Week 13 fantasy football: Is the Lions D/ST a viable play?

The Detroit Lions defense is playing well lately, but is the unit a viable fantasy play in Week 13?

Over their last three games, the Detroit Lions defense has allowed an average of 15 points per game to give the team an opportunity to win games. They have not been flawless, with struggles stopping the run and breakdowns at key moments still happening, but Aaron Glenn’s unit has been up to the task overall more often then you’d think.

In three games since their bye, admitted against less than stellar offenses, the Lions’ defense has six takeaways. In the eight games before that, they had seven takeways. A lack of pass rush has still been an issue, with just two sacks over the recent three-game run, but the end results have been good. In particular, the pass defense has been among the best in the league over the last three weeks.

In Week 13 the Lions will take on the Minnesota Vikings, who are in line to be without running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder). That would be the same scenario as the first matchup against the Vikings in Week 5, when Cook was out with an ankle injury.

Is the Lions D/ST startable in fantasy this week?

In that Week 5 game, the Lions held the Vikings to 19 points while allowing 384 total yards (five scoring drives accounting for 277 yards). They sacked Kirk Cousins twice, with two takeaways (one interception, one fumble recovery). Alexander Mattison, filling in for Cook, had 25 carries for 113 yards with a receiving touchdown, and Justin Jefferson had seven catches for 124 yards for Minnesota (five for 104 in the first half).

Detroit had a game plan to take away Jefferson in the second half of the first matchup, and Mattison’s lack of situational awareness was the No. 1 reason for a late fumble that set the Lions up to take a lead. Then Cousins picked apart soft coverage to set up a game-winning 54-yard field goal.

If the Lions can maintain some aggressiveness all game long this week, the Vikings being without Cook will naturally work to their advantage. Putting doubt in Cousins’ mind via scheme disguises is not that big a challenge most of the time.

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Detroit’s defense is never anything close to a must-start in fantasy, and with the talent Minnesota has offensively they obviously aren’t in Week 13. But for those who may be looking for a down-spout, risk-reward streamer in season-long leagues, or a cheap DFS play, the Lions D/ST is on that radar this week.