Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and that it is full of the three F’s. Family, Food, and Football. For this special edition of our NFL DFS write up, I’m going to go game by game and break down the plays. Since we only have three games, I’m just going to dissect each game and talk about the guys I’m targeting and the guys I’m avoiding.
On such a small slate, I would encourage you leave some salary on the table if at all possible. This will help you find a more unique lineup and give yourself a better chance of taking down a tournament without someone else having the same lineup. I’ll be honest: this is a rather tough slate as there are some tough matchups, especially the Chargers/Cowboys game which has zero spread on NetBet. We’re going to have to find the cheap plays that actually do something to have a shot at winning. However, I think there is an advantage to be had, especially on DraftKings.
Full disclosure, as of Wednesday morning, I plan on playing on DraftKings only as I’m liking my lineup construction there the most. Let’s get to it.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
I’m more excited about this game from a real life standpoint than a fantasy standpoint. If you’re new here, I’m a lifelong, diehard Lions fan. This game obviously means a lot to the Lions, who trail the Vikings by two games for the division lead. It’s going to be very hard for me to play and Vikings or get too excited about talking about them from a fantasy standpoint, but I’ll do my best. Just know I’m biased.
In all reality, I don’t see this game having a ton of fantasy goodness. I think each team will have to work for every yard and that it’s likely to resemble their game in Week 4, when the Lions won 14-7. With that said, let’s breakdown the Lions first, who come in to the game on a three game winning streak. It all starts with Matthew Stafford. Stafford has averaged 328.8 yard per game over the Lions last five games, topping 299 yards in four of those. In his first five games, he averaged just 223 yards per game, with no 300 yard games. Stafford is no stranger to big games on Thanksgiving Day games, as he’s had some massive ones. He threw for five touchdowns a couple of years back, and threw for over 440 yards in a Thanksgiving game a few years before that one. This Vikings defense is solid across the board, but as with every team on this slate, they are playing on just four days rest.
If I’m playing Stafford, I’ll pair him with Golden Tate over Marvin Jones. I have to play at least one team with Stafford, so I’ll make sure to have Tate included on that roster. Xavier Rhodes shadowed Jones in their first matchup and held him in check. Rhodes is Pro Football Focus’ 20th ranked corner on the year. If you’re looking for that cheap play that could hit a home run, you could take a shot on Kenny Golladay. Stafford loves taking shots down the field to Golladay, and he caught a 50 yard pass two weeks ago, and a 40 yard pass this past weekend. It just takes one catch for 50 yards and a touchdown at $3,800 to be the cheap guy you need to win a tournament. I will have him included in my lineup with Stafford and Tate.
I’m probably not going to play either Lions running back on this slate. Ameer Abdullah has quietly been consistent over his last three, but I just don’t see it here. He still averaged under three yards per carry in two of those games. The Vikings are allowing the second fewest rush yards per game on the season. Due to that, I think the Lions will lean pass heavy, which lends a little more credence to targeting Stafford. Theo Riddick seems like the better play for his ability in the passing game, but he’s just not getting enough volume right now.
On the Vikings side, you can definitely consider Case Keenum at just $5,300 on Draftkings. With that said, I just don’t think he gives you the upside you need in this matchup to win a tournament. From a real life perspective, Keenum has been outstanding, leading this team to a six game winning streak. He has racked up the yards the past few weeks, averaging 290 yards in his last three, while throwing seven touchdowns. He’s also been a little turnover prone, throwing five interceptions in his last four games before Week 10, where he didn’t throw one. For that reason, I’m okay with the Lions DST. They are currently seventh in the league in interceptions. They’re best in the league with three interception returns for touchdowns and tied for second in fumbles returned for a touchdown, so there is upside there.
Back to Minnesota. There’s no way I could possibly say anything against Adam Thielen after the tear he’s been on. He is a legitimate star in the making. He’s impossible to cover the entire game, as it seems he finds ways to get open each week for big plays. Over the past five games, he’s seen 56 target and has 96 or more yards in four of those games. His counterpart, Stefon Diggs hasn’t seemed to have as much rapport with Keenum, seeing exactly half the targets of Thielen during his last five games (not the same five games, since he was out some in between). Diggs has under eight fantasy points in three of his last four. Granted, he’s been dealing with injuries. He’s the kind of player that can pop off at any time and win you a tournament. I just don’t know if he’ll ever get enough looks from Keenum to do that. On top of that, he’ll likely be covered by Darius Slay, who is Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked cornerback on the year.
Where I’m most interested in the Vikings is in the backfield. On DraftKings, I think Jerick McKinnon is a solid play. He should be involved in the passing game and might be the path of least resistance for Keenum. McKinnon saw seven targets in the passing game last week, and a season high 10 targets two games before that. On top of that, he still should receive 12-15 carries, giving him quite a bit of upside with a solid touch floor. I might lock him in all my lineups on DK. Latavius Murray has been the guy who’s scored the past two weeks, finding the end zone three times in total. He’s $300 cheaper on DK, which should make him the choice of most between the two. Although he’s outscored Mckinnon 35.4 to 17.7 the past two weeks, McKinnon only saw two less touches. If I was playing FanDuel, I’d likely play Murray there.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys
Man, this Cowboys team has fallen apart the past few couple of weeks. Losing Ezekiel Elliot and Tyron Smith has exposed them big time. The good news for the Cowboys is that it appears Smith will return on Thursday. That should help them out quite a bit. With that said, the Chargers have a solid pass defense. They’re allowing the 10th fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and they’re about middle of the pack against wide receivers. They’re second best against tight ends. They also generate an excellent pass rush, ranking third in the league in sacks. If Smith does sit out, I would be completely off the Cowboys offense.
Assuming Smith plays, you can probably get Dak Prescott as a low owned option. That’s not something anyone saw coming a few weeks back as Dak was flashing as much upside as anyone in the league. I’m fine rostering him naked, without any of his play makers. He has five rushing touchdowns on the year, so we know he can get it done himself. If you want to pair him with a receiver, surely Dez Bryant would be the choice.
I’m split on how I feel about Dez this week. He’s getting a ton of targets, seeing 14 on Sunday night. The problem is, he’s just not efficient with the targets. The Cowboys are not finding creative ways to get him the ball. Many of his targets are situations where they just throw the ball at him in non-ideal spots. He hasn’t topped 20 DK points once this season. As mentioned above the Chargers have a solid secondary, and Dez tends to struggle in tough matchups.
We’re starting to see some clarity in the Cowboys running game. Alfred Morris rushed 17 times for 91 yards on Sunday night, despite a game where the Cowboys were getting dominated. The Chargers have allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing backs on the season. Morris is in an excellent spot, especially if he gets Tyron Smith back as discussed above. He’s probably my favorite running back play on the slate, given his price. I wish he would catch a few passes out of the backfield (hasn’t seen a target since Week 7 and only two all year) for DraftKings scoring, but he could get the 100 yard rushing bonus and has multiple touchdown upside. That would be it for me on the Cowboys side of the ball.
On the Chargers side of the ball, there are a handful of viable options. I won’t have more than three lineups, so Phillip Rivers probably won’t make the cut. I wouldn’t blame you for playing him though. This game could turn into a shootout and no one would be surprised if Rivers ended up the top scorer on the slate. I mean all things aside, he’s got a one in six chance. He’s thrown for multiple touchdowns in three of his last four games. The thing for me with Rivers is volume. Only Prescott has thrown fewer passes over the last four games than Rivers (on this slate). The problem is that Rivers doesn’t provide the same rushing upside that Dak does.
Melvin Gordon is the only stud running back available on this slate. The problem is that Austin Ekeler has seen his snap count rise, at the expense of Gordon. Gordon although very inefficient, could find his way into the end zone multiple times, and if he does that, you’ll need him to win. I just don’t think I’ll end up paying up for him with that bit of uncertainty with his snaps and touches. I think we’re safe expecting him to handle roughly 60% of the snaps at worst, but I can’t pay a premium for that. Ekeler on the other hand is interesting. He’s scored a touchdown in two straight weeks and has 13.8 or more DK points in three of his last four. I’ll probably be going a different direction, but may end up with some exposure.
The receiving options for the Chargers are the piece of the offense that I’m most interested in. Last week, Keenan Allen finally had a blow up game, going 12-159-2 on 13 targets. It looked like Rivers was making it a point to get the ball to his best receiver more. This matchup with the Cowboys is a good one for Allen. I think his safe floor with high ceiling make him close to a lock for me in my lineups. If Travis Benjamin plays, I have interest in him. He has big play ability and most box score watchers will overlook him, especially with the red Q next to his name. However, he left last week’s game, and he faced the best pass defense in the league, the Jaguars, the week before. The two weeks prior to that, he scored 18.8 and 17.6 DK points. If Benjamin is unable to go, I think you almost have to play Tyrell Williams. Williams wasn’t used much in Week 11, but that was because the Chargers were blowing the Bills out. The thing to take away from that game is that he was on the field on 61 of 74 snaps. Finding a guy that costs $3,400 playing that many plays is hard to do.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
This is the game that should have all of the fantasy goodness. Kirk Cousins is THE quarterback on this slate. The guy is just good at football. I’ll be honest, I saw some decent things from the Giants defense on Sunday that made them look much better than the doormat they had been in previous weeks. I made a note to keep that in mind when targeting against them moving forward, until I see some more. However, that doesn’t worry me with Cousins. He’s had no problem beating good defenses lately. He put up 28.98 DK points last week against a good Saints defense, after putting up 31.58 the week before against the Vikings. He shouldn’t have any problems with the Giants. The only worry with this game is if the Redskins get up big, but on such a small slate, we can’t worry about that. Fire up Cousins with confidence.
