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 Wednesday for a new column and each Thursday for a new episode of the Fantasy Football Party podcast.
Hey, you’re busy. There are potatoes to mash, pies to bake, turkey holes to be stuffed. You’ve crammed a week of work into three days, freeing up your schedule so you can cram your stomach with turducken and cornbread and green bean casserole.
And then you can settle in to watch some football.
The NFL on Thanksgiving Day has become just as much of a tradition as carving the bird, jiggling the jello and burying the pumpkin pie with Cool Whip at a minimum 3-to-1 ratio. Appetizers kicking off in Detroit with the Lions, with the main meal jammed somewhere between halftime and the start of the Dallas game; obviously that has required schedule shuffling here in Minnesota with the Vikings playing in Detroit the past couple seasons. And in a more recent development, dessert and leftovers with a rotating host culled from the 30 owners lobbying for their own piece of the Thanksgiving pie.
(An aside: anyone else see the irony in two of the first three Thanksgiving games going to teams with Native American-themed nicknames?)
And just like those once-spurned owners, fantasy football wanted a taste of the Thanksgiving Day feast. So now we have Thursday-only slates on top of main DFS slates on top of your season-long fantasy matchups.
So in a nod to your busy schedule–and burning desire to make Thursday football meaningful, even if you’re (gasp) not a Vikings fan–before we give you the usual Week 12 values here’s an abbreviated must-play list for Turkey Day.
QB: Kirk Cousins vs New York Giants
In back to back weeks Cousins has thrown for 649 yards and accounted for six touchdowns against the Vikings and Saints, two of the league’s better defenses. As a Thanksgiving Day reward, he gets to face a Giants secondary that required gale-force winds to end a six-game stretch in which they allowed an average of 319 yards and almost three TDs per game. He’s the most productive quarterback playing on Thursday, with the most favorable matchup; that’s a better combination than sweet potatoes and marshmallows.
RB: Melvin Gordon @ Dallas
Rolling up 54 points on the checked-out Bills last week allowed the Chargers to rest Gordon, who’s been playing through a sore knee–though not before he rolled up 80 yards and a touchdown. The abbreviated workload last Sunday should help Gordon bounce back on a short week as he faces a depleted Dallas defense. Specifically, the Cowboys will be without linebacker Sean Lee, who means more to the Dallas run defense than stuffing does to the turkey. In three games without Lee this season the Cowboys have allowed an average of 150 rushing yards and one touchdown per contest–a jaw-dropping 62 yards and half a touchdown more per game than when Lee is on the field. Even if wunderkind Austin Ekeler swipes a touch or two there will be more than enough on Gordon’s plate for a filling fantasy feast.
WR: Adam Thielen @ Detroit
More evidence that Thielen is finally getting the respect his game deserves: he’s the top-priced wideout on the Thursday slate at all three DFS venues. With five catches in every game this season Thielen has a solid floor in PPR formats; doesn’t hurt that he’s averaging six catches per game as a starter against Detroit. Darius Slay will likely be matched up with Stefon Diggs once again, leaving Thielen with room to play his trade out of the slot. The Lions have surrendered several solid slot performances already this season, including Randall Cobb (5-58), Larry Fitzgerald (6-74), and JuJu Smith-Schuster (7-193-1), and it makes sense to pay up in anticipation of Thielen continuing that trend.
For DFS players, we provide the best values at QB/RB/WR/TE on a weekly basis, including pricing from Fanball, DraftKings and FanDuel. Here’s your Week 12 suggestions. Good luck!
QB: Marcus Mariota @ Indianapolis
Mariota has enjoyed copious success against the Colts during his career, tossing multiple touchdowns three times in four meetings while averaging 299 passing yards per contest. His numbers have been subdued of late as he works his way back from a hamstring injury, though 11 rushing attempts, 56 rushing yards and a rushing score in the past two games suggest the injury is behind him. Mariota has also faced stiff competition over the past month, specifically the second-, third- and eighth-toughest pass defenses in the league. The Colts have allowed five of the last seven non-Mariota quarterbacks they’ve faced to throw multiple scores, and a healthier Mariota is poised for another solid outing against Indy.
RB: Kareem Hunt vs Buffalo
Seems incongruous to spend up on a running back that hasn’t seen the end zone in seven games, but this case is unique. Starting Nathan Peterman is only the latest “raise the white flag” move by the Bills; three games ago they ripped apart their defense by trading tackle Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars. The unsurprising result: Buffalo has given up 614 rushing yards and nine rushing scores in the three games since Dareus was shipped out. Do the math and you’ll find there’s 205 yards and three touchdowns out there just waiting for Hunt to pounce. Despite the two-month scoring drought Hunt has received double-digit touches in every game this year; the five backs who’ve handled a similar workload since Dareus departed averaged 97 yards and a touchdown. That’s the floor you’re paying up for this week, with the tantalizing ceiling serving as further impetus.
RB: Devontae Booker @ Oakland
Booker’s touches continue to increase–19 touches leading to 98 yards from scrimmage last week against the Bengals–and a fourth-quarter fumble by CJ Anderson will only serve to pad the rookie’s workload. Oakland has allowed at least 83 running back rushing yards in every game this year and will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator, but that’s only half the story. Booker also does work in the passing game, and the Raiders have given up running back receiving scores in back to back games and an average of seven catches per game to running backs over the past five tilts. With Paxton Lynch taking over the Broncos’ reins, handoffs and dumpoffs will be in heavy rotation–with Booker at the fore of Denver’s backfield committee.
WR: Mohamed Sanu vs Tampa Bay
Sanu continues to shine in the shadow of Julio Jones, at a fraction of the cap hit. This week the Falcons square off with a Tampa Bay secondary that’s allowed more yards to wide receivers than any other team; specifically, Sanu will operate out of the slot and see plenty of Vernon Hargreaves, the 55th-best cornerback in the league according to Pro Football Focus. The Bucs have also surrendered a dozen touchdowns to wide receivers, and since Julio can’t find the end zone one of those is likely landing in Sanu’s vice-like mitts; in fact, he’s scored in three of the past four games. There’s also plenty of trust involved here; Sanu was top-three in drop rate last season and has brought in 15 of his last 18 targets.
WR: Kenny Stills @ New England
Sure, the Patriots are remembering how to play Bill Belichick defense. Nonetheless, only the Bucs have allowed more yards to opposing wideouts (thanks, garbage time) and if history is any indication Miami will be playing catchup here as well; they’ve given up 31 or more points to the Patriots in four of their last five meetings. That’s all the opening Stills need to build on the multiple trends working in his favor: he’s topped 65 yards in four of his last five games, scored four touchdowns in the last six tilts and reached the end zone each of the last two times he’s faced New England.
TE: Tyler Kroft vs Cleveland
The Giants play on Thanksgiving so we can’t exploit that matchup; fortunately, there are several other defenses who have become sure things against tight ends. For the second straight week Kroft gets to face one, and since he didn’t disappoint last week we’ll go back to his well. The last time Kroft saw Cleveland he was starting in place of the injured Tyler Eifert; all he did was drop six catches, 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the Browns. Given that Cleveland ranks in the bottom five in catches, yards and touchdowns surrendered to the tight end position, Kroft isn’t the only one who’s been abusing this defense; this week, he’ll merely be the latest.
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 Senior NFL Analyst and Director of Content for Fanball, a SportsHub Technologies company. All three men are kind of big deals, enjoy leather-bound books and have homes that smell of rich mahogany.
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