sunday, and now we have some answers.
Stafford is slowly returning to form
If you read the game preview on Saturday, you knew what was coming: another 330+ yards, 3 TD performance from Matthew Stafford. Write the check and cash it; when Stafford throws a bunch of interceptions, he comes back the next week to throw the ball like crazy until it makes it into the end zone. And it did, three times, and it was pretty spot on what was projected.
The issue is that it’s still taking some time. Stafford looked a bit rough in the first half, despite the touchdown pass, and he missed multiple deep open receivers.
He also missed an open throw in the flat for an expected touchdown earlier on, and the Lions had to settle for a field goal there which proved costly. Stafford also fumbled on a bafflingly strange reaction to pressure, but aside from that took care of the ball very well.
The most important thing from this game was that Stafford had no trouble stepping up into pressure when it came (and it came surprisingly rarely, which may mean things are looking up on the offensive line), and that Stafford, once again, had to throw the ball a ton to keep in the game. All systems go for Stafford in fantasy moving forward, it seems.
The Receivers Killed It
The question going into the game was if all three wideouts could keep a role in the offense enough to be fantasy-relevant. The answer was a resounding ‘yes.’
First off, Kenny Golladay. Wow. When you cheer for the Lions, you don’t usually expect things to go your way. For instance, when a player is compared to Megatron in training camp, you generally assume he’s going to be mediocre. Kenny G is anything but mediocre.
It’s strange, because looking back at his box score is strangely underwhelming compared to watching him play. He just had absurd presence on the field on such a consistent basis.
Marvin Jones and Golden Tate were just the same wide receivers as always. Tate caught a ton of passes for a lot of yards, Jones barely missed out on a few deep balls but had a touchdown to make up for it.
I could talk at length about Jones and Tate, but there isn’t much to be said that hasn’t already been said. You can count on them to be exactly what you drafted them as, and that’s about it, but that’s not bad at all.
The Lions Backfield Is Still A Mess
Coming out of this game I feel a lot more confident as a Kerryon Johnson owner, despite the mediocre stat line. The team clearly wants to at least try running, and even though there were only 16 designed rushes by running backs, and he’s starting to get the hang of it. They’re starting to use Johnson in more interesting ways, and I like his motor and grit to get an extra yard or two.
However, LeGarrette Blount looked pretty good as well, which makes Johnson less appealing. Both were rushing for over 4 YPC, which for a Lions offense is absolutely absurd. I think the stop sign on starting Johnson in any situation is still up moving into Week Three.
And of course, Theo Riddick continues to be a valuable high floor flex play. No surprises there.
The Tight Ends
Nope, nothing to see here. I know, there was a touchdown, but still. Avoid at all costs in fantasy.
Matt Prater Is Still Matt Greater
Week One was a fluke, as expected. Matt Prater nailed all of his field goal and extra point attempts with ease.
The Lions D/ST Is Atrocious
Man. I don’t know what to say here. The Lions D/ST put up a non-hideous fantasy score for the second straight week while looking like decorative swiss cheese art. Ignore the sacks, all but one were caused by Jimmy Garoppolo taking way too much time to hold the football (literally 6+ seconds on multiple sacks). If they go a game without giving up a 50+ yard rushing TD I will be floored.
The Lions offensive coordinator is awful. The Lions defensive coordinator is awful. Combined, you end up with Stafford controlling the offense in the second half because they’re down by 20+, and fantasy points always come out of that. Will Stafford take the King of Garbage Stats crown from Blake Bortles? Maybe. At the very least, if he’s throwing the ball 50+ times every game (and he very well might do that), the fantasy points are going to pour out of the main pass-catching targets in Detroit.
Jimmy Garoppolo returns to form
QB Jimmy Garoppolo certainly atoned for his subpar Week 1 outing with a strong performance on Sunday in his home debut at Levi’s Stadium. While the overall stat line is somewhat underwhelming given the shootout potential of this game, Garoppolo still produced with 18 completions for 206 yards and two TDs in addition to three scrambles for 4 yards rushing. Dropped passes were not the culprit for depressing Garoppolo’s production this time, but pass protection breakdowns and his receivers not being able to win against man coverage certainly were against Detroit. In total, Garoppolo was sacked 6 times in the game, as the loss of WR Marquise Goodwin’s speed to open up the offense was surly felt. Garoppolo was able to connect on 4 passes downfield of 15 yards or greater, but he missed TE George Kittle high a few times, including once in the end zone on the opening drive that caused momentum to stall and led to a field goal. With the Niners nursing a comfortable lead for most of the game and the run game clicking, Garoppolo didn’t have to throw much more than his 26 attempts dictated. The game plan called for downfield strikes, but with nobody able to win in man coverage, Garoppolo held onto the football too long, and that led to the 6 sacks. He remains a serviceable backend QB1 with greater upside once Goodwin returns to the starting lineup.
