The Primer: Thanksgiving Day Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
We understand that many of you have plenty of players to consider on Thursday this week. Because of that, we wanted to give you information as quickly as possible on the games that’ll be taking place on Thanksgiving Day. The full version of The Primer will be available on Thursday morning, as it usually is. Until then, enjoy the Thanksgiving Day previews.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Line: CHI by 3.5
Mitch Trubisky: Some will see his stat line from last week and think he was below average. While there were a few bad throws, his performance overall was solid, though his receivers didn’t help him out, dropping three passes. The Lions are a team he’s played well against over the last two years, as his two performances against them have netted 173 yards and three touchdowns (Week 10 of this year), and 355 yards and three touchdowns (Week 10 of last year). The Lions did hold Dwayne Haskins touchdown-less in Week 12, though that’s not really saying much. It was just the second time this season they’ve held a quarterback outside the top-12 against them. Trubisky was one of just two quarterbacks to throw for less than 259 yards against them, though that was due to the lack of attempts (26), as his 7.52 yards per attempt was solid. It’s apparent that Matt Nagy’s offense matches up well with the Lions defense, though it’s the second divisional meeting of the year between the two, which can always net odd results. It appears the Lions have tightened up their run defense over the last three weeks, so it’ll be on Trubisky to move the ball down the field. He’s certainly in the streaming conversation, though we’ve seen 50 shades of Trubisky in 2019. The good news is that he was rushing the ball a bit last week, totaling a season-high seven rushing attempts for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Jeff Driskel: It would appear that it’ll be Driskel under center once again in Week 13, as there’ve been reports about the Lions shutting down Matt Stafford for the remainder of the season, which would make sense. He’s been a bit hit-or-miss in his three starts, completing just 59.0 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The upsetting part for fantasy is that he’s coming off his worst performance of the year, despite it being the best matchup of the year. He completed just 20-of-33 passes for 207 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions against the Redskins. He’s now dealing with a hamstring injury that may reportedly keep him out of this game. The Bears have not been a matchup to attack with streaming quarterbacks, despite their lackluster pass-rush as of late. They’ve yet to allow a 20-point performance to a quarterback, while allowing just three quarterbacks to finish as top-15 options against them. Driskel was one of them just a few weeks ago, though a late 47-yard touchdown pass in garbage time to Golladay is what got him there. Outside of that, he totaled just 222 yards and no touchdowns. The important thing to note with Driskel is that if he loses his mobility, he’s not worth considering in fantasy. He’s totaled 151 yards and one touchdown on the ground over three games, but with a hamstring injury, it seems unlikely he’ll be doing much running at all. The Bears have allowed at least one touchdown pass in 8-of-11 games but have allowed multiple passing touchdowns just three times. That’s not enough to count on Driskel, even if he suits up. *Update* He’s not expected to play in this game, as David Blough will get the start with Driskel serving as the emergency backup.
David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen: It hasn’t been the greatest three-week period for the Bears backfield, as they’ve combined for just 191 yards on 62 carries (3.08 yards per carry) and no rushing touchdowns over the last three games. Montgomery is clearly back in the early-down role, as his ankle injury is a thing of the past. Opponents have seemingly told the Bears they’re going to force Trubisky to beat them, and it’s likely to continue here. The Lions run defense has been solid the last three weeks, holding the combination of Montgomery/Cohen, Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard, and Derrius Guice/Adrian Peterson to just 190 yards on 58 carries (3.28 yards per carry) with one touchdown. They have allowed 13 receptions for 126 yards and three touchdowns through the air, though. Montgomery has seen between 3-5 targets in four of the last five games, so he’s involved there. We also cannot forget the first eight games of the year for the Lions where they allow more fantasy points to running backs than any team in football. It’s odd, but the Lions have allowed seven rushing touchdowns at home this year while allowing just three of them on the road. There have now been 13 running backs who’ve finished top-24 against the Lions, making it likely the Bears walk out of this game with one, and knowing Montgomery gets the goal-line work (13-of-14 carries available inside 5-yard-line have gone to him), he’s the best bet as a mid-to-low-end RB2. Knowing the recent struggles of the Lions against pass-catching backs (they’ve allowed a league-high 2.06 PPR points per target to running backs), Cohen should also be on the RB3 radar. With the lack of tight end in the offense, Cohen has turned into the James White of this offense, seeing 19 targets over the last three weeks, which have netted 16/87/2. If the Bears are missing both Gabriel and Braunecker (like most expect), it only clears up more targets for the shifty running back.
