The Lions won’t get any sympathy from the 49ers regarding COVID-19 fallout — after San Francisco lost a parade of starters to virus issues for Thursday’s blowout loss to the Packers.
So Detroit should not expect a shower of tears for their dilemma of whether Matthew Stafford will play Sunday, or if he will have to sit out. According to a recent Instagram post by Stafford’s wife, he has not tested positive, which suggests he was put on the COVID-19 list Wednesday due to contact-tracing and proximity to someone who did. He can be cleared to play before the game Sunday if he does not fail a test before then.
If he plays, his team gets a juicy matchup against a generous Vikings secondary. Even without Kenny Golladay, Stafford could help Marvin Jones Jr. and T.J. Hockenson — and maybe even Danny Amendola, Marvin Hall or Quintez Cephus — rack up above-average fantasy points.
But if Stafford doesn’t play? Does that make these upstart fantasy prospects Lions or lambs? Can they perform and still take advantage of the weak Minnesota pass defense with a second-stringer under center?
For perspective: The Vikings give up the fourth-most fantasy points to QBs and third-most to wide receivers.
Chase Daniel is the Lions’ backup QB — a journeyman veteran who is capable of at least not being a disaster. So how does this affect our backup plan? With a number of solid receivers on byes — from the Browns, Bengals, Rams and Eagles? When the Packers have already played? When you won’t have Golladay, Chris Godwin or Brandon Aiyuk? Might be without Calvin Ridley? Have no confidence in any Cowboys options thanks to their disarray at QB?
Well, first, we’ll play Jones above anyone on the Cowboys, and do so with confidence — even with Daniel at QB. After that, our confidence hits some road blocks.
We expect the Lions to run the ball more if Daniel gets the call — we like running back D’Andre Swift as a low-end RB2 or solid Flex in either scenario. More running means fewer opportunities for wideouts. Additionally, the ceiling for Daniel is much lower than that of Stafford.
For example, if you woke up Monday morning and saw Stafford had thrown for 350 yards and four touchdowns, you probably wouldn’t blink. If Daniel did the same, the reaction would be more along the lines of: Holy cow!
Further, the floor for Daniel is much lower. He could turn in an absolute dud and it would surprise no one. And in doing so, he would drag all fantasy receiving options down with him.
We like Jones as a solid WR3 with Stafford, a weak WR3 but solid Flex play with Daniel. All others, we leave them virtually unchanged despite a plus matchup. If you don’t normally start Amendola, there’s no reason to do so this week, unless desperate, if Daniel plays.
We would play Jones in either scenario over any Cowboys receiver, including Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. With Daniel, we only choose the other Lions WRs over Michael Gallup.
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