Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson: Injury Impact

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Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson: Injury Impact
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Matthew Stafford is officially listed as questionable for tomorrow's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Lions' coach Jim Schwartz isn't giving out any more information on who the starter will be until game-time.

You probably wouldn't want to start the rookie quarterback in your fantasy leagues this week anyway. Although Pittsburgh's defense this year isn't as stout against the pass as their reputation would lead you to believe, they are sure to throw some interesting blitz packages at the Lions regardless of who is starting at QB.

Considering Stafford's lack of experience and Detroit's sketchy offensive line, it's very unlikely that a better option isn't available for your fantasy roster. But will Stafford's injury affect the other skill position players on Detroit?

For Calvin Johnson owners, it may actually be better if Stafford is held out of the game Sunday. If Stafford doesn't play, Daunte Culpepper will get the start and Culpepper is one of the best deep ball throwers in recent league history.

Culpepper definitely has a propensity for throwing down the field. 

In his five games with the Lions last season, he hooked up with Calvin Johnson 19 times for 369 yards.  That's less than four receptions a game—nothing spectacular for PPR leagues, but it is an average of 20 yards a catch. 

If Culpepper starts, it may be more likely that Megatron catches a deep ball for a touchdown. The Steelers are ranked just 17th in the league in passing yards allowed, and with Troy Polamalu likely out the Lions should be able to put up decent passing numbers.

Johnson is listed as probable, but he is likely to play. He should remain in your fantasy lineup no matter who the Lions start at QB.

However, this is not a good matchup for Lions running back Kevin Smith. The Steelers are ranked fourth in the league in rush defense, and Smith hasn't been putting up huge rushing numbers against weaker teams. He did get goal line carries last week that resulted in two touchdowns, but I wouldn't count on him getting in the end zone this week.

If Culpepper starts, Kevin Smith will probably see fewer passes out of the backfield as well. Culpepper is great at taking shots down the field, but he doesn't check down to his running backs very often. In his five games last season, Culpepper only completed 11 passes to running backs.

That's an average of about two check-down passes a game, and Kevin Smith isn't guaranteed to be the target of all of them. Unless you don't have any decent alternative, I'd leave Kevin Smith on your bench this week.

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