Bo Scarbrough and J.D. McKissic: It’s good to know the Lions are going to use Scarbrough as their early-down running back, as it clears up some of the confusion on a weekly basis. The bad news is that he’ll be difficult to trust without a role in the passing game. He’s totaled 32 rushing attempts over the last two games, but hasn’t caught a single pass, crushing his fantasy floor. The Bears have slowly started to adjust to life without Akiem Hicks up the middle, allowing just 233 rushing yards on 70 carries (3.33 yards per carry) over the last three weeks, though they’re still struggling when opponents get near the goal-line, as they’ve allowed nine rushing touchdowns over their last seven games. Is it wise to trust Scarbrough to find the end zone against them? Here are the points they’ve allowed to opponents over the last five games: 14-17-13-22-17. That doesn’t give him the best of odds. Knowing he’s gamescript-dependent, he should be considered a middling RB3 who needs to score to be more than that. The good news is that the Bears haven’t blown out any opponent in recent memory, meaning Scarbrough should at least present a decent floor. McKissic and Ty Johnson have touched the ball a combined 18 times over the last two games, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of predictable production.
Allen Robinson: It was good to see Robinson bounce-back after horrendous outings in two of the last three games. He tallied 131 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in a day that could’ve been a lot bigger had Robinson chose a better path after the catch, as well as a 60-yard play that was called back due to penalty. It was his first 100-yard game since back in Week 1, though he came close in the first matchup with the Lions, hauling in 6-of-9 passes for 86 yards. The matchup with Darius Slay is not an ideal one, but it is an opportunity for Trubisky to target Robinson in one-on-one coverage, which is something he’ll do regularly, relying on the receiver to win contested catches. Slay has allowed just a 51 percent catch-rate in his coverage this year, so volume is necessary. The only other true No. 1 perimeter-based receiver to post more than 12 PPR points against the Lions was Stefon Diggs, who tallied 7/142/0 in a game Slay had to leave early. You are going to play Robinson every week, but this is a game where we may want to lower expectations into the low-end WR2 territory.
Taylor Gabriel: After seeing 14 targets against the Rams, Gabriel saw just three targets in the Bears win over the Giants. They didn’t have Janoris Jenkins shadow Robinson, which made Gabriel less attractive. The Lions are going to use Darius Slay on Robinson in this game, no doubt about that. That means Gabriel would be seeing a lot of Rashaan Melvin (didn’t practice on Tuesday), who has struggled quite a bit. Over their last 10 games, he’s allowed 36-of-52 passing for 548 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a bigger cornerback at 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, so he could be someone the Bears try to exploit, though they didn’t target him much in the first meeting. Gabriel is a wildcard, as he’s been targeted six-plus times in four of his last seven games, but his recent issues with drops could drop him down the totem pole. He should be considered a boom-or-bust WR5, though someone who makes sense in tournaments on Thanksgiving Day. *Update* Gabriel is still in the concussion protocol and not expected to play on Thanksgiving. If you’re looking for his replacement for DFS showdown purposes, Javon Wims would be the receiver who’d see the biggest increase in snaps.
Anthony Miller: There haven’t been many receivers more frustrating than Miller. Not because of his play but because of his inconsistent target share. There’ve been seven games he’s totaled 1-3 targets, while he’s seen seven-plus targets in the other four games. It’s like there’s no in-between. The last time they played the Lions, he saw just two targets. There have been 12 wide receivers who’ve totaled 14.0 or more PPR points against the Lions, with seven of them being slot-heavy receivers, which Miller is. Justin Coleman started out the year strong, but has really struggled as of late, allowing 44-of-64 passing for 625 yards and six touchdowns in his coverage over the last nine games. This is not a question of whether Miller can win the matchup, but more on whether he gets the targets. Consider him a WR4/5 who has a wide range of outcomes, but one who can benefit from Darius Slay shadowing Robinson. If Gabriel sits this game out (like many are expecting), Miller’s target floor raises considerably and he can be safely moved into the top-40 conversation as someone who’ll be leaned on. Miller has one 100-yard game in his short NFL career and it came against Matt Patricia’s defense last year.
