Matthew Stafford: Fantasy Outlook for Injured Lions QB

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the game at LP Field on September 23, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Fantasy owners had lofty expectations for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford coming into the season after his 5,000-yard performance in 2011. For the most part, he has lived up to them, but a leg injury against Tennessee in Week 3 caused the masses to hold their collective breath. 

Right now, the prognosis for Stafford isn't clear. Head coach Jim Schwartz told reporters (via Brad Galli of WXYZ TV in Detroit) after the game that he thought it was a "pulled muscle."

Schwartz said Stafford's mobility was challenged early on. Leg problem happened early. "Pulled muscle."

— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 23, 2012

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press talked to Stafford after the game and reported that the Lions quarterback will undergo tests on Monday to determine the full extent of the damage. 

Matthew Stafford said he'll have an MRI on his leg. Said the injury was bothering him all week. Hamstring or glut, wasn't sure

— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) September 23, 2012

So while the news is not exactly inspiring right now, it does give us some basis on which to work our Week 4 fantasy outlook for Stafford. 

For starters, the Lions will be playing the upstart Minnesota Vikings, who are coming off the highest of highs after defeating San Francisco in Week 3. 

The Vikings have shown a knack for making plays when they have to, though I am not convinced the defense is as good as the stats would indicate. It ranks ninth in the league in pass yards allowed and 12th in rush yards. 

But other than the 49ers, who do boast a power-running game but abandoned it early because they were behind, the Vikings have played Jacksonville and Indianapolis. That's not exactly a murderer's row of offensive firepower. 

If Stafford is able to play against Minnesota, I would have no trepidation starting him and just letting the stats roll in. In two games against the Vikings last season, Stafford threw for 605 yards, four touchdowns, completed 52-of-75 passes and had no interceptions. 

For fantasy owners unsure of what to do with Stafford in Week 4, there are a few options for you to look at on the waiver wire, starting with the quarterback on the other side of the field. 

Christian Ponder may not be putting up big, flashy numbers, but he is efficient, doesn't turn the ball over and showed great mobility outside the pocket against the 49ers' vicious defense. 

Given the fact that the Titans were able to put up 44 points with Jake Locker throwing for 378 yards and running for another 35, it would not be a stretch to see Ponder improve upon his season-high totals of 270 yards passing and two touchdowns. 

Stafford's injury doesn't seem like it will be a long-term issue this season, so you might have to just put in a one-week stopgap if you aren't entirely comfortable with his leg in Week 4.