FTN's Adam Pfeifer dives into every single game and every single fantasy-relevant name for the Week 12 fantasy football Thanksgiving slate to see which are the best and worst plays for fantasy football.
Peanut butter pie is the 1.01 of Thanksgiving pies.
Sorry, but I had to get that out of the way.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday with friends, family, football and fantasy points. This is the craziest football week of the season, which also makes it an insanely hectic time for me. With three games on Thanksgiving Day, this week’s game-by-game column will be split into two parts; a Thanksgiving slate breakdown, followed by a separate piece for the rest of Week 12.
Thank you to everyone for reading and listening all year long. I am incredibly thankful for you, my family, friends and of course, Josh Allen.
Jared Goff failed to reach 15 fantasy points for the third consecutive game Sunday, as the Lions continue to run the football, while their defense has actually stepped up a bit as of late., Goff has tossed one or fewer touchdown passes in five of his last six games, though he should see more volume this Thursday. Goff has attempted exactly 26 passes in three consecutive games but assuming the Bills light up the scoreboard here, Goff should have to throw closer to 35 times, as opposing offenses are averaging just over 35 passes per game against Buffalo this season. However, with limited targets in the passing game, Goff shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than a low-end QB2 in superflex formats.
Jamaal Williams continues to make reservations for six. He scored three more touchdowns last week and now leads the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns on the year. And with D'Andre Swift clearly still in a limited role, Williams has remained the unquestioned lead running back in Detroit, seeing at least 16 carries in each of the last three games. Williams now leads the league with 16 carries from inside the 5-yard line, scoring a whopping nine rushing touchdowns on those carries. Since Week 7, the Lions are running the football 59.1% of the time in the red zone, the 10th-highest rate in football during that span. Williams is obviously very touchdown-dependent, but the touchdowns simply aren’t stopping right now. Of course, the floor is a bit frightening once they do, as Williams hasn’t caught a pass in three weeks. And in the games where Williams has failed to find the end zone, he is only averaging 7.7 fantasy points per game. Buffalo’s run defense has been more vulnerable as of late, though they did just hold Nick Chubb to just 19 yards on 14 carries. The Bills red zone defense has been elite, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on just 45.2% of red zone trips this season, the third-best rate in football. If Williams doesn’t score early in this game and Buffalo gets out in front, he could have an awful game. He remains a touchdown-or-bust RB2 for fantasy.
Swift, meanwhile, keeps bailing out anyone who, for whatever reason, keeps starting him. He found the end zone again last week but played just 31% of the snaps for the second consecutive week. Swift played behind Justin Jackson, who logged 37% of the snaps and touched the ball 10 times. Since returning to the lineup in Week 8, Swift has just 30 total touches, averaging six per game. He’s the most volatile flex play in all of fantasy football right now.
The injuries to Buffalo’s secondary have led to some huge games for opposing wide receivers lately, which could bode well for Amon-Ra St. Brown, who is coming off a solid game, catching seven passes for 76 yards. St. Brown hasn’t scored since Week 2, but he’s been frustratingly close, including last week where he was tackled inside the 5-yard line multiple times. The volume remains outstanding for St. Brown, who has seen at least 30% of Detroit’s targets in five different games this season and ranks top five in the league in targets per route run. Buffalo, meanwhile, just allowed over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Amari Cooper, as well as 61 yards and a score to Donovan Peoples-Jones. Of course, we all saw what Justin Jefferson did against them in Week 10, while Garrett Wilson had eight catches for 92 yards back in Week 9. St. Brown remains a high-end WR2 with a tremendous weekly floor.
DJ Chark returned to the lineup last week, logging just 11 total snaps. With this being a short week, it is likely that Chark’s snaps are limited once again, while Josh Reynolds could remain out of action once again.
Chasing a tight end from the Lions is strictly a Thanksgiving Day DFS contest move. Brock Wright played nearly 75% of the snaps last game, while James Mitchell and Shane Zylstra combined for 27 snaps. Still, Wright ran a route on just 48% of dropbacks and was targeted twice, making him an incredibly risky play. Detroit tight ends have accounted for every receiving touchdown from this team since the T.J. Hockenson trade, but if Wright doesn’t find the end zone, he could legitimately score zero fantasy points.