Kenny Golladay: We’re now three games into the Jeff Driskel experiment, and it’s amounted to 18 targets, eight receptions, 152 yards, and one touchdown. That’s not great for someone who’s relied on as a WR2. The Bears are the team he scored the touchdown against, as it was a 47-yard touchdown late in the game. He hasn’t had trouble against the Bears over the last two years, as he’s finished with 6/78/1, 5/90/0, and 3/57/1 in his matchups against them. Crazy stat: The Bears have allowed 20 performances of 14-plus PPR points to wide receivers since the start of 2018, with Golladay accounting for 15 percent of them (three). This all comes down to Driskel targeting him a bit more, as Golladay can win the matchups with Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. Knowing there’s been just two games all year where he’s seen less than seven targets, you must continue plugging him in as a low-end WR2.
Marvin Jones: He hasn’t skipped a beat with Driskel as the starter and has actually become the most targeted receiver on the team. He’s seen 22 targets in the three Driskel starts, netting 14 receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He had no issue finding holes in the Bears defense a few weeks back, hauling in 5-of-6 targets for 77 yards. We still can’t ignore the fact that the Bears have allowed just six wide receivers to top 12.7 PPR points against them this year, which is typically a number that’s required to get into top-30 territory. They’ve allowed just five receiver touchdowns on the year, which is what Jones typically relies on to get into the top-24 conversation. The good news for Jones and Golladay is that the Bears have defended the slot extremely well, and Bo Scarbrough isn’t involved in the passing game at all, which means the targets should flow through the duo. He should be considered a mid-to-low-end WR3 this week who may finally take a backseat to Golladay.
Ben Braunecker: He’s seen seven targets over the last two games with Trey Burton on injured reserve, though they haven’t amounted to much. He should’ve had a long touchdown last week, but he dropped a surefire touchdown pass down the seam from Trubisky. It’s not going to help him get more targets moving forward. The Lions have allowed a rather-large 8.85 yards per target to tight ends, which is bottom-five in the league, but in the end, you need targets to make those numbers useful. We know Braunecker won’t get there, and the offense hasn’t scored more than 20 points since back in Week 7, making a touchdown somewhat unlikely. He’s not a recommended streamer. *Update* He’s still in concussion protocol and not expected to play in this game.
T.J. Hockenson: Everyone will see Logan Thomas‘ production from last week and wonder what happened to Hockenson, but looking at their snaps in route, Hockenson ran 28 of them while Thomas ran just six routes. It was not something that’ll happen moving forward. Unfortunately, Hockenson hasn’t been reliable in general. He’s failed to record more than three receptions in nine of his last 10 games and has topped 32 yards just once during that stretch. If he does have a big game, it’ll be hard to project. The Bears haven’t been a team to find a big game against, as they’ve allowed just one tight end to record more than 47 yards against them all season, and that was Zach Ertz who saw 11 targets. This is similar to the Bears defense last year that allowed just one tight end to top 49 yards, and that was George Kittle who saw 12 targets. Knowing Hockenson has totaled just four targets over the last two games, he’s nothing more than a middling TE2.
Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys
Line: DAL by 6.5
Josh Allen: His five-game stretch without an interception ended in Week 12, but he was still able to put together a rock-solid fantasy outing against a top-five defense. He’s now rushed for 56 yards in each of his last two games, which set a season-high. This is similar to what happened last year where he started running more often late in the year. You’d have to go way back to Week 4 to find the last time he finished with less than 17 fantasy points. Now on to another tough test against the Cowboys, who’ve yet to allow a quarterback to throw for more than two touchdowns. That shouldn’t stop Allen, though, as he’s not someone who relies on touchdown passes for the majority of his points. He’s thrown more than two touchdowns just once all season and sits as the No. 6 quarterback in fantasy. The Cowboys have allowed 50-plus rushing yards to both Jeff Driskel and Daniel Jones over the last month, highlighting their vulnerability against mobile quarterbacks. They are also likely to be without top linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, which certainly doesn’t hurt Allen’s appeal. Still, the ceiling isn’t as great as some would hope, as the Cowboys have not allowed a single quarterback to finish better than the QB5 since the start of the 2018 season, and have allowed just six quarterbacks to finish better than the QB12 over the span of 27 games. Allen should be locked into the low-end QB1 conversation as someone who comes with a high floor in a tough matchup.
