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Silva's Thanksgiving Matchups

by Evan Silva
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Thanksgiving Thursday

12:30 PM ET Game

Minnesota @ Detroit
Team Totals: Vikings 24, Lions 21

Matthew Stafford enters Week 12 with top-ten fantasy results in five straight games to face a Vikings team that has played lights-out defense at home but is more giving on the road, permitting a 27.8-point average in its last four non-London away games, including a 30-burger to Washington last time out. This is far from a pushover matchup regardless of any small-sample home-road splits, of course. Just 2-of-10 quarterbacks to face Minnesota have logged top-12 weekly fantasy results, and the Vikings have yielded the NFL’s fourth-fewest touchdown passes this year (10). Nevertheless, Stafford’s white-hot play combined with the pass-funnel nature of Detroit’s offense keep him squarely in the fantasy-starter mix. In Thanksgiving DFS lineups, I think Stafford’s best stack partner is Golden Tate. … The Lions’ backfield has a tougher road against the Vikings’ stout run defense, which has yielded 3.40 yards per carry and the NFL’s fewest fantasy points to running backs. Minnesota has also permitted the league’s fourth-fewest receiving yards (356) to the position. Struggling Ameer Abdullah has finished below 15 touches in five of his last six games and has totaled fewer than 60 yards in all six, devolving into a touchdown-or-bust flex option. … Theo Riddick logged his third-highest playing-time clip of the season (48%) in last week’s win over the Bears, in part because the Lions fell behind early. Still, nothing about Riddick’s matchup or usage stands out against a Vikings defense that has defended running backs stingily in all phases.

Stafford’s target distribution since Detroit’s Week 7 bye: Marvin Jones 31; Golden Tate 28; Eric Ebron 20; T.J. Jones 18; Riddick 11; Abdullah 8; Kenny Golladay and Darren Fells 6. … With Xavier Rhodes likely to shadow Marvin Jones, Tate is the best fantasy bet in Detroit’s pass-catcher corps against the Vikings’ more-vulnerable slot coverage. Playing 80% of his snaps inside, Tate will take on 39-year-old Terence Newman and inconsistent sophomore Mackensie Alexander, who share time at slot corner. … Rhodes held Jones to 2/42/0 on five targets in these clubs’ October 1 meeting, and Jones’ two stat lines against the Vikings last year were 1/5/0 and 4/54/0. Typically an every-week WR2, I’m downgrading Jones to a risky WR3 in this matchup. … The Lions use a rotation at third receiver, where Golladay out-snapped T.J. Jones 56% to 43% in last week’s win over Chicago, although Jones ran 21 routes to Golladay’s 18. Whoever is out there on a given play will primarily run pass routes at improved Vikings LCB Trae Waynes, who has come on strong after a rough start to the year. Neither Lions complementary receiver is anywhere close to a safe play, of course, but I would take my chances on Golladay due to his superior big-play ability and red-zone potential at 6-foot-4, 218. … Ebron’s Week 11 playing time (44%) equaled a season low, although his seven targets matched a season high, and the Vikings have given up the NFL’s 12th-most catches (47) to tight ends. Without a single 60-yard game on the season, Ebron remains a touchdown-or-bust streamer with the second-most red-zone targets on the Lions (7) behind Marvin Jones (10).

Although Case Keenum has shown a low floor across nine appearances, he enters Week 12 coming off three straight top-12 fantasy finishes to face a Lions defense that has allowed four of its last six quarterbacks faced to post top-12 results. All in all, Detroit still doesn’t pose a friendly matchup. Strong in the secondary and disciplined as a unit, DC Teryl Austin’s Lions rank 11th in pass-defense DVOA and have yielded the NFL’s ninth-fewest touchdown passes (12). As Keenum has been all season, I think he is best approached as a boom-bust DFS dart and two-quarterback-league starter whose talented supporting cast can propel him into big games sporadically. … The Lions’ biggest defensive vulnerability is on the ground, where they were creamed by Bears and Browns backs for a combined 50/313/6.26/3 rushing line in Weeks 10-11. Latavius Murray’s volume has solidified with 15-plus carries in five straight games, and he now ranks seventh in the NFL in carries inside the five-yard line (7). In a plus matchup, Murray has earned low-end RB2 treatment. … Jerick McKinnon still out-snapped Murray 58% to 42% and out-touched him 19 to 16 in last week’s win over the Rams, remaining the superior PPR option with five-plus catches in four of the last six weeks. The Lions are susceptible to running backs in the passing game, permitting the NFL’s sixth-most catches (60) and ninth-most receiving yards (473) to the position.

