Jon will have the overall Week 12 start/sit post ready to go for tomorrow morning, but with three games on Thanksgiving Thursday I thought it might be helpful to do a special start/sit column for those games.
So in this post I’ll do just that, providing analysis and recommendations for the key players you need to decide on before Turkey Day.
Quickly, before I get to the start/sit analysis for the Thanksgiving Day games, I want to tell you about a fun fantasy contest from our friends at Daily Joust. They are hosting a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Shootout that uses only players playing on Thanksgiving Day in the player pool, has a $5 entry free, and $300 guaranteed prize pool. Plus, not only is it a Super Joust Qualifier, but you can submit multiple entries.
I plan on joining. I’ll post my team later in the week. Are you up to the challenge? Click here. (And yes, if you sign up, it helps us out. But we wouldn’t promote it if we didn’t play ourselves.)
Now onto the start/sit picks.
Fantasy Football Thanksgiving Day Start/Sit Quarterbacks
Start em QB: Matt Moore, Miami (at Dallas)
Over the last three weeks, few quarterbacks not named Rodgers have been as consistently good in both real life and fantasy football as Matt Moore. He has six touchdown passes and has been intercepted just once. That’s solid, consistent production that we can somewhat count on.
Granted, he did all of this against Kansas City, Washington, and Buffalo, so this matchup against Dallas will be the best defense Moore has faced in a month. But the Cowboys are better against the run than they are the pass, and Rex Grossman threw for 250+ yards and two TDs on them last week.
Moore isn’t an automatic start like the three QBs mentioned below are, but he is a solid play with upside in two-QB leagues or for anyone stuck with Joe Flacco.
Matt Moore fantasy football Thanksgiving Day projection: 225 yards passing, 1 TD, 0 INT
Other start em QBs:
- Hopefully I don’t need to tell you to start Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. I haven’t looked at the other matchups, but those two guys may be the #1 and #2 QBs this week.
- It’s still November, which means that Mr. November Tony Romo is still a very good start. He’s hot, and while the Dolphins are playing well they haven’t faced a QB of Romo’s caliber during their win streak.
Sit em QB: Alex Smith, San Francisco (at Baltimore)
Alex Smith has been playing the best football of his career this year; and while I know the Ravens gave up a lot of passing yardage to Andy Dalton and the Bengals last week, they also picked Dalton off three times. I expect the Harbaugh Bowl to be a low scoring, physical affair; and I want no part of Alex Smith against a motivated Ravens defense playing at home in primetime against a team you know they won’t take lightly.
So even though Andy Bottoms likes Smith long-term in his Week 12 waiver wire pickups column, wait a week before deploying him in your lineup.
Alex Smith fantasy football Thanksgiving Day projection: 200 yards passing, 0 TD, 0 INT
Other sit em QBs:
- I don’t like Joe Flacco against the stout 49ers’ defense. I’d play him before I’d play Smith, but I’d hope to need neither.
Fantasy Football Thanksgiving Day Start/Sit Running Backs
Start em RB: Kevin Smith, Detroit (v Green Bay)
Well…that came out of nowhere.
Last Sunday during the live chat, I was telling everyone who would listen that I thought a Detroit running back was a good play because of the matchup against Carolina. Turns out I was right, but it also turns out I had the wrong Detroit running back. Rather than Maurice Morris, it was Kevin Smith who made his triumphant return to the Motor City and amassed 200+ total yards and three TDs.
Is Smith for real? I don’t know. Carolina is one of the most generous defenses to opposing running backs. That said, Smith is the guy now in Detroit, certainly until Jahvid Best gets back. Additionally, of all the defenses playing on Thanksgiving Green Bay’s actually gives up the most points to opposing RBs. Just ask LeGarrette Blount.
I wouldn’t get too excited about Smith…yet…but if you win him in this week’s most hotly contested waiver wire battle, feel good about deploying him on Thanksgiving.
Kevin Smith fantasy football Thanksgiving Day projection: 80 yards rushing, 3 receptions, 40 yards, 1 TD
Other start em RBs:
- Frank Gore looked healthy and spry last week, and he faces a Baltimore defense that gave up two scores to Cedric Benson. If Gore plays, you start him. It’s that simple.
- Do you know the Dolphins are the second stingiest defense in terms of fantasy points scored by opposing running backs? It’s true. Still, I’d start DeMarco Murray. He is the focal point of the Cowboys’ offense now, and I think they’ll put up numbers against Miami.
