Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and boy do we have some great football to be thankful for!
Families will be surrounding their television sets on Thursday, thanks to three games on schedule. Hopefully fantasy owners can forget about the stress and anxiety and enjoy the holiday.
Why is there stress? Well, the fantasy playoffs are just a few weeks away and every matchup matters. Those who are sitting on the 6-5 fence may need a victory this week to continue their quest for fantasy gold. Luckily, there aren’t anymore bye weeks, so missing players will be one less thing to worry about.
Let’s cut to the chase and get started.
Thumbs Up: Quarterbacks
Andrew Luck vs Buffalo Bills: Luck didn’t have an ideal fantasy performance on Sunday, however, he did manage to score twice. Although, fantasy owners could have done without the four turnovers. Still, Luck remains a top fantasy option, especially this week against the Bills, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Keep rolling with Luck, as this contest could be a shootout.
Andy Dalton vs Oakland Raiders: Red Dalton has been red hot as of late, scoring seven touchdowns in the last two games, along with no interceptions. Sunday’s performance against the Kansas City Chiefs was Dalton’s second consecutive 20-point fantasy day. As long as A.J. Green is on the field, Dalton has a great chance to put up some serious numbers. This week’s matchup against a bottom-ranked Raiders secondary is quite enticing.
Tony Romo vs Washington Redskins (Thurs.): Romo has been very difficult to trust from a fantasy perspective, but there are a few good reasons to count on him this week. First, Romo faces the Redskins secondary, that, despite last week’s performance, is extremely vulnerable. Also, Romo is historically very good on Thanksgiving (5-0). Dallas is in big time need of a win, so expect Romo to have a solid day.
Sam Bradford @ Arizona Cardinals: Bradford has been surprisingly solid over the past two weeks, throwing for 445 yards and four touchdowns. However, temper expectations quite a bit this week, as he faces a very tough Cardinals defense. This unit forced Matt Ryan to throw a career high five interceptions. Bradford isn’t nearly as talented as Ryan and the offensive line is rough. Look for the former number one overall pick to struggle.
Joe Flacco @ San Diego Chargers: The Chargers defense is mediocre at best, but the fact that the game will be at Qualcomm Stadium makes this matchup unappealing for Flacco owners. Flacco is known to struggle on the road this season, throwing just three touchdowns. Unless you are very thin at quarterback, it is difficult to trust Flacco, at least away from home.
Christian Ponder @ Chicago Bears: What in the world happened to that Bears defense on Monday night? They were torched for 32 points, thanks in part to Colin Kaepernick. However, don’t believe that Ponder will have similar success. He has struggled lately and with this game in Chicago, I expect the Bears to play angry, smash-mouth football.
Thumbs Up: Running Backs
Frank Gore @ New Orleans Saints: While Gore didn’t get the touchdown on Monday night, he did rush for 78 yards on 17 carries against a top notch defense. This week should be much easier, as the Saints are allowing the third-most fantasy points to runners. Expect big yardage from Gore against this defense, who are allowing 157.8 rushing yards per game this year, a league worst.
Chris Johnson @ Jacksonville Jaguars: In case you had any doubts, CJ2K is back as a top fantasy runner. Johnson has eclipsed 90 rushing yards in six of the last seven games, averaging 117 yards per game during that span. He gets division rival Jacksonville this week, who are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs in 2012.
Marcel Reece @ Cincinnati Bengals: Ever since filling in for Darren McFadden, Reece has been an absolute beast. Over those two games, Reece has caught 11 balls for 146 yards, making for a PPR monster. Unfortunately, he has yet to find the end zone, but with the amount of targets he gets, it’s only a matter of time. It also helps that the Bengals are allowing the 8th most fantasy points to running backs.
Reggie Bush vs Seattle Seahawks: Bush has not been what fantasy owners have hoped. He has had fumbling issues, which led him to the doghouse, and he is likely to be in a timeshare with Daniel Thomas. Suddenly, Bush has fallen from a top fantasy running back to a flex play at best. This week’s matchup against Seattle is less than favorable, as the Hawks are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs.
Michael Turner @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: For the most part, Turner has been an ugly fantasy back this year, especially from where he was drafted. He is basically a touchdown or bust, as he has only eclipsed 70 rushing yards twice. Between backup Jacquizz Rodgers seeing a ton of snaps and a tough matchup against the number one ranked run defense, Turner could disappoint.
Ryan Mathews vs Baltimore Ravens: Look, I have been defending Mathews all season long, so I may just be putting him in the Thumbs Down column so he produces for me. Anyway, while the matchup is actually good on paper, Mathews hasn’t rushed for 100 yards once this year, and hasn’t found the end zone in five games. Until he makes some noise, it’s hard to be confident in him.
Thumbs Up: Wide Receivers
Reggie Wayne vs Buffalo Bills: While there are some bigger names out there, Wayne has been one of the safest bets in fantasy football. Luck has been looking for him every single play this year, as Wayne has a league-leading 130 targets. On Sunday, he had a whopping 18, while only hauling in seven for 72 yards. Wayne could be in line for a monster stat line against a very vulnerable Bills secondary.
Michael Crabtree @ New Orleans Saints: Crabtree has very quietly been one of the hottest wide-outs in football lately, hauling in four touchdown passes and 173 yards over the past three contests. Though there may be a quarterback controversy, both target Crabtree quite a bit, so he should be in line for a nice day against the Saints atrocious defense.
Cecil Shorts vs Tennessee Titans: Raise your hand if you knew who Shorts was before the season started. I’m assuming not many people raised their hand. Anyway, Shorts has been a pleasant surprise in fantasy land this year(642 yards, 5 TDs). He has quickly emerged as the Jaguars number one receiver. With a favorable matchup against the Titans, keep rolling with Shorts while he’s hot.
Larry Fitzgerald vs St. Louis Rams: Sadly, Fitzgerald is no longer an elite fantasy receiver. However, it is not really his fault. The quarterback carousel in Arizona has been an absolute mess, causing a sporadic offense. The matchup this week doesn’t help matters, as the Rams have been tough against opposing wide receivers.
Brian Hartline vs Seattle Seahawks: A waiver wire darling at one point in the year, Hartline probably belongs back on the wire after his recent struggles. Hartline has only scored one touchdown all year, and the offense in Miami is a mess. Not to mention, he faces the Seahawks, who are the third-best pass defense in football.
Thumbs Up: Tight Ends
Jason Witten vs Washington Redskins (Thurs.): Witten has been hot as of late, climbing to the top five in fantasy points among tight ends. He has an absolutely ridculous 49 targets over the last four weeks and is clearly Tony Romo’s favorite target. The Skins are allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends, so expect Witten to go off.
Mercedes Lewis vs Tennessee Titans: While he hasn’t been an ideal option in fantasy, Lewis has been coming on as of late. On Sunday, Lewis had 3 catches for 26 yards and two touchdowns. With Chad Henne expected to be under center again, Lewis could have a solid game against a Titans team giving up the third-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Brandon Myers @ Cincinnati Bengals: Myers has quietly been one of the hottest tight ends in football as of late. Over the past three contests, Myers has seen 30 targets and scored three touchdowns. With the amount that Carson Palmer throws the football, you can guarantee Myers will be a part of the action, especially this week against the Bengals, who are allowing the 5th-most points to tight ends.
Greg Olsen @ Philadelphia Eagles (Mon.): While Olsen has been very solid lately, temper expectations for this week. As bad as the Eagles have been overall, they have been very tough against opposing tight ends. The Eagles have given up the 8th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, and have shut down guys like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten.
Kyle Rudolph @ Chicago Bears: Rudolph is coming off a very nice game, large in part to Percy Harvin being inactive. This week, Harvin may return, but I don’t like Rudolph regardless. Prior to Monday night’s debacle, the Bears have only allowed a combined 10 fantasy points to opposing tight ends over the past five games.
Thumbs Up: D/ST
Seattle Seahawks defense @ Miami Dolphins: Did I mention how miserable the Dolphins offense has been lately? I mean, they only scored one offensive touchdown on the Bills of all defenses. Anyway, this defensive unit is as physical as they come and should take care of Ryan Tannehill and company.
Arizona Cardinals defense vs St. Louis Rams: The Cardinals picked off Matt Ryan five times on Sunday and also forced a fumble or two. If they could do that against the Falcons high potent offense, they should have no problem against a banged up Rams offense.
Carolina Panthers defense @ Philadelphia Eagles: This is a bit of a gut call here, as the Panthers defense hasn’t been spectacular. However, should rookie Nick Foles get the start again, this unit could force a ton of turnovers. If Foles couldn’t produce against one of the weakest secondaries in football last week, I’m not sold that he will see success on Monday night.
Houston Texans defense @ Detroit Lions (Thurs.): Odds are, you can’t afford to sit these guys. However, they looked absolutely dreadful on Sunday against the Jaguars, giving up 37 points. They are very capable of having a great game, but temper expectations a little.
New York Jets defense vs New England Patriots (Thurs.): One name should instantly make fantasy owners not want to play this unit; Tom Brady. The last times these two teams played, the Jets unit scored less than five fantasy points.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy football columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.