Evan Silva

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Silva's Thanksgiving Matchups

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Thanksgiving Football

12:30 PM ET Game

Minnesota @ Detroit
Vegas Projected Score: Lions 22.75, Vikings 20.25

The Vikings snapped their four-game losing skid in last week’s much-needed 30-24 win over Arizona, doing it with special teams and defensive touchdowns and getting little from an offense that still struggles in pass protection and the running game. Offensively, Minnesota has managed point totals of 10, 10, 16, 20, 16 since Week 5, while a quietly-improving Detroit defense hasn’t yielded more than 20 points in a game since Week 6. In addition to restored health for early-season casualties DE Ziggy Ansah, CB Darius Slay, and DT Haloti Ngata, the Lions have accomplished this by slowing down games and holding opposing offenses to the NFL’s fifth fewest plays per game (61.9). On offense, the Lions are now running the league’s third fewest plays per game (59.4). Sam Bradford emerged from these clubs’ Week 9 meeting with a pedestrian 273 yards and one touchdown on 40 attempts. The domed environment and still-unimposing matchup with a Lions pass defense that ranks dead last in DVOA make Bradford a viable if low-end two-quarterback-league play. 8-of-10 passers to face Detroit this year have accounted for multiple touchdowns. The expected absence of passing-game focal point Stefon Diggs (knee) lowers Bradford’s floor and ceiling. … Jerick McKinnon retook the Vikings’ lead back role in Week 11, handling 17 touches on 53% of the snaps. Matt Asiata (6 touches, 36%) still vultured a goal-line score, while Ronnie Hillman (2, 10%) took a backseat. Hillman’s Monday release frees up a few extra snaps and touches for McKinnon. Albeit against the Jaguars, Texans, and these same Vikings, the Lions have played stout run defense lately, holding enemy backs to a combined 75-249-1 (3.32 YPC) rushing line over the past three weeks. McKinnon is in the flex conversation at Ford Field, although his ceiling is capped by Asiata’s goal-line presence, and McKinnon’s floor is lowered by his limited passing-game usage. McKinnon has multiple receptions in just 2-of-9 games.

Bradford’s targets when Diggs missed Week 5 with a groin injury: Adam Thielen 8; Cordarrelle Patterson 6; Kyle Rudolph and Jarius Wright 4; McKinnon and Asiata 3; Charles Johnson 1. … Thielen took over as Bradford’s go-to receiver in Week 5 against Houston, posting 7-127-1 on 92% of the snaps while burning holes in stud Texans CBs Johnathan Joseph and A.J. Bouye, including a 36-yard first-quarter touchdown against Joseph. A crafty fourth-year UDFA out of Minnesota State, Thielen stands 6-foot-1, 192 with 4.49 speed and long dominated preseason games before getting a real 2016 shot. Thielen has full-on capitalized, securing 74% of his 50 targets with a 14.0 yards-per-reception average and ranking third on the team in red-zone targets (6) despite playing limited snaps. Especially in Thanksgiving-only DFS contests, Thielen deserves to be a popular play. Lions LCB Darius Slay coughed up touchdowns to Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee last week and isn’t someone to fear because he gives up lots of production and rarely shadows specific receivers. Even with Diggs healthy, Thielen has 65-plus yards and/or a touchdown in three straight games. … Patterson also took advantage of Diggs’ Week 5 absence (4-39-1) and should push for 8-9 targets on Thanksgiving as a manufactured-touch player who will inherit a lot of Diggs’ high-percentage usage. Patterson can also pay fantasy dividends with a kickoff return touchdown, something Patterson of course accomplished in last week’s win over Arizona, bringing back the opening second-half kick 104 yards to the house. In Thanksgiving-only DFS, Patterson has some correlation appeal along with the Vikings’ D/ST. You’ll get double points if he returns one again. … Rudolph’s target totals have been frustratingly inconsistent (3, 8, 3) in three games since Pat Shurmur replaced Norv Turner as Vikings OC, but Rudolph has scored a touchdown in two of them while maintaining a stranglehold on red-zone targets (10) and targets inside the ten-yard line (4) in Minnesota’s offense. The Lions have allowed the NFL’s most touchdowns (9) and sixth most catches (57) to tight ends. Rudolph’s usage should also be elevated by Diggs’ loss. … The Vikings’ third receiver will be some combination of Wright, Johnson, and slow-developing rookie Laquon Treadwell.

Held under 280 yards in seven straight games with just one multi-touchdown-pass game over his last four, Matthew Stafford has the toughest matchup of all Thanksgiving quarterbacks against a Vikings defense that has allowed just one top-15 quarterback finish over its last nine games and ranks No. 4 in pass-defense DVOA. Stafford was the QB16 when these teams met in Week 9. Detroit’s commitment to a slower pace has had positive won-loss results, but isn’t conducive to big-time passing stats. Stafford is best viewed as a two-quarterback-league play against the Vikings. … Bothered by hand and ankle injuries recently, Theo Riddick emerged from the Lions’ Week 10 bye to log just 12 touches in last week’s win over Jacksonville, ceding almost all between-the-tackles work to Dwayne Washington, who managed an anemic 21 yards on 15 touches and played 42% of the downs. In order, Riddick’s snap rates over his last three games are 85% > 70% > 58%, although some of the playing-time dip has been in-game injury caused. Riddick’s value is strongest in PPR with the NFL’s third most receptions (43) and sixth most receiving yards (343) among running backs despite two missed games. Washington will stay involved, but he is hard to take seriously as a fantasy option with zero games above 35 total yards on the season.

