The Detroit Lions have been competitive in recent weeks, while they attempt to get their first victory of the season. Their improved play has only minimally translated into their player's fantasy football production.
Over the last three weeks the Lions offense has only mustered five touchdowns (three belong to Calvin Johnson). During that time, they have averaged 270.6 yards per game – to put that number in perspective, the league's top-10 offensive teams are averaging at least 347.9 yards per game.
The good news for the Lions is their ball security has greatly improved, only turning the ball over once in their last three contests.
Last week, the Lions made a more conscious effort to get Calvin Johnson involved in the game, targeting him seven times but Shaun McDonald ended up being the Lions most targeted receiver, with eight looks -– Mike Furrey had six. Kevin Smith was more involved than Rudi Johnson, as he was utilized on 12 plays compared to Johnson's nine. Still, Rudi Johnson ended up with the red zone carry and the touchdown.
This week the Lions matchup with the Chicago Bears, owners of the league's second best scoring offense (believe it or not) and 18th best defense – struggling most against the pass. The last time these two teams faced each other was Week 6. During their last matchup, the Bears out gained the Lions 425 yards to 185 yards. The Lions only touchdown came from Smith and the only Lions receiver to have over 25 yards was the now-departed Roy Williams. Calvin Johnson had two catches for 16 yards.
Calvin Johnson – Johnson hasn't been heavily utilized over the last few weeks but he has still been a productive fantasy player. The second-year pro has only eight receptions in his last three games but has 296 receiving yards (301 total yards from scrimmage) and three touchdowns during that span. The Bears have the league's 29th ranked pass defense and have allowed 599 yards through the air in their last two games. Also, the Lions figure to be behind during most of this contest, which may force them to keep putting the ball in the air. Johnson can be looked at as a strong No. 2 receiver this week.
Dan Orlovsky – Orlovsky has quietly put together some decent games over the last couple of weeks. His touchdown totals have left something to be desired but his yardage has been respectable. Over his last two contests, Orlovsky has thrown for 488 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Bears present a good matchup and opportunity for Orlovsky to rack up some solid yardage but the increased possibility of turnovers is also present. Orlovsky should be considered a low-end start this week but is an option for owners in deep leagues, who need an injury or bye-week replacement.
Shaun McDonald – Since Roy Williams was traded, McDonald has been targeted 14 times. Despite the opportunities, McDonald has recorded a total of 61 yards. Last week, he had five receptions for 68 yards. He does have a favorable matchup this week and can be considered as an injury or bye-week replacement in deep leagues.
Kevin Smith – Smith has not received the carries many expected and has rushed only 19 times in the last three games. He has managed to rush for 135 yards over the last three weeks, with one touchdown. Still, his sporadic utilization leaves him as a risky start at best. There is also the fact that he plays the Bears sixth-ranked rush defense this week. Keep him on the bench.
Rudi Johnson – Over the last three weeks, Johnson has carried the ball 31 times for only 67 yards - a 2.1 yards-per-carry average. Johnson's yards per carry have been terrible and that may result in the Lions giving more carries to Smith. Also, the Bears represent a terrible matchup, especially with a healthy Tommie Harris. Johnson shouldn't be playing for any fantasy teams this week.
Mike Furrey – Furrey has 89 receiving yards over the last three weeks – all coming in the Lions' Week 7 matchup with the Houston Texans. Furrey has no receptions in two of his last three games and shouldn't be starting for you fantasy team this week.
Fantasy Starts of the Week
Andre Johnson – Johnson has been football's hottest player over the last few weeks, amassing 593 yards and two touchdowns over his last four games. He faces the Vikings' 20th ranked pass defense this week.
Brian Westbrook – A healthy Westbrook is as effective a fantasy player as any. Last week, he had 209 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. He should enjoy a similar outing against the Seahawks this week.
Kurt Warner – Warner has completed over 70 percent of his passes over the last three weeks while throwing six touchdowns against two interceptions. He's also averaged 289 passing yards during that span and should continue producing against the Rams this week.
Michael Turner – Turner has had two consecutive sub 60-yard performances and hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 5, still Turner has been extremely productive when faced with a good matchup this year and plays the Raiders 27th-ranked rush defense this week.
Ronnie Brown – Brown has had three consecutive disappointing games but should have no problem ending that slump this week, against the Broncos, who own one of the league's worst defenses – especially against the run.
Jay Cutler – Cutler is another player mired in a slump but faces his best matchup since his Week 2 contest with the Chargers – a 350 yard, four touchdown performance.
Kyle Orton – Orton has been surprisingly productive this season and has thrown for over 280 yards in each of his last three games, while throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions. He also faces the Lions' terrible pass defense this week.
Peyton Manning – The Colts are faced with a must-win situation this week and their desperate play could translate into a big game for Manning. The Colts have the fire power to attack the Patriots' questionable secondary.
Adrian Peterson – Peterson has 232 rush yards in his last two games and scored two touchdowns in his last contest. Peterson should have a big day against the Texans, who own the league's 21st-ranked rush defense.
Lee Evans – Evans has surpassed 100 yards in two of his last three games and has two touchdowns in that span. His matchup, against Jets' 23rd-ranked pass defense, should produce favorable results.
Fantasy Sleeper of the Week
Chad Pennington – Pennington has had three consecutive games with at least 280 passing yards and has thrown four touchdown passes in that time. This week, he faces the Broncos, a team that has struggled on defense all season.
Fantasy Bust of the Week
Clinton Portis – Portis, the league's leading rusher, has rushed for over 120 yards in each of his last five games. However, he faces the Steelers' third-ranked rush defense this week and will most likely struggle to reach the century mark.