Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Thursday, 12:30 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 45 pts, Lions Total: 22.5 pts, Eagles Total 22.5 pts
The Eagles make for an appetizing target after last week's debacle against the Bucs, as Tampa's mostly tepid offense poured on 521 total yards in Philly's total and complete self destruction.
It wasn't the first time that the Eagles have hemorrhaged yardage. They're now allowing 374.4 yards per contest – seventh most in the league. Jameis Winston's Week 11 performance might lead one to deploy Matthew Stafford as a high-floor quarterback against the ghost of the Eagles' defense, but it's been on the ground that Philly has been atrocious. Winston, after all, didn't crack 250 yards.
Opponents are ripping of runs at a 5.3 YPC clip against the Eagles since the start of November, more than any team but Oakland. Only three teams see more rushing attempts against them every week. For as underwhelming as Ameer Abdullah has been for much of his rookie campaign, this is a prime matchup for the electric runner, and I think DFS gamers should take heed.
While I'm not sure I'm comfortable with Abdullah in cash lineups, I think he makes for a spectacular high-ceiling tournament option on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Abdullah saw 12 carries in Week 11 against the Raiders. He didn't do a whole lot with those dozen totes, but the mere fact that he has some sort of reasonable workload makes him a viable Week 12 option. Philly gave up 4.5 YPC on 77 carries before Doug Martin ripped them for more than 200 yards in Week 12. They're more than a little vulnerable.
No team allows more schedule adjusted fantasy points to receivers than the Eagles. Calvin Johnson, who once again had a ho-hum day at the office in Week 11 despite a favorable matchup, is tempting once again in this tilt. The Eagles have allowed more than 13 receptions to opposing wideouts eight times this season. Only Baltimore have given up more touchdowns to receivers in 2015. Calvin is a great bet to add to that trend on Thanksgiving Day.
What if I told you that the Detroit defense isn't the steaming pile of cow dung it appeared to be a few short weeks ago? The Lions have held opponents in check of late, including the Packers at home and the once-explosive Raiders offense. All that adds up to make me very bearish on the Eagles' offense in Week 12. Mark Sanchez was a full-blown disaster in his first start of 2015 and Sam Bradford doesn't exactly inspire confidence coming off of injury. I'm not sure I can plug and play any Philly options in cash lineups.
Darren Sproles continues to be a point of serious interest in Ryan Mathews misses another game after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. Sproles saw a whopping dozen targets in Mathews' absence last week, corralling eight balls for 74 yards and a score. He also saw nine carries. Sproles, available for a meager $3,600 on DraftKings, should easily meet his Week 12 DFS cost against a Lions defense that allows about five receptions per game to enemy backs.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, 4:30 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 45.5 pts, Panthers Total: 23.25 pts, Cowboys Total: 22.25 pts
I think the Cowboys' defense comes with a surprisingly high floor here. The Panthers, for as good as they've been, have allowed six or more fantasy points to opposing defenses in four of their past five tilts. We like to target inaccurate throwers, and that's precisely what we have in Cam Newton – the 31st most accurate quarterback in the NFL, just ahead of Johnny Manziel.
As mentioned in this space last week, it doesn't really matter that this is – on paper – a bad quarterback matchup for Newton. Last week was the same deal: Washington had limited opposing passers for much of 2015, and Newton managed a tidy 31.45 fantasy points. He's scored less than 20 fantasy points exactly twice through 11 weeks. Only Carson Palmer and Tom Brady are more reliable cash game options. If it's a floor you seek, Cam is your guy.
We've seen Jonathan Stewart thrive when the Panthers' passing game comes alive. I'm not sure that'll happen here. Dallas is 11th best in passing yards allowed. Here's what Stewart has going for him: he's played more than 70 percent of Carolina's offensive snaps for five weeks before the Washington game, which went into garbage time and saw JStew yanked from the lineup. I find it hard to totally ignore a talented runner like Stewart getting good run like that.
But the Cowboys see the 10th fewest rushing attempts in the NFL. This doesn't seem like a JStew game to me, but again, he doesn't need a touchdown to meet his DFS cost on DraftKings.
Tony Romo put up a serviceable 15.3 fantasy points in his return from injury. That included at least one – maybe two – dropped touchdowns against Miami. Romo played much better than his stat line looked. The Panters have brutalized opposing pass games all season, so this is not the week to shove in on Romo as your cash lineup quarterback. He'll be in one or two of my GPPs because I think he'll have low ownership and has nice upside.
Carolina gives up a surprising amount of production to enemy backs (26.6 adjusted fantasy points). Darren McFadden in Week 11 maintained his workhorse role despite a late-week injury (32 touches for 159 total yards). His price is still a tad suppressed, in my estimation, and his pass game involvement gives a big boost to his weekly floor. DMC has failed to score 16 fantasy points in just one of his past six contests. With Carolina's corners wreaking havoc on the outside, teams have often turned to the check down pass. McFadden should benefit.