Keenum’s target distribution with Stefon Diggs back in Weeks 8-11: Adam Thielen 31; Kyle Rudolph 21; McKinnon 19; Diggs 17; Laquon Treadwell 8; David Morgan 5; Jarius Wright, Murray, and Michael Floyd 3. … Volume-vacuum Thielen has logged nine-plus targets in five straight games and is playing outside more than he did earlier in the season, enhancing Thielen’s big-play potential. Thielen is a legitimate every-week WR1 with a better Week 12 matchup than Diggs, who is more likely to draw Darius Slay’s shadow coverage on the perimeter. … There is still hope for Diggs, who runs over 20% of his routes in the slot. Slay only moves into the slot 2% of the time. I like Thielen’s chances of outscoring Diggs in this matchup, but both should be locked into season-long-league lineups. Detroit’s lackluster pass rush should help create opportunities for Diggs deep downfield. … The Lions have given up the NFL’s fifth-most yards to tight ends, including a 6/64/1 line to Bears TEs Adam Shaheen and Daniel Brown last week. This is a plus draw for Rudolph, who has drawn seven or more targets in six straight games and is due for positive touchdown regression. … Treadwell, Wright, and Floyd are sharing time in sub-packages. Treadwell and Floyd both played 21% of the Week 11 snaps. Wright played 14%.

Score Prediction: Vikings 23, Lions 21

4:30 PM ET Game

LA Chargers @ Dallas
Team Totals: Chargers 24, Cowboys 24

At 48 points, Chargers-Cowboys is the highest-totaled game on this year’s Thanksgiving slate and puts Alfred Morris in a favorable spot against Los Angeles’ run-funnel defense, which served up a combined 16/131/8.19/1 rushing line to Bills running backs last week. The Bolts rank 27th in run-defense DVOA and are coughing up 4.92 yards per carry to enemy backs on the season. Although Morris was again out-snapped by Rod Smith 49% to 38% in Week 11, Morris out-touched Smith 17 to 8 and has severely out-produced Smith all year. Albeit without a safe floor, Morris is a quality RB2 play in non-PPR leagues and a viable PPR flex in this game. … Although LT Tyron Smith’s (groin) expected return will provide Dallas’ offense with a much-needed boost against dangerous Chargers outside rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, this remains a daunting matchup for Dak Prescott. Eight of the last nine quarterbacks to face Los Angeles have finished QB13 or worse, while the Chargers rank third in the league in sacks (30), fourth in interceptions (12), and No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA. A high-floor fantasy option for most of his career, Prescott’s recent dip in performance combined with this difficult draw render him a boom-bust play.

Prescott’s target distribution since the Cowboys’ Week 6 bye: Dez Bryant 49; Terrance Williams 26; Jason Witten and Cole Beasley 18; Smith 8; Brice Butler 7. … Prescott still has potential to pay fantasy dividends through rushing value, but more reason for Week 12 skepticism is Dallas’ difficult pass-catcher matchups. Keyed by perimeter CBs Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams’ stingy coverage, the Chargers have allowed the NFL’s eighth-fewest yards (1,294) to wide receivers. Bryant remains playable based on volume – he’s drawn eight-plus targets in 8-of-10 games – but we can likely expect Hayward to shadow him in this game. Bryant does run 27% of his routes in the slot, where Hayward travels only 1% of the time. … Williams is scoreless on the year with one 50-yard game since Week 1. … Beasley’s matchup is the best in Dallas’ receiver corps against Bolts rookie slot CB Desmond King. Unfortunately, Beasley’s role has been minimized all year. Without a single 35-yard game on the season, Beasley is an entirely touchdown-or-bust play. … Witten was held to single-digit yards for the fourth time this season in last week’s loss to Philadelphia and encounters another difficult spot against the Chargers, who have notably held Rob Gronkowski (5/57/1), Charles Clay (3/27/0), Jared Cook (2/14/0), Travis Kelce (1/1/0), and Evan Engram (0/0) below expectations. L.A. is allowing the NFL’s second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.

Coming off his best game in a month in last week’s blowout win over Buffalo, Philip Rivers encounters a plus draw against the Cowboys, who have supported high-floor quarterback results by permitting top-15 finishes to six of their last nine signal callers faced while allowing the NFL’s seventh-most touchdown passes (18) and eighth-highest passer rating (96.3). I don’t think Rivers is the best quarterback play on the Thanksgiving slate or even close to it, but his matchup is as strong as any of his competitors indoors at JerryWorld, and Rivers’ DFS ownership percentage figures to be relatively low. Rivers’ best stack partners are Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon, who rank 1-2 on the Chargers in targets since their bye. … Badly missing WLB Sean Lee (hamstring) and now nursing a short-week injury to MLB Anthony Hitchens (groin), Dallas was gashed on the ground by Eagles backs (27/202/7.48/2) last week. Based on both volume and matchup, Gordon is the premier running back play on the Thanksgiving slate coming off a Week 11 game where he amassed 20 touches and played every single first-half backfield snap over rookie Austin Ekeler, who lost a game-costing fumble the week before. Ekeler remains in play as a low-floor flex option and/or DFS punt, but last week showed that this very much remains Gordon’s backfield.

Rivers’ target distribution since the Chargers’ Week 9 bye: Keenan Allen 20; Gordon 10; Mike Williams and Hunter Henry 7; Ekeler and Tyrell Williams 6; Travis Benjamin and Antonio Gates 4. … Allen is in position to build on last week’s eruption against the Bills in Thursday’s matchup with the Cowboys, who have allowed the NFL’s seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers, including the third-most touchdown catches (13). Allen runs half of his routes in the slot, where Larry Fitzgerald (13/149/1), Jamison Crowder (9/123/0), Cooper Kupp (5/60/1), and Sterling Shepard (7/44/0) have all dropped useful games on Dallas. … Henry still isn’t getting nearly enough usage relative to his talent, but he did establish a five-week high in routes run (25) in last week’s win over the Bills. Before shutting down a hobbled Zach Ertz (2/8/0) last week, the Cowboys gave up big games to Travis Kelce (7/73/1) and Austin Hooper (6/49/1) in Weeks 8 and 10. Due to his part-time role, Henry remains a high-risk gamble each week. … Gates has played less than 50% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps in four straight games and hasn’t topped 30 yards all year. He is scoreless since Week 2. … Although Mike Williams drew a season-high eight targets in last week’s win over the Bills, three came via Kellen Clemens in garbage time. Nevertheless, Williams’ snap rate climbed for the fifth straight game (17% > 24% > 39% > 39% > 55%), and it is happening mainly at Benjamin’s expense. Williams is now in play as a WR4/flex and/or DFS punt. … Tyrell Williams is still playing a ton of snaps, but he hasn’t reached 50 yards since Week 4 and has scored once all year. Lightly targeted at this point, Williams is a big-play-dependent dart throw.

Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Cowboys 24

8:30 PM ET Game

NY Giants @ Washington
Team Totals: Redskins 26, Giants 19

Kirk Cousins is the premier quarterback play on the Thanksgiving slate against a Giants defense that has yielded top-ten finishes to six of its last seven signal callers faced. A high-floor, high-ceiling producer, Cousins has logged top-12 results in six of his last eight starts, including five top-six weeks. Cousins ranks second in the NFL in 20-plus-yard completions, while Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has given up the league’s third-most pass plays of 20-plus yards (39). … With Rob Kelley (ankle, knee) on I.R. and Chris Thompson (fibula) joining him, Samaje Perine projects as Washington’s feature back after he set season highs in snaps (70%), pass routes run (20), and touches (24) in last week’s loss to New Orleans, parlaying them into 126 yards and a score. Ex-Eagles practice-squad RB Byron Marshall is next in line for backfield receiving work, although Marshall played only three snaps against the Saints. Favored at home against a Giants run defense that ranks 25th in DVOA and has allowed the league’s fifth-most rushing yards to running backs (1,073), Perine should be locked and loaded into fantasy lineups as a volume-driven RB2.

Cousins’ target distribution since the Skins’ Week 5 bye: Jamison Crowder 43; Vernon Davis 38; Josh Doctson 30; Ryan Grant 24; Jordan Reed 16; Perine and Maurice Harris 3. … Crowder enters Week 12 with eight-plus targets in three straight games, earning every-week WR2 treatment in PPR leagues after a slow first half of the year. His Thursday night matchup isn’t a gimme against stingy Giants slot CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, however. Pro Football Focus has charged DRC with more than 25 yards allowed in just 2-of-9 appearances. … Doctson set or equaled season highs in targets (7) and yards (81) against the Saints and logged 87% or more of the snaps for a third straight week. As Washington’s top big-play threat on the perimeter facing a Giants defense that is hemorrhaging big passing plays, Doctson offers breakthrough game potential. … Davis has the top matchup in Washington’s pass-catcher corps against New York’s league-worst tight end defense, whose streak of allowing touchdowns to the position ended at ten games last week, but still served up 9/120/0 to Chiefs TEs Travis Kelce and Ross Travis. In eight games missed by Reed (hamstring) over the last two years, Davis’ pace stats extrapolate to 70/924/4, which would make him this year’s TE6 in PPR points per game. … With Terrelle Pryor (ankle, I.R.) out of the picture, Grant offers DFS punt appeal in this plum draw. Grant has played 77% of the Redskins’ offensive snaps in two of their last three games and has six red-zone targets on the year, placing Grant a close fourth on the team in that category behind Doctson (8), Crowder (8), and Davis (7).

Eli Manning has an appealing matchup on paper against a Redskins defense that has given up top-13 fantasy results to 7-of-10 quarterbacks faced, including three straight top-seven finishes to Drew Brees, Case Keenum, and Russell Wilson. Unfortunately, Manning will be without starting offensive linemen RG D.J. Fluker (toe) and RT Justin Pugh (back), is also expected to miss top receiver Sterling Shepard (migraines), and has been a fantasy liability for most of the year, ranking 24th at his position in points per game. With only one 290-yard game on his 2017 resume, Eli a mid-range two-quarterback-league play. … Orleans Darkwa still plays less than half of the Giants’ snaps each week, but he has averaged 18.0 touches per game over his last five and continued to hog lead work over Wayne Gallman in last week’s upset of the Chiefs, out-touching the rookie 22 to 7. Gallman hasn’t reached double-digit touches since mid-October, and passing-down back Shane Vereen has mostly become an afterthought with five touches or fewer in four of his last five games. While Fluker and Pugh’s absences are also concerning here, Darkwa is a respectable RB2/flex play against a Redskins run defense that has been throttled by front-seven injuries and got creamed by Saints backs for a 19/176/9.26/1 rushing line last week.

On the off chance Shepard (migraines) gives it a go, he will catch a strong matchup against the Redskins, who have been hurt badly by slot men Adam Thielen (8/166/1), Doug Baldwin (7/108/1), and Nelson Agholor twice (4/45/1, 6/86/1). If Shepard cannot play, UDFA rookie Travis Rudolph will take over at slot receiver. Rudolph has replaced Shepard in three games this year, drawing target totals of 1 > 6 > 6. … Despite last week’s drop-filled clunker against Kansas City, Engram remains the top play on New York’s side versus a Washington defense that has allowed an NFL-high 769 yards to tight ends. The Redskins gave up 6/69/1 to Seahawks tight ends in Week 9, 6/38/1 to Vikings tight ends in Week 10, and 6/94/1 to Saints tight ends last week, waking up Coby Fleener (5/91/0) from a months-long slumber. … The Redskins are also vulnerable to big plays in the passing game, surrendering the NFL’s second-most 20-plus-yard completions. Giants perimeter WRs Tavarres King and Roger Lewis are both worthy of DFS punt discussion as near-full-time players in a favorable draw. King’s target counts over the last three weeks are 6 > 4 > 5 to Lewis’ 3 > 4 > 4, although Lewis has five red-zone targets on the season compared to King’s two. Both will run roughly the same number of routes at stationary Skins LCB Josh Norman. King does run more slot routes (19%) than Lewis (3%), where Norman covers only 2% of the time.

Score Prediction: Redskins 30, Giants 20

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