Josh Allen is coming off an extremely quiet game, passing for a season-low 197 yards and one touchdown, rushing for just seven yards. Buffalo’s offense got off to a slow start in this game and once again struggled in the red zone, though a few crucial holding penalties took away scoring chances. Allen is currently completing just 42.3% of his passes from inside the 10-yard line this season, which is the ninth-lowest rate in the league. It has been what has hurt his numbers as of late, but if there were a spot for Allen to post a vintage QB1 outing, it would be this one. The Lions, though playing a bit better on defense as of late, are still allowing opposing offenses to score points on 66.7% of red zone trips this season, the sixth-highest rate in football. Detroit is also coughing up a league-leading 2.57 points per drive, as well as the most yards (40.0) and third-most plays (6.4) per drive. Teams are scoring points on 43.3% of drives against the Lions, the fourth-worst rate. This could also be a huge game for Allen in the rushing department, as the Lions have been bleeding rushing yardage to opposing signal callers this season. The Lions are allowing 42.2 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks, the most in the league, while allowing at least 45 rushing yards to four different signal callers. Allen could also make plays down the field, as the Lions are surrendering the most yards per attempt (8.1) and highest aDOT (9.3 yards) in the league.
Finally, the Lions are playing man coverage at one of the highest rates in football, which is great for Allen. Per Player Profiler, Allen is fourth in football in both completion percentage (64.4%) and passer rating (108.6) against man coverage this season. This should be a huge day for Allen and company.
Although James Cook carried the ball 11 times Sunday, Devin Singletary still operated as the clear lead running back, logging 72% of the snaps and rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Singletary has now played at least 72% of the offensive snaps in each of the last five games and Buffalo is actually looking to run the football more when in close, perhaps trying to solve their red zone woes. Since Week 8, Buffalo has climbed to 13th in red zone rushing rate (56%), while Singletary actually leads the entire league with 18 red zone carries during that span. He’s now scored three touchdowns over the last three games and is averaging a healthy 16.4 touches per game since Week 6. The Lions just shut down Saquon Barkley last week, and while I assumed they simply stacked the box against him, Barkley only saw stacked boxes on 6.6% of carries. Of course, Buffalo’s offense has more to account for than the Giants and this is still a plus matchup for Singletary, who pencils in as a low-end RB2.
Cook, meanwhile, is worth a waiver add, but I would not start him unless you are very desperate. He carried the ball 11 times last week but only played 16 offensive snaps, which obviously is not sustainable.
Stefon Diggs wasn’t targeted until late in the first half last week but ultimately finished the game with four receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. His five targets were obviously a season-low, but he should return to an elite target share and elite production against a Detroit secondary that will be without Jeff Okudah for this game, who has done a great job of limiting opposing top wideouts this season. That means the Lions will be asking Amani Oruwariye and Jerry Jacobs to defend Diggs in man-to-man coverage throughout the day. Against man coverage this season, Diggs ranks third in receptions (22), fifth in receiving yards (286) and second in touchdown receptions (4).
Don’t look now, but Gabe Davis has seen at least 20% of the targets in three of his last four games. He has been targeted 17 times over the last two weeks — since Week 8, Davis is sporting a very healthy target share of 23%. If he continues to see more consistent target totals, that could be huge, potentially making Davis less boom-or-bust. Of course, the boom plays are still there, especially against a Lions defense that is allowing 11.8 yards per completion, the second-highest mark in the NFL. Davis still ranks eighth among receivers in yards per target (11.3) and second in yards per reception (21.1), giving him a massive ceiling, especially in this matchup.
Dawson Knox didn’t score last week, which usually means he is going to have an awful fantasy day. However, that wasn’t the case, as Knox surprised with a career-high seven catches for a season-high 70 yards against the Browns. Of course, it was an outlier, especially when you consider that Diggs isn’t going to see five targets in a game the rest of the year, but it was an encouraging game from Knox, who operated as the underneath target for Allen, who is trying to take care of the football after a rough patch. Knox remains on the TE/TE2 borderline ahead of a matchup with a Lions defense that is coughing up the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys did whatever they wanted against the Vikings Sunday. Prescott completed 22-of-25 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, giving him three consecutive games with multiple touchdown passes and a top-12 quarterback finish. He’ll look to keep the streak going this week against a suddenly depleted Giants defense that will be missing Adoree' Jackson, Xavier McKinney and potentially Fabian Moreau. Prescott has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league against the blitz, ranking second in completion percentage (73.8%). That is obviously notable when facing the Giants, who are blitzing at the highest rate in the NFL (41%). You hope the Giants can push the Cowboys to score in this game, especially since their run defense is weak, but Prescott’s efficiency has been stellar since returning from injury and remains a rock-solid top-12 fantasy quarterback.
Ezekiel Elliott returned following a two-game absence Sunday, rushing for 42 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15 carries. He started the game and played 29% of the snaps, while Tony Pollard continued to smash, rushing for 80 yards on 15 carries, while adding six receptions for 105 yards and two 30-plus-yard touchdowns. Pollard is now averaging an insane 0.47 fantasy points per snap (7th among running backs), while also averaging nearly 1.20 points per touch. He’s the RB10 in all of fantasy football, despite ranking 15th among all running backs in total snaps. I’d expect Pollard to continue seeing slightly more touches than Elliott, especially following the latter’s first game back, now on a short week. Elliott is going to get the goal-line work, which we saw Sunday, keeping him in prime flex consideration, especially against a Giants team that just allowed three short-yardage touchdowns to Jamaal Williams, who has a similar role to Elliott.
Pollard, meanwhile, is an upside RB2. He is too talented and too explosive, and Dallas simply can’t return him to his 7- to 10-touch role from earlier on in the year. The Giants are stuffing just 13% of runs at or behind the line of scrimmage this season, good for the third-lowest rate in the NFL, while 47.3% of the touchdowns scored against this defense have come on the ground, the sixth-highest rate in the league. Only Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb have posted more runs of 15-plus yards than Pollard (12), who has 118 rushing attempts this season, compared to 213 for Barkley and 174 for Chubb. Meanwhile, nearly 16% of the runs against the Giants have gained 10 or more yards, one of the five-worst rates in football. Regardless of the status of Elliott, Pollard remains a must-start running back.
It was a quiet game for CeeDee Lamb last week, who caught all five of his targets for 45 yards. In games where Dallas can dominate the game with their run game and defense, Lamb’s numbers are going to take a hit, but his rates are still among the elite, ranking sixth in the league in target share (30.5%) and air yards share (39.9%). He is also being targeted on nearly 30% of his routes and now faces a depleted Giants secondary that will be without Adoree' Jackson, who actually shadowed Lamb on 65% of his routes when these teams first met back in Week 3. He will continue to dominate targets and now the matchup is a lot more favorable than it would have been. Continue to start Lamb as a top-10 wide receiver.
Dalton Schultz has his worst game alongside Dak Prescott last week, catching just three passes for 22 yards. Again, Dallas’ passing game really didn’t have to do much in this game, though Schultz did see an early end zone target that he couldn’t quite corral. Schultz has still been a top-12 tight end in four-of-five starts alongside Prescott, averaging nearly 13 fantasy points per game in the split. He is also sporting a 21% target share with Prescott under center.
After posting a season-high of 217 passing yards through nine games, Daniel Jones threw for 341 yards against the Lions Sunday. He added a touchdown and two interceptions, while also rushing for 50 yards and an additional score. With the Giants falling behind, Jones attempted a season-high 44 passes, and it is possible the Giants fall behind again this week. This is a brutal spot, as Jones can certainly attest to. When these teams met in Week 3, Jones was pressured on a healthy 55.1% of his dropbacks, as the Cowboys still lead the league with a 30.25 pressure rate over the course of the season. Jones will provide a solid rushing floor, averaging 7.6 rushing attempts and 43.7 rushing yards per game, but against a Cowboys team allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers (12.1), Jones is a quarterback I’d look to avoid this Thanksgiving.
