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Silva's Thanksgiving Matchups

by Evan Silva

Thanksgiving Thursday

12:30 PM ET Game

Chicago @ Detroit
Team Totals: Bears 23.5, Lions 20.5

Their losing skid finally snapped in last week’s upset over the Panthers, the Lions catch the Bears on a criminally short week after last Sunday night’s emotional at-home division win over Minnesota followed by a road trip for Turkey Day’s earliest time slot. Even as the clearly-superior team, Chicago is favored by only three with Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) not expected to play. Detroit is exceptionally shorthanded in its own right, missing Kerryon Johnson (knee), Marvin Jones (knee), and RG T.J. Lang (neck, I.R.). With just one top-12 fantasy score through ten starts in an injured, broken offense, Matthew Stafford is a contrarian DFS play at best. … Kerryon’s absence thrusts LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and perhaps Zach Zenner into larger roles, with Blount as the favorite for carries and Riddick controlling passing-down work. Although Lions beat writers have lobbied for Zenner to carry the mail, he has played just five snaps in two games since rejoining the team after Ameer Abdullah was waived. The Bears have shown zero vulnerability to running backs, holding the position to an anemic 3.26 yards per carry and the NFL’s eighth-fewest receiving yards per game (36.0). Blount is a touchdown-dependent flex option unlikely to average many yards per carry but offering a shot at double-digit touches. Even amid brutal inefficiency, the Lions have stuck with Blount as coach Matt Patricia’s “guy” from New England. Riddick is a PPR-specific flex play whose outlook is enhanced by Detroit’s multitude of pass-catcher and tailback losses. Riddick’s target totals are 8 – 7 – 7 since the Golden Tate trade, good for catch totals of 7 – 6 – 5.

Stafford’s Week 11 target distribution: Kenny Golladay 14; Bruce Ellington 9; Riddick 7; Johnson 2; T.J. Jones, Luke Willson, and Levine Toilolo 1. … Golladay was a man among boys in last week’s date with James Bradberry, Carolina’s plus-sized No. 1 corner who held Mike Evans to 16 yards on ten targets two games before. Golladay flashed a dominant my-ball mentality in contested situations as Stafford sent him double-digit targets for the second straight game. Fellow perimeter WRs Albert Wilson (6/155/2), Stefon Diggs (13/126/1), DeSean Jackson (5/112/0), Josh Gordon (4/100/0), Christian Kirk (7/90/0), Davante Adams (5/88/1), Golladay himself (6/78/1), and Geronimo Allison (5/69/1) have all given the Bears’ secondary fits. Golladay’s usage ceiling is sky high with Marvin Jones on the shelf. … T.J. Jones ran the Lions’ second-most Week 11 routes (31) but continued to be ignored by Stafford. Ellington’s nine targets on 24 routes make him a more attractive dart throw. Long prone to injury, however, it is at least mildly concerning Ellington was “limited” in this week’s practices with a balky back. Ellington and Jones are rotating in and out of the slot with Golladay playing 80% of his snaps outside. … Toilolo and Willson split Week 11 tight end duties right down the middle. With Michael Roberts due back from his shoulder injury, Detroit’s tight end position threatens to devolve into a three-man timeshare. No tight end has reached 50 yards versus Chicago, which held Kyle Rudolph to 13 scoreless yards on five Week 11 targets.

