The best week of the year is upon us, folks! Not one, but two full days of food, family, and soccer to enjoy. I’ve written in the past about how Thanksgiving football can get you in trouble with your fantasy decision-making, so this year I want to share how you can wield your power as a cold-blooded fantasy assassin. Okay, maybe I went too far with the hot/cold thing, but this week gives you a unique opportunity to really manage your team throughout the week.
With three early games instead of just one, we’ll have a lot more information than usual before Sunday. You’ll have a good idea of where your matchup is headed with so many key fantasy players on the field on Thursday. You can use this information to modify your starting lineup for Sunday and Monday. Since there are no breaks, and he should get another bye race between Thursday and Sunday, we may have some roster flexibility this weekend.
If you’re feeling down on Friday morning, perhaps Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs going wild while Dalvin Cook and Saquon Barkley fall short in tough matchups, you’ll want to look for the edge. Only players who have a chance to win the fantasy lottery start. Safe, the guys on the floor have no place in this scenario. In a Thanksgiving analogy, save that pumpkin pie and roll out the Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Pie for dessert (which my aunt is actually bringing over for the turkey day celebration). It will make or break the meal (or the showdown), but I have high hopes that that unusual but refreshing note will cap off the day of indulgence.
If you have a big lead with a solid chance of winning after Thursday’s games, you should play it safe. Apple pie, mashed potatoes, canned cranberry sauce – it’s your time to shine. Choose men with a high floor to keep your momentum going. Don’t take unnecessary risks.
If you’re competitive after the first three games, you’ll want to optimize the mix. Maybe he uses his top-deck running backs but more volatile receivers or vice versa. If you have receivers that your opponent’s QB is throwing to, that’s a good way to keep up or get ahead in a close matchup. Balance is key here: traditional turkey with gravy, Italian sausage stuffing, but throw in some roasted brussels sprouts with bacon or an arugula salad with corn, dried cranberries and pepitas with a pesto and buttermilk dressing (yes, I do). I make for Thanksgiving and it’s delicious).
So here are some ideas to shake up your Sunday-Monday charts and win your week based on whether you’re in a deep hole, flying high, or white-knuckles on the weekend. All of these players have spent time on fantasy benches and in starting lineups this season; neither is a superstar that must start. One last thought, if you’re deciding between two seemingly similar options, one playing on Thanksgiving and one later, you might want to sit down with the Thursday guy for more flexibility depending on how the first round of Week 12 goes.
Go big or go home
Christian Kirk, JAC, WR — Kirk has run the gamut of fantasy this season, but he’s coming off his best game yet. It was his second 12-goal game and his second 2-TD game, but the first time those things had happened. Is he likely to repeat that in back-to-back games? Not necessarily, but he just showed what he’s capable of. Baltimore’s defense has been hot and cold, but through 11 weeks, they allow the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing receivers. The Jaguars are at home, and the Ravens are only narrow favorites. Kirk has the high 30+ fantasy point ceiling that we look for when playing from behind.
Cam Akers, LAR, RB — I had Akers placed in this slot before the Darrell Henderson cut was announced, for what it’s worth. This is what they call blind faith: I have seen no evidence that Akers can win your matchup in any professional football game he has played in. He had a nice three-game stretch in 2019 when he racked up yards in bulk and scored a couple of rushing touchdowns, but based on his enthusiasm for the draft, that barely scratched the surface. I think it says a lot that the Rams held on to him and released Henderson after the drama earlier in the season. With Matthew Stafford dealing with his second concussion in less than three weeks, this struggling offense would be wise to revisit the idea of giving Akers 20-plus carries against the Chiefs this weekend. Kansas City awards the seventh most fantasy points to running backs and ranks fourth in total fantasy points allowed to opponents.
