Winning in the daily games is full of highs and lows. My goal has been to hang around long enough to one day pop a big score. Along the way, there are many days when I've questioned why I invest so much time and money into these crazy games. Ultimately, everyone needs something to occupy their mind, and playing fantasy sports is an excellent conversation starter with your friends.
It also gives a small player a chance at a great payday if their ticket comes in. Two weeks ago, I turned $900 into $240,000 as the stars aligned for me for a day. Unfortunately, I didn't make good lineup decisions in Week 11, leading to a $1,500 investment returning $30. It's easier climbing off the mat after a big win, but giving away money gets old quickly. Here's a look at some of the players for the Thanksgiving Day slate in the DFS market:
Buffalo Bills (-8.5) at Detroit Lions
Based on the over/under totals at SI Sportsbook, Bills-Lions is expected to be the highest-scoring game of the day. Josh Allen continues to be the best fantasy quarterback. His top-shelf price point requires more than 30.00 fantasy points just to be in the team-building thought process, something he hasn't done in the past for games. Allen has the highest ceiling on the board for his position, but his salary will force daily gamers to be creative at the back end of their roster. Stefon Diggs feels like a must with Allen, and a third piece of the Bills' offense may very well come in. Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox look favorably priced, but the Lions do have weakness defending the run. Devin Singletary tends to get overlooked due to his lack of scoring upside in most weeks, and there hasn't been an Isaiah McKenzie sighting since Week 3 (9/76/1).
For someone looking to play a Lions player or two against a Bills' stack, the easy choices would be Jamaal Williams (12 touchdowns) and Amon-Ra St. Brown. D'Andre Swift hasn't had more than 10 touches in a game since Week 1 (15/175/1 with three catches), but he does have a touchdown in three of his past four matchups. With Detroit playing on a short week, it didn't make sense for them to give him a heavy workload this past Sunday. A chaser game for the Lions bodes well for Swift. I need to find a way to get him in my lineups if I'm playing Allen and any of his receivers. St. Brown could be a beast, but his higher salary will force a team builder to take a weaker option at running back or throw two darts at their WR3 and flex positions.
Jared Goff is priced low enough to where 300 passing yards and two scores puts him in a winning range. His best two showings (256/4 and 378/4) came at home against Washington and Seattle, respectively. Over his past six starts, Goff passed for fewer than 240 yards in five contests while delivering one touchdown or less five times. Based on his home success, I have to keep an open mind with Goff, and Detroit will need to pass to win this matchup.
D.J. Chark was only on the field last week for 16% of the Lions' plays. Josh Reynolds hasn't played in three weeks with a back issue. If he starts, he could surprise with a reasonable salary. Kalif Raymond hasn't scored this year, but he has a floor of three catches over the past seven weeks.
Dallas Cowboys (-7.5) vs. New York Giants|
Over the previous three games, Tony Pollard has turned into a fantasy beast, leading to 464 combined yards with six touchdowns and 10 catches. Dallas had him on the field for 54% of their plays against the Vikings, compared to 29% by Ezekiel Elliott. The Giants' defense continues to have issues vs. the run (254/1,356/9 – 5.3 yards per rush), pointing to Pollard being rostered by many teams on Thursday. However, the Cowboys will still call on Elliott (15/42/2 against Minnesota) at the goal line, almost forcing Pollard to score from a longer range.
Dak Prescott has averaged 282 combined yards with eight scores over the past three games. He unlocked the keys to CeeDee Lamb (11/150/2) in Week 10, and Dalton Schultz raised his floor over the past month (20/199/1). Prescott’s ceiling has been hurt by the lack of production at WR2 and WR3. Michael Gallup (19/211/1 over seven games) doesn't look healthy. Based on his price point, Prescott needs 25.00 fantasy points to reach a playable fantasy number. If so, he offers salary cap relief. The tradeoff between Allen and Prescott is two stud wideouts for a Dallas stack, with a similar backend of the roster.
Noah Brown is a viable cheat at WR3. Dallas had him on the field for 75% of their snaps over the past two games while remaining the wide receiver with the second-most playing time for the Cowboys.
