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Fantasy Football Week 12 Preview: Thanksgiving edition

Related: Fantasy Football Recap: Dalvin Cook, Keenan Allen stay red hot

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Family, food, and (fantasy) football. It’s what makes Thanksgiving one of the best holidays there is. No matter how different your Turkey Day table may look this year — for obvious reasons — there will still be (some) football.

The Detroit Lions will take on the Houston Texans in their usual 12:30 p.m. EST kickoff, as the Dallas Cowboys will follow with a matchup against the Washington Football Team in a divisional game that could have... playoff implications for the NFC East (a perfect time for a quick post meal snooze). Unfortunately, as you go back to the fridge for leftovers or dessert, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will not be taking the stage Thursday Night due to Baltimore’s Covid situation.

So as our plates are both literally and figuratively full on Thursday, remember that Thanksgiving is a time to express what you are thankful for, and of course root for your fantasy players. Speaking of fantasy football, here are a few things we’re thankful for this year:

1. Quarterbacks outperforming their draft stock

While Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, and Russell Wilson are the top scorers at the position, they were all taken within the first four or five rounds of fantasy drafts. Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers on the other hand, who are the fourth and fifth highest quarterback fantasy scorers, were taken in the eighth and tenth rounds respectively back in August. Others who fall in this category are Ryan Tannehill (ninth highest scorer, taken on average in the 13th round) and Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall, 12th round).

2. Justin Herbert

That list doesn’t even include Justin Herbert, who went undrafted in the majority of fantasy leagues. Who knows when the rookie would have seen the field if the Chargers team doctor did not accidentally puncture Tyrod Taylor’s lung, but Herbert went from a waiver wire pick up to QB7 overall on the year so far. It would not be surprising to see him lead many teams to fantasy championships this year.

3. The Waiver Wire

Speaking of the waiver wire, thank you. No team would be where it’s at today without you.

4. Travis Kelce

If you were lucky smart enough to scoop Travis Kelce up in the second round of your fantasy draft, congratulations on having the player who’s better than everyone else at his position. Kelce has scored 55.86 fantasy points more than any other TE so far this year, while his 19.6 average points per game is eighth highest among all none QB’s.

5. The Rookies

We mentioned Herbert, but an assortment of other rookies have made huge fantasy impacts this season. The undrafted free agent James Robinson - a popular early season waiver wire pickup - is RB4 overall on the year. The opposite of Robinson is Clyde-Edwards Helaire, a 1st round pick in both the NFL Draft and fantasy drafts, who has been a consistent top running back throughout the year. As for receivers, players like Justin Jefferson, Chase Claypool, and Tee Higgins have made significant fantasy impacts throughout their rookie campaigns. And don’t forget Joe Burrow, who put up strong numbers before his season unfortunately came to an end early last week.

There’s a lot more, but we still have a Week 12 fantasy matchup to win. With that, let’s get into this week’s sits and starts, with the best Thanksgiving day plays as well.

Note: No Week 12 byes


New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Start ‘Em

Derek Carr at Atlanta

Carr is back in our start column this week after a three touchdown performance Sunday night. His fantasy success on the year has depended on a positive game script, scoring over 19.0 fantasy points in five of the six games he’s thrown over 30 passes. Carr should fall into the 30-plus category this week, as he faces a Falcons defense that ranks second-last in the league in passing yards per game allowed and passing TDs allowed.

Cam Newton vs Arizona

Newton passed for 365 yards last week while trying to keep pace with Deshaun Watson, and he’ll have to do that again this week with the high flying Cardinals offense. Arizona’s defense has give up at least two passing touchdowns in each of their last four games, while also struggling against mobile QB’s.

More Starts: Tom Brady vs Kansas City, Daniel Jones at Cincinnati

Sit ‘Em

Ryan Tannehill at Indianapolis

Tannehill had his worst fantasy performance of the season as he completed just 15 passes for 147 yards agains the Colts in Week 10. He now travels to Indianapolis to play one of the best pass defenses in football. With a limited ceiling, there are better options than Tannehill this week.