Finding the right pieces to pair with Cousins is going to be important. For me, it all starts with Vernon Davis (assuming Jordan Reed is out). Davis has been a favorite target for Cousins all year and has 26 targets over the past three games with Reed out. Now he gets the absolute nut matchup for his position. Going into last week the Giants had allowed a tight end touchdown in every game this season. That streak ended last week, but not without them allowing a big game to Travis Kelce. Kelce posted a 8-109-0 line. Davis will likely be in every lineup I make.
After Davis, I think you can flip a coin between Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson. Crowder has really seen an uptick in targets the past three weeks, with 32 over that span. He only had 30 targets over his first six games of the year. I think his work share is even safer now that Chris Thompson has been lost for the season. With Doctson, you’re going to have to feel okay with some risk. He’s seen seven targets in consecutive weeks, which is a good sign. He turned in his best game of the year in Week 11, catching four balls on those seven targets for 81 yards. He could definitely end up with a similar game, while also finding the end zone. For me though, I’ll find the $700 to get up to Crowder, or just save $1,000 or so and use one of the guys I mentioned above.
Samaje Perine is in play by default. He’s the second most expensive (playable) running back on the slate on Draftkings. Who saw that coming? With that said, he’s in a pretty good spot. Perine is coming off of the best game of his young career by a mile. He saw 23 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown. He also caught one ball for nine yards. He’s basically the last man standing in this backfield, and the Redskins want to establish the run. While they have designated Byron Marshall as their third down/receiving back, I think Perine will actually soak up a couple of the targets that Thompson leaves behind. Marshall is only an option in the biggest of tournaments. The Giants have allowed the eighth most fantasy points to opposing running backs over the past four weeks.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared of this matchup. The Giants do have a competent front line, anchored by the best run stopper in the game, Damon Harrison. On top of that, the Redskins offensive line continues to be decimated by injuries and they just put two more guys from their OL on the IR. Their second string center will also be out this week, leaving them to start .He’s been starting for their starter, who is one of the two new additions to the IR. So their starting center in this one is a guy who has started five games in his career, which began in 2012. All in all, this line is in shambles, so it could definitely be hard to find running room for Perine.
I’ll probably take a stance one way or another by Thursday morning on Perine, but as of now, I’m leaning toward the full fade. I think he’ll be popular and their is a definite path to him busting. All of that lends even more credence to pairing Cousins with Crowder and/or Davis. He’s going to have to get be ball out of his hands quickly behind this line.
Last week was ugly for Eli Manning. In fact, most of this season has been rough for Eli. I’ll be honest though, I’m still considering rostering him on one of my three teams. The reason is because this Redskins defense has been oozing fantasy points for opposing quarterbacks. They’ve given up 26 or more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in four of their last five games. On the flip side of that, three of those quarterbacks were pretty dang good: Wentz, Wilson, Brees, with Keenum being the fourth (Keenum threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns). If the Giants fall behind early, which they should unless the Redskins offensive line fails miserably, we’ll see Eli 40 times.
The allure with playing him is his price, which is the lowest of the six starters on DK and nearly $1,000 less than anyone other than Keenum. We need to wait and see what’s going to happen with Sterling Shepard, as that would increase my interest a tad. As of now, he looks very iffy to play. Apparently he’s been dealing with migraines, which can be very debilitating. However, if the migraine were to miraculously go away and he feels 100% healthy, I’d have interest in him. It’s not like he’s limited with a body injury that would slow him down. If we get word that he’s in, I think he’ll see plenty of targets in a great matchup. The guy I’ll probably have on every team is Evan Engram.
Engram was a complete bust last week against the Chiefs, but let’s chalk that up to the highest winds of any game this season. He still saw six targets. He only brought one of those in though, for nine yards. As bad as the Giants have been against the tight ends, the Redskins have been right on their heels among the worst, allowing the fourth most FP’s to the position. I think the ADVANTAGE ON THIS SLATE IS ROSTERING BOTH ENGRAM AND DAVIS. I purposely caps locked and italicized that so if you’re skimming, you will be sure to read that part. I will likely have both guys on all three of my rosters. I’m not sure how common of a strategy it will be, as I think most will decide for one of the other. The game log watchers will probably be hesitant to play Engram after last week.
The last play you can consider on the Giants is Orleans Darkwa. Darkwa has risen to the top of this backfield and played really well the past few weeks. He’s averaged over 16 carries per game the last three for just over 71 yards. He’s also caught exactly two balls in each of those three. The only problem with him is that he gets scripted out late when the Giants are trailing. Last week he finally saw 20 carries, because they were in the game and ended up winning. With that said, he only costs $4,600 on DraftKings and has as safe of a carry floor of almost anyone on the slate.
I think I’ve covered the majority of the fantasy relevant players on this slate. There are a few I didn’t touch on, but those are the guys I’m currently not considering. If I end up looking at someone not mentioned here, I’ll throw it up on Twitter before Thursday morning, so be sure to follow me at @mrclutchdfs so you don’t miss any additional recommendations.
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