Shockingly, Saquon Barkley was held to just 22 scoreless yards on 15 carries against the Lions, while adding two catches for 13 yards. And to make things even more frustrating, Matt Breida scored a goal-line touchdown in this game. Barkley only saw a stacked box on 6.6% of carries in this game, which was very surprising to me. Still, you are obviously starting Barkley, who could find success here if the Giants can stay in this game and allow Barkley to continue seeing carries. The Cowboys are allowing the seventh-most rushing yards per game this season (136.1), as well as the sixth-most yards per carry (4.7).
Wan'Dale Robinson was operating as the Giants clear WR1 last week, catching nine passes for 100 yards on 13 targets. However, his season ended after suffering an ACL tear, which leaves Darius Slayton as the only reliable wideout in this offense right now. Slayton caught five passes for 88 yards on 10 targets on Sunday and since Week 7, he is quietly the WR21 in fantasy, averaging 14.6 PPR points per game. During that same span, Slayton is sporting a respectable 22.2% target share and with Robinson sidelined, Slayton should continue to dominate the target share for the Giants. He’s had some favorable matchups as of late (DET, HOU, SEA, JAX) and this is a tough draw against the Cowboys, who have been having Trevon Diggs shadow more over the last two weeks. Still, Slayton is in a terrific role right now and projects as a WR3 in fantasy.
If you are gambling on a tight end from this team, it would be Lawrence Cager, who played 74% of the snaps last week, up from his 65% snap share from Week 10. He ran a route on 33-of-48 dropbacks (69%) but even in a game where the Giants attempted 44 passes, Cager saw just three targets. He’s a viable DFS value play for the Thanksgiving slate.
The good news? He can’t possibly have a worse game than he did last week, and Micah Parsons won’t be coming after him. The bad news? His left tackle is out, and the NFL’s sack leader Matt Judon is up next on the schedule.
Oh, and did I mention this is a primetime game?
Cousins had no chance of succeeding last week against the Cowboys, as he was under duress on 18-of-30 dropbacks (60%). And with left tackle Christian Darrisaw sidelined, this week’s matchup is going to be tough, too, as the Patriots are sporting the league’s second-highest pressure rate at 29.8%. That doesn’t exactly bode well for Cousins, who has struggled when under pressure so far this season, ranking 34th in completion percentage (42.3%) and 17th in yards per attempt (7.3) when under duress. New England’s pass defense has been solid this season, though they haven’t exactly faced the stiffest competition. Still, Cousins is a middling QB2 for me in this matchup.
The fact that Dalvin Cook rushed for 72 yards last week is really impressive considering Minnesota’s offense was hardly on the field. He continues to see most of the work from this backfield, as Alexander Mattison isn’t playing as many third downs lately. Prior to last week’s blowout, Cook had played at least 75% of the offensive snaps in four consecutive games and with a much closer game on top, he should return to that usage Thursday. The matchup isn’t the greatest, as the Patriots have allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season long, as well as the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backfields (16.1). Still, Cook is going to see 20-plus touches as a home favorite. He’s a low-end RB1 against the Patriots.
Justin Jefferson is dealing with mild turf toe, though it isn’t expected to impact his ability on the field. I certainly don’t believe it impacted him Sunday, though Minnesota’s struggles sure did, as Jefferson caught just three passes for 33 yards. He was followed by Trevon Diggs for much of the game, and while many believe Diggs won the matchup and “shut Jefferson down,” let’s also acknowledge the fact that Cousins would snap the ball and immediately be sacked half of the time. Jefferson has still reached 98 receiving yards in 7-of-10 games this season and remains an obvious must-start wide receiver. Adam Thielen, meanwhile, continues to take a hit with the addition of T.J. Hockenson. In three games since Hockenson has been with the Vikings, Thielen is sporting a target share of 14.53%. He hasn’t found the end zone since Week 6 and has yet to reach 75 receiving yards in a game this season. The drop in target share isn’t great but your stance on Thielen really shouldn’t have changed much. He’s a mid-range WR3 but it is fair to wonder if the touchdowns even make a return. Thielen has seen just 16.7% of Minnesota’s targets from inside the 10-yard line this season, which ranks outside the top-30 wide receivers in football.
