Stories To Watch: Thanksgiving can be stressful enough without you having to pay attention to potentially season-deciding fantasy matchups. As if your racist uncles or family drama isn’t enough to contend with on this turkey day, you’ll have to peel away from listening to your 19 year old cousin’s solutions for the economy after taking an intro finance class and find time to tune into some NFL action. Luckily, this slate of games is set up for the perfect family-numbing drinking schedule.
Vikings-Lions: This is the earliest and best game on the slate, which is perfect for that initial bloody mary, shot of whiskey, or maybe just a good old fashioned beer if your family is slightly less alcoholic than mine. This will be peak Thanksgiving football watching – a tight divisional matchup and that early buzz to start the day. Everything is golden.
Cowboys-Chargers: Not only do you have to listen to Troy Aikman and Joe Buck act like each 4 yard completion by Dak Prescott proves that last week’s meltdown was an aberration, but the rest of the family will be arriving around this time as well. You’re going to have to split time listening to some classic cowboys fellatio from the booth and helping in the kitchen or shuffling coats upstairs/moving cars around. But don’t worry, It’s about to be dinner time, so you can mercifully miss out on Aikman wondering if the Cowboys are secretly the best team in the NFC East after Philip Rivers predictably gift wraps a comeback for Dallas.
Giants-Redskins: And for the crescendo, what better way to let the tryptophan flow through your veins and ease you into that post-dinner slumber than a QB showdown between Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins? Kirk is at least somewhat exciting, but your whiskey and stuffing laced bloodstream won’t be able to fight against the weight of your eyelids by the 2nd or 3rd time the Giants offense takes the field. It’s the perfect game for a Thanksgiving zonk out, too – There’s a 92% chance you won’t be starting any giants for fantasy purposes.
So, really… hats off to the NFL schedulers on this one. It’s like they had our interests in mind and engineered the perfect level of Thanksgiving inebriation in a lab or something. Okay, let’s get on to the important stuff…
Vikings @ Lions
Safe Bets: This won’t exactly be a shootout for the quarterbacks, but you could do worse than starting Matthew Stafford or Case Keenum. Stafford clearly has the edge for fantasy purposes, but don’t discount Keenum, who’s essentially fighting for his job and the rightful credit for steering his team to an 8-2 record. Latavius Murray has proved in consecutive weeks that he’s the Vikings’ preferred option during business time, with Jerick McKinnon taking on more of a change of pace role. Both are viable, but I’d rather have Latavius for the chance at a punch in. In a matchup that features a lot of big name wide receivers, I bet you didn’t think Adam Thielen would be the top option back during the preseason. The #3 wide receiver in fantasy should hold onto his crown with yet another big yardage performance. The Detroit WRs are going to have their hands full, but I think I like Marvin Jones for the best chance at a score.
Hope For The Best: Keenum often regards Stefon Diggs like pumpkin pie – the first couple bites taste so good, but then he eventually loses interest. Still, Diggs managed 95 yards against Darius Slay and co. during the last meeting, so he shouldn’t have too much trouble reaching a useful fantasy line. On the flip side, Golden Tate struggled during his last tango with Xaiver Rhodes, and little has changed on that front. Still, he’s hard to bench in a huge game. Kenny Golladay is back on the menu as a WR3 with upside. He won’t exactly get funneled targets, but the rookie has shown to be explosive with his limited opportunities. I like him for a deep bomb here. Ameer Abdullah has resoundingly emerged from the doghouse to become a viable RB2 in fantasy again.
Hell No: This is more of a gut feeling than anything, but I don’t think the Tight Ends will make a big splash in this one. Kyle Rudolph has a yardage cap and has failed to live up to his “red zone reindeer” moniker, and anytime Eric Ebron crosses the pylons is the very definition of a blind squirrel finding a nut. Theo Riddick is another hard pass, as is Laquon Treadwell, neither of which you should’ve seriously been considering to begin with.
Postgame Headline: “Stafford, Lions ward off Vikings 24-21 in Thanksgiving Thriller”
Chargers @ Cowboys
Safe Bets: I’ve been touting Dak Prescott as a viable fantasy starter throughout this matchup preview series, but the Eagles fan in me can’t help but relish his absolute undressing last Sunday Night. Having said that, a visiting Chargers defense is not the same as the Eagles, and Dak will have something to prove. I like him to bounce back in a big way (at least for fantasy purposes). Speaking of bouncing back, where the hell has that been from Keenan Allen? He did his best Odell Beckham Jr. impression after being invisible for the better part of a season, and what do you know – the Chargers hung dong with their star wide receiver being heavily featured. Melvin Gordon isn’t going to make you do a double take with his pedestrian move set, but his fantasy prowess is all we care about. He’ll get you about 55 total yards and a score.
