For the second year in a row, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving line-up. For those of you that can break away from the family long enough, this Thanksgiving Day line-up of games should be a cavalcade of fantasy points. It usually is. So what do we fantasy footballers give thanks for? We give thanks for Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and if you were fortunate enough, Aaron Rodgers. We also give thanks for LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Arian Foster, and Matt Forte. And if that wasn’t enough, let’s give thanks to Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Jimmy Graham. Also, let’s include the Forty-Niners DST and the Texans DST. They have all made this fantasy season unpredictable, but an awful lot of fun. The Fantasy Greek gives thanks to you, his fantasy readers. Cheers!
As a way for you to express what you give thanks for, The Fantasy Greek has provided a special “live” article where The Fantasy Greek readers can take a moment and let us know what you give “Thanks” for this year.
Coming Apart at the Seams?
Before getting to the game previews, and your weekly choices, it bears mentioning that there are teams that are not giving thanks right now. The few that come to The Fantasy Greek’s mind are the Colts, the Rams, the Chiefs, and the Bills. Where do you begin? In the preseason, the Colts, the Rams, and the Chiefs, were all thought to be top contenders for their division titles. The Colts were expected to dominate as they have for many, many years. Then the Colts lost their star quarterback, Peyton Manning. Now, the Colts are a shell of their former selves and are just searching for a win this season. The Rams were also expected to play well under second year QB Sam Bradford, and with a defense that was expected to play well all season long. It didn’t happen. Likewise, the Chiefs were thought to at least challenge for the division title but after getting off to a tough start, losing their top running back, and now losing their starting quarterback, the Chiefs are simply trying to salvage the season. Lastly, the Bills started the season H-O-T beating division rivals the Patriots and the Jets to start the season. Since then, they have lost four of their last five games and their star running back is banged up.
Also, let’s not forget about this year’s “dream team”: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith, Brent Celek, Vince Young, Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, and besides them, an Eagles team chockfull of talent Their unfortunate season needs no repeating.
In any case, the next week or two will truly show whether any of these teams can get it together to put forth a decent showing to build from for next year or in the case of the Bills and the Eagles, get it together to stay in the playoff hunt.
As you should know, whether you should play the players on your rosters in any given week should be contingent in part on the match-up. This is not about making the perfect choice because we don’t know how players will really do on a week-to-week basis. Rather, this is about making a sensible and reasonable choice on which player to play. So, to assist in being you’re “Second Opinion for Your Fantasy Football Instinct,” the goal in “Fantasy Football Weekly Choices” is to provide you, the fantasy football owner, with enough information to make sensible and reasonable choices in setting your line-up this week by reviewing the weekly match-ups and identifying which players are “On the Gridiron,” a “Coach’s Decision,” or “On the Pine.” For many of you, the information provided simply provides affirmation to the decisions you have already made. If you like, skip the fluff, and find your player’s match-up for analysis. If you are looking for a waiver wire pick-up, then look for those players still on your waiver wire, and you can read that analysis too.
ON THE GRIDIRON: Identifies players you should play because of their match-up or because of their role on their team’s offense.
COACH’S DECISION: Identifies players who you normally would play but whose match-up this week is not very good; identifies players who you normally would not play but whose match-up this week is good; or identifies players who are injured that you, the fantasy coach, will need to make the call on whether or not to play.
ON THE PINE: Identifies players who you should likely avoid unless there is no one else on your roster or on the waiver wire that can help your team win.
NOTE: Since kickers’ weekly performances are difficult to predict, kickers will not be categorized but defenses (DST) will. As to kickers, just get a good one on a team that will give the kicker an opportunity to score points.
Onto the fantasy match-up and your choices!
Thanksgiving Day Games
As for the Thanksgiving Day games, we have three terrific match-ups where all the teams but one, the Dolphins, have winning records. Even the Dolphins are still fighting, having won three of their last five games. There is something to be said for teams fighting to stay alive with six games left in their regular season. Indeed, when teams have nothing to play for, or hardly anything to play for, they are just playing football for the sake of playing football. That can lead to surprising outcomes. This Thanksgiving Day’s games should be good games to watch with friends and family alike. So, enjoy them.
Thursday, November 24th
12:30 p.m. EST
PACKERS (10-0) v. LIONS (7-3)
This should be a fun game! The Fantasy Greek expects this to be a high scoring game with both teams passing the ball a lot. It goes without saying that this should be a hard-fought match-up between these two intra-division rivals. It also goes without saying that the Packers are the team to beat. Besides the high-octane offense the Packers have on the field, the Lions have struggled playing at home have a 3-2 record. While the Lions can keep up, The Fantasy Greek still expects the Packers to win the game.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Lions have one of the best pass defenses in the league. However, the Packers have been playing so well that QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Greg Jennings, WR Jordy Nelson, and TE Jermichael Finley should still be on fantasy gridirons. Even though having a tough time defending the pass, the Packers DST can be on the gridiron as it is too opportunistic. The Lions will have to pass the ball to keep up with the Packers. Besides, the Packers allow the third most fantasy points to the quarterback, wide receiver, and tight-end positions. As such, QB Mathew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, and TE Brandon Pettigrew are must-starts this week. Last week, RB Kevin Smith exploded onto the fantasy football scene, a place he hasn’t been in sometime. While the Packers have done better defending the rush, they are beginning to struggle. As Smith showed he could move the chains by catching the ball, consider Smith a solid RB2 option this week.
COACH’S DECISION: WR James Jones has been hit or miss. Still, if he is on your roster, Jones should be treated as a low-end WR3 and considered with the other receivers on your team. It is unclear whether RB James Starks will make it back to the gridiron after sustaining a knee sprain just a few days ago. Chances are, the Packers could give Starks a rest. While this would open the door to RB Ryan Grant getting the start, this is a situation to be avoided against a Lions team allowing the ninth least fantasy points to the position. The Lions DST has been pretty darn good this season. Yet, the Packers have allowed the least number of fantasy points to opposing defenses. If there is a week to avoid the Lions DST, this is it. While WR Nate Burleson has had some action, he has been hit-or-miss. This week, however, fantasy footballers in need could consider Burleson a WR3 option because the Lions should be passing the ball often in this game.
ON THE PINE: With the emergence of RB Kevin Smith, it is too difficult to play RB Maurice Morris, even though he should continue having a roll in the offense.
Thursday, November 24th
4:15 p.m. EST
DOLPHINS (3-7) v. COWBOYS (6-4)
This should be a fun game too! While this could be a high-scoring game, it could also become lop-sided affair. Both the Dolphins and Cowboys have been playing well with the Dolphins having won three of their last five games, and the Cowboys having won four of their last five games. Still, the Cowboys look like the all around better team. Indeed, a big difference between these teams is that the Dolphins have struggled on the road at 1-4, while the Cowboys have dominated their opponents at home at 4-1. While anything can happen, The Fantasy Greek expects the Cowboys to play at a high level and come out of this game with the win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Dolphins defense has been playing better, but their weakness remains in defending the pass. The passing game is an aspect of the Cowboys offense that has been thriving as of late. That said, QB Tony Romo makes for a solid start this week, as does WR Dez Bryant as a WR2, TE Jason Witten as a TE1, and WR Laurent Robinson as a WR3. However, the Dolphins rush defense has been strong. While The Fantasy Greek does not believe that fantasy footballers should avoid RB DeMarco Murray this week, the fact of the matter is you will need to keep your expectations in check as he may not post the types of numbers we have seen the last several weeks. Murray still makes for a low-end RB1. Out of all the Dolphins playmakers, WR Brandon Marshall should be on fantasy gridirons as a WR2 because of his big play ability and because the Cowboys pass defense can be beaten. Speaking of big play ability, RB Reggie Bush has come on as of late. Still, the Cowboys defend the rush well. If you have Bush, he can be started as a low-end RB2 or solid flex-play this week.
COACH’S DECISION: Every week, the Dolphins offense seems to improve. Still, if you have the Cowboys DST, and no better option, they can be active on the gridiron. It’s been an awfully tough season for quarterbacks, and many owners are scrambling to fill the position right now on a weekly basis. In this regard, QB Matt Moore has had some good games. While the Cowboys have defended the pass well, there is nothing about the match-up that would suggest that owners should avoid Moore. Moore makes for a decent option, albeit not the best one. In case you haven’t noticed, TE Anthony Fasano has put together a string of good games. This week, he faces a Cowboys’ defense that is not defending the tight-end position well, giving up the fifth most fantasy points to it. Feel free to get Fasano into the game if you need the help. The Dolphins DST has been playing at a high level. While you should likely have some better options, they are a unit that can be started in fantasy if you have another defensive unit with a worse match-up.
ON THE PINE: This is another good week to avoid RB Daniel Thomas. For whatever reason, he has yet to make a big impact since returning from injury. Given the match-up, he should be avoided, if possible, until further notice.
Thursday, November 24th
8:20 p.m. EST
FORTY-NINERS (9-1) v. RAVENS (7-3)
Even though it was not planned this way when this game was scheduled in the off-season, it’s as if the NFL schedulers saved the best for last. This is going to be a great game! The point of the game was for the Harbaugh brothers to face off during the regular season. Rather, the way it turns out, the night game pits the second best team in the NFL against one of the other top team’s in the NFL. The Forty-Niners are undefeated on the road, while the Ravens are undefeated at home. The Forty-Niners are making the long trip from the West Coast to the East Coast. While anything can happen in this game, as the game progresses, one team should be able to slowly overtake the other. The Fantasy Greek thinks the Ravens should be victorious by the time the game clock reaches zero.
ON THE GRIDIRON: Regardless of how good the Ravens rush defense has been, top-five in fantasy defending the rush, RB Frank Gore remains a solid start as a low-RB1 because the Forty-Niners are a rush-first team, and the Ravens have been burned by quality running backs like Gore. On the other hand, the Ravens have allowed their opponents’ wide receivers to post some solid yardage against them. So, if WR Michael Crabtree is on your roster, he can be started as a WR3. Reagrdless of who might win the game, the 49ers DST is the best defense in the league. They should be started as usual against a Ravens offense that has had its share of problems protecting the ball. The Forty-Niners are No. 1 defending the rush. Still, RB Ray Rice is a top-five talent and because he is able to catch the ball too, he should remain on fantasy gridirons as a solid RB1. Look for both WR Anquan Boldin and WR Torrey Smith to continue being active in the passing game and consider both a WR2 and WR3, respectively in this match-up as the Forty-Niners can give up the yards and fantasy points in the passing game. The Ravens DST is tough, but the Forty-Niners hardly ever turn the ball over. So, while you will likely have to play the Ravens if you have them, this may not be the most ideal game from a fantasy perspective.
COACH’S DECISION: While TE Vernon Davis is very much involved in the Forty-Niners’ passing game, the Ravens are No. 2 defending the position in fantasy. While you may be hard-pressed to bench Davis, this could be a week where he disappoints. The Forty-Niners’ greatest weakness has been defending the pass. On top of that, QB Joe Flacco has been throwing the ball a bunch as of late. Expect this to continue, but understand that this may not be his best game. Still, Flacco is a decent option if you need the help. While there is nothing about facing the Forty-Niners where TE Ed Dickson can’t be on fantasy gridirons, his inconsistency makes him a candidate for the pine.
ON THE PINE: This is simply a week to get QB Alex Smith on the pine as the Ravens are the No. 1 defense versus the quarterback in fantasy football.