Dak Prescott: It was a game to forget for everyone involved in the Cowboys/Patriots game, as the playing conditions were less-than-ideal. Still, it was worrisome to see Prescott struggle so much against a good defense. He’s about to go into a tough matchup with the Bills this week, a team that has allowed just seven passing touchdowns all season. There’s been just one game this year where they’ve allowed more than one passing touchdown. Oddly enough, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the only quarterback who’s thrown for 250 yards against them. His QB10 finish in Week 7 was the best performance they’ve allowed all season long, which is eerily similar to the way they were last year when they allowed just three quarterbacks to finish as top-12 options. The way to attack the Bills is on the ground, which is why teams run passing plays just 54.9 percent of the time while at home against them (9th-lowest percentage). Knowing they need to get back in the win column, the Cowboys should be limiting mistakes and moving through Ezekiel Elliott in this game. That will ultimately lower the floor of Prescott, and we know the ceiling is extremely limited against the Bills. Unless Prescott rushes for a touchdown, he’s unlikely to finish inside the top-10 this week. Consider him a high-end QB2 who is likely to disappoint.
Devin Singletary and Frank Gore: The trend continued in Week 12, where Singletary out-touched Gore. He’s now totaled 72 touches over the last four games while Gore has totaled just 44 touches. It also doesn’t hurt that Singletary has averaged 5.0 yards per carry in that time. The Cowboys have struggled to stop the run over their last three games against the Vikings, Lions, and Patriots. Those teams combined for 326 yards on 79 carries (4.13 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. The loss of Leighton Vander Esch doesn’t help, as he was forced to miss the Week 12 game against the Patriots, which allowed Sony Michel to look competent, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. The question comes down to how many touches are available with this timeshare. The Cowboys opponents have averaged 26.7 running back touches per game, which is middle-of-the-pack, but if you start getting into game theory, the Cowboys are likely to be in the lead (6.5-point favorites), which would benefit Singletary’s role as the primary pass-catcher. Despite allowing 68 receptions and 527 yards to running backs, the Cowboys have yet to allow a receiving touchdown to them. Eventually, things average out. Singletary should be played as a low-end RB2 with some upside. Gore is nothing more than a low-upside RB4.
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard: It appears the Cowboys want to get back to their old ways with Elliott, as he’s now totaled at least 18 touches in each of the last six games, including 22-plus touches in five of them. The Bills are the perfect team for him to get on Thanksgiving, as they’ve been a reverse funnel defense this year. They’ve allowed just seven passing touchdowns all season but have allowed eight rushing touchdowns. Including the two touchdowns quarterbacks have rushed for, we’re talking about 15 touchdowns total they’ve allowed. Running backs have accounted for 10 of them (8 rushing, 2 receiving). Even going back to last year, running backs scored 21 of the 42 touchdowns available. With the Cowboys implied team total sitting at 26.8 points, Elliott should have a great opportunity to score at least once in this game. He should be locked into lineups as an RB1 and makes for a great play on the Thanksgiving Day DFS slate. Pollard has been getting mixed-in as of late and has totaled 13 touches over the last two weeks, though his touches are reliant on the fact that the Cowboys run a lot of plays. The Bills opponents have averaged just 60.7 plays per game, so it may be tough to rack up the 30-plus touches for running backs in this game. Pollard is someone who’s shown some explosion in his limited role, and the Bills have allowed 16 different running backs to finish as top-36 options, so it’s not crazy to use him as an upside RB4 this week in a pinch.
