Welcome to the fifteenth edition of “Who to Rep,” our ongoing series in which we recommend a player to rep for the upcoming week. Our selection process is rigorously unscientific, but we hope you like it anyway.
The Lions’ playoff hopes aren’t looking great, but at least they’re still alive. While they’ll need some help to sneak into the Wild Card round (some combination of the Rams, Seahawks, Panthers, and Falcons will need to start slipping), beating the Bucs kept the math from becoming completely untenable. Detroit still needs to win out to even have a shot—and a Week 17 date with a probably-Aaron-Rodgers-equipped Packers team could make that a tough proposition—but some hope is better than no hope.
Another good sign for Detroit hope? They finally got some production from the running back position. Ameer Abdullah was out again, but given that the promising/frustrating young back hasn’t broken 60 yards from scrimmage (or 5 yards per carry) since Week 3, that might not have been a huge loss. In point of fact, it freed up more touches for Theo Riddick, who turned in his best performance of the season and brought Who to Rep back to Detroit.
Riddick didn’t rack up too many yards on the ground (29), but he made the most of his redzone opportunities with two impressive rushing touchdowns. Of course, you don’t play Theo Riddick primarily for his rushing anyway; he’s one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, and he showed why on Sunday night with season highs in targets (10), receptions (6), and yards (64).
While the Lions would no doubt love to have a traditional third down back, there’s no denying that Riddick’s quirky “receiver back” game is the perfect complement to Matt Stafford’s checkdown wizardry. Against the Bucs, it seemed like every time Stafford was in trouble Riddick was there to bail him out, and to add a few yards after the catch, too.
Still, it’s the double-touchdowns that clinched Who to Rep for Riddick; if he can turn himself into a consistent redzone rushing threat, it will fill in one of the biggest holes in the Lions’ offense. As good as Detroit has been moving the ball, they’ve struggled to convert inside the 20 (some nights it feels like they’ve got a better shot of scoring from 40 yards back off a Golden Tate or Marvin Jones breakaway than they do at the goal line), and that inability to finish drives cost them games against the Falcons, Vikings, and Steelers… any one of which would have dramatically improved their playoff odds.
But the past is past, and there’s little to be gained from dwelling on it. Riddick played like the back they need on Sunday night, and if he can keep that momentum going then Detroit might not be finished just yet. Rep Riddick for his big-time game against Tampa, and for what it might mean for the Lions down the stretch.