If you picked up the Detroit Lions’ Nate Burleson in your fantasy league for this week, you had a nice idea, but he was a big turkey egg on the fantasy point board. I thought he might continue to put up numbers as well after a decent showing in the Lions’ loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Matthew Stafford stuck Burleson down at the kids’ table and forgot about him. That said, Burleson is still one of the most important offensive pieces for the Lions, and that was actually apparent in their Thanksgiving win against the division rival Green Bay Packers.
Despite Stafford targeting Burleson just once in the entire game — a fantasy nightmare for any folks in a close battle in the waning season — the Lions were able to spread the ball out just enough against the Packers’ defense to make a strong showing on offense. They also did an amazing job running the ball with both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, which no doubt opened up the passing game early on in the game. Both Bush and Bell made some great plays catching the ball out of the backfield as well.
Burleson was in the game on most of those great plays, and although his numbers were minuscule, his presence helped to create these opportunities. Many other receivers that have played in Burleson’s normal position this year have not garnered much attention which has allowed cheats, sags, and double teams by defensive backs and allowed them to be more aware of Calvin Johnson and Bush on every play. With more concentration having to be spread out on Burleson, perhaps his role was better defined as a decoy by default.
The Lions did a great job taking what the Packers gave to them for the most part. They certainly missed a lot of chances to score in the first half, but strategy-wise they were matching up well with the Packers’ defensive schemes. It will be interesting to see how Burleson’s role develops over the next few games, but I would hope this offensive formula for winning gets bottled and stored.