John Brown: As expected, he struggled for much of the game against Chris Harris Jr., though his highlight-reel touchdown catch saved his fantasy day. The Cowboys don’t have that shutdown cornerback that’ll follow Brown around, but they have been a defense to avoid when possible. They’ve allowed just six wide receivers all year long to finish with more than 11.4 PPR points, which is a number that’s typically required to get into WR3 territory. Of the six wide receivers who did surpass that total, five of them saw eight-plus targets, while the other (Marvin Jones) scored two touchdowns. Brown has hit that eight-plus target-mark in 6-of-11 games this year, so it’s certainly not out of reach. He’s also hit at least 51 receiving yards in every game this year, a club that only him and Michael Thomas are a part of. It’s not a smash spot for Brown, so I wouldn’t expect him to win you a tournament or anything, but he should remain in lineups as a solid WR2 who’s continually shown you a high floor, regardless of matchup.
Cole Beasley: The revenge game narrative… on Thanksgiving Day. After seeing just 12 targets over the previous three games combined, Beasley saw nine targets in Week 12, reigniting some confidence in him. If there’s anyone who’s familiar with the Cowboys personnel and defensive scheme, it’s Beasley who practiced against them as recent as last year. We’ve watched both Julian Edelman (8/93/0) and Jamison Crowder (6/98/0) post usable games against them, though it’s important to note that they both saw at least nine targets. It was Golden Tate who was held in check a few weeks ago when he turned six targets in 6/42/0 against them, so it’s far from a guaranteed-to-produce spot. The Cowboys have Jourdan Lewis covering the slot now, which has been an evolving change over the course of the season. It’s not a must-avoid matchup, putting Beasley in the middling WR4 conversation though he’s more of a floor-play than an upside one.
Amari Cooper: When you have a route-runner like Cooper trying to run sharp routes in the rain against Stephon Gilmore, it’s a problem. No one could’ve expected a zero-catch problem, but here we are. The fact that Cooper doesn’t get elite targets like some other WR1s will lead him to some disappointing games. The Bills may have Tre’Davious White shadow him this week, though they haven’t been consistent with that this year, and it’s not like Gallup is chopped liver. White has allowed just a 55 percent catch-rate in his coverage this year, while intercepting four passes and not allowing a single touchdown. That’s a risk when playing Cooper this week, though this game will be indoors, so that plays into his strengths. There have only been eight wide receviers who’ve finished as top-36 options against the Bills, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they’ve allowed just four wide receiver touchdowns all season. You’re starting Cooper, but he’s got the looks of a WR2 rather than the WR1 he’s been for most of the year.
Michael Gallup: While Cooper dealt with Stephon Gilmore, Gallup was able to produce a little bit in the ugly game against the Patriots where he caught 4-of-6 targets for 55 yards. He’s now seen at least six targets in 8-of-9 games this year, including double-digit marks in three of them. If the Bills do shadow Cooper with Tre’Davious White, that would leave Gallup with a plus-matchup against Levi Wallace, who has allowed a 69 percent completion-rate in his coverage while allowing a touchdown every 17.0 targets. He’s been responsible for all four wide receiver touchdowns the Bills have allowed this year. There’s no guarantee the Bills do use White to shadow, as he’s not been used that way in every game, but it seems somewhat likely. Consider Gallup a high-end WR3 who could surprise in a tough matchup.
Randall Cobb: It’s now been four straight games where Cobb has seen at least seven targets, so he can be considered in redraft leagues. He’s averaged 102.3 yards over his last three games, which will have many wanting to play him over other options who’ve struggled as of late. Taron Johnson is the cornerback covering the slot for the Bills, and he’s done a solid job, allowing just 4.8 yards per target in his coverage and not a single touchdown. Over the course of his two-year career, he’s allowed just 4.5 yards per target, so it doesn’t appear to be a fluke. Adding in the fact that the Cowboys aren’t likely to throw a whole lot and you have what looks to be a letdown for Cobb. He’s not someone you should be relying on as anything more than a low-ceiling WR4.
Dawson Knox: He’s still running more than double the routes that Tyler Kroft is over the last three weeks, so don’t worry too much about his two-target game in Week 12 against the Broncos stiff pass defense. Unfortunately, the Cowboys matchup isn’t much better. They’ve allowed just 6.87 yards per target to tight ends, though the overall numbers they’ve allowed look good. Tight ends average 7.6 targets per game against the Cowboys, which could be a product of their zone-heavy scheme that promotes dump-off passes. Knox has topped-out at six targets this season, so it’s tough to recommend him as anything more than a middling TE2.
