It’s a special Turkey Day edition of the Fantasy Football Matchups Column! Just like the rest of the 2020 NFL season, Matt Savoca will be providing his weekly NFL Fantasy Matchups Breakdown column — going through every single Thanksgiving Day game just as he does for every main slate of the season. For your viewing convenience, we have broken up the Thanksgiving slate breakdown into several single columns, each one covering a single game. You can find links to every game right here. There are three games on tap for Thanksgiving NFL DFS and NFL Daily Fantasy Football, so let’s dive in.
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NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown | Thanksgiving Day Games
Daily Fantasy Football Matchups: Thanksgiving Day Slate, NFL Week 12
Houston Texans at Detroit Lions
Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Daily Fantasy Football Matchups: Houston Texans (26.25) at Detroit Lions (24.25)
Houston Passing Game
Even with the Texans dealing with injuries to wide receivers in week 11, Deshaun Watson had one of his finest performances of the season against the Patriots in the Texans’ week 11 victory, completing 28 of his 37 pass attempts for 344 yards, his second-highest yardage total of the season and added two passing scores. Last week marked Watson seventh multi-passing touchdown performance in eight games (after two one-touchdown games to start the season), and his 36 rushing yards were his third-highest mark on the ground in 2020 as well. Watson now ranks fourth in the NFL, behind Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen, in quarterback expected points added per game. He’s the second-highest player on the Thanksgiving slate in PFF’s expected fantasy points per game metric and tops at his position in fantasy points scored over expectation. In short, the Texans’ issues are with the personnel not named Watson. He’s as spectacular as he’s ever been and now enters week 12 with his team as a favorite to win, facing a Lions defense that ranks 18th in points allowed per play, 26th in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 27th in yards allowed per play and 28th in PFF’s team defensive grade. He’ll cost you nearly 2% more of your budget than any other quarterback on the slate, but Watson’s ceiling will be as high as ever this Thursday. If the salary fits, there isn’t a more solid play at any position on the slate.
Though the metrics suggest otherwise, the Lions have actually been an above-average team in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, which makes Watson more of a stand-alone piece than an obvious stacking option. That doesn’t mean fantasy gamers should rule out the idea of utilizing Will Fuller, who has seen eight targets in back-to-back weeks with an average depth of target north of 10 and leads the team in fantasy scoring of that same span. His speed can turn a poor matchup on paper into an advantageous one in a single broken play, but, as the second-highest-salary wideout, he’ll need a monster performance in order to be considered a value-play. While a ceiling game from Fuller’s never out of the question, particularly with Watson playing at such a high level, the better value might be Brandin Cooks, who’s scored the same amount of fantasy points over the last two weeks and utilizes 2% less of your budget, or even Keke Coutee, who played on a season-high 58% of snaps after Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills were both ruled out of week 11. Coutee found the end zone last week and could once again be an intriguing tournament option (if the other wideouts sit) with a salary just $400 north of the wide receiver minimum. Detroit has been susceptible to tight ends of late, which could make Jordan Akins (6 fantasy points per game over his last three games), somewhat viable, but he’s a large-field tournament option only, as he has zero in his range of outcomes, along with Darren Fells. There are worse dart-throw plays than the Houston tight end duo, but neither jump off the page as screaming values this week.
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Houston Rushing Game
Operating as the primary back for (essentially) the third full game, Duke Johnson has now seen 50 touches since week 9 but hasn’t done anything of note with the increased usage, averaging just 3.2 yards per opportunity in that span. Instead, without David Johnson in the backfield, the Texans have converted their offense to a more pass-oriented approach, and it’s resulted in more (and better opportunities for the receivers), with less touchdown upside offered to Johnson or his backup, C.J. Prosise. Still, Johnson is one of just 15 running backs in the NFL who have averaged more than 16 opportunities since week 8 and has a slight salary discount, even on this three-game slate, making Johnson a solid volume-based value as the fifth-highest-salary running back on the main slate. With the Lions ranking last in the NFL in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to running backs, this is arguably Johnson’s best matchup, at arguably his best salary. Johnson is the definition of post-hype sleeper and is great mid-tier play in both tournaments and in cash games this Thanksgiving.
Detroit Passing Game
The Lions were downright abysmal in week 11, getting shut out by a middling Carolina defense that ranks 16th in points allowed per play, dropping their record to 4-6, tied for last in the NFC north. Matthew Stafford, who entered the game with a questionable tag but played through his nagging thumb injury, looked hobbled as a passer, completing only 18 of 33 pass attempts for a paltry 178 yards. With Kenny Golladay (hip) still ailing, D’Andre Swift concussed and role player Danny Amendola also sidelined, the Lions seemed utterly devoid of playmakers. Stafford responded with a season low in total quarterback expected points added and took a season-high eight hits and five sacks, also a season worst. On, paper, Houston seems like a decent matchup for quarterbacks, ranking 27th in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and in yards allowed per pass attempt, but it’s still incredibly difficult to trust an obviously injured Stafford when he’s without so many of the outside weapons he typically relies on to succeed. Stafford, at a salary of $5,800 is a significant discount from the big three at the position on this slate, but it’s probably better for fantasy gamers to look at the value options below (or the elite tier above) him when creating daily fantasy football lineups this Thanksgiving. This version of Stafford is only for the most risk-embracing tournament players among us.
With Golladay looking doubtful at best to return this week, the Lions will once again be a long shot to produce a receiver with a tournament-winning score. Tight end T.J. Hockenson had 68 receiving yards on four catches in week 11, which inexplicably led the team. Marvin Jones led the team in total air yards… with 66. It was one of the most forgettable weeks in recent memory for the suddenly decrepit Detroit passing game. Jones still leads the team in receiving yards and fantasy points over the team’s past four games, but without a clear path to more than eight targets in the Lions’ low-volume offense, Jones, and possibly the entire receiving corps, is trending towards becoming a stay-away option in cash games. But for tournament players, there’s some merit to betting that the Lions’ offensive output is somewhere between the zero points we saw in week 11 and the 30 points we saw in their week 10 win (when Jones had 96 receiving yards and touchdown). To restate the extremely obvious: hand injuries matter for quarterbacks. Avoiding an injured quarterback’s options in daily fantasy football is never foolish, but don’t rule out Hockenson, Jones or even Marvin Hall (who is just $3,900 and had 14.1 DraftKings points in week 10) as contrarian options either.
Detroit Rushing Game
Without Swift in the fold, as he’s still in the concussion protocol, the Lions’ backfield was as atrocious as the rest of the offense, with Adrian Peterson leading the team with a laughable 38 yards on eight opportunities. Kerryon Johnson surprisingly led the team with 11 total looks, including a season-high five targets, but it amounted to just 18 total yards, which means it will be a quick return to the bench for Johnson once Swift is able to return – which should hopefully be this Thursday. As of the time of this article’s writing, Swift is a 50/50 shot to play but will be the most appealing Detroit player (by a country mile) on this slate if he’s able to suit up this Thursday. Swift had a breakout performance against a relatively stingy Washington defense in week 10, totaling 149 yards from scrimmage on a season-high 21 looks. Unfortunately for fantasy gamers, Swift can’t be used in daily fantasy football lineups unless we get word out of Detroit that he’s all systems go, as he’s the second-highest-salary running back on the slate, but Swift is the best floor and ceiling play (besides Deshaun Watson) from this game, and it’s not particularly close. We may have to wait one more week, but Swift’s slate-breaking performance is coming. Don’t be one week too late.
Prediction: Texans 24, Lions 17
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