Most Thanksgiving DFS lineups will target Falcons-Saints for quarterback picks. Filling in for Trubisky, Chase Daniel provides a minimum-cost alternative engineering Matt Nagy’s creative offense in which Trubisky threw for a career-high 355 yards with four all-purpose TDs in Chicago’s Week 10 win over the Lions. Silver plattering clean pockets, Detroit ranks bottom four in pressure rate (23.9%) and bottom ten in QB hit rate (14.2%) with top-seven fantasy results allowed to four of its last six quarterbacks faced and Brock Osweiler’s QB14 score mixed in. There are two stark differences between Daniel and Trubisky: Trubisky is a far superior athlete and has attempted a league-high 19% of his passes 20-plus yards downfield. Daniel has attempted just 4-of-78 career throws 20 yards or further (5.1%). Daniel’s deep-throw rate did rise to 10.8% on 74 preseason attempts, while Detroit has allowed the NFL’s ninth-most completions of 20-plus yards (38). Ultimately, a fantasy bet on Daniel is a bet on Nagy’s system, Chicago’s weaponry, and their ability to exploit Detroit’s porous pass defense. … Bears backfield usage is heavily influenced by game flow. As Chicago played with a Week 11 lead, Jordan Howard out-touched Tarik Cohen 19 to 10 versus the Vikings. The Lions’ run defense has stiffened since trading for NT Damon Harrison, holding enemy backs to 88/348/3 (3.95 YPC) rushing over their last four games, including stymieing Howard (11/21/0) in Week 10. This may encourage Nagy to design a short-pass, Cohen-focused game plan to increase the comfort level for weak-armed Daniel, who targeted running backs heavily this preseason on quick hitters and checkdowns. Cohen has 33 receptions to Howard’s 3 since Week 3. Whereas Howard is a touchdown-reliant flex, Cohen is a high-ceiling RB2 in PPR leagues.

Allen Robinson went off in these clubs’ Week 10 date (6/133/2), although the Lions were missing top CB Darius Slay at the time. On the year, Robinson has fewer than 65 yards in 6-of-8 games with target counts of 4 – 6 – 5 – 8 – 7 in his last five appearances. Already an inconsistent WR3 play in a deep pass-catcher corps where weekly matchups dictate who gets the ball, Robinson’s risk is heightened with popgun-armed Daniel under center. … Gabriel went catch-less against Detroit in Week 10, then popped back up for a seven-catch Week 11. Still a splash-play-dependent WR4, Gabriel has finished below 55 yards in 8-of-10 games. Gabriel does lead Chicago in 20-plus-yard targets (16), notable considering Detroit’s allowance of 20-plus-yard completions at a top-ten clip. Gabriel’s team-high 13.2-yard Average Depth of Target (aDOT) may work against him with Daniel quarterbacking, however. … As demonstrated by Devin Funchess (2/39/0), D.J. Moore (7/157/1), and Curtis Samuel (5/55/1) last week, Nos. 2 and 3 receivers draw the best matchups against a Lions secondary that has repeatedly benched its Nos. 2 and 3 corners. Miller and Gabriel’s target volume is hardly assured with Chicago’s pass-catcher corps at full strength, but they encounter plus draws against whatever combination of Nevin Lawson, Mike Ford, Teez Tabor, and Deshawn Shead the Lions trot out this week. … Burton caught 4-of-4 targets for 40 yards in these clubs’ Week 10 meeting. The Lions rank 16th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Burton’s aDOT (7.7) is five yards lower than Gabriel, Miller, and Robinson’s, so it’s conceivable Burton’s outlook will improve if the typically vertically-oriented Bears throw more short passes without Trubisky.

Score Prediction: Bears 21, Lions 20

4:30 PM ET Game

Washington @ Dallas
Team Totals: Cowboys 24, Redskins 16.5

Their formerly-upstart season circling the drain following Alex Smith’s gruesome compound leg fracture, the Redskins enter beatdown position inside JerryWorld to face a Cowboys team that turned its once left-for-dead season around in back-to-back road upsets over Philadelphia and Atlanta. Washington’s run defense has come undone, surrendering a combined 67/348/2 (5.19 YPC) rushing line to Falcons, Bucs, and Texans backs in its last three games. The Skins also permit NFL’s fifth-most receptions per game to running backs (6.4). Favored at home by over a touchdown with ascending touch counts of 21 – 25 – 30 and an incredible 500 total yards in three games since Dallas’ Week 8 bye, Ezekiel Elliott is the highest-floor RB1 play on the Thanksgiving slate. … An up-and-down player struggling to throw with anticipation behind at-best inconsistent pass protection, Dak Prescott is a Week 12 wild-card play whose fantasy outlook is tied largely to Dallas coaching staff’s willingness to use him proactively as a runner. Prescott hasn’t cleared 275 passing yards all season and has thrown multiple touchdown passes in just 3-of-10 games. Prescott will likely need a rushing score to pay fantasy dividends. He does have a rushing TD in four of his last five starts, last week hitting pay dirt from four yards out on a third-quarter keeper.

Dak’s Weeks 9-11 target distribution: Amari Cooper 23; Elliott 20; Michael Gallup 14; Cole Beasley 12; Geoff Swaim 8; Rod Smith 5; Allen Hurns 3. … Zeke’s Week 11 dominance was at least partly to blame for Cooper’s quietest game as a Cowboy; Elliott led Dallas in rushing (23/122/1), receiving (7/79/0), and targets (8) in a monstrous all-purpose effort. Although Cooper will likely draw Josh Norman’s shadow coverage, fellow No. 1 WRs Odell Beckham (8/136/0), Julio Jones (7/121/1), T.Y. Hilton (7/83/1), Devin Funchess (5/74/1), DeAndre Hopkins (5/56/1), and Davante Adams (7/52/1) have all logged useful box-score results against Washington. … Gallup’s target counts are 3 – 6 – 5 for fantasy results of 3/51/1 – 2/34/0 – 1/10/0 since Amari’s acquisition. Through ten rookie appearances, Gallup has one touchdown and one 55-yard game. … Beasley dropped a would-be four-yard TD to help force a field goal in the first quarter of last week’s win. Beasley’s targets since the Cooper trade are 4 – 5 – 7 for 3/16/0 – 4/37/0 – 5/51/0 results. His volume down with low scoring probability, Beasley is a PPR-specific WR4. … With Swaim (fractured wrist) sidelined, the Cowboys will turn to some combination of Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and Rico Gathers at tight end. No tight end has reached 60 yards against Washington this year.

Still technically atop the NFC East, the 6-4 Redskins’ rest-of-season hopes are pinned on Colt McCoy, a noodle-armed career backup who hasn’t made a start since 2014. Among Washington’s main Week 12 box-score concerns is Dallas’ ability to limit opponent play volume, slow down game pace, and dominate possession time when their rushing attack rolls. They did just that in last week’s win by holding Atlanta’s offense to 55 plays – ten below its average – and winning the time-of-possession battle by four minutes. McCoy is a scrappy scrambler with five years of experience in Jay Gruden’s scheme, but ultimately he is being dropped into a low-scoring, injury-marred offense in which Alex Smith failed to log top-12 fantasy scores in 10-of-10 starts. … Gruden would surely prefer the run game to remain Washington’s offensive identity, but that’s become much tougher since losing LT Trent Williams (thumb), RG Brandon Scherff (pectoral), and LG Shawn Lauvao (ACL). After averaging 4.62 yards per rushing attempt in Weeks 1-8, Peterson’s per-carry clip is down to 3.09 in the last three weeks, and he hasn’t reached 20 receiving yards in a game since Week 5. Devolving into a touchdown-reliant RB2, Peterson now faces a stout Cowboys front holding running backs to 3.66 yards per carry and six TDs in ten games. Among the NFL’s most game-script-sensitive backs, Peterson is averaging just 12.0 touches per game in Redskins losses. The Skins are 7.5-point dogs in Big D. … Kapri Bibbs and Byron Marshall split passing-game duties right down the middle in Chris Thompson’s (ribs) place last week. Bibbs handled three touches, Marshall two.

McCoy’s first pass after replacing Smith went to Jordan Reed for a nine-yard score. The last four tight ends to face Dallas are Zach Ertz (14/145/2), Reed himself (2/43/0), Jonnu Smith (2/33/1), and Austin Hooper (4/27/0). The Cowboys are still missing MLB Sean Lee (hamstring), but first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch has done a dominant job replacing him. Reed is a bet-on-volume TE1 with the NFL’s fourth-most targets among tight ends (70). … Rookie slot WR Trey Quinn stands out as a Thanksgiving-slate DFS value after catching 4-of-4 targets for 49 yards in his Week 11 debut, manning slot receiver in place of Jamison Crowder (ankle). Quinn ran 36 routes, third most among Redskins pass catchers behind Josh Doctson (43) and Reed (38). The Welker to Courtland Sutton’s Moss at SMU, Quinn caught 114 passes as a college senior and led all draft-eligible receivers in 2017 yards per route run (4.36) with sure hands and jitterbug short-area quicks. Quinn also played extensively with McCoy in preseason games. … The story never changes with Doctson, fantasy football’s most touchdown-reliant commodity. Doctson has zero 50-yard games and has scored in just 2-of-10 weeks. The Cowboys held Doctson to 3/42/0 receiving when these teams met in Week 7. … Maurice Harris moved from slot to outside receiver in last week’s loss to Houston, managing 13 scoreless yards on four targets. Harris isn’t built to win on the perimeter with 4.56 speed at 195 pounds, particularly against plus-sized Dallas boundary cornerbacks Byron Jones (6’1/199) and Chidobe Awuzie (6’0/202). Harris ran only two more routes (27) than No. 4 receiver Michael Floyd (25) versus Houston. … Vernon Davis has flirted with streamer value this year, but he is catch-less in back-to-back games and in three of the last five weeks.

Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Redskins 17

8:20 PM ET Game

Atlanta @ New Orleans
Team Totals: Saints 36.5, Falcons 23.5

Totaled over two touchdowns higher than either of Thursday’s early games, Falcons-Saints is the obvious matchup to stack in Thanksgiving DFS lineups. Keeping his foot on the pedal to the extent he could be accused of running up the score, Sean Payton is going out of his way to ensure Drew Brees his best-possible shot at league MVP, an award Brees has confusingly never won despite his prolific resume. The primetime nature of this game increases its importance in the NFL MVP race, and Brees has been especially dominant at home with a 16:0 TD-to-INT ratio and 350.8-yard average across five games on the Superdome’s fast track. Now facing a Falcons Defense that ranks bottom five in sack rate (4.8%) and QB hit rate (11.1%) while allowing the NFL’s fifth-most touchdown passes (21), there is every reason to believe Brees will rip this matchup apart. … Stampeded by Browns and Cowboys backs for a 47/313/2 (6.66 YPC) rushing line in the last two weeks, Atlanta has shown no ability to control the point of attack, worrisome against New Orleans’ mauling run-blocking line. Although each of Mark Ingram’s three big box-score weeks have come in blowout victories -- vs. WAS, @ CIN, vs. PHI – this game has pro-Saints blowout potential favored by nearly two touchdowns at home. As Ingram is averaging just 2.2 targets per game since returning from suspension, Alvin Kamara remains the superior bet to exploit Atlanta’s league-high allowance of 8.5 running back catches per game, and Kamara still has eight TDs to Ingram’s three scores since the Saints’ Week 6 bye. The most-helpful development for Ingram’s fantasy prospects is New Orleans’ defensive resurgence. On DC Dennis Allen’s side of the ball, the Saints have held their last seven opponents to a 19.4-point average after hemorrhaging 34.3 points per game in Weeks 1-3.

