Sunday. Vikings. Lions. Be there. Or be square.
A short week didn’t feel short enough after Monday night’s national embarrassment. Fortunately, Minnesota can redeem itself – to a certain degree – by chewing off Detroit’s kneecaps in its second NFC North showdown in three weeks. The Lions, for what it’s worth, are notably more resilient this season.
There’s not much else to be said. Fantasy implications in Sunday’s contest are scattered – there’s a couple superstars aiming to stay hot, another looking to reheat and some sleepers worth a closer study.
Here’s the finest fantasy guide you’ll find for Week 3’s rendezvous at U.S. Bank Stadium:
Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown | Confidence Clip: 100%
The lowdown: St. Brown is one of a kind. Literally. In Week 2, the 2021 fourth-round pick became the first player in NFL history to catch at least eight passes and a touchdown in six consecutive games. St. Brown’s totals over his last eight contests – dating to Dec. 5 of last season, really the first time he broke out for the Lions – are absurd. Like top-3 WR in the NFL absurd. In that span, he has turned 91 targets (11.4 targets per game) into 68 receptions (74.7% catch rate) for 740 yards and eight touchdowns. Two players have been targeted more often since St. Brown’s emergence, Cooper Kupp (94) and Justin Jefferson (92). The volume St. Brown gets as Detroit’s WR1, paired with his versatility – he’s recorded carries in six of those eight games and multiple rushes three times – make him a fantasy marvel.
Lions RB D’Andre Swift | Confidence Clip: 100%
The lowdown: No one makes the most of their touches like Swift. He leads qualifying players with a yard-per-carry average of 10.0 and ranks fourth in the NFL with 262 scrimmage yards on just 25 touches – for comparison’s sake, the other two backs in that category’s top five, Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb, have logged 48 and 43 touches. Swift is at the disadvantage of sharing backfield reps – teammate Jamaal Williams has rushed three more times, although for 119 fewer yards – but he’s clearly pegged as Detroit’s preferred runner on early downs and plays a prominent role in the passing game. Swift’s knack for ripping off explosives counterbalances the possibility of Williams poaching snaps at the goal line.
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson | Confidence Clip: 100%
The lowdown: We’re two weeks down and we’ve seen the best- and worst-case fantasy scenarios play out for Jefferson. The former was a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns vs. Green Bay in Week 1. The dissatisfying encore was a six-catch, 48-yard effort against Philadelphia in prime time Monday. The positive news and the reality we care about most is Jefferson was targeted 10+ times in both games – aka a lack of opportunity isn’t a problem for the former 22nd overall draft choice. A major bounce back is on deck for a couple reasons: Jefferson is a dog. Jefferson is a dog. Jefferson is a dog. Don’t overthink it.
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins | Confidence Clip: 70%
The lowdown: Cousins probably tops the list of NFL players hungry to put a bad performance in the rearview. In Week 2, he supplied his haters with the ammunition to keep the “Cousins sucks” narrative alive … a dark cloud that’ll loom over the oft-criticized quarterback’s noggin until he sets the record straight – and by that, we just mean play well enough to avoid the headlines. Such a goal demands getting the ball in playmakers’ hands. Cousins has lots of such guys at his disposal and a coach that, if we had to make an educated guess, will have Minnesota’s offense rolling after stinking it up in Philly. What’s that mean for Cousins’ fantasy outlook? Well, his ceiling is high but his floor – i.e. what we witnessed Monday – is low. We’d advise starting someone carrying momentum from last week into Week 3. If there’s no better option available, take solace in the fact Cousins has a 19:2 TD:INT ratio vs. the Lions.
Lions TE T.J. Hockenson | Confidence Clip: 30%
The lowdown: Hock’s been targeted seven times in each of Detroit’s first two games, but enters Sunday’s tilt with only seven catches and 64 yards to his name. His 50% catch rate is foul stacked against last year’s mark of 72.6%. The underwhelming stats, albeit through just a couple games, make it next to impossible to trust Hockenson as a TE1. That said, the Vikings pose to be a fairly favorable matchup. Their defense gave up five catches on six targets for 82 yards Monday night to Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert, and allowed Packers tight ends (three different players) to combine for 67 yards on six grabs. Ultimately, history confirms our call to sit Hockenson: He’s averaged a skimpy 33.4 yards in five games vs. the Vikes.
Vikings WR Adam Thielen | Confidence Clip: 40%
The lowdown: We learned Monday that Minnesota won’t be able to force feed the football to Jefferson. Certainly, the Vikings will find ways to scheme their superstar wideout open, but it’ll be important to distribute the rock to others, including Thielen, who can steer defenses away from double-teaming No. 18. In Week 1, the nine-year veteran had three receptions for 36 yards. He upped those numbers to four for 52 against Philadelphia – with several catches coming after Minnesota realized Darius Slay had a bead on Jefferson. We’ll be as blunt as we can be here. We like Thielen’s odds of getting more involved. But a lot of his fantasy upside was TD dependent – he had 24 tuds from 2020-21. Now, Thielen must compete for his usual red-zone looks with Dalvin Cook, Jefferson and Irv Smith Jr. The old guy is the odd man out.
Lions QB Jared Goff | Confidence Clip: 75%
The lowdown: In years past, you might’ve scoffed at friends/foes rostering Goff. Not this season. The former Rams quarterback, who some forget led L.A. to its first Super Bowl since 2001, before they upgraded by trading for ex-Lions QB Matthew Stafford and promptly winning a ring, looks like a fantasy riser – someone defying their ADP and outplaying most, if not all, expectations. Our point? Attack waivers and add Goff while you can. The 2016 No. 1 overall draft choice is off to a strong start in his second season repping for “Motor City.” Goff’s completion percentage is way down (57.7%) compared to his 2021 clip (67.2%) but he’s seeing the field well – he’s zipped six passing touchdowns to four different players, holds the league’s seventh-best passer rating (100.1) and ranks just outside the top 10 in QBR. Goff’s not your typical fantasy hero – he has no rushing power and plays his best in structure, meaning he doesn’t threaten to dazzle outside the pocket or make impromptu throws – therefore he’s a sleeper. A sleeper we recommend you get in bed with in Week 3, and perhaps beyond. Goff’s enjoyed some good performances vs. Minnesota, averaging 297.3 yards in four games with an 8:2 TD:INT ratio. That’ll play.
Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr. | Confidence Clip: 60%
The lowdown: Smith Jr. is trending up despite dropping a potential touchdown Monday. He was targeted in the red zone a different time – and scored his first touchdown since scoring twice on Christmas Day in 2020 – received a 25% increase in offensive snaps and finished Week 2 second on the Vikings with eight passes directed at him. All signs that the former second-round selection’s fantasy stock is soaring and his health issues are behind him. Our conclusion? Smith Jr. is a candidate to double his 36 receiving yards and find the end zone again vs. Detroit’s defense. Through the first two games, the Lions have allowed opposing tight ends to catch eight balls for 112 yards and a touchdown. Time for Smith Jr. to capitalize.
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook | Confidence Clip: 80%
The lowdown: Earlier this week, we wrote about Cook’s underwhelming start in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. We also explicitly stated not to panic or put “The Chef” on your league’s trade block. At this point, Cook’s a good-ole fashioned boom-or-bust prospect and for Sunday, we’re leaning toward boom. Why? Well, the Lions are susceptible to giving up a ton of yardage on the ground. In Week 1, the Eagles gained 216 yards on 39 carries (5.5 Y/A) and ran in four touchdowns. In Week 2, the Commanders rushed for 88 and a score in spite of a 22-point deficit and a huge commitment to the pass game (Washington attempted 46 passes, more than doubling their number of carries). In the very simplest terms, precedent points to Cook brushing off his rust and O’Connell getting his lead back in a groove vs. an inferior unit.
Lions RB Jamaal Williams | Confidence Clip: 50%
The lowdown: Never a lock-in-your-lineup type guy – unless Swift is inactive – Williams still has flex potential thanks to his usage near the goal line. He led the NFL with seven red-zone opportunities Week 1 and was tied for third with an assortment of players with three touches in Week 2. In a nutshell, Williams is Dan Campbell’s go-to guy over Swift with the end zone in sight. The efficiency sucks – Williams is averaging 3.5 yards per carry and only 2.6 yards before contact (for perspective, Swift’s 6.2 yards before contact ranks second among qualifiers) – but Williams’ role equals TD chances. That’s reason enough – either in deeper formats or standard leagues – to consider playing Detroit’s RB2.