If you are feeling short of what to be thankful for this Thanksgiving look no further than your local TV listings. If a Sunday full of football is enough to work fantasy owners into a frenzy and a Thursday night of football can get their blood boiling then this Thanksgiving’s line-up of the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions and of course Green Bay Packers will creating a new crop of fantasy widows.
As great as Thanksgiving football usually is this years has the makings of one the best in recent memory. Detroit is relevant again, two brothers are going head to head with two of the best defenses, not to mention teams in the league, Dallas is clicking, the Dolphins have won three in a row and the freaking Packers are 10-0! Seriously, to recognize all of the greatness that will be on display Thursday we might need one of John Madden’s famous 16-leg Turducken’s.
For many fantasy owners a considerable amount of their squads will be represented in this week’s early games. So to make sure you get an early jump on your match-up in week 12 read on and give yourself one more thing to be thankful for this year.
Matthew Stafford vs. Packers: Fractured finger? What fractured finger? Stafford tossed five touchdowns in last week’s win over the Panthers, and Thursday’s matchup against the Packers has shootout written all over it. Green Bay has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to signal-callers
Tony Romo vs Dolphins: He has been practically pitch-perfect for three consecutive games, and before you sing the Dolphins’ defensive praises, keep in mind that they benefited from facing back-to-back-to-back ice-cold passers. Their true colors — a below-average pass defense — should shine through here.
Frank Gore at Ravens: His knee injury somewhat caps his upside, but at the same time, this is no longer the deathly matchup it once was. Consider this: The Ravens’ run defense has allowed 5 TDs and an average of 104.3 yards in their past four games. Gore should be your ol’ reliable, like the mashed potatoes of your turkey-day feast
Jordy Nelson at Lions: Is Nelson now on that “must-start” level? If he isn’t, he’s darn close. He’s fifth in fantasy points among wideouts and has more touchdowns than his teammate, Greg Jennings. Thursday’s game against the Lions should be a cornucopia of fantasy points, so make sure Nelson is active.
Dez Bryant vs Dolphins: He’s averaging 16.7 yards per catch this season, exemplifying his big-play potential, and of the past three No. 1 wideouts the Dolphins have faced, only Dwayne Bowe (15.6) is close in that category. Bryant should make this secondary look more like its ugly, early-season version.
Brandon Pettigrew vs Packers: The Lions are a pass-heavy team to begin with, but the other plus here is the matchup. Only one team in the past three weeks combined has allowed more catches (23) and yards (302) to opposing tight ends than the Packers.
Dan Bailey vs Dolphins: The rookie has made 22 straight field goals and hasn’t missed a kick since Week 2.
Dallas vs Dolphins: Dolphins opponents have totaled just six ESPN standard fantasy points from their D/ST the past three weeks combined, but how much of that was because those defenses were in rough patches of their seasons? I see more talent — and hotter play of late — in this unit, and indeed recommend it.
Joe Flacco vs. 49ers: Despite the fact that Flacco has thrown 388 passes this season, he’s still a meager 20th in fantasy points. Couple that with a matchup against a tough 49ers defense on Thanksgiving Day, and his potential stat line doesn’t look to be plentiful. Keep him on the fantasy sidelines if possible.
Ryan Grant at Lions: Whether or not James Starks is active, there is a level of risk with starting Grant on Thanksgiving Day. The veteran will face the Lions, who have allowed a mere three total touchdowns to running backs all season. If Starks is sidelined, consider Grant no more than a flex.
Ray Rice vs 49ers; The 49ers sport one of the best run defenses in the game, now Rice won’t become a total non-factor because his goal-line ability; and his receiving contributions. Just don’t count on him to lead the week, because his yardage will be capped. Also, this Harbaugh has shown he’ll go away from the run when it’s not working. See Seattle game.
Michael Crabtree @ Ravens: Crabtree is fully expected to start again in Week 12. While Crabtree caught seven passes for a season-high 120 yards against the Cardinals on Sunday, Week 12’s matchup against the Ravens will prove to be much tougher.
Laurent Robinson vs Dolphins: He’ll get another start with Miles Austin sitting out Thanksgiving, but at what point will the magic end? One reason to shy: The Dolphins have played inspiring defense in the past month, so I’m wary expecting big things from a No. 2, fill-in wideout.
Vernon Davis @ Ravens: He has quietly transformed into more of a red-zone weapon who lacks the catches/yardage to warrant fantasy-start consideration. And looking at this matchup, remember this: The Ravens are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t allowed a TD to an opposing tight end.
Billy Cundiff vs. 49ers: Don’t be surprised if he ends up struggling this week against the 49ers. San Francisco has allowed an average of just 6.10 fantasy points to kickers.
Lions defense vs. Packers: Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think the Packers-Lions game is going to be a complete and utter barnburner? With that said, it could be a tough one for the Lions against superstar Aaron Rodgers and one of the NFL’s most potent offensive attacks.