In season-long contests, I have the Dallas defense on many rosters and I always look to see where they are priced in the DFS market. Linebacker Micah Parsons has five games with two sacks. Trevon Diggs remains a difference-maker despite only having three interceptions (11 in 2021). Daniel Jones has a history of turning over the ball, but he has been better this season. The Giants continue to have a weakness with their receiver options, and Wan'Dale Robinson tore his ACL last week. Jones is an easy avoid on Thursday, and I can't expect much from his receiving corps other than a dart at the backend of the roster due to possible salary cap relief.
In Week 3, Saquon Barkley gained 126 combined yards with a touchdown and four catches against the Cowboys. Dallas can be beaten at times on the ground (288/1,361/6 – 4.7 yards per rush). If the Cowboys' coaching staff tries to replicate how Detroit slowed down Barkley in Week 11, he should have another below-par game while falling well short of his value needed in the daily market. I will let him beat me on Thursday by leaving him off my rosters.
Minnesota Vikings (-3) vs. New England Patriots
The Patriots' passing game and receiving options should be the wild card on Thursday’s slate. Mac Jones doesn't look like much of a quarterback option based on his production over his past three starts (194/1, 147/1, 246/0), but his completion rate (72.8%) over this span grades well. In addition, he gained 9.1 yards per pass play in Week 11. The Vikings rank in the bottom 25% of the league in quarterback defense, giving Jones a chance to surprise while ranking sixth in quarterback cost.
Jakobi Meyers brings volume upside if New England is forced to chase on the scoreboard. Last week, Nelson Agholor finished with WR2 snaps for the first time since Week 4. His only game of value (6/110/1) came in the second week of the season. DeVante Parker (40%), Kendrick Bourne (38%) and Tyquan Thornton (27%) rotated playing time.
Rhamondre Stevenson will be a popular running back option based on his overall opportunity and three-down ability. Over the previous four games, he had 28 targets, leading to 24 catches for 197 yards and one touchdown. However, running room has been a problem over this span (57/196/1 – 3.4 yards per carry). New England still has a capable backup option (Damien Harris) who ran the ball well last week (8/65) with some value catching the ball (2/28). His salary isn't cheap enough to cheat the RB2 position, but he may surprise.
The Patriots have two tight ends on the field for many plays, but Hunter Henry (20/260/1) and Jonnu Smith (20/194) rarely produce playable stats. Minnesota played better against tight ends over the last three weeks, but they did show more risk earlier in the season. I could see Henry scoring this week.
Kirk Cousins had no time to throw last week, and the Cowboys' defense sacked him seven times. He still doesn't have a game with more than two passing touchdowns while gaining over 300 yards only once. Despite his shortcomings, the Vikings have thrown the ball more than 40 times in five of their 10 matchups. His completion total helps the floor of his receiving options, but they can't pay off without more scores.
Their stud wideout Justin Jefferson is on pace to set career-highs in catches (122) and receiving yards (1,858) while trailing expectations in touchdowns (4). New England has a top-five defense against wide receivers, but defending Jefferson is different. I expect him to be active with a touchdown, but his salary commands a second score or more than 150 yards receiving to work. Adam Thielen will catch some balls, but he hasn't scored in a month, with only four of his 45 receptions gaining more than 20 yards. His price point makes sense but Thielen doesn't have a 20-point fantasy game all year.
K.J. Osborn tends to be on the field for 75% of the Vikings' plays, but his only playable game (5/73/1) came in Week 3.
A blowout loss vs. the Cowboys led to Dalvin Cook only seeing the field for 60% of Minnesota's plays. He saw his five-game scoring streak end in Week 11 while looking sharper against the Cardinals (20/111/1 with five catches for 30 yards) and Bills (14/119/1 with three catches for 27 yards). His floor should be higher than every back Thursday except Barkley, but I don't see an impact ceiling unless Cook hits on a long touchdown. His higher salary may lead to him being on a lower-than-expected number of rosters in Week 11.
T.J. Hockenson has three games under his belt as a Viking (21 catches for 149 yards while averaging 9.3 targets). He appears to be Minnesota's second option in the passing game. His next step in growth is improving the length of his catches (7.1 with the Vikings, compared to 15.2 in Detroit). His expected outlook makes sense when adding in his salary but most fantasy managers will punt the tight end on Thursday to improve their running back and wide receiver options.
Here's a look at my team:
QB Josh Allen
RB Tony Pollard, Rhamondre Stevenson, D’Andre Swift
WR Stefon Diggs, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor
TE Dawson Knox