T.J. Hockenson continues to see plenty of action since joining the Vikings. In the three games since the trade, Hockenson is sporting a 23.9% target share, which ranks fifth among all tight ends during that span. He has finished as a top-10 tight end in all three games, despite failing to find the end zone, though he’s seen two end zone targets over the last two games. Hockenson has seen at least nine targets in all three games with the Vikings and gets perhaps the best matchup on the board here, facing a New England defense that is surrendering the ninth-most fantasy points per game (12.9) to opposing tight ends, as well as the second-most touchdown receptions to the position (7).
Mac Jones is once again coming off a boring game, failing to score a touchdown and throwing for 246 yards. He has thrown one or fewer touchdown passes in every single game this season. The Vikings are allowing the league’s second-highest completion rate at 69%, as well as the most yards per pass attempt (8.1), but Jones just lacks the upside to consider as anything other than a second quarterback in superflex formats.
Despite rushing for 26 scoreless yards on 15 carries last week, Rhamondre Stevenson still finished as a top-15 fantasy running back. His usage in the passing game remains elite, as Stevenson caught all six of his targets for 56 yards and has now seen at least 20% of New England’s targets in four of his last five games. Since Week 6, Stevenson is sporting a 23% target share, which is the second-highest rate among all running backs during that span, but also ranks 22nd in all of football. Even with Damien Harris healthy, Stevenson has remained the lead back, logging 78% of the snaps and touching the football 21 times on Sunday, compared to a 24% snap share and 10 touches for Harris. The Vikings have been pretty good against running backs on a per-carry basis but did just allow four touchdowns to Dallas running backs last week, including two in the passing game to Tony Pollard. Minnesota has also been the worst red zone defense in the NFL to this point, allowing opposing offenses to score touchdowns on 71.4% of red zone trips, the highest rate in football. Stevenson remains a must-start running back, while Harris is a touchdown-or-bust flex play. He ran better than Stevenson last week and could still be the goal-line back in this offense but if he doesn’t find the end zone, Harris is going to underwhelm.
Jakobi Meyers remains the clear top wideout in this passing game, and while the touchdowns have disappeared, the floor is still pretty strong for Meyers. He has a really favorable matchup this week, facing Chandon Sullivan out of the slot, who is allowing 0.29 fantasy points per route and an 84% catch rate. He’s also allowed a 118.1 passer rating in slot coverage, as well as a league-leading 513 receiving yards. Meyers, meanwhile, has lined up out of the slot 70.5% of the time this season, the 15th-highest rate among qualified wide receivers.
Meanwhile, the matchup is really favorable for perimeter wide receivers against the Vikings. The issue, however, is that Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton and Kendrick Bourne are all playing plenty of snaps and running a fair number of routes. We just saw the Cowboys go after rookie defensive back Andrew Booth Jr. last week, who allowed seven receptions on eight targets just last game alone. Opposing receivers on the left side of the formation have crushed the Vikings this season, averaging 102.4 yards (most), 9.9 targets (second most) and 7.5 receptions (most) per game. Theoretically, that would bode well for DeVante Parker, who would be my favorite GPP play of the Thanksgiving slate.
Both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith continue to play meaningful snaps for the Patriots. Henry is still ahead, logging 86% of the snaps and running a route on about 79% of dropbacks last week. Still, he’s only seen six targets over the last three games, while Smith has actually been targeted 11 times during that stretch.
Adam Pfeifer has been covering fantasy football, baseball and basketball since 2012. He has been featured in the Football Diehards fantasy magazine for four years now, while also making multiple appearances on Sirius XM Fantasy. You can follow him on Twitter @APfeifer24.