Jason Witten: The good news is that he saw at least four targets for the 11th-straight time this year. Only Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz can say the same. The bad news is that it amounted to just one catch for five yards. Even worse? He’s going into what might be the worst matchup in the league for tight ends. The Bills were the second-best team against the position in 2018 and are the best team against them in 2019. This constitutes as a trend. They’ve allowed a miniscule 1.47 PPR points per target, including just one touchdown all year. Of the production the Bills have allowed to non-quarterbacks, tight ends have accounted for a league-low 11.0 percent of the points. No one plays Witten for a ceiling, but rather a floor. Unfortunately, you don’t even want to rely on him for that in this game. He’s not on the streaming radar this week.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Line: NO by 6.5
Drew Brees: He’s now thrown three touchdowns in three of his last four games, though his lone exception came against the team he’ll play this week, the Falcons. After pressuring Kyle Allen 46.1 percent of the time in Week 11, the Falcons defense couldn’t create anywhere close to the same pressure against Jameis Winston, as he was pressured on just 16.1 percent of his dropbacks, the lowest in the league in Week 12. That led to them going back to the Falcons of old, allowing 35 points. The blip we had on the radar in Weeks 10 and 11 was interesting, but as Dennis Green famously once said, “They are who we thought they were.” We watched Brees and the Saints offense struggle against them in Week 10, but he’s played this Dan Quinn defense an awful lot over the past couple years. In the two games against a very similar defense/personnel last year, Brees tallied 567 yards and seven passing touchdowns over the two games against them. The Falcons are a team that’s allowed 7-of-11 quarterbacks average at least 8.4 yards per attempt, so when you combine that with Brees’ efficiency, there’s likely to be some scoring. Don’t bet on this game being as low scoring as the one back in Week 10. Brees should be played as a rock-solid QB1. One thing to watch, however, is the injury to left tackle Terron Armstead, who had to leave Week 12 with an ankle injury (he’s since been ruled out).
Matt Ryan: It was a bad week for Ryan in Week 12, as he was seemingly just off his game, double clutching the football quite a bit, and just unsure of himself. He completed just 50 percent of his passes against what’s likely the worst secondary in football. Now on to play the Saints, a team that has been extremely good this year, though they’re coming off a game in which they allowed Kyle Allen to throw for 256 yards and three touchdowns. It was the seventh time they’ve allowed multiple touchdowns to a quarterback this year, though we also need to note that star cornerback Marshon Lattimore was held out of the contest with a hamstring injury for the second straight week. The Falcons have a big injury of their own to monitor, as Julio Jones went in and out of the game last week with a shoulder injury. These two obviously have a huge impact on the game and will need to be monitored throughout the week. Since injuring his ankle in Week 7, Ryan has had some issues. While he did throw two touchdowns against the Saints in Week 10, he’s now averaged 5.9 or less yards per attempt in three of his last four games. If Lattimore remains out, I’d feel much more confident playing Ryan as a middling QB1. If Lattimore plays, Ryan should be considered a low-end QB1 who is struggling a bit as of late, though he’s had some success against this Saints defense.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray: This is one of those situations I tried to warn everyone about prior to last week’s game, as the Saints seem to be set on divvying up the carries between Kamara and Murray. Since the bye week, Kamara has received 28 carries to Murray’s 22, though Kamara has dominated the passing-down work, getting 29 of the 34 targets. Gamescript matters, as does opponent. The Falcons have not been a team opponents just run all over, as they’ve allowed just three running backs to top 74 rushing yards all year long. The 3.98 yards per carry they’ve allowed is below the league average, as is the 5.68 yards per target. We kind of saw this translate to the Saints running backs in Week 10 when Kamara finished with 74 yards on 12 touches, while Murray netted just 19 yards on seven touches. Going back to last year, Kamara tallied 155 yards on 30 carries in two games against them, good for 5.17 yards per carry, though he failed to find the end zone. They have allowed three different running backs at least six receptions this year (Christian McCaffrey, David Johnson, and Kamara), which obviously plays into Kamara’s strength. After scoring 31 touchdowns on his first 476 touches in the NFL (one every 15.3 touches), Kamara has just two touchdowns on 174 touches this year (one every 87.0 touches). You can scream Kamara was due for regression, but not this much. He’s going to have a breakout game shortly, and though this game isn’t an above-average matchup, it can come at any time. Keep plugging him in as an RB1 and he just might get hot at the right time. Murray isn’t as appealing in this matchup, as he’s more of a touchdown-or-bust RB4 option this week.