Matt Ryan vs Las Vegas

Ryan has proved he cannot be trusted when receiver Julio Jones is sidelined. Last week with Julio in and out, Ryan tossed two interceptions as part of a 5.28-fantasy point dud against the Saints. We don't know Julio’s status for Sunday, but Ryan now travels to Vegas to face a Raiders defense that’s allowed just three passing touchdowns while recording five interceptions over the last two weeks.

More Sits: Andy Dalton vs Washington, Drew Lock vs New Orleans

Thanksgiving Play: Deshaun Watson at Detroit

Watson has now thrown for over 300 yards in five of his last seven games and will look to hit that mark again on Thanksgiving day. Watson tore apart New England’s top secondary last week as they failed to pressure him. He now faces a Lions defense that boasts the league’s lowest pressure rate on opposing passers. With no run game or defense to support him, Watson will carry the load for Houston yet again on Thursday.

Running Backs

NFL: Washington Football Team at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Start ‘Em

Gus Edwards at Pittsburgh

With J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram (Covid-19) out Thursday, Edwards should carry the load for the Ravens backfield. While the Steelers defense may look taunting on the schedule, Edwards ran for 87 yards and a score against them in Week 8. His expected high volume of touches should lead to production in the Baltimore offense, no matter who they face.

Antonio Gibson at Dallas

Gibson has scored five touchdowns over his last four games and now has a favorable matchup against the Dallas defense he lit up for 128 yards and a score back in Week 7. The rookie should again find room in the running game as Dallas surrenders 153.8 yards per game on the ground, the second-worst in the league.

More Starts: Wayne Gallman Jr. at Cincinnati, Salvon Ahmed at New York Jets, Giovani Bernard vs New York Giants

Sit ‘Em

Kenyan Drake at New England

While Drake has found the end zone more in recent games, he’s failed to rush for over 60 yards in four of his last six games. He now faces a Patriots’ defense that has been much improved against the run, not allowing an opposing back to run for more than 46 yards in their last three games. With Chase Edmonds still vulturing targets in the pass game, there are better options this week.

Jerick McKinnon at Los Angeles Rams

The 49ers backfield has been mostly a nightmare all season due to injuries. San Fran might get Raheem Mostert back from injury this week, but McKinnon would be better left on benches even if he does not return. They’ll face Aaron Donald and the Rams defense that held Ronald Jones II to just 24 rushing yards last week. This year, they have allowed just five total touchdowns and the third-fewest fantasy points to the position.

More Sits: Broncos’ Running Backs vs New Orleans, Rams Running Backs vs San Francisco

Thanksgiving Play: D’Andre Swift vs Houston

We already mentioned Gibson, but Detroit’s rookie back will be our Thanksgiving play. After missing last week’s game, Swift (concussion) has been limited in practice this week. If he does suit up, he should be able to replicate his Week 10 performance - in which he posted 149 scrimmage yards - against Houston. The Texans league-worst run defense has allowed 5.1 yards per carry and 13 rushing scores to opposing backs so far this season. If Swift suits up, he’ll be a strong Thanksgiving play.

Wide Receivers

Cincinnati Bengals v Washington Football Team Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Start ‘Em

Justin Jefferson vs Carolina

The matchup doesn't look great on paper, but the Panthers have been much worse against wide receivers this year on the road (allowing the ninth-most points to home receivers). With Adam Thielen (Covid-19) potentially out, Jefferson could be operating as the Vikings’ top wide out in this one. He should continue his string of strong performances in this one.

Nelson Agholor at Atlanta

Agholor has quietly turned into Derek Carr’s top wide receiver this year. After struggling with drops throughout his Philadelphia days, he now leads Vegas with six touchdown receptions this year. His volume has been mostly low, but his nine targets last week tied a season-high (both nine target games led to his best fantasy outputs). This week, Agholor should have opportunities to beat the Falcons’ defense that ranks second-last in the league in passing yards per game allowed and passing TDs allowed.

More Starts: Jalen Reagor vs Seattle, Cole Beasley vs Los Angeles Chargers

Sit ‘Em

Deebo Samuel at Los Angeles Rams

Deebo Samuel is expected to make his return this week from a hamstring injury this week, but will immediately have a date with Jalen Ramsey and the Rams. LA’s improved defense has allowed receivers to find the end zone just six times while allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to the position. Samuel will have to wait to return to fantasy lineups.