Hope For The Best: Phil Rivers will have a tougher time putting up huge numbers without Nathan Peterman spotting him 5 extra possessions in the first half. Still, I like him for about 230 yards and two scores (and a few back-breaking turnovers of his own). If not for the dramatically lopsided gamescript in the second half vs. Eagles last week, Alfred Morris might’ve seen an even bigger game. He ran with authority and he should be in line for another positive performance against a San Diego defense that just yielded 100+ rush yards to Lesean McCoy (totally different story, I know). Dez Bryant is having trouble getting separation – it’s as simple as that. He’s still great as a possession receiver, but that’s disappointing if you drafted him to be a WR1.
Hell No: Hunter Henry has all the talent in the world, but Philip Rivers didn’t get the memo. He’s just way too inconsistent to trust, especially this early in the week when hope springs eternal for your shit ass fantasy team. There’s nothing worse than getting a 1.73 point dud before your Aunt passes you the cranberry sauce. Cole Beasley has little value outside of serving as a model for one of those “Meth – Not even once” police ads. Jason Witten could give you about 4 catches for 36 yards, but it’s up to you to decide if you want that or not.
Postgame Headline: “Cowboys rally late after some Dak heroics, salvage season in 29-24 win”
Giants @ Redskins
Safe Bests: I’ve personally lost Odell Beckham Jr., Dalvin Cook, Chris Hogan, and Jameis Winston (huge blow, I know) to injuries so far this season, and I somehow feel like one of the lucky ones. It should be clear by this point that being an NFL player comes with a higher casualty rate than signing up with the Colonial Marines…
This past Sunday, Chris Thompson became another statistic when his leg was gruesomely rolled up on. Mercifully for the both The Redskins and fantasy owners alike, Kirk Cousins was spared from serious injury in the the three care pileup of a collision that ensued. The Giants defense may be playing with some pride now, but I like Kirk’s chances at home on National TV. Semaje Perine was already eating into a healthy share of the workload before CT’s untimely demise, but now there’s nothing standing in his way as the workhorse back for the Skins. You’re looking at a potential league winner in the rookie bruiser. On the Giants’ side of the ball, Orleans Darkwa will continue to be serviceable as a volume-based RB2, but he has a prime situation to carry you through these trying times. Coming off his worst game as a pro, look for Evan Engram to bounce back with Sterling Shepard sidelined once again.
Hope For The Best: You have to think that Eli Manning would rather be wearing a sweater and fighting over the last turkey leg with his brothers than to be pounded endlessly into the cold November ground tomorrow night. To make matters worse, he doesn’t have anyone to throw to outside of Roger Lewis, Jr., who becomes an intriguing play in a ‘last man standing’ sense. Josh Doctson keeps making strides in the right direction, so there’s a chance tomorrow could be the breakout (keeping in mind a breakout for him could be 7 catches, 83 yards and a score). Stop me if you heard this one before: Jordan Reed was injured and Vernon Davis made huge, often beastly plays in his stead. I’d gladly catch another case of VD with Reed possibly missing time again.
Hell No: I wouldn’t read too much into Ryan Grant’s bullshit ass score last weekend. The Doctson truther in me would like to chalk that one up as a fluke, anyway. It would shock me if Wayne Gallman was still rostered in your league, and I think Perine’s emergence makes Rob Kelley equally expendable. Plus, you think Fat Rob is going to miss out his biggest day of the year? He might be fully recovered for all we know, but he’s probably nursing that shit for an unfettered sojourn to the thanksgiving buffet table.
Postgame Headline: “Redskins pull away late for 20-17 win over G-Men”
Bills @ Chiefs
Safe Bets: It was a disastrous enough performance by Alex Smith for me to wonder if the Chiefs, the former darlings of the league, would be better off with Patrick Mahomes at Quarterback. Luckily for Smith, the Chiefs have a date with a Bills Defense that gave up 57 goddamn points last week (to be fair, at least 21 of those were directly due to Peterman). I expect everyone to be better, which means Travis Kelce’s passer rating should improve as well. I’m calling it – this is the game Kareem Hunt finally scores another touchdown in. That’s kind of like predicting the end of the world on the Mayan Calendar at this point, only with higher accuracy because the Bills have given up nearly 200 yards rushing/game since trading Marcel Dareus. LeSean McCoy is all the Bills have left in this embarrassment of a season, so he should see plenty of work.