Devonta Freeman and Brian Hill: We’re hearing that Freeman may try to make it back on the field for this game, though as a fantasy owner, it’s going to be extremely tough to trust him. The Falcons have no reason to thrust him back into a workhorse role because it’s not like he was uber-efficient prior to his injury, and the Saints are one of the absolute worst matchups for running backs (don’t tell Christian McCaffrey that). The 3.58 yards per carry ranks as the fourth lowest mark in the league, while their 4.63 yards per target ranks as the second lowest number in the league. The touch counts for running backs have been rather abysmal, too, as they’ve averaged just 23.4 touches per game, which doesn’t allow for many touches in what’s likely to be a timeshare. They had not allowed a single top-10 running back all season until McCaffrey arrived, and you’d have to go back to 2017 to find the last time a running back rushed for more than 83 yards against the Saints. Even if Freeman returns, he’s just a mediocre RB3 who’ll need to score. Hill is obviously not an option if Freeman plays. Even if Freeman sits another week, it’s tough to trust Hill as anything more than a high-end RB4 who’s totaled just 61 total yards on 28 touches the last two weeks in better matchups than this.
Michael Thomas: He’s going to break records this year, as his 104 receptions are quite ridiculous. By comparison, Alvin Kamara has 114 carries. His current pace is 151.3 receptions for 1,807 yards, and 8.7 touchdowns. The current record for receptions in a season in 143 by Marvin Harrison in 2002. The 1,807-yard pace would put him at fifth all-time for single-season receiving yards. The Falcons also don’t have anyone to stop him. Despite the offense having a down game against them in Week 10, he caught 13-of-14 targets for 152 yards. There have been seven wide receivers who’ve broken the 20-point threshold against the Falcons this year, which is the third-most in the NFL. The 2.13 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is the most in the NFL, so provided Thomas keeps getting his double-digit targets that he has in each of the last seven games, you should expect massive results in this game. Even if he doesn’t score, the 10.13 yards per target wide receivers are averaging against the Falcons is massive. He’s the WR1 and it’s not all that close.
Ted Ginn: He’s still running fewer routes than Smith but has seen more targets on a consistent basis. He’s ranged anywhere from 3-6 targets in all but one of his last nine games, which can have some value against the Falcons, though he posted a dud against them back in Week 10. Ginn’s targets aren’t worth as much as they used to be, as he’s slowing down at this point in his career, and it’s held him below 50 yards in 10-of-11 games this year. The upside simply isn’t worth the risk of starting him with his mediocre target share. If there were one team who’d make you question it, it’s the Falcons who’ve allowed 18 different receivers double-digit PPR games, though just five of them have done it with less than six targets, a number Ginn has hit just twice all season. He’s probably going to wind-up with something like three catches for 45 yards with a shot at a touchdown, but he’s not recommended as anything more than a WR5.
Tre’Quan Smith: It’s impossible to know what’s going on with Smith, as he was supposed to be their future No. 2 alongside Michael Thomas. He’s failed to see more than three targets all season despite playing the majority of snaps the last three weeks. Because of that, you cannot trust him in season-long leagues. The Falcons have Kendall Sheffield defending the slot right now, a fourth-round rookie that’s allowed 24-of-34 passing for 269 yards and a touchdown to this point, good enough for a 103.7 QB Rating in his coverage. Smith is the type of player who can have a big game where everyone looks around and wonders how they missed it with how many snaps he’s been playing. Again, his target share puts him out of startable range in season-long, but if you want to take a shot in tournaments, it could pay off.