Brees’ post-bye target distribution: Michael Thomas 42; Tre’Quan Smith 26; Kamara 21; Ben Watson 12; Ingram 10; Dan Arnold 9; Josh Hill 8; Keith Kirkwood 7; Austin Carr 5. … Thomas took a four-target backseat in last week’s rout of Philly, yet still delivered WR1 results. He went bonkers on Atlanta (10/129/0) in these teams’ Week 3 meeting. With 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in 9-of-10 games, Thomas is the NFL’s most-consistent wideout west of Antonio Brown. … After his 13-target eruption, Smith can stay hot against an Atlanta defense yielding the NFL’s ninth-most yards per game to wideout groups (180.5). Ala predecessor Ted Ginn, Smith’s best games have come at home (3/111/2, 2/23/1, 10/157/1), and his worst on the road (0/0, 3/18/0, 3/44/0). Only the Raiders (22.4%) have generated pass-rush pressure at a lower rate than the Falcons (22.7%), which should allow Smith’s vertical routes to develop with Brees scanning from squeaky-clean pockets. … UDFA rookie Kirkwood showed up for 33 yards on five targets in last week’s victory. His route totals in Weeks 10-11 were 10 and 12; slot man Carr’s were 7 and 15. Both are role players worth mentioning due to this game’s shootout potential and Thanksgiving’s DFS mini slate. If Smith (foot) can’t play, Kirkwood would be in line for the biggest playing-time boost. … Watson ran a season-low five routes against the Eagles and is catch-less in two of the last four weeks with a one-yard game mixed in. Watson plays in a three-man rotation with Arnold and Hill, and Brandon Marshall could throw another wrench into their middle-of-the-field usage if he debuts against the Falcons. Hill plays the most snaps and looks like the best dart throw in the unit.

Losing ten plays off Atlanta’s usual offensive snap count played a big role in Matt Ryan’s disappointing Week 11, where Dallas’ rushing attack controlled the game. Ryan’s pass protection also failed, allowing nine hits and three sacks ahead of a Week 12 date with Saints Defense that came alive for seven sacks and 11 hits in its last two games and sacked Ryan three times when these clubs met in Week 3. As Week 11 fantasy bust Carson Wentz can attest, this matchup isn’t as soft as it looks on paper. The Saints’ D/ST has put itself squarely in play. Nevertheless, Atlanta’s high-flying weapons combined with this game’s domed environment and shootout potential make Ryan a high-upside if high-risk Thanksgiving start. … Colossal road dogs facing a shutdown run defense, neither Tevin Coleman nor Ito Smith catches a favorable Week 12 draw. New Orleans holds enemy backs to 3.45 yards per carry and the NFL’s 12th-fewest receiving yards per game (41.6), while Peyton Barber’s 69 yards in Week 1 still stand as the highest individual rushing total against the Saints. Coleman is an increasingly volatile RB2 option with fewer than 15 touches in four of his last five games. Smith has single-digit touches in consecutive weeks.

Ryan’s post-bye target distribution: Julio Jones 30; Austin Hooper 22; Mohamed Sanu 19; Calvin Ridley 18; Coleman 15; Smith 9. … Julio’s Week 11 box score (6/118/1) could’ve been even bigger had he not dropped a play-action bomb on Atlanta’s opening drive. Nevertheless, Jones has hit pay dirt in all three games since the Falcons’ Week 8 bye and cleared 100 yards in five straight. Last week’s Julio score came in Cowboys LCB Chidobe Awuzie’s coverage from 34 yards out. The Saints could conceivably shadow Julio with Marshon Lattimore, although Lattimore spent large chunks of these teams’ Week 3 meeting chasing Ridley. … Ridley has remained highly volatile with 8-of-10 games below 65 yards and the other two well over 100. The first-round rookie committed an egregious Week 11 drop that deflected to Cowboys MLB Leighton Vander Esch, setting up Ezekiel Elliott’s 23-yard TD. Ridley is a boom-bust WR3 facing New Orleans’ improved secondary. … Sanu has finished below 60 yards in 8-of-10 games and typically needs touchdowns to pay WR3 dividends in a crowded pass-catcher corps. Sanu has hit pay dirt in three of his last four meetings with New Orleans, though, and slot CB P.J. Williams has been the Saints’ weakest secondary link all year. Running 76% of his routes in the slot, Sanu is a standout value on Thanksgiving’s DFS slate. … Armed with elite safeties and athletic linebackers, New Orleans has allowed the NFL’s second-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends, most impressively erasing Zach Ertz (2/15/0) last week. Hooper’s last three receiving lines against the Saints are 3/23/0 – 3/18/0 – 2/23/0.

Score Prediction: Saints 35, Falcons 24

Evan Silva
Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .