Thanksgiving Daily Fantasy: Let's Get Weird
NFL Week 12 - Thanksgiving daily fantasy is a joy like no other, and it needs to be approached with a different mindset than the standard Sunday slates we normally take on. The slate features three games back-to-back, and this preview will give you all the tools you need to take on the three-game slate and individual showdown games. First up is the Thanksgiving Theory, followed by the game previews which cover every position and the matchups within them.
On a normal slate, you might choose to build around as many as three game stacks with correlations throughout your team, or you may choose to heavily attack just one game. On Thanksgiving, our choices are much fewer, but there are some ways we can apply standard DFS thinking.
Game Stacks: Don't be afraid to take a hard stance and fade one of the three games entirely; for instance, heavily attack the early game, then fade the second game before featuring some players from the final game.
Late Swap: Perhaps the biggest key to a successful Thanksgiving DFS team is utilizing late swap to your advantage, something that much of the field will forget to do as they fill up on turkey and fall into a food coma. (No judgment, just saying…) The key ways to leverage late swap to your advantage involve evaluating every lineup as a game comes to an end. If the chalky players failed in the first game, then you need to make the rest of your lineup very gung-ho and hope that brings you back into the green. If the players who do well in your lineups are the non-chalky ones and you're sitting very high up in tournaments, you can consider being chalkier with the rest of your plays.
Roster Construction: Things get weird at Thanksgiving, and no I'm not talking about your Grandma after three glasses of fizz, I'm talking about the results of the games and how they affect DFS outcomes. Normally playing two tight ends, with one in the flex, would be considered a less optimal choice as they typically struggle to outscore receivers, but with fewer options, our hands can be forced sometimes. Similarly, I wouldn't rule out playing running backs with opposing defenses, which is not something most DFS players would like to do, or even using two running backs from the same team … yes, I'm looking at you, Dallas.
Save Some Money: On a normal slate, it's rare for winning lineups to leave much salary on the table, but on three-game slates like this, if you're trying to spend all of your salary cap, then you're likely going to fall into similar roster constructions that lots of other people have. Instead, consider leaving up to $1,000 on the table. Anything more than that tends to be suboptimal.
Tell a Story: Short slates like this are all about the stories. Which game failed to live up to expectations? What player is in bad form and worth fading completely? Asking yourself questions like this whilst creating your player pool can help you to create a narrative for your lineup and then try to stick to the logic of that story. For instance, if I believe the Cowboys are going to trample on the Giants through the running game, is it possible that CeeDee Lamb doesn't see the volume he needs to outscore Stefon Diggs in the Bills game? Luckily, I have all the previews you need.
Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions
Over/Under: 53.5 points
Bills favored by 9.5 points
The Bills have scored 27 or more points in three of their last four games and are heavy favorites against a Lions side that has won three games in a row for the first time since 2017 and, like Buffalo, has scored 27 or more in three of their last four.
Josh Allen ($8,000) is the most expensive quarterback on the slate, and coming off the back of his worst fantasy performance of the year, he is in a prime position to bounce back against a Lions defense that has ranked bottom-five in allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Allen has thrown for 300 or more passing yards in seven of 10 games this year, which matters greatly with DraftKings' bonus scoring system, and the Lions allow a league-worst 8.7 yards per target. Three of the last four quarterbacks to play the Lions have scored 24 points or more, and the Lions are struggling to defend rushing quarterbacks this year, with five instances of them surrendering 40-plus rushing yards and two over 90. Allen will be chalky, but for good reason.
Jared Goff ($5,200) is much cheaper on the other side of this game and might attract a contrarian approach from people hoping the Bills push the Lions into a shootout. Goff has scored over 15 DraftKings points in 40% of his starts this season but will face an uphill battle against a Buffalo defense that has allowed just four games over 15 points this season but is faltering of late, ranking 20th in DVOA against the pass in the last four weeks, giving up back to back games of 300-plus passing yards and having just allowed Jacoby Brissett to score 25.9 fantasy points.
Devin Singletary ($5,700) enters this game on the back of season highs in rushing attempts (18) and rushing yards (86) against Cleveland. The Lions have surrendered the third-most yards per carry (5.2) and second-most rushing touchdowns across the league (17), but in recent weeks have been able to hold running backs in check, giving up just one rushing touchdown to a running back since Week 7 and keeping the likes of Aaron Jones, David Montgomery, and Saquon Barkley to a combined 17.4 PPR points. On the back of this, the Lions rank 19th in rush defense DVOA over the last four games, a notable improvement. James Cook ($4,400) saw a season-high in production but only played on 24% of snaps, right about his usual workload. Playing Cook might feel like good salary relief, but it relies on him breaking big runs like he did this past week to pay off. The best story to tell ourselves regarding Cook is that the Bills blow out the Lions and Cook sees plenty of garbage time production, which is entirely possible.
Jamaal Williams ($5,900) ranks fifth in success rate and sixth in effective yards, and he leads the league in touchdowns with 11 after a three-touchdown performance against the Giants. Over the last seven games, Williams has a 57% opportunity share as he has taken control of the RB1 job in Detroit. Williams is a touchdown machine, but when he fails to get into the end zone he averages 7.5 PPR points compared to his usual 15.4. Simply put, you'll be relying on Williams to get into the end zone against a Bills defense that has allowed just three running back touchdowns in their last six games. Behind Williams, D'Andre Swift ($5,600) remains a dart throw after securing a late touchdown against the Giants when Williams already had three. Swift has averaged 6.6 touches in his last three games as he struggles through injury, but if he can find his way onto the field he could prove useful in the receiving game, where Buffalo ranks 28th against running backs. I like playing Swift in lineups where I expect the Bills to score a lot of points and the Lions have to go pass-heavy to try and close the gap, in those situations we could see a lot of passes to Swift. Justin Jackson ($4,100) has seen his workload grow for three consecutive weeks and is a touchdown-or-bust dart-throw that opens up salaries elsewhere.
Stefon Diggs ($8,000) is the second-highest-priced receiver of the slate but might have the best matchup of the expensive options. The Lions top cornerback, Jeff Okudah, looks likely to miss this game due to a concussion, and Diggs looks to have a clear path to a big day against a defense that has given up six 20-plus-point performances to opposing receivers this year. Gabe Davis ($5,300) is firmly in play with the Lions ranking 26th against WR2s and having allowed the seventh-most deep targets in the league. Isaiah McKenzie ($4,000) has had just one game over 25 receiving yards since Week 3 and can be viewed as a touchdown-or-bust play against a defense that has allowed the ninth-most passing touchdowns.
Amon-Ra St. Brown ($6,600) has been matchup-proof in PPR settings, where his 35% target share over the last four games has seen him rack up 28 catches as Jared Goff leans heavily upon him thanks to his 13th-best catch rate amongst wide receivers. The Bills defense has dipped to 20th against the pass in the last four weeks and has allowed five receivers to score 15 or more PPR points in their last three games. DJ Chark ($3,800) played sparingly in his return from injury against the Giants but could be more involved, having seen 18 targets in his first three games in Detroit. Kalif Raymond ($4,100) has averaged 8.9 PPR points over his last five games and is worth considering against a defense that has allowed the ninth-most deep targets over the last four games.
Dawson Knox ($3,500) averaged just 62% route participation over the first four games of the season but has seen his role expand since and averages 79% now. With that increased role, Knox has seen a greater level of production, with three top-12 performances in his last four games. The Lions have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends in their last five games.
The Lions haven't looked to elevate any tight ends into the role that T.J. Hockenson left behind and none of Brock Wright ($2,900), James Mitchell ($2,700), and Shane Zylstra ($2,500) are likely to have a big impact against a Bills defense that has allowed just two double-digit PPR performances from tight ends all season.
The Bills defense ($3,400) is the second-most expensive defense of the slate but has scored more than eight points just once since Week 2. With their performance dipping of late, it feels like a trap spot. The Lions defense ($2,100) is the cheapest of the slate and will likely attract attention from people wishing to punt the position, but it might be a reasonable option with them scoring double-digit points in three consecutive games and Josh Allen committing seven turnovers in his last four games.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Over/Under: 46.5 points
Cowboys favored by 9.5 points
The Cowboys ride into Thanksgiving on the back of their biggest win of the season, having scored 40 or more points in two of their last three games, to face a Giants team that has surprisingly won five of its last seven games. A win here would show the Giants are ready for a serious playoff push but the Cowboys will be desperate to put on a show, with Jerry Jones loving nothing more than the focus being solely on his team.
Dak Prescott ($6,200) is the second-highest-priced quarterback of the slate and $1,800 cheaper than Josh Allen, despite being in better form of late. Prescott has finished inside the top 10 quarterbacks in his last three games, scoring at least 19 points in all of them. The Giants defense ranks 22nd against the pass in the last four weeks and comes into this game having kept Jared Goff and Davis Mills quiet for successive weeks, but they may have their work cut out against Prescott, who has completed 75% of his passes in his last four games and has helped the Cowboys offense up to seventh in pass offense DVOA in that period.
Daniel Jones ($5,500) is having one of his better seasons in the NFL and ranks 10th in QBR. The Cowboys passing defense has given up points to quarterbacks in recent weeks, allowing both Aaron Rodgers and Justin Fields to have fantasy-relevant days against them before the disastrous day Kirk Cousins had in Week 11. The Giants offense has fared well on the road this season, ranking ninth-best, but against a defense that just sacked Kirk Cousin seven times, Daniel Jones might be in trouble, having taken the fourth-most sacks this season (30).
Tony Pollard ($6,600) seems to have usurped Ezekiel Elliott ($5,800) to become the 1A in the Dallas backfield, out-snapping Elliott 39 to 21, out-touching him 21 to 16, and being far more efficient along the way with 5.3 yards per carry to Elliott's 2.8. Pollard averages 3.1 targets per game to Elliott's 1.1, and at this point, Elliott has become a touchdown-reliant running back. The Giants rushing defense ranks 23rd over the last four games, giving up top-25 performances to three backs in that period. With the Cowboys so heavily favored, it's possible to consider using both Pollard and Elliott in a lineup where you fade the Dallas pass-catchers.
Saquon Barkley ($8,000) had a quiet Week 11 after an absurd 36 touches in Week 10 and it's possible the Giants coaching staff had this quick turnaround in mind as they limited his workload down to 17 touches against the Lions. Barkley ranks seventh in effective yards and his 31 receptions rank 10th amongst backs, which elevates his floor somewhat. But Barkley's price is expensive and his matchup is less than ideal with the Cowboys giving up just four rushing touchdowns to running backs this year. If the choice comes down to Barkley or a high-priced receiver, I lean toward the receivers.
CeeDee Lamb ($7,100) headlines the receiving talents and matches up against a Giants side that ranks 25th against WR1s and allowed him 22.7 points in Week 3. Since that game, six more wide receivers have scored more than 15 PPR points against this Giants side, and Lamb has scored 18 or more points in two of his last three games. Noah Brown ($3,500) is firmly in play, averaging 42 receiving yards per game and 0.75 deep targets per game, which could come into play against a Giants side that has allowed the fourth-most deep targets in the NFL (44). Michael Gallup ($4,600) has disappointed this season and is my least favorite of the three receivers.
Darius Slayton ($5,000) is the PPR WR14 over the last two games and has averaged 76.2 receiving yards in his last four games as the Giants receiver room crumbles around him. Dallas ranks eighth against WR1s, giving up just one game over 14 points since Week 8. At Slayton's price, he doesn't need much more than 10 points to pay off on this slate, but it's not ideal. Kenny Golladay ($3,700) had his most productive fantasy performance of the year with two catches for 29 yards and with his reputation in tatters he's unlikely to be highly-rostered … do with that what you will. Richie James ($3,400) will man slot receiver duties with Wan'Dale Robinson now on IR and can be considered a solid value in a position that Daniel Jones loves to target.
Dalton Schultz ($3,800) has rediscovered his form along with his health in recent weeks and has three top-12 finishes in his last four games. The Giants have only allowed two tight ends to score touchdowns this season, but have largely faced options who weren't fantasy-relevant. Schultz is a fine play.
Tanner Hudson ($2,500) has eight catches in his last three games and is the only Giants tight end to have more than one catch since Week 7. The Cowboys have allowed over 50 receiving yards to a tight end just once this season and have given up just one touchdown to opposing tight ends.
Fresh off sacking Kirk Cousins seven times, the Cowboys defense ($3,700) is the most expensive on the slate with double-digit performances in three of their last four games. If you think Daniel Jones will crumble, this is the play, but it's worth mentioning that Jones has been much better with ball security than in previous seasons. Meanwhile, the Giants defense ($2,400) hasn't broken double digits since Week 4 and has struggled to pass five points in most recent performances. If you're spending down this far, the Lions defense feels a better bet at $300 less.
New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings
Over/Under: 42.5 points
Vikings favored by 2.5 points
Thanksgiving's dessert comes in the way of a matchup featuring the lowest over/under of the day and two teams who combined to score zero offensive touchdowns in Week 11. For this reason, it might become popular to fade this game, and playing things from a contrarian mindset could leave you hoping for fireworks later on to propel you up the scoreboards.
Kirk Cousins' ($5,600) prime-time record is much talked about, but it's worth mentioning that a lot of Cousins' woes have come on Monday nights, where he's 2-9, and perhaps there's room for us to leverage that against the field if we're feeling brave. With that said, the Vikings will be without left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who left during Week 11 with a concussion. The Vikings offensive line melted without his presence, allowing seven sacks on the day. Cousins has now had two performances outside of the top 18 quarterbacks in his last two games and will face a Patriots defense that ranks first in DVOA over the last four weeks and has allowed just two offensive touchdowns since Week 8.
Mac Jones ($5,100) has had a disappointing season and only scored more than 12 fantasy points on two occasions, with none since his return from a high-ankle sprain. The Patriots passing offense ranks 25th over the last four weeks and they're not going to attract much rostership—for good reason.
Dalvin Cook ($7,400) faces a Patriots defense that has given up the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, with only one running back surpassing 15 points all year. Cook ranks eighth in DYAR, he is the PPR RB11 on the season, and he had a 23.6-point performance against Buffalo just two weeks ago, so it's not completely out of the picture that he has a good game here, particularly with the Vikings favored and at home. Alexander Mattison ($4,800) has had more than five touches just once in his last seven games and is unlikely to be relevant without an injury.
Rhamondre Stevenson ($6,400) is the RB9 on the season and averages 20 PPR points over his last six games. Stevenson averages 5.0 targets per game and may find some joy against this Vikings defense, which ranks 20th against RBs as receivers and just got cooked by Tony Pollard to the tune of 109 receiving yards. Damien Harris ($5,500) looks fully recovered from the injuries that bothered him earlier this season and had impressive gains of 22 and 30 yards against the Jets in Week 11. Harris can either be played as leverage off of Stevenson or, if you believe the Patriots move the ball on the ground well, they can be paired together.
Justin Jefferson ($8,200) is the highest-priced receiver on the slate and will be looking to bounce back after a miserable 33-yard performance against the Cowboys. Jefferson averages 109.3 receiving yards per game but will have stout competition against a Patriots side that has allowed just two 100-plus receiving-yard games this season and ranks fourth against WR1s. Adam Thielen ($4,900) has slipped by the wayside with T.J. Hockenson now in town and has finished as the WR30, WR44, and WR68 in the three games since the trade. The Patriots rank 19th against WR2s, so it's not out of the realm of possibilities that Thielen has a good game, but he likely needs a touchdown to return value. K.J. Osborn ($3,600) has had just one double-digit-PPR performance this year and hasn't taken the leap the Vikings expected, but at this cost he is an interesting play.
Jakobi Meyers ($5,100) had a three-game stretch from Week 5 where he was the WR13 but has since slipped away as the Patriots' poor offensive play has hampered his ability to produce. Minnesota ranks 26th against WR1s and has allowed nine receivers to score 15 or more PPR points through 10 games. Meyers should be seen as leveraging off the New England running backs, who will undoubtedly be more popular. DeVante Parker ($3,900) is banged up and dealing with a knee injury that forced him to miss three games, if he's able to play, then he's an interesting option. Rookie Tyquan Thornton ($3,300) has had one reception in each of his last five games and is a dart-throw more than anything.
T.J. Hockenson ($5,000) has seen 28 targets since his arrival in Minnesota in Week 9, which ranks second amongst tight ends in that period. The Patriots rank fifth in defense against tight ends but have allowed seven touchdowns to the position in 10 games.
Hunter Henry ($3,100) and Jonnu Smith ($3,000) continue to butcher each other's production, and whilst neither is a particularly appealing play, if either can manage to score a touchdown, it will go a long way on this slate. Henry leads Patriots pass-catchers in red zone targets (five) and is the slightly better play of the two, whilst Smith will carry less rostership and could be viewed as leverage.
The Vikings defense ($3,100) has been very boom-or-bust in DFS with four double-digit performances and five at six points or below. Minnesota had five interceptions in a three-game spell before the embarrassment against the Cowboys. The Patriots defense ($3,000) is looking good with 13 sacks in their last two games, and with the Vikings offensive line woes, this could be the way to go.