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Fantasy Football: Thanksgiving breakdown for Bills-Lions, Giants-Cowboys and Patriots-Vikings

Fantasy football analyst Chris Allen breaks down the Thanksgiving slate in Week 12 and shares the major points of interest.

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The Thanksgiving slate is here. I’ve got good food and football on tap for the day, but I couldn’t help myself and set a few daily fantasy lineups. Plus, we’ve all still got season-long teams to consider. So, I took a different approach this week. I’ve got the main storylines and points of interest for each game on Thursday.

Plus, I’ll throw out a couple of players I’m targeting based on the matchups. Regardless, I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday. Now, let’s get into the action.

Bills at Lions – So you’re saying there’s a chance?

Well, no. Not really.

Hindsight being 20/20, I can see how a team with Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook would beat the Bills. It took some magic, but I envisioned a competitive game.

I can’t see the same for this contest. But if I had a sliver of hope for the Lions, it’d be in my concern for the Bills’ passing game:

Buffalo started slow in Week 11 but eventually overtook Cleveland. However, Josh Allen’s UCL injury lingers in my mind. His touchdown throw to Stefon Diggs took a little too much strength for him to get it there. Of course, it’s just one play, and Allen was likely off-balance. But his 27 attempts (second-fewest of the season) were another sign things had changed for the Bills’ offense.

Bills pass rate over expectation for fantasy. (Data courtesy of nflfastr)

Bills pass rate over expectation for fantasy. (Data courtesy of nflfastr)

On the season, Allen is second in pass rate over expected (PROE). And yet, he had fewer dropbacks and only two designed runs against the Browns. Devin Singletary hit a season-high in rushing attempts. I, along with most of western New York, will be monitoring the Bills’ gameplan as it unfolds against Detroit. Allen shed the brace for their Tuesday walkthrough, but it’s unclear if he’ll play without it on Thanksgiving.

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If the elbow is still a problem, Dawson Knox is an excellent option for the Thursday slate. Allen’s 8.3 average depth of target (aDOT) hadn’t been that low since Week 6. As a result, Knox led the team with a 28.0 percent target per route run (TPRR) mark. Diggs and Gabriel Davis were still first in either target or air yard share, so they’ll be fine.

The Jets and Vikings (to a degree) could fall back on their defense to keep Buffalo’s weapons at bay. Detroit doesn’t have the same luxury. They’ve allowed a top-five finish to quarterbacks in three of their last four games. Unless Allen falters (he’s regressed in middle-of-the-field throws), we’ll need to see what the Lions’ offense can do to keep up. Detroit does have the chance to make some noise, as the Bills defense hasn’t been the same as they were at the start of the season.

Amon-Ra St. Brown is already in your starting lineup. If you want, you can throw a dart at Kalif Raymond’s 17.0% target share. But I’ll make a case for D’Andre Swift.

Since Week 6, Buffalo has allowed the sixth-most runs of 10 yards or more. Swift can still move out in the open field, but his real-time decision-making has been an issue. So, it’s not an injury keeping him in a rotation with Justin Jackson and Jamaal Williams dancing in the end zone. He needs to improve his skills as a rusher. However, with the Bills being 18th in rushing success rate, Detroit should look to their most-explosive option in the running game to keep their offense on track.

Short-handed Giants head south to face ridin’-high Cowboys

Fantasy analysts may brush aside Dak Prescott’s success after coming back from injury. He’s been a top-12 option but needed the rushing score to take over Week 8. But, to the football nerds, Prescott’s been playing lights out.

Ted provides an excellent breakdown of Tony Pollard’s touchdown catch against Minnesota. It’s one play, but it emphasizes how efficient Prescott has been. And his ability to execute is part of why we haven’t seen him light up the boxscore:

Quarterback efficiency, 2022

Quarterback efficiency, 2022. (Photo by rbsdm.com/stats)

You’re good if you see your quarterback’s name next to Patrick Mahomes or Tua Tagovailoa. And Prescott is up there with the best of them. He’s top five in EPA per play and CPOE, while Dallas operates with a balanced run-pass attack (-2% PROE). But Dak doesn’t have an alien arm like Mahomes nor the pass-catching duo of Tagovailoa. I’ll give Dallas OC Kellen Moore credit, as he’s kept things easy for his QB.

The Cowboys are sixth in play-action rate since Week 7. And it should be no surprise to see Prescott sixth in EPA per attempt using play action. Like on his pass to Pollard above, his combination of pinpoint accuracy and touch can turn an efficient concept into an explosive result.

Regardless, CeeDee Lamb is still the player to target in all formats. Interior receivers have slashed through the Giants’ defense for 71 yards per game. St. Brown just tagged them with a 7-76-0 stat line on eight targets Sunday. Tyler Lockett (8-63-1) and Christian Kirk (10-96-0) posted similar results in prior weeks.

The matchup lends itself to a boom week for Lamb, but the game environment may ultimately keep his production in check.

My eyes will be on how much of the passing game we’ll actually see. The Cowboys are 9.5-point favorites, and we know Jerry Jones’s feelings toward Ezekiel Elliott. Pollard’s 21 touches on Sunday may have been a changing of the guard. But still, we saw more rushing than passing attempts in a blow-out win. So, Prescott’s efficiency may be the only takeaway for the aerial attack unless the Giants can somehow put up a fight.

But I don’t even know who New York will send out to fight.

New York’s march to the playoffs now rests on the shoulders of Darius Slayton, Richie James, and … Kenny Golladay. Yes, I know. The team goes as Saquon Barkley goes. But Brian Daboll can’t build the whole plane out of designed attempts by Barkley and Daniel Jones.

Green Bay, however, did give them a possible blueprint that may work.

Aaron Rodgers hit a season-high play-action rate against Dallas. Meanwhile, Aaron Jones cruised past Micah Parsons and the rest of the defense for 138 yards and a touchdown. Barkley’s 30th in success rate on the season, while Jones is third. Simply put, Barkley’s a home-run hitter. But the Giants will need all the firepower they can get unless Daniel Jones can connect with his receivers.

Slayton is the best of the pass-catching options. At least he’s healthy, but his 2.48 YPRR is comparable to most WR1s. Jones has targeted Slayton on 44.4% of his routes from the slot. With Wan’Dale Robinson done for the season, Slayton becomes the team’s best receiver against the Cowboys’ secondary.

Playoff implications in primetime as Vikings host Patriots

No, I don’t think the Vikings are frauds. Like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle. But the Cowboys sure gave us something to talk about after Sunday:

Thursday’s biggest story is if the Vikings can rewrite the narrative coming off their Week 11 beatdown. Dallas pressured Kirk Cousins on 60.0% of his dropbacks.

No, not 6.0% — 60%. More than half.

Cousins took a career-high seven sacks with only 105 passing yards. And now he faces Bill Belichick in primetime. But if we’re talking about fraudulent teams, Minnesota isn’t the only one in the conversation.

Defensive series results. (Photo by nflfastR)

Defensive series results. (Photo by nflfastR)

New England’s defense has allowed the lowest rate of first downs or touchdowns this season. Belichick’s done it again: He’s somehow crafted a juggernaut defense capable of dragging their offense into the playoff picture.

But let’s rewind a bit.

In two of the last three weeks, they played turnover-prone Zach Wilson, who just got benched. Sandwiched between holding the Jets to a 28.6% third-down conversion rate, they got Frank Reich fired after limiting the Colts to 121 yards of total offense. It was a much-needed run for the Patriots. However, there were some concerns beforehand.

New England was 32nd in rushing success rate allowed through Week 7. We watched Justin Fields ascend in primetime against the Patriots. While Cousins does more of his dancing off-field than on, the Vikings rushing attack can help take the pressure off their quarterback.

Dalvin Cook is fourth in explosive runs via PFF. He’s also 21st in rushing success rate. While Minnesota is top 10 in PROE, their approach to New England’s defense is a point of interest for me. Chicago dropped 206 rushing yards on the Patriots, and Green Bay’s duo wasn’t too far behind at 183.

The team’s passing staples, from Justin Jefferson to T.J. Hockenson, will be in every lineup. But the running game will be the critical factor in how we view the Vikings as we get closer to the playoffs.

Conversely, the Patriots passing attack has value in DFS formats. I know you’ll see Mac Jones at the bottom of the very same chart I showed you about Dak. And Jones’s 5.4 air yards per attempt are greater than only Matt Ryan’s. So, I’ll clarify by pointing out an option flying under the radar.

Since Week 6, Jonnu Smith has been third in targets with a team-high 2.39 YPRR. Hunter Henry has the higher route participation (124 routes on 179 dropbacks), but Smith’s 28.1% TPRR more than doubles Henry’s (11.3%). Smith also has one fewer red-zone target.

Jakobi Meyers is and should be the popular play. However, Smith offers unique access to a passing game against the 22nd-ranked defense in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends.

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