Stafford’s targets over his last three games: Golden Tate 25; Riddick 24; Eric Ebron 23; Anquan Boldin 16; Marvin Jones 14. … Tate dropped 11-79-1 on the Vikings in Week 9, although 28 of Tate’s yards and his touchdown occurred on a game-winning overtime score. After Tate piled up nine-plus targets in four straight games leading into Detroit’s Week 10 bye, it is concerning that he drew only four targets in the Lions’ post-bye win over the Jaguars. Tate plays a somewhat similar role to Riddick, whose improved health may cut into Tate’s usage going forward. … Jones has cleared 40 yards once in his last six games and has been out-targeted by Boldin over the last three. Jones has become unusable in fantasy leagues, especially against a Vikings secondary that has allowed just four opposing wideouts to clear 65 yards through ten games. … Minnesota’s most glaring defensive weakness is in tight end coverage, where Mike Zimmer’s unit gave up 9-101 to Bears tight ends in Week 8, 7-92 to Ebron in Week 9, 5-107-1 to Redskins tight ends in Week 10, and 3-55-1 to the Cardinals’ usually nonexistent tight ends last week. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes can shut down the perimeter, funneling action toward the middle of the field. A man possessed since returning from early-season injuries, Ebron has cleared 70 yards in three straight games and has earned every-week TE1 treatment. … Boldin drew nine targets in last week’s win over the Jags, but he failed to clear 60 yards for the tenth straight game and his yards-per-reception average is down to a running back-like 7.9. Boldin is entirely touchdown or bust, but he does have some appeal in Thanksgiving-only DFS contests. Boldin ranks second behind Riddick on the Lions in red-zone receptions (7) and second behind Jones in targets inside the ten-yard line (5). Boldin hit pay dirt when these teams met in Week 9, although he finished with just ten yards on four targets.

Score Prediction: Lions 21, Vikings 20

 

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4:30 PM ET Game

Washington @ Dallas
Vegas Projected Score: Cowboys 29.25, Redskins 22.25

A top-10 fantasy quarterback in four straight weeks and top-14 finisher in eight straight, Dak Prescott has been fantasy football’s most consistent signal caller over the last two months. His Thanksgiving matchup is unimposing versus a Redskins defense that has surrendered top-12 quarterback finishes in four straight games to Matthew Stafford (QB9), Andy Dalton (QB11), Sam Bradford (QB11), and Aaron Rodgers (QB1). Prescott has accounted for multiple touchdowns in eight straight games. His last four weekly finishes in home games are QB4, QB5, QB13, QB6. … Ezekiel Elliott should go toe to toe with Le’Veon Bell as the premier running back play on the Thanksgiving slate. Facing Dallas’ dominant rushing attack will be a negative shock to road-tripping Washington’s system after the Redskins faced the lame running games of Green Bay, Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Detroit over the last month. Washington still ranks 29th in run-defense DVOA and is submitting 4.53 yards per carry to enemy backs, along with the NFL’s second most rushing touchdowns (13). Facing the Redskins’ soft front should be a positive shock to Dallas’ system after last week’s date with the run-tough Ravens, who limited Elliott to his second lowest yards-per-carry average (3.88) since Week 1. Always a high-floor play with 125-plus total yards in seven of his last eight games, Elliott offers blowup potential as an elite home-favorite running back on Thanksgiving.

Prescott’s targets since Dallas’ Week 7 bye: Dez Bryant 35; Cole Beasley and Jason Witten 28; Terrance Williams 13; Elliott 12; Brice Butler 6. … Bryant has the toughest draw in Dallas’ pass-catcher corps against Josh Norman, who helped contain Jordy Nelson (3-28-1) last week and has PFF’s No. 6 coverage grade among 119 qualified corners. Bryant dropped 7-102 when these teams met in Week 2, although all of that came against RCB Bashaud Breeland and then-FS DeAngelo Hall. Norman’s presence makes Dez a somewhat volatile DFS play at his steep cost, but he remains a confident start in season-long leagues with 100-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games. Odell Beckham (7-121), Terrelle Pryor (5-46-1), and A.J. Green (9-121) have all emerged with useful box-score results when shadowed by Norman. As a member of the Panthers, Norman shadowed Dez last Thanksgiving and held him to 2-26-0 on eight targets. … Redskins rookie slot CB Kendall Fuller got flamed by Stefon Diggs (13-164) in Week 10 and give up 84 yards to struggling Randall Cobb last week. Particularly with Norman on Dez, this is a good-looking matchup for Beasley, who went 5-75 in Dallas’ Week 2 win over Washington and has five-plus receptions in 7-of-10 games this year. Beasley has scored five touchdowns over his last six games. … Beasley, Williams, and Butler share time as Dallas’ complementary receivers. Williams went catch-less in the Cowboys’ Week 2 visit to Washington and hasn’t shown much of a connection with Prescott whenever Dez has been in the lineup, managing measly yardage totals of 25 > 19 > 5 > 11 since Dallas’ Week 7 bye on target counts of 7 > 3 > 1 > 2. Still, this game has high-scoring possibilities, and Norman’s potential lockdown coverage on Dez gives Williams some appeal in Thanksgiving-only DFS tournaments. … The Redskