24 Nov Thanksgiving Day DFS Primer
Each year, Thanksgiving brings us a few things. First, it always brings us the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions. The other thing it brings is real part of the NFL season. The part of the season which separates the contenders from the pretenders and shows who really is the NFL MVP.
This season, there are two traditional games of mediocre teams followed by what should be a better nightcap to finish off your day. Better than pumpkin pie for sure.
Let us take a look at the games and what to expect in them. We will also highlight a player to focus on for each team during the games.
May you have your fill of delicious food during the early games, and may you be able to stay up for the late game. The only one really worth watching. Time to look at the Thanksgiving Day DFS slate.
Houston Texans at Detroit Lions
Missing both players this past week, Detroit looked pitiful in a shutout loss to the Carolina Panthers. A Panthers team with a bad defense and a backup quarterback making his first career start in the NFL.
Swift has become the catalyst of the offense, especially with Golladay missing much of the season with different ailments. With the fractured thumb of Matthew Stafford putting even more pressure on the run game, seven carries (to lead the team) from Adrian Peterson is not enough, even against a bad Texans run defense.
Houston is giving up more than 150 yards on the ground per game this season. They were still able to hold Damien Harris to less than 50 last week against the Patriots. Maybe the veterans on Houston just needed time to get stretched out.
With Swift likely to be sitting again for this matchup, the best player in the game is Deshaun Watson. Having a resurgence since the departure of Bill O’Brien, Watson will be able to continue this role with the help of Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks. There may even be some good play seen from Duke Johnson in this one. But let us not get greedy.
If the Houston defense is bad, the Lions defense is not any better. The secondary with 2020 second overall pick Jeffrey Okudah has not performed this season and the Texans wide receivers will have no issues catching passes against them.
I would love to say this game is going to be high scoring. But with the injures to the Detroit stars, I do not see it happening. A short week, an early start, and Thanksgiving in Detroit does not usually lend itself to high scoring. This said, I do expect Houston to get their second win in a row.
Texans Player to Watch – Brandin Cooks ($5,300 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel)
Will Fuller gets the press but Brandin Cooks gets the targets.
Despite the deep threat of Fuller, Brandin Cooks is the receiver you want for stability in Houston. He leads the team in targets and is tied with Fuller with 47 receptions. Although Fuller is the deep threat, Cooks is only 70 yards behind him on the season. His three touchdowns is only half of the six put up by Fuller but with more targets going his way, he will offer more upside, especially in full PPR DFS.
As for real life football. We know the connection Watson has with Fuller. He now has a similar connection with Cooks. A player who unlike Fuller, is likely to be on the team next season. Watson and Cooks will want to keep building a rapport the rest of this season as the duo remains in Houston next season.
Against a struggling secondary in the motor city, Cooks and his seven targets a game are a wonderful play for you fantasy managers. It will also be a wonderful sight for Texans fans who want to see Houston finally get on a winning streak. With Fuller still being considered the number one for the team, expect him to get any double coverages. This will lead Cooks to do damage. And damage he should do in this one.
Lions Player to Watch – Kerryon Johnson ($4,300 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel)
With D’Andre Swift likely out and Adrian Peterson being well, old, the Lions will need to turn to disappointing third-year running back Kerryon Johnson for their rush attack.
In the Lions shutout loss to Carolina in Week 11, Johnson managed a hefty 17 yards on six carries. He also gained 21 yards on two catches as the pass-catching back in the offense. He is clearly not a great option for fantasy managers, but for Detroit, he is all they have. He also will be on fewer DFS rosters with the expectation that Lions will not be able to move the ball.
This means expect him to get more run this week, even if he again only manages 2.8 yards per carry. The team cannot rely on Stafford and his bum thumb to win the game, especially with his two best weapons out of the lineup. Add to this that Danny Amendola might also miss another game, and the weapons get even fewer.
We know the talent Johnson possesses. He was the SEC Player of the Year his final season at Auburn. He even managed over 50 receptions before getting injured in his rookie season. He will be the featured back here regardless of who trots out for the first offensive snap. Expect him to get 15 to 20 touches in this game. With the Texans defense allowing the most yards per carry, he might be able to get to 100 total yards.
Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys
Washington is coming off a victory at home against the Bengals. The Cowboys played their best game since the injury to Dak Prescott while beating the Vikings. In this matchup, the two division foes meet up in what has become an almost annual meeting on Thanksgiving. It will be a revenge game for Dallas, who lost to Washington less than a month ago.
Both teams have great receivers going. With Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb for the Cowboys and Terry McLaurin for Washington. This means fireworks may be on the horizon against questionable secondary pieces.
Ezekiel Elliott has been shut down each week prior to Sunday’s win. He managed to get a receiving TD last week and hopefully this helps to get him started. On the other side, the football team has two solid backs in Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic. While Antonio Gibson gets the pub, McKissic has a connection with Smith and may have another big game here.
Washington Player to Watch – J.D. McKissic ($5,100 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel)
With 49 carries for only 217 yards and one touchdown, you would not think McKissic would be a great play here. But it is in the pass game where he makes his mark. In 10 games this season, he already has 49 receptions and 317 yards. 19 of those receptions have come on 33 targets in the last three weeks with Alex Smith behind center. Although Gibson was a WR/RB in college, McKissic is seemingly the back Smith turns to when he needs to quickly get rid of the football.
Washington has still not given Gibson a solid look on third down. This has gone to the veteran who may at this point in time be a better pass blocker. This allows him to be the one on the field and able to get those valuable catches. Against a battered Dallas defense with a bad secondary, McKissic may find his way into the end zone on a screen pass during this game.
If not for what can be expected from Terry McLaurin, he may be the best player on the field at the end of the day.
Cowboys Player to Watch – CeeDee Lamb ($5,400 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel)
It has to be tough to keep going with all the changes at quarterback, but with Dalton coming behind center, the entire team will start getting back into the groove of things. This week could be a difficult one for Lamb though. Washington has a great front seven on defense. The other thing they are able to do very well? Cover slot receivers.
Coming into last week, Washington was giving up the fourth fewest points to the slot position and this will make it hard for Lamb to have a stellar game. Do not look for 100 yards or multiple scores here. If you are playing DFS he may be a good fade. He has been the best receiver on Dallas for most of the season.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
NOTE: As the COVID numbers rise for the Ravens, take into account this game could be postponed or moved to a later day this week.
I am going to say it plain and clear. The 2020 Ravens are a fraud. Their 6-4 record has more to do with the easy schedule they faced to start the season and far less to do with how good they actually are. Unlike a lot of teams in the NFL, Baltimore has not dealt with a lot of major injuries. Their core players are still there and without Earl Thomas, their defense may have gotten better. Lamar Jackson has regressed mightily this season and the rush attack, although still good is not near what it was in 2019.
Mark Ingram has missed some time, and despite spurts of good play J.K. Dobbins has not been the stud Ravens fans were hoping for out of Ohio State. With both players testing positive for COVID and missing this game it will come down to Gus Edwards and Justice Hill to move the ball on the ground. Hill has been a bust since being drafted last season and the offseason.
Edwards has been a bulldozer at the goal line, but he has been rarely used inside the 20’s. So, Hill will need to perform here for Baltimore to have any chance.
The tight ends and wide receivers have been dust for majority of the season. A lot of this has to do with the regression of Jackson, who went from 208 passing yards per game last season to under 190 this season. In the NFL today, this is not a winning formula and Baltimore is finding this out.
The Steelers on the other hand look to be the best team in the NFL. Kansas City is great, but they have had some close wins and a loss to the Raiders. Pittsburgh has rarely been challenged and their defense is unreal. It is almost unfair how good the entire team is playing. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off two good games. This includes his best game of the season in Week 10 against the Bengals where he threw for more than 330 yards.
Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and rookie Chase Claypool are the top group in the NFL this season from top to bottom. Big Ben is playing at an MVP level with 24 touchdowns to only five interceptions, and if James Conner can finally get going on the ground, the Steelers may just be the team who can finally slay the Chiefs dragon. They are certainly the only team with the defense to do it.
Baltimore is struggling and now goes on the road to face a Steelers team who is on a mission this season. Both teams have great coaching staffs but in Pittsburgh, it is hard not to trust Mike Tomlin to get the win. Especially after the recent comments of Lamar Jackson stating the other teams seem to want it more. This is not a great sound bite from your leader.
Ravens Player to Watch – Lamar Jackson ($6,800 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel)
Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews are having terrible seasons and the run game is faltering. If Baltimore wants any chance at winning on Thanksgiving, Jackson will have to put the team on his back and carry them there.
Steelers Player to Watch – James Conner ($6,200 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel)
The good thing? Conner has remained healthy all season. The Bad thing? He still has not done much.
Lucky for him the Steelers have not needed him to be great at this point of the season. As cold weather comes and the playoffs hit, this will change, and we have to hope Conner is up for it. It starts this week against a division foe who have been pummeled on the ground the past two weeks.
The Steelers saw this in their first matchup as the Ravens almost won the game after running for more than 200 yards against them. In this game, Pittsburgh need to keep this from happening. This means taking advantage of the weakened Baltimore run defense to milk the clock and sustain long drives. Conner should see 20 or more carries in this one and hopefully reach 100 yards.
Enjoy the Thanksgiving Day DFS slate. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Dominick is a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area. Playing fantasy football for more than 20 years and writing for more than five, he has a vast knowledge of both the NFL and fantasy football. Despite his being blind, Dominick is a consistent ranker amongst FantasyPros experts, and always strives to be better than last season. Follow him on Twitter @EnvisionFF and read his weekly Best Bets articles during the season.