Happy Thanksgiving! In case you didn't read my Thanksgiving daily fantasy football (DFS) article last year, I will repeat what I said then.
What you need to remember when it comes to these DFS picks is that the Thanksgiving NFL slate is often a microcosm of the typical Sunday slate. Even though there are only two games instead of the usual three (Baltimore-Pittsburgh was moved to Sunday because of the Ravens' COVID-19 issues), there's almost always one upset (or at least a team that beats the spread). There's usually one high-scoring game that easily hits the OVER, and another that goes UNDER. At least one game is usually a lopsided runaway.
Even if a game is lopsided, the fantasy football element is enough to keep me glued to my TV. I'm not wearing dark socks and sandals, but I can tell you that I've played fantasy football long before you. When I first started playing, the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade was actually the first introduction of Santa to the season! Point is, I've been doing this long enough to tell you that there is going to be a huge breakout game from a second-tier player on Thursday. There always is.
So for this special edition, we are going to mix up the format a little bit and go game by game. There will still be the regular Week 12 DFS picks that will be posted later this week. However, here are some special Thanksgiving Day DFS picks and thoughts, complete with video clips to help keep you through any food comas!
Houston at Detroit, 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX
It is impossible for me to think of Detroit playing on Thanksgiving and not think of this clip:
I would definitely fade the defenses in this game. The books agree, setting the over/under for this game at 51 points, the highest on the slate even before Ravens-Steelers was moved to Sunday. I am still waiting for more definitive news on D'Andre Swift before I decide how to attack this game. If Swift plays, he is a must-play against the Texans, which are giving up the most fantasy points per game to running backs. You could make the same argument for Kerryon Johnson or Adrian Peterson, but they manage to minimize each other, leaving both virtually unplayable. The Lions' passing game, without Kenny Golladay, is a contrarian play at best and one I will be avoiding as well. The one player I might consider is T.J. Hockenson, who is a top-five fantasy TE right now and has had half a dozen or more targets in four of his last five games. Houston's defense against TEs is middle-of-the-road.
The Houston passing game, however, I do like. Detroit is the eighth-worst defense according to DVOA. The Lions are allowing the 10th-most passing yards of any team. Detroit has kept just two quarterbacks under 20 fantasy points this year. And Deshaun Watson is having a better year than people realize. I recently saw that he has accounted for 88 percent of Houston's total offense! That would be the highest rate of any player this past decade should that trend remain. Watson also has a strong 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio. He's thrown two or more touchdowns in seven of his last eight games. He's an obvious cash play, but I'd probably roll with him in a GPP too.
If you play Watson in a GPP, you absolutely have to stack him with Will Fuller V, who has already had a career-best 708 receiving yards. He also has half a dozen touchdowns already this season and should see his stat pace only improve after this game. With Randall Cobb expected to miss multiple games and Kenny Stills also hurting, Brandin Cooks is a worthwhile addition to a Houston stack. He is coming off an 85-yard performance and should see at least the five targets he saw last week, if not more. I do like Keke Coutee as a punt or value play. If he scores again this week like he did last week, he'll provide a nice little profit.
Washington at Dallas, 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS
So first place in the NFC East is on the line for this game, but being in first place in the NFC East isn't exactly something to brag about. Exhibit A:
So step right up and win a prize! Those that correctly predict the players who excel from this game will be the ones hitting the stores on Black Friday with a little more cash in their wallets. Oh, wait, this is 2020. They will be the ones staying home on Black Friday with a little more cash on their wallets, eagerly awaiting Cyber Monday.
This game might be the hardest to predict. The Cowboys are 31-20-1 when playing on Thanksgiving. Yet this year, their potential playoff plate seems to have less of the stuffing their fans want and a defense that resembles Swiss cheese. The Cowboys are giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers, making Terry McLaurin a must-play. McLaurin is an absolute stud and already has 871 receiving yards. That's even more impressive when you consider what the quarterback options have been in Washington this year. If you refuse to spend up for McLaurin, either of the Sims boys (Steven or Cam) make for high-upside value plays at WR.
Of course, I do expect many to stack Andy Dalton, tight end Dalton Schultz, and some combination of the trio of WRs (Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup). I will mention, however, that Washington has allowed the second-fewest points per game to that position and the sixth-fewest to QBs. Schultz is coming off his game-winning touchdown last week and makes for a great pivot at TE. He is the Cowboy I will most likely be playing. In cash games, however, I do expect Ezekiel Elliott to be a popular play. Every time Zeke has played on Thanksgiving, he has either scored multiple touchdowns or had at least 130 combined yards. The Washington defense should keep him in check on Thursday, limiting him as a ceiling play, but Zeke brings one of the better floors to the Thanksgiving day slate.
Meanwhile, the Washington running game is pretty attractive. Dallas is second to last in the NFL in rushing defense. J.D. McKissic could throw a wrench into things, but I will have multiple shares of Antonio Gibson. He has scored five times in his last four games and is averaging the sixth-most half-PPR fantasy points per game for RBs.
Either way, good luck with your DFS picks and Happy Thanksgiving!
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.
(Top photo courtesy of @WashingtonNFL)