It's worth noting that the Panthers have struggled against slot receivers all season. While Jamison Crowder failed to capitalize on that weakness in Week 11, several other slot guys have. Cole Beasley would be that guy for Dallas. Beasley dropped a would-be touchdown against the Dolphins in Week 11. He makes for a sensible throw-in receiver if you're playing a Thursday-only slate.
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears (Thursday, 8:30 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 47.5 pts, Packers Total: 28.75 pts, Bears Total: 18.75 pts
I'm not buying into Eddie Lacy's Week 11 performance as some sort of resurgence for the portly running back. Lacy took 22 carries for 100 yards, which is nice, but his 2015 play makes it near impossible to deploy him in cash games. Besides, Chicago allows the 11th fewest adjusted points to runners through Week 11.
With James Starks waiting in the wings and getting the bulk of passing down action for Green Bay, I won't have much – if any – exposure to Lacy here.
Aaron Rodgers managed 23 fantasy points on a tidy 23 throws in Week 1 against this Bears' defense, which has since given up just two more 20-point quarterback performances. They've also faced pretty weak competition, and were shredded by none other than Matthew Stafford. Rodgers, in this dysfunctional edition of the Packers' offense, isn't the confidence play he once was, but he's locked in as a very conservative signal caller option against Chicago. The Bears have allowed the fifth most touchdown passes this season.
I can't stomach Randall Cobb, even at his reduced DFS price. He has eclipsed 11 fantasy points once over the past five weeks. Even with a Week 11 touchdown, he managed just 10.4 PPR points. The matchup against the Bears isn't an awful one. It's also not overtly favorable. You can do better with receivers priced slightly above and below Cobb this week.
Green Bay's defense has allowed four tight end scores over the past five weeks. They're sneaky generous against opposing tight ends, now giving up the sixth most raw fantasy points to the position. Tight ends catch 5.9 balls per contest against Green Bay. Zach Miller's inexplicable emergence in Chicago's offense takes a little shine off of Martellus Bennett, but I still like Unicorn in this Turkey Day throw down.
Bennett, with the perpetually injured Alshon Jeffery on the shelf last week, saw six targets, catching just two. He drew three pass interference calls. I'm not going all in on Bennett against the Packers, but his DFS price point is awfully enticing. I think this game has high-scoring potential, making Bennett a slightly more appealing option. I think he's a no brainer if you're playing Thursday-only slates.
Jay Cutler has been (almost) immune to bad matchups in Adam Gase's offense, thought the absence of Jeffery puts a big damper on Cutty's weekly floor. Cutler, in five games with Alshon suited up this year, has averaged 23.5 fantasy points – about 5.5 more points than he averages without his big-bodied receiver. If Alshon is a full go on Thanksgiving night, I like Cutty a lot in cash contests. A mixture of safe passes and well-timed deep shots has kept Cutler from the meltdowns we've seen in recent seasons. I'm very much into a Cutler-Bennett stack for Thanksgiving Day slates.
Don't worry too much about the Bears being huge underdogs in this one. Cutler has scored 19.9 fantasy points in Chicago losses since the start of 2014. His floor should remain intact even if Vegas is right and the Packers dismantle the Bears.
Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 47.5 pts, Texans Total: 25.25 pts, Saints Total: 22.25 pts
Brian Hoyer, expected to be back from his Week 10 concussion, is the latest in the Saints sweepstakes, in which opposing quarterbacks good and bad put up crooked lines against New Orleans' secondary. Signal callers are notching 26.1 schedule adjusted fantasy points against the Saints – five more points than anyone else. Hoyer, priced ridiculously low on FanDuel and DraftKings, is as good a Week 12 cash play as Kirk Cousins was a Week 10 cash option against these Saints.
DeAndre Hopkins will smell of chalk this week. The dominant wideout, seeing 13.2 targets per contest, has as high a ceiling as any receiver all season long. New Orleans allows 12.7 yards per completion (second worst behind the Browns). Hopkins requires a massive investment, but I think you're outsmarting yourself if Nuk isn't a staple in your Week 12 cash lineups.
Jonathan Grimes has become a compelling low-cost play. Houston coaches have said they want the elusive back to be more involved. Grimes collected just nine touches last week against New York, but that included three catches on three targets. The Saints allow the seventh most receptions to opposing runners. In what could be another high scoring Saints contest, Grimes becomes a cheap running back with passing game upside that provides major cap flexibility.
Considering price, I'm more bullish about Hoyer in cash games than Brees. Houston isn't bad against opposing quarterbacks, and they've been a lot better of late. Brees, of course, is safer than almost anyone as the Saints have shifted to a game plan that includes trying to score lots of points. The Texans are allowing a league-low eight yards per completion over the past three weeks. Their opposition hasn't been stellar though.
Houston gives up the eighth most adjusted fantasy points to running backs. They also see opponents rush the ball 26.7 per game. It shapes up as a very positive story for Mark Ingram, who has averaged 4.9 YPC over his past three. He's not reliant on game script either (14 targets over that past three), so he's almost as safe as it gets at the running back position this week.