Marquise Goodwin is the missing link
Goodwin’s world class speed forces defenses to account for him, and it usually opens up the underneath routes and middle of the field more. WIth Goodwin nursing an injury, rookie WR Dante Pettis struggled to fill the void, catching only one of his two targets for 35 yards. Even more disappointing, TE George Kittle did not receive the same target share as last week, generating only 4 looks as Garoppolo opted to spread the ball around judiciously to 8 pass catchers. WR Pierre Garcon led the team with 4 catches for 57 yards, but he just doesn’t separate the way he once did. More than anything, this proves that the 49ers lack a legitimate number one-caliber receiving threat outside of Goodwin. Garoppolo once again threw an interception because his receiver ran the wrong route, but luckily a defensive holding penalty against Kittle (who was being grabbed all game) negated what might have been a pick-6. HC Kyle Shanahan mentioned in his post-game presser that the receivers need to do a better job beating man coverage, and that he needs to improve his play calling as well. Translation: Shanahan will have to scheme many of his players open because they may not be able to do it on their own. Clearly, Goodwin is the lynchpin of the offense, and defenses can bracket Kittle to make life difficult on Garoppolo and the offensive line. Look for the 49ers to adjust next week on the road next week against Kansas City, a contest in which they will likely have to score a boat load of points to just remain in the game.
Did the run game break out?
RB Matt Breida certainly did. However, the platoon continued, despite Breida’s electric performance, as in the 4th quarter, RB Alfred Morris received 7 carries to Breida’s 1, so it appears the team is still more comfortable with Morris (who has much more familiarity with the scheme and provides a veteran presence in pass protection and taking care of the football) when the game is on the line. Still though, after struggling against Minnesota’ stout defense last week, it was encouraging to see the run game thrive here as Breida finished with 11 carries for 138 yards, including a TD and a long run of 66 yards while Morris finished with a somewhat pedestrian 14 carries for 48 yards. The scheme will likely never operate as intended this year with RB Jerick McKinnon out for the season with a torn ACL, but as Shanahan adjusts, it’s clear that both Breida and Morris will have some value. Based off this game, Breida clearly has more game-breaking ability, so he’s the best bet to have a chance to put up RB2 numbers or better in good matchups, while Morris appears to be the one the Niners trust to salt the clock whenever they have a lead late in the game. Both backs stayed active in the passing game, with Morris catching 2 for 32 and Breida nabbing 2 for 21. Expect the timeshare to continue, limiting both players’ value going forward.
Is the run defense legit? Is the pass defense a liability?
When LB Reuben Foster returns from suspension, this unit should really thrive against the run. Until then, the 49ers defense once again kept a single rusher from breaking 75 yards against them. Detractors may point to Lions’ RBs Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount posting a 5.4 and 4.8 YPC average respectively, but the Lions were often running out of 3-wide sets to keep the Niners from loading the box. This defense should continue to be relatively stout against the run, but the pass defense remains a concern, as WRs Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jones repeatedly gashed the secondary for big plays, and there could have been more had QB Matthew Stafford not missed a few throws he likely wishes he had back. DB Richard Sherman admitted in his post game interview that “A win’s a win, but it feels like a loss. We played like crap down the stretch. We have to execute down the stretch and play better. It’s a good lesson for a young team that we needed. It’s a humbling lesson. Thank goodness we got a win out of it.” Ultimately, the game was a lot closer than it should have been as the Lions continued to tack on points and yards in the 4th quarter.
The 49ers played well enough to win, and despite questions about the receivers’ ability to win one-on-one, putting up 30 points is nothing to sneeze at in today’s high scoring NFL. That being said, Kansas City has the firepower to light up just about any defense, and the 49ers will face arguably their toughest challenge yet on the road next week at Arrowhead. The offense may have to score another 30 (or more) to have a chance at winning, and the Chiefs’ defense has proven to be quite generous in the first two weeks to opposing offenses. The health of Marquise Goodwin and what he means to the offense can’t be overstated enough, and HC Kyle Shanahan will likely have to dig even deeper into his magic bag to manufacture as many points as possible if the 49ers hope to leave Kansas City with a victory.