Tee Higgins vs New York Giants

Higgins has had a great rookie season, but his (and all Bengals’ wide outs) stock will drop with Joe Burrow no longer under center. The matchup with the Giants isn't a terrible one, unless he is lined up against James Bradberry, but the rookie will be tough to trust in his first game with Burrow.

More Sits: Corey Davis at Indianapolis, JuJu Smith-Schuster vs Baltimore

Thanksgiving Play: Terry McLaurin at Dallas

McLaurin is nursing an ankle injury, but has a mouthwatering matchup against Dallas this Thanksgiving if he does suit up. McLaurin posted a 7/90/1 line against the Cowboys in their first meeting as Dallas’ secondary has just given away fantasy points to opposing receivers this year. McLaurin should be able to carve up the Cowboys defense like your uncle carves up the Thanksgiving turkey on Thursday.

Tight Ends

New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Start ‘Em

Eric Ebron vs Baltimore

Ebron has seen a consistent target share this season, but has finally been able to produce fantasy value by finding the end zone of late. Ebron has found pay dirt in three of his last four games, as he has drawn a red-zone target in each of the last six games. He’ll face Baltimore Thanksgiving night, who’s allowed five touchdowns to tight ends this season - including one to Ebron in Week 8.

Hunter Henry at Buffalo

Despite two games, Henry has consistently seen six-to-eight targets in every game this season. The last two weeks, the tight end has posted two 13-plus fantasy point performances as he found the end zone in both games. He now faces a Buffalo defense that’s surrendered the most receiving yards in the league and the third-most fantasy points to tight ends.

Evan Engram at Cincinnati

Engram has had an up-and-down season, but seemed to be finding a rhythm, scoring 10-plus fantasy points in three of his last four games, before the Giants Week 11 bye. He’ll get a Bengals defense this week that has been mostly terrible when trying to stop the pass. Cincy has also allowed opposing tight ends to score six touchdowns and nearly 15 fantasy points per game this season.

More Starts: Jacob Hollister vs Philadelphia

Sit ‘Em

Jared Cook at Denver

Cook has been invisible since Michael Thomas returned Week 9. He has just three catches on six targets over his last three games, while Taysom Hill looked his way just once in his first start last week. Cook now has a matchup against a Broncos’ defense allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to enemy tight ends. Denver also hasn't allowed a tight end to record a touchdown since Week 1. Cook is best left sidelined for the foreseeable future.

Robert Tonyan vs Chicago

Tonyan bounced back last week after a string of poor performances. He found the end zone for the first time since his hat trick in Week 4, but most likely won't duplicate that success Sunday night against Chicago. The Bears defense hasn't allowed any tight end this year to eclipse the 65-yard mark, making Tonyan a tough trust.

More Sits: Jimmy Graham at Green Bay, Dallas Goedert vs Seattle

Thanksgiving Play: Jordan Akins

Ebron was our Thanksgiving play, but we’ll call an audible with Jordan Akins (who could also fall under our usual “sleeper” category). Akins had a strong game last week, catching five of six targets for a season-high 83 yards. He will face a Lions defense that has been vulnerable against tight ends of late. According to PFF, Detroit has allowed the third-most targets, fifth-most catches and the fourth-highest passer rating (133.8) to tight ends from Week 7-10.

Patriots Play of the Week

Las Vegas Raiders v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

N’Keal Harry

Harry (concussion) returned from a three-week absence last week and immediately led all Patriots’ wide receivers with eight targets. He’ll now face a Cardinals defense that has allowed opposing receivers to haul in nine touchdowns over their last four games. On the season, Arizona has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. Harry also most likely won't draw Patrick Peterson in coverage on Sunday, as New England has mostly used Harry close to the line of scrimmage. It would not be a surprise for him to again see his fair share of targets and find the end zone.

That is all for this week’s preview. If you have any additional questions regarding your lineup, specific players, or strategies going forward, leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter @iambrianhines. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving and as always, I’m rooting for you!