Latavius Murray, DEN, RB — With Melvin Gordon out of the way, there isn’t much competition for Murray this weekend. We’ve seen opposite backs sweep the Panthers over the past few weeks (Joe Mixon’s five TDs, a nice combination of Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley for nearly 180 total yards in Week 8, even though Baltimore was stagnant for most of Week 11 on all fronts) . I’ve never been a huge Murray fan anyway, but he’s astute on goal, has made multiple touchdown games for various teams in the NFL, and takes this juicy RB vs. backfield matchup essentially to himself. He is also an expert pass catcher for those in the PPR leagues.
play it safe
Demarcus Robinson, BAL, WR — I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what happened to the Ravens in Week 11, but I hope it’s out of his system. Maybe another healthy week for Mark Andrews will get this offense going again. There are still a lot of questions at the wide receiver position, but Robinson is emerging as Mr. Reliable of the bunch. He is coming off a game in which he caught all nine passes thrown his way for 128 yards. Jacksonville’s defense ranks in the most generous Top 10 for fantasy against QB, RB and WR, so the setup is there for Robinson to put up another attractive fantasy day, perhaps a 6-90-1 type line. Perfect for staying comfortably ahead of your hectic opponent.
Geno Smith, sea, quarterback — Smith ranks seventh among fantasy quarterbacks this season, averaging 18 fantasy points per game. He still leads the league in completion percentage, is second in passer rating, tied for eighth in rushing attempts and has thrown just four interceptions. His overall all-round playstyle makes for an extremely safe QB game against the Raiders in week 12. Vegas is the third-best QB matchup for fantasy, giving him the high floor we’re looking for, plus some possible advantages.
Terry McLaurin, WR; Antonio Gibson, RB, WAS — McLaurin was disappointing in Week 11, but still produced nearly 10 fantasy PPR points, which is better than many of the early-round stars (eg CeeDee Lamb and AJ Brown) did. Gibson was also solid, leaving a mark in both the running and passing game, as usual. Brian Robinson won’t be taking over this backfield, but he’s not leaving either. That limits Gibson’s ceiling, but the high floor is there for both McLaurin and Gibson in a matchup with the Falcons (second most fantasy points allowed).
Michael Pittman, IND, WR — While the high hopes of the preseason are pretty much out the window, there are still some chances on paper for Pittman to have a true breakout game. The Colts are above average in pass attempts per game and completions per game (7th in the league). However, they are in the bottom half in passing yards per game. Matt Ryan looks better after the Sam Ehlinger experiment and is coming off his best game of the season. Pittman’s target share is high enough (22 percent), as is his share of team passing yards (25 percent), and his reception rate is decent. He just hasn’t translated into touchdowns. In fact, Pittman could be the model to follow for TD regression since the average among WRs is one per 18 targets and he has one per 92 targets. He remains a high-floor, high-ceiling player with a lean toward the bright side against the Steelers, who give up the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.
Jeff Wilson Jr., missing in action, RB – Wilson has quickly risen to the top of the Dolphins RB depth chart, out-producing Raheem Mostert in each of his first two games with the team. He’s already had one rushing and one receiving touchdown, and is averaging over six yards per carry. The Dolphins are heavy home favorites over the Texans this weekend, setting up a favorable game script for Wilson. Plus, no team is more generous with opposing running backs than Houston.
Juwan Johnson, NO, YOU – Johnson has four double-digit fantasy starts in his last five games. He has scored on all four, making him a touchdown-reliant TE. Tell me something new, you say… almost all TEs rely on the touchdown after the Top 3. His use of the red zone goes beyond serendipity, though. Clearly Andy Dalton is looking for him there. In fact, Johnson is second behind Cole Kmet in red zone fantasy points with four catches on four targets for four touchdowns in the last five games. The Saints have a tough task traveling to San Francisco, one of the less friendly fantasy matchups out there, but Johnson could be a sneaky risk/reward option at tight end this week.
Happy Thanksgiving Day! I’m thankful for you readers and commenters, and I wish you all luck in a critical Week 12. Feel free to share your riskiest Thanksgiving dishes in the comments below.
(Top photo: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports)