Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.
Food, family, friends and, of course… football. One of the best days of the year, fantasy fans are even more stressed to get those lineups set, especially since owners have three games to prepare for. Combined that with the fact that it’s Week 13, and owners are making that final playoff push, and pressure is evident. Don’t fret, folks. I’m here to preview each Thanksgiving game, and while some may not be pretty, all are crucial for fantasy owners.
Two teams that are familiar with Thanksgiving football, Green Bay and Detroit open up the festivities this year. Sadly, however, it isn’t quite as appealing as in year’s past. Let’s start with the Packers.
The last time Matt Flynn started a game against the Lions, he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns.
I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
With Aaron Rodgers out for at least another week, it looks like Flynn will grab the start on Thursday. He played alright during last Sunday’s come-from-behind victory, tossing a touchdown pass. Flynn is clearly familiar with this offense, and the matchup is favorable, so if you are someone who needs to replace Rodgers, or are in a very deep league, Flynn isn’t the worst option. Rodgers may be gone, but the weapons aren’t. He’s got Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin in the passing game, and the Lions secondary has been atrocious lately. The Lions are currently allowing the fifth-most passing yards per game (276.8) and over their last five games, they have allowed a whopping 14 touchdown passes. Detroit may be ahead early in this one, so Flynn will more than likely have to throw a lot. And via Nando Di Fino of CBS Sports, since 2006, 36 percent of signal callers have thrown for at least 300 yards on Thanksgiving day.
Again, I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
Meanwhile, Eddie Lacy remains an RB1 in fantasy, as the Packers transition to a run-first team. The Packers will force-feed him the ball, as Lacy has seen at least 22 carries in seven of his last eight contests. The matchup isn’t very good, but he’s proved to be matchup proof by now. As for the wideouts, Nelson is a top-10 play against a Detroit secondary that is allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to receivers. I also like Boykin, who has had some sneaky good production lately, and has caught at least five balls in each of his last three contests. Detroit is awful against traditional number two wide receivers, allowing an opposing second receiver to find the end zone in seven of their last eight contests.
You are starting Matthew Stafford. In four home games this year, Stafford is averaging 361 passing yards per game, easily the most in football. You are starting Reggie Bush because he’s a top-10 running back. You are starting Calvin Johnson because he is the best player in fantasy football.
Need I say more?
Okay, I like Nate Burleson too. He’ caught at least six balls in every game this year, and the Packers secondary isn’t at all frightening. Tight end Joseph Fauria is also an intriguing sleeper. The Packers are allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and I think Stafford goes bonkers in this game, so Fauria will benefit. Of course, if he doesn’t score, he’s useless. I think he does, which means he dances, which means we shake our heads.
Hate him or love him, Tony Romo is one of the best quarterbacks during the month of November. During this month, Romo is 17-2 in his career with 48 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. He should continue to dominate against a Raiders defense that 22.65 fantasy points per game (6th-most) and has allowed 21 passing touchdowns. Romo is easily a top-five play this week. Like the Lions, you are basically starting all of your Cowboys in this one, outside of maybe Terrance Williams. The Raiders are a very generous defense when it comes to fantasy.
I never thought I’d say this, but Matt McGloin is the talk of the town in Oakland. He’s played pretty well for the Raiders in two starts, and gets a dream matchup against a poor, banged up Dallas defense. The Cowboys are surrendering the most fantasy points per game to passers (25.52), and have allowed 22 passing scores on the year, including six over their last two games. You’d have to think Dallas will be ahead for the majority of this game, so McGloin will attempt plenty of passes. He’s a good play in very, very deep leagues, but it’s difficult to trust him, especially with a lack of weapons. Wide receiver Denarius Moore and tight end Mychal Rivera are expected to miss this game.
As for the running back position, things get a bit more complicated. Rashad Jennings has been superb since spelling injured Darren McFadden. Over his last four games, Jennings is averaging a very strong 18.7 fantasy points per game. He’s been getting all of the carries, and has been good in PPR formats as well, hauling in 15 passes during that span. However, McFadden appears to be on track to return this week, but Oakland stated that they will be riding the hot hand, which is clearly Jennings. McFadden will get some work, but Jennings should see enough to matter, and the matchup is awesome. Since linebacker Sean Lee went down in Week 10, opposing running backs are averaging 223 rushing yards and 63 receiving yards per game. Jennings is still a top-20 back this week.
Disclaimer: I totally expect this game to be low-scoring, with few fantasy goodness. Having said that, don’t even think about placing Joe Flacco into any lineups this week. The Steelers vaunted pass defense awaits, and Flacco struggles against his division rival, averaging 218 passing yards and has thrown just six scores over his last five games against the Steelers. Bench him, bench him now.
As for the running game, Ray Rice is never, ever inconsistent in fantasy. This year, he’s been just bad, as his offensive line is one of the worst in football. I’m not opposed to playing him, as he’s still a top-10 running back in real life, but I’d temper expectations a bit. Pittsburgh’s run defense has improved lately, and I think Rice just doesn’t have the blocking to make a ton of plays. He could very easily find the end zone from up close, however. Meanwhile, it’s hard to bench a guy like Torrey Smith, and cornerback Ike Taylor is certainly beatable. However, if I’m low on Flacco, I can’t be too high on Smith.
Baltimore’s defense, however, is a good play again.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hot, folks. With seven touchdowns and just one turnover in his last three games, Big Ben is starting to look like the signal caller people have grown accustomed to seeing. I don’t expect another monster game, but if there is one area to beat this Ravens defense, it’s their secondary. They have allowed 17 passing touchdowns, while only picking off nine passes. I do like many signal callers more, however.
Also, if you can, I’d find a way to sit rookie Le’Veon Bell this week. Baltimore has been very, very stout against the run, allowing just one rushing touchdown all season long. They are also surrendering the third-fewest fantasy points per game to rushers (14.93). Meanwhile, if you benched Antonio Brown last week because of Joe Haden, shame on you. He’s a must-start option each and every week, especially in PPR formats.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.