Happy Thanksgiving! What you need to remember when it comes to these daily fantasy football (DFS) picks is that the Thanksgiving NFL slate is often a microcosm of the typical Sunday slate. Amongst the three games, 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 the runaway football game, however, doesn't bother me on Thanksgiving. I've already told you what I am most thankful for this holiday season and that's enough to keep me happy during a mediocre football game. 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 13 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!
Chicago at Detroit, 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX
Don't "KISS" off this game just because it's early. If you are playing a 50/50, I would definitely grab one of the DSTs from this game (see my previously posted thoughts about Thanksgiving Day DSTs here) and at least one if not both of the running backs from this game.
All the running backs are relatively cheap and a great way to allow you to squeeze in some of the studs we will talk about later. The popular play will be David Montgomery (DK $5400, FD $5900). Detroit is giving up more fantasy points to RBs than any other team in the league. Those paying attention, however, might pivot to Tarik Cohen (DK $5000, FD $6400), who for the second week in a row led the Bears backfield in touches. Meanwhile, Chicago is giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to the position. Bo Scarbrough (DK $4700, FD $6100) might finally provide Detroit the RB it wants in the absence of Kerryon Johnson. Coming off a 98-yard performance, Scarbrough has one of the highest points/dollar projections.
Looking at the QBs in this game, you have to prefer the defenses. Detroit's Jeff Driskel was shaping up to be an intriguing play because of his cheap price, but on Wednesday night the Lions announced that David Blough (an UDFA who has yet to take a snap in an NFL game) would get the start on Thursday with Driskel, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, serving as the backup. This development increases the appeal of the Bears DST and adds more risk to relying on Kenny Golladay (DK $6100, FD $7100).
One last cheap play to consider for GPP: Javon Wims (DK $3000, FD $4500). Both tall and fast, the minimum-priced Wims should see a few targets presuming Taylor Gabriel (concussion) doesn't play.
Buffalo at Dallas, 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS
This will be the "swing" game of the slate. Those that correctly predict the players that excel from this game will be the ones hitting the stores on Black Friday with a little more cash in their wallets.
My two favorite plays from this game, however, are the tight ends. One of these is just a gut feeling. The Bills are giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, less than a full point more than the 49ers, but 24 fewer points than the next stingiest team. And Jason Witten (DK $3300, FD $5500) is a better play on DraftKings than FanDuel. But before the DFS sites were even around, he was busy producing on Thanksgiving. Sure, it helps that he has played 14 times on Thanksgiving, but he has the record for both receptions and receiving yards on Thanksgiving. Is he going to catch nine of ten passes for 115 yards and a touchdown like he did on Thanksgiving in 2008? No, it's nearly a dozen years later. But my gut is telling me to start Witten.
But Dawson Knox (DK $2900, FD $4500) has my attention this week as well. Dallas is giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to TEs. Knox has been targeted every single game. Since I'm fading the overpriced Jared Cook on Fan Duel ($6700!), I'll be selecting Knox and using my salary elsewhere.
Some might consider John Brown (DK $6300, FD $6600), who is currently 15th in terms of fantasy points among wide receivers. His prices however on both sites are not in line with that kind of production. On FanDuel in particular, the pricing is too low for a player who scored against All-Everything DB Chris Harris last week. Brown is becoming matchup-proof and makes for one of the best values at WR.
New Orleans at Atlanta, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC
While John Brown might offer the best value at wide receiver, I like others to produce even more, and that will come in the final game of the day. How fitting is it that its where "The Dirty Bird" originated? Because they saved the best game of the day for last. Any time these two teams tangle, we get fireworks. And I am expecting plenty of bombs and lasers in this one as both teams are top 10 in passing offense.
Michael Thomas (DK $9100, FD $9200) is by far the most expensive the player on the slate, but that's a premium I'm willing to pay. Despite all the improvements the Atlanta defense has made, Atlanta is still sixth in fantasy points allowed to WRs. We could talk about Thomas and his credentials all day, but I'll make it real simple why you should grab Thomas. He has 35 targets the last three weeks. A player getting that kind of action in a game like this is a lock for my lineups.
But I do like the receivers on the other side of this matchup too. The one that piques my interest the most, however, is Russell Gage (DK $4500, FD $5400), who is still underpriced despite seeing 10 targets on Sunday. And despite being Atlanta's No. 3 wide receiver, he was still on the field for 56 of Matt Ryan's 67 dropbacks last week. I will need those savings because I will be investing heavily in both quarterbacks from this game.
Drew Brees (DK $6800, FD $8500) will be the chalkiest of plays on the slate. A game by game breakdown (excluding Week 2 where he left early with a thumb injury) shows Brees throwing 2, 3, 0, 3, and 3 touchdown passes this year. That zero was against this same Atlanta defense in Week 10, but that is clearly an aberration. I am hoping that my fellow DFSers still recall that game and fade Brees. Atlanta is fifth in fantasy points allowed to QBs and just gave up a big game to Jameis Winston last week.
Matt Ryan (DK $6400, FD $7700) is an easy play as well. The Falcons are third in the NFL in passing offense while the Saints have allowed an average of 37 pass attempts versus just 21 rush attempts per game this season. With the Falcons a 7-point underdog in a game Vegas is projecting for nearly 50 points, I think we can easily count on more than 35 pass attempts, maybe even 50. That's important because in the six games where Ryan has attempted 36 or more passes, he has thrown for more than 300 yards. He's averaging close to two touchdowns a game and I think he definitely hits that mark before the turkey legs are handed out by the announcers.
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.