- I thought about making Ray Rice the sit ‘em RB, but I just can’t. Even though San Francisco has given up a whopping total of zero rushing touchdowns this year, they have had a game in which they allowed 14 receptions by Roy Helu. Baltimore has to get their best player involved on offense, and while I expect Rice’s numbers to depressed by the 49ers’ suffocating do, I do think Rice can have enough impact yardage-wise and catching passes to be at least a strong flex play.
- Reggie Bush has scored a touchdown in three straight games, and in the fourth game he had over 100 yards rushing. So he’s been productive, even though his yard per touch rate has decreased the last two weeks. While Dallas is very good at stopping opposing running backs, Bush remains a solid flex play because Miami is finding creative ways to use him around the goalline.
Sit em RB: James Starks, Ryan Grant, et al, Green Bay (at Detroit)
The two-headed running back monster of James Starks and Ryan Grant simply isn’t much of a monster at all. They rarely, if ever, score touchdowns. They don’t rack up great yardage totals to offset the dearth of TD production. And John Kuhn and BJ Raji vulture all the goalline carries.
Plus, Starks is dinged up, and the Detroit defense has been improving some when it comes to holding down opposing running backs. They are in the top half in terms of points allowed. I’d look elsewhere, even if Grant gets the starting job all to himself with Starks out.
James Starks/Ryan Grant fantasy football Thanksgiving Day projection: 75 total yards, 5 receptions, 30 yards
Other sit em RBs:
- Kendall Hunter still has value long-term, especially as a handcuff for Frank Gore owners, but he doesn’t get enough carries as Gore’s backup to warrant starting.
- Maurice Morris…great last name buddy, but enjoy your parting gifts.
- Daniel Thomas is still the running back of the future for Miami, but Reggie Bush is the one scoring touchdowns. Against a stingy Dallas defense, Thomas is probably not worth playing.
- Felix Jones is back. *crickets* On six touches last week he delivered an “explosive” 22 yards. Keep him on your bench. DeMarco Murray is the guy in Dallas now.
Fantasy Football Thanksgiving Day Start/Sit Wide Receivers
Start em WR: Torrey Smith, Baltimore (v San Francisco)
You know I’m not big on rookie wide receivers, but I do warm to them later in the season when they prove they can be trusted. Torrey Smith is earning that trust.
Smith had a huge clutch TD against Pittsburgh that built his QB’s faith in him, and then popped for 6 catches, 165 yards, and a TD in a key divisional battle last week. I know that a 3-catch, 28-yard dud against Seattle is sandwiched in there, but Smith is getting the targets and hasn’t caught fewer than three balls since Week 6. There is some risk/reward with him as a deep threat, but the reward is worth it.
And don’t get too scared off by the San Fran defense when it comes to Smith and his buddy Anquan Boldin. Because the 49ers are so stout against the run, teams often take to throwing on them. The 49ers are actually in the bottom half of the league in terms of points allowed to opposing WRs.
Torrey Smith fantasy football Thanksgiving day projection: 4 receptions, 85 yards, 1 TD
Other start em WRs:
- Michael Crabtree and Alex Smith are developing a nice rapport. He may not get into the end zone, but he’ll rack up at least 5-6 catches and 60-70 yards, with upside for more.
- With Miles Austin likely out again, both Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson are top-25 wide receivers.
- Jordy Nelson, even though it goes without saying at this point. Also, keep playing Greg Jennings. I know his last few games have been less than what we expect, but do you really want your Thanksgiving to be ruined because he popped for 100 yards and a TD? No, you don’t.
- I’m not quite sure where that 1-catch dud in Week 11 by Brandon Marshall came from, but it’s the only game this year he’s had fewer than four catches. He stays in your lineup.
- ‘Tron. Also Nate Burleson, who has two straight excellent games and faces the inviting Packers’ defense this week.
Sit em WR: James Jones, Green Bay (at Detroit)
Jones flashed his potential in weeks 3-7 when he averaged 3+ catches and 62 yards per game to go along with three touchdowns. However, in the three games since then Jones has caught just two total passes. This has coincided with Jordy Nelson becoming the most explosive receiver in the NFL, and though I don’t watch Green Bay games I have to think there is some level of causation to that correlation.
I know you’ll be tempted to play Jones because it’s Thanksgiving – and he certainly has TD potential any week, any play – but the targets just aren’t there to justify it right now; plus, Detroit is actually the second-stingiest defense for opposing wide receivers playing on Thanksgiving (after Dallas).
James Jones fantasy football Thanksgiving day projection: 2 receptions, 35 yards, 0 TD
Other sit em WRs:
- I don’t like any Dolphins receiver not named Brandon Marshall.
- Lee Evans is supposedly back for Baltimore. Whoop-de-doo. Torrey Smith stole his role as deep threat.
- Braylon Edwards let a touchdown slip right through his fingers last week. You can’t start him until he proves he can make an impact.
Fantasy Football Thanksgiving Day Start/Sit Tight Ends
Start em TE: Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit (v Green Bay)
The Chicago Bears give up the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Do you know who is second? The Green Bay Packers. This makes Pettigrew an automatic start this week, as does his consistency.
No, Pettigrew has not been as explosive lately as he was earlier in the season, but he’s caught at least three balls in every game but one this year, and he remains a redzone target as he scored a TD last week.
Brandon Pettigrew fantasy football Thanksgiving day projection: 5 receptions, 70 yards, 1 TD
Other start em TEs:
- The Ravens are actually the stingiest defense against opposing tight ends, so you’re forewarned; still, I’d start Vernon Davis. He’s becoming more and more involved in the passing game, and he has scored in two straight weeks. He’s not an automatic start, but unless you have a top-10 alternative I’d keep him in there.
- Jason Witten. ‘Nuff said.
Sit em TE: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay (at Detroit)
Remember when Jermichael Finley was supposed to be the next Antonio Gates? Since that time, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski have clearly passed him, along with Aaron Hernandez and even the likes of Jermaine Gresham. Finley has talent, but the targets and touchdowns just aren’t there. Plus, Detroit is pretty stingy to opposing tight ends.
Finley has immense potential every week, but it’s crunch time. You need guaranteed production from the tight end spot. I’d look elsewhere but hang onto Finley for depth.
Jermichael Finley fantasy football Thanksgiving day projection: 2 receptions, 30 yards, 0 TD
Other sit em TEs:
- Ed Dickson came out of nowhere to score two TDs two weeks ago against Seattle. That game is sandwiched between games in which Dickson averaged two catches and 15 yards. San Fran is solid against tight ends thanks to the marvelous Patrick Willis. You can do better.
- Anthony Fasano has scored four touchdowns over his last four games, but in three of those games he had only two receptions. Dallas is pretty stingy to opposing TEs. Again, you can do better.
Fantasy Football Thanksgiving Day Start/Sit D/STs
Start em D/ST: San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens
I like both defenses in this game. San Fran is #1 in the league in points allowed (14.5 per game) and Baltimore is #3 (17.6). Plus, neither team’s QB exactly inspires confidence. So expect a physical, low-scoring game, with both defenses looking to make the play that turns the tide and wins it.
If you happen to have both defenses, the edge goes to San Francisco because of the added dimension and potential Ted Ginn brings in the return game.
San Francisco 49ers fantasy football Thanksgiving day projection: 14 or fewer points, 3+ sacks, 2 turnovers
Baltimore Ravens fantasy football Thanksgiving day projection: 14 or fewer points, 2+ sacks, 1 turnover
Other start em D/STs:
- The Dallas defense isn’t an automatic start, not after giving up 24 points to Sexy Rexy and the Rexskins, but they are a decent play against Miami.
Sit em D/ST: Miami Dolphins (at Dallas)
I know that the Miami defense has been very good lately, especially last week against Buffalo, but this Dallas offense is light years better than Buffalo’s. Miami has faced Matt Cassel, John Beck, and Ryan Fitzpatrick during their three-game winning streak. This week they face at hot Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Laurent Robinson in Cowboys Stadium. That’s not favorable.
Miami Dolphins fantasy football Thanksgiving Day projection: 24 or more points, 1 sack, 1 turnover
Other sit em D/STs:
- Is there anyone who doesn’t expect a shootout in Detroit? Though both defenses have weekly sack and TD potential, it’s a safe bet to expect 60+ points in this game. I wouldn’t want either D playing for me (but Green Bay would be the choice if I had to play one.)
I’m looking back on my selections, and I just realized I told you to sit a wide receiver and a tight end in what could be the highest-scoring Thanksgiving Day game ever. I’m not re-thinking either suggestion though. The potential is there, but the production just hasn’t been evident on the field to make me trust either Jones or Finley. We’ll see how those picks work out.
And don’t forget about the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Shootout. Click here to enter and make your Thanksgiving Day of football even more exciting.
Jon will be here tomorrow with start/sit advice on the rest of the Week 12 action. The comment section is open for your questions. Try to keep this thread Thanksgiving-specific if you can…although I guess it doesn’t really matter.
Good luck and happy Thanksgiving to all!