Anthony Maggio, John Tuvey and Bo Mitchell will be here all season delivering the edge you need to dominate your fantasy football league. Visit 1500espn.com each Thursday for a new column and a new episode of the Fantasy Football Party podcast.
By the time you read this, the Vikings will likely have kicked off the first of back-to-back Thursday games. That, combined with their offensive struggles, makes the lot of them tricky fantasy plays.
How tricky? Consider the following:
Yes, for the most part the Vikings have become a barren fantasy tundra. The notable exceptions, of course, are Kyle Rudolph—any tight end against the Lions is a shrewd fantasy move—and the resurgent Vikings DST.
But part of the appeal of fantasy football is that it keeps you tied to the game even when things aren’t going so well for the local squad. So rather than focus on fantasy lineups that could lead to digestive issues on Thanksgiving, let’s answer some of those nagging questions you may have.
My running back depth has been gutted due to all the injuries last week. With the trade deadline in the rear view mirror, where can I turn for help? — A.P.
Finding fantasy-relevant running backs is always a sticky wicket, especially this late in the season. And on the heels of a week that claimed Giovani Bernard, CJ Prosise, TJ Yeldon, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy you’ll be forced to take drastic measures. A couple names to keep an eye on: Wendell Smallwood, who picked up the Philly slack when Mathews and Sproles went down and on Monday night will face a Green Bay defense that just gave up three touchdowns to Rob Kelley; and Alex Collins, who goes from inactive last week to Thomas Rawls’ top backup in Seattle. Rawls was a bit banged up after his first game in two months, so don’t be surprised if Collins—one of only three players in SEC history with three 1,000-yard rushing seasons—gets a decent amount of work against the Buccaneers.
I got Gronked last week, and since we’re more likely to get nuclear launch codes than we are relevant injury information from Bill Belichick I need to have a replacement tight end on speed dial. Any suggestions? — G.B.
If you’re feeling lucky try Dennis Pitta, who hasn’t seen the end zone since 2013 but has seen 71 targets this season and faces a Bengals defense that’s surrendered 53 yards or more to five different tight ends in the past five games, as well as three touchdowns in that span.
My kicker can’t even make a stinkin’ PAT. Short of going for two every time, got any suggestions? — B.W.
Unlike the real world, the realm of fantasy offers plenty of in-season kicking help—particularly this week, as the Bills (Dan Carpenter), Rams (Greg Zuerlein), Browns (Cody Parkey) and Dolphins (Andrew Franks) all face teams ranking in the top five in fantasy points served up to opposing kickers. And odds are all four are hanging out in your free agent pool, just waiting for a chance to turn your hair gray.
If your queries weren’t addressed here, feel free to hit up any of The Fantasy Football Party podcast hosts on Twitter; our handles can be found at the bottom of this page. Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy Week 12!
— John Tuvey
For you DFS players, we’ll provide the best values at QB/RB/WR/TE for DraftKings, FanDuel and FantasyDraft—host of the weekly DFS listener league—on a weekly basis. And if you’ve never played on FantasyDraft before, use the promo code FFParty for a limited time for free $5 FantasyCash. Here’s what Maggio has unearthed for Week 12.
QB: Scott Tolzien vs. Pittsburgh
Go big or go home, right? If you’re playing on a Thursday-only slate, Tolzien could crush your dreams or win you a tournament. He’s minimum priced across the board, so you can spend up everywhere else. The Pittsburgh offense should have no problem putting up points against the Colts, which means Tolzien has to throw. And just ask Blake Bortles—garbage time counts just the same in fantasy football! This isn’t a play for those with weak stomachs, especially considering this game is being playing Thanksgiving evening. You know what doesn’t look great the second time around? Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, that’s what.
QB: Carson Palmer at Atlanta
Look, I don’t like this any more than you do, but Palmer barely costs more than the aforementioned Tolzien on DraftKings and FantasyDraft and he’s in a game with the second highest Vegas O/U this week. Sure, Atlanta’s more than a field-goal favorite, but that means Bruce Arians will keep Carson passing for as long as his banged-up O-line can keep him upright. The Falcons have allowed the fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season—including six games with three or more touchdown passes—so Palmer should have a little more luck than he did against the high-pressure Vikings D last Sunday.
RB: Rashad Jennings at Cleveland
Though a slightly better play on FanDuel salary-wise, Jennings is a fine play across the board based on his recent usage and matchup. Only the 49ers give up more fantasy points to running backs than the Browns, with only the Ravens (twice) failing to get a running back rushing score against them this season. Meanwhile, Jennings hasn’t fallen below 13 touches in any game this season, with 18 two weeks ago against Cincy and 26 against the Bears in Week 11. Anything less than a hundred combo yards and a touchdown would be a huge disappointment here.
RB: Carlos Hyde at Miami
If you can see through the towering inferno engulfing the 49ers organization, Hyde has actually looked really good this season. He’s got a very strong floor for touches—his lowest number in a double-digit loss this season was 14. The Dolphins have been solid against running backs overall this season, but have allowed a touchdown to the position in 3 of their last four games—and 132 combo yards to Melvin Gordon in the other. Hyde hasn’t scored since October 6, but to be fair he did miss a month. He scored at least once in four of his five games to start the season, so he’s probably due for a return trip to the end zone.
RB: Jay Ajayi vs. San Francisco
Ajayi is a value in the academic sense. He’s plenty costly, but more than likely well worth the investment going against a 49ers squad that’s nearly four points per game clear of the second worst team in fantasy points allowed to running backs. All fantasy football players know the story—San Francisco plays at a frantic pace, but poorly, which provides all the more opportunity for the opposing offense to take advantage of an awful defense. Ajayi hasn’t put up pinball scores the last couple of weeks since he hasn’t found the end zone, which simply means his ownership will be a little more depressed than it otherwise would have this week. It’ll still be high, but not going with the crowd in a matchup like this one could make the rest of your lineup a moot point.
WR: Jordan Matthews vs. Green Bay
Matthews may have only found the end zone once in his last seven games, but he’s got a whopping 45 targets in his last four and no fewer than 59 yards in those contests. Meanwhile the Packers defense is cratering thanks to a secondary completely decimated by injuries. Considering Philadelphia’s top two running backs will at best be limited by injuries of their own, if not out entirely, Matthews’ already high target total could spike in this one, making him extra valuable in the full PPR formats.
WR: Tyler Boyd at Baltimore
Boyd’s been good not great as a rookie and not really a fantasy asset to this point due to his relatively low ceiling (79 yards is his peak and he’s got one TD this year). That said, his touchdown came last week when AJ Green went down on the first series of the game with a strained hamstring, leaving Boyd to amass a career-best eight targets. Now Cincy takes on a Baltimore team that’s allowing the fewest rushing yards—and doing so without arguably its best running back. That means more will be expected of Andy Dalton and the passing game, meaning Boyd has a chance to pay off his salary and then some with the Ravens focused primarily on Jeremy Hill and Tyler Eifert.
WR: Brandon LaFell at Baltimore
Everything I noted about in regards to the matchup as it applies to Boyd holds true for LaFell—whose nine targets last week were his most since tallying 11 at Dallas on October 9, when he scored twice. LaFell has a pair of touchdowns this season and that’s where his value lies. LaFell has better odds of reaching the end zone, but with a lower catch and similar yardage projection to Boyd since he plays on the outside and will get opportunities deeper downfield. So considering the pricing, I’d strongly suggest LaFell on FanDuel while using Boyd on DraftKings and FantasyDraft.
TE: Zach Ertz vs. Green Bay
Washington just picked on Green Bay, so why shouldn’t I? I noted above the Packers’ struggles on defense, and Ertz is peaking at the right time. He’s got 26 targets his last three games after amassing just 20 in his first five. With that uptick in targets he’s finally found the end zone (last week at Seattle, for degree of difficulty points) and set a season high in yards with 97 against the Giants on November 6. Green Bay has allowed 60 or more yards to tight ends each of the last four weeks and was mauled by Delanie Walker two weeks ago. Ertz has a very nice floor here for such a low price, and a nice ceiling to boot.
TE: CJ Fiedorowicz vs. San Diego
Stephen Anderson and Ryan Griffin could show up in the box score at any time—which makes this a risk/reward play. But the good news is that risk doesn’t cost a whole lot on any of the three sites, but especially DraftKings and FantasyDraft where Fiedorowicz benefits from the PPR scoring. He’s got 5 or more targets in each of his last seven games, and seven or more in five of those. Plus he’s got three touchdowns in that stretch. The Chargers have been good against tight ends, though, having not allowed more than 55 yards to the position since Week 3 at Indy with only two touchdowns ceded in that span.
Anthony Maggio, John Tuvey and Bo Mitchell co-host the 1500ESPN Fantasy Football Party podcast. Bookmark the podcast page for upcoming episodes and subscribe to the podcast now! Don’t act like you’re not impressed.
Maggio hosted Fantasy Football Sunday on 1500ESPN from 2012-2013 and is the Fantasy Football Editor at Zoneblitz.com. Mitchell is Vice President of Content for Sportradar. And Tuvey is Director of Content at SportsHub Technologies. All three men are kind of big deals, enjoy leather-bound books and have woodwork at home that smells of rich mahogany.
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