Hope For The Best: By now it should be apparent what Tyreek Hill is. The Chiefs have their very own T.Y. Hilton but with slightly lower “bust” than “boom” potential. There’s nothing wrong with that as your WR2, but it’s good to go into matchups with accurate expectations. If Sean McDermott isn’t actually a replicant that’s being controlled by the Buffalo front office, he should do the rational thing and start Tyrod Taylor. If that’s the case, he’s fine as a very low end QB1 with potential for big garbage time scoring. Call it a hunch, but I think Charcandrick West gets in on the action in garbage time this week. Zay Jones had his best performance of the season during last week’s blowout, and with Kelvin Benjamin likely sidelined again, he’s set to be the target leader once again for the Bills.
Hell No: I don’t want to belabor the point about how awful Nathan Peterman’s performance was last week, but let’s just say that it was notoriously shitty enough that it deserved its own response from our President on twitter…
@RealDonaldTrump: “Hearing that Nathan ‘Palsy’ Peterman couldn’t hold onto the ball. FIVE turnovers on 14 attempts! SAD! Worst assault on unwitting participants (the American viewers) since Al Frankenstein’s nasty behavior. Would be smart for Nervous Nate to take a knee in the locker room during the anthem this week!”
Postgame Headline: “Chiefs begin to crack, but strong second half holds off Bills 28-17”
Titans @ Colts
Pro: In many ways, last week’s loss to the Steelers featured Marcus Mariota’s best fantasy performance of the season.
Con: In many, many more tangible ways, it was a shitshow that featured four interceptions.
Neither of these things – the 300 yards or the four turnovers – will be the new normal, but Mariota can deliver about 240 yards and multiple scores against the Colts this weekend. Jacoby Brissett could similarly deliver some bountiful goodness on Thanksgiving weekend (provided that he’s actually healthy and active). This is the Presessment, so that means you’re here for at least one T.Y. Hilton hot take. Here’s this week’s: 7-141-1. Delanie Walker erupted for 92 yards last week and one hellacious end zone drop, so it’s safe to say his back in business as the top option on the Titans’ offense.
Hope For The Best: It was a hell of a game for Rishard Matthews last week if you’re going by the bottom line, but he did the majority of his damage on a 70+ yard bomb to open the 2nd half. That’s probably not going to happen again, but Rishard is still the best of the Tennessee wideouts. Notice I didn’t mention Corey Davis with that designation, because he’s fuckin’ dead to me. I bought into the hype just like everyone else, but the rookie “phenom” simply isn’t doing much even with ample opportunity. It’s hard to get excited about any of the other Colts skill players, but I’d have to give the edge to Frank Gore for at least modest fantasy production. The same goes for Demarco Murray, who is the epitome of a “hope for the best” player. He goes as the Tennessee offense does, which lately is about as reliable as Greek bank. Jack Doyle will throw you a bone to the tune of 6 catches, 54 yards and about a 30% chance at a touchdown.
Hell No: We’re into Week 12 now, so Derrick Henry can no longer be considered a playoff “lotto ticket”. If you’ve held him all season long, he’s likely been taking up valuable real estate and resources on your bench, much like how actual lottery tickets propagate the cycle of poverty and are a drain on the American economy. Donte Moncrief is way too inconsistent to trust. Since this is Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that I’ve never had to start Eric Decker in a single league this season.
Postgame Headline: “Battle of awful coaches, offenses ends with 26-19 win for the Titans”
Bears @ Eagles
Story To Watch: The wins come so infrequently in this business that you have to relish them when you get the chance. For every Aaron Jones and T.Y. Hilton I’ve whiffed on this year, there’s been an Alshon Jeffery to soften to the blow. I claimed a few weeks ago that the Eagles seemed to be more confident in their high-priced free agent and he was trending upward, and he’s done nothing but produce over the past few games. He’s playing through injury and still making huge plays, which I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that he’ll be entering free agency this year. He could add a few extra million to his looming contract with a huge revenge game against Chicago this weekend.