Julio Jones: He was forced to leave the game on multiple occasions in Week 12, as he’s dealing with a shoulder injury. He wound-up playing just 48-of-85 snaps, so with the quick turnaround on Thursday, it’s possible Jones rests for this game. There are a lot of factors with him right now, as health is obviously No. 1, though Marshon Lattimore‘s status is another. Lattimore was shadowing Jones in their Week 10 matchup and doing a great job, allowing just one catch for three yards before getting hurt. As soon as he left the game, Jones caught a 54-yard pass. If Jones plays, you’re going to start him, but it could be a decoy situation. With so many variables, Jones should not be an auto-start in Thanksgiving Day DFS slates. Stay tuned for updates.
Calvin Ridley: Knowing about all the question marks with Julio Jones and Marshon Lattimore, Ridley’s status is a bit murky for this game. There are tons of hypothetical situations here, as Jones/Lattimore might not play, while there’s other scenarios where one does. For now, we’ll plan on Ridley matching up with Eli Apple in coverage and adjust as needed. Apple has done a good job while allowing just a 54.3 percent catch-rate in his coverage this year, but the 15.0 yards per reception he’s allowed is one of the highest marks among full-time cornerbacks. Ridley totaled just three catches for 28 yards in their first meeting, though that game featured less pass attempts due to the Falcons defense stepping up. Over the last two weeks, with both Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman out, Ridley has racked up 22 targets, hauling in 14 of them for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Even if Jones suits up, we could see him out there as somewhat of a decoy, while Ridley is clearly at full health. There have been 14 wide receivers who’ve totaled at least 64 yards against the Saints, so we should at least have a solid WR3 floor for Ridley. Stay tuned for updates on his matchup.
Russell Gage: His target totals in the games since they traded Sanu have been 9-5-4-10. That’s a wide range of outcomes, though the lesser targeted games were in matchups the Falcons defense actually showed up. Do we expect them to this week? I can’t see them holding down the Saints offense twice in a span of three weeks. Combine that with the fact that Julio Jones is clearly dinged-up and that Austin Hooper remains out, and we should have another game where Gage sees six-plus targets. With Marshon Lattimore out, the Saints have had P.J. Williams move to the perimeter with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the slot. If Lattimore remains out, Gardner-Johnson has allowed 14-of-22 passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the slot. He’s allowed fewer yards per snap in coverage than Williams, so it would probably be an upgrade for Gage if Lattimore returns. He has the looks of someone you can trust as a high-floor WR4/5-type option.
Jared Cook: The Saints continue to try to use his athleticism in the red zone, as Brees is more than willing to let him try and win in one-on-one situations. Because of that, he’s scored in four of his last five games. The matchup with the Falcons went well a few weeks back, as he snagged 6-of-10 targets for 74 yards, though he didn’t score. There have ben six tight ends who’ve finished as top-15 options against the Falcons, so it’s not a matchup to avoid, though volume has been required. They’ve allowed just a 65.3 percent completion-rate to tight ends (6th-lowest) and 7.03 yards per target (9th-lowest). They haven’t allowed a game-breaking performance in fantasy, as the best one was 16.0 PPR points by Darren Fells, though it took two touchdowns to get there. It’s somewhat similar to last year, as they allowed seven top-12 performances, but no one scored more than 16.2 PPR points. Cook should be in lineups as a middling TE1, though he isn’t likely to have a top-five finish like he did last week.
Jaeden Graham: Over the last two weeks with Austin Hooper out, Graham has run 60 routes, which ranks as the seventh-most among tight ends. Unfortunately, it’s only led to four targets, but you have to wonder why. He’s turned those targets into three catches for 76 yards. The Saints have not been a great matchup for tight ends under Dennis Allen, as they allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends in 2017, the eighth-fewest in 2018, and now the 11th-fewest in 2019. That number is trending in the wrong direction and we have seen a few tight ends put up top-10 numbers against the Saints this year. The issue is that those tight ends relied a lot on yardage, as the Saints have allowed just two tight end touchdowns all year. We have nothing suggesting Graham will see a lot more targets in this game than he has the last two, so he’s just an afterthought in the streaming conversation, though his routes over the last two weeks are intriguing.