Safe Bets: While it’s tempting to think that this is a dream matchup for everyone on the Eagles offense, the “spread the wealth” nature of Doug Pederson’s playcalling makes Carson Wentz the only sure thing. He could throw for another three touchdowns, but at the cost of a low yardage output (180-230 range). Alshon Jeffery may not see the volume to deliver a monster day, but a few red zone looks are all but guaranteed for him. Think more of a 5-71-1 day than a 100+ yard explosion. Speaking of a lack of volume, that’s the only thing holding Jay Ajayi back. The Eagles still use a four running back rotation, but Jay will be more involved by the week. Keep starting him.
Hope For The Best: Even though he’s the entire engine of the offense, you can’t feel extremely confident in Jordan Howard this weekend. It will be tough sledding against the #1 defense in the league and the Bears will be playing with a big deficit. Zach Ertz is coming off his worst game of the season, but the Eagles might just be easing him back in after a hamstring injury. Corey Clement is the man in the red zone, but he’s a deep league moonshot play. As far as that goes, though, he’s the new Chris Thompson for fantasy purposes. LeGarrette Blount is equally hard to trust, but he’s still getting the volume. In what could be a blowout, he should see plenty of work in the 2nd half.
Hell No: Even though he’s coming off his best game as a pro, Mitchell Trubisky is going to have a bad time in South Philly on Sunday. I actually think he could deliver a decent bottom line for fantasy purposes, but it’s going to take a lot of turnovers before he gets a garbage time TD or two. Torrey Smith’s TD was a massive fluke for a guy who’s been phased out of the gameplan for weeks. The Eagles tried to force Nelson Agholor the ball last week, and he responded by delivering his best Ryan Gosling impression.
Postgame Headline: Eagles maul Bears 35-20 to improve to 10-1
Broncos @ Raiders
Safe Bets: In a 2017 fantasy season that has been checkered by disappointment across the league, is there any one more glaring than the Oakland offense? This was a unit that was expected to take the next step this season, but instead they missed the step entirely, their hand slipped off the railing, and now they’re sitting at the bottom of the stairs with a broken hip and in need of a Life Alert button.
Despite their sputtering lately, this feels like a get right spot for the struggling Raiders offense. I think Derek Carr throws for two touchdowns against the suddenly toothless Broncos, with Michael Crabtree hauling in at least one of them. I would feel extremely confident starting Demaryius Thomas if not for the fact that Winter’s Bone extra Paxton Lynch was getting the start this week. That’s a hit to everyone’s value on the offense, although this could be the week that the youth movement finally takes hold and Devontae Booker gets the lion’s share of the touches.
Hope For The Best: The talent is obviously there for Emmanuel Sanders, but we simply have no idea what to expect with Paxton Lynch under center. Start him if you must, but expect some missed connections along the way. C.J. Anderson is the definition of a lame duck now that the youth movement is underway. He’ll still see 10-13 carries, but he’s hardly the focal point of the rushing game like he was in September. Amari Cooper got bailed out with a garbage time touchdown last week, but otherwise it would’ve been yet another cooper pooper. He’s a WR3 at best. Expect Jared Cook to get back on track after he came crashing down to earth with a 2-36-0 line last week. You need a touchdown for Marshawn Lynch to be effective this week, as the Broncos still take pride in stopping the run.
Hell No: I don’t think Paxton Lynch will replicate Peterman’s disastrous debut for Buffalo (because, historically speaking, that’s impossible), but he’s still going to have a tough time this weekend. The Raiders Defense packs all the punch of a pillow fight, but I’d still avoid Lynch if you can help it. With only 3 carries last week and an obvious shift in focus to young talent evaluation for the Denver front office, Jamaal Charles is like the old head still hanging around the club. Nobody is trying to dance up on your old junk, JC. Wouldn’t be surprised if he saw less than 5 touches again. (P.S. Jamaal is one of my favorite players in history. Sad to see him go out with a whimper like this.)
Postgame Headline: “Raiders finally show some pride, hold off Broncos 23-20”
Packers @ Steelers
Story to Watch: Here’s a list of things that are more effective than Brett Hundley at the NFL level…
- My recalled Nissan airbag, which shoots shrapnel into the faces of drivers instead of a life-saving cushion.
- A sushi chef with parkinson’s disease
- Playing fetch with a cat
- Starting your Thanksgiving dinner conversation with, “so who’d you vote for?”
- Taking a shot of draino to help with constipation
- Blaine Gabbert
Okay, maybe that was one was a little bit harsh. Still, I bet Mike McCarthy and the Packers are counting down the days until Week 15 after witnessing Hundley’s utter meltdown against the Ravens. Things aren’t going to get any easier as they head to Pittsburgh this week, either…
Safe Bets: Last week: Called a scorched earth game for Antonio Brown, got a scorched earth game for Antonio Brown. I realize that’s not exactly a bold prediction, sort of like calling a grand slam when Barry Bonds has the bases loaded. Still, I think the Steelers will ride the wave and AB will give another 100+ yard performance. After a season of disappointment, could it be that Home Ben Roethlisberger is a thing again? I don’t think we’re back to 2014 level, but Roeth is more than safe to deploy against the Pack in the comfy confines of Heinz field. Le’Veon Bell has been a disappointment himself, but the volume is still there. Keep him locked in. DaVante Adams is the only Packers skill player you can feel comfortable starting as long as Hundley is under center.
Hope For The Best: after a two game stretch in which he accounted for 290 yards and two touchdowns, JuJu Smith-Schuster was due for a letdown. It came last week, but he still saw 8 targets. I’d keep him locked in as long as he’s healthy. Jamaal Williams is cut from the Doug Martin mold, in that he has an envious carry share but fails to do anything noteworthy with his touches. They might be limited with Ty Montgomery possibly returning this week, but Jamaal is still the bet for lead back duties at Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t blame you if you still had to start Jordy Nelson because he’s Jordy Nelson, but it should be clear by now that benching him isn’t a terrible idea.
Hell No: It seems that Martavis Bryant has finally bought into the team atmosphere in Pittsburgh, but he’s still not useable for fantasy purposes yet. I’m not a gambling man, but I’d probably set the O/U for Brett Hundley’s turnovers at 3.5 this week. I’d take the under, too, because I think there’s a strong change he could get pulled once he throws his third pick of the afternoon. Jesse James’ nice game last week was more of an aberration than anything. I’d stay away.
Postgame Headline: ‘Steelers make super bowl sized impression with 33-17 walloping of Packers”
Texans @ Ravens
Story To Watch: It’s technically the start of the Holiday season, so the higher ups at ESPN should get in the Christmas spirit and give us the gift of any fucking game but this one on Monday night. Is MNF excluded from flex scheduling? That’s the only plausible situation I can think of for subjecting us to this modern day shootout at the OK Corrall between the Texans and Ravens. There’s obviously a player or two worth keeping your eyes on in this matchup, but I could’ve used a more entertaining game as we’re forced to sit Al Bundy on the couch after a turkey and bourbon infused weekend.
Safe Bets: DeAndre Hopkins proved that he’s both matchup-and-Tom Savage-proof against Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals last weekend. He has another tough draw against the Ravens, but I’m not betting against the most consistent wide receiver of the 2017 fantasy season. Lamar Miller saw a rare redzone target (converted for a TD) and his backfield mate go down last week. The matchup is tough, but he should be a fixture of the Texans offense going forward. The Ravens backfield is suddenly more crowded than Tom Joad’s truck, but Alex Collins is in the driver’s seat and the best bet for goal line work.
Hope For The Best: Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace split the target share evenly for the Ravens last week, which is kind of like splitting a shit sandwich. Still, Wallace did the most with his opportunities, including an amazing one handed touchdown grab. That will give your QB more confidence going forward, typically. Bruce Ellington delivered a useable if not uninspired line last week, so I don’t see him having much upside outside of full PPR formats. There were times when there Houston defense made Blaine Gabbert look like Johnny Unitas, so you could do worse than starting the elite Joe Flacco on Monday Night as a streamer. I think this will be the week that we see a return to form for Danny Woodhead in PPR leagues.
Hell No: On the other hand, Brett Hundley was shut out in embarrassing fashion by the Ravens last week, so how do you think Tom Savage will fare? He moves as if there should be a tuba soundtrack following him, so it’s doubtful he’ll evade the Baltimore pass rush. Terrance West will be a healthy scratch and Buck Allen still won’t see meaningful carries, so both can be safely dropped.
Prediction: “Ravens defense strong again, stifle Texans in 23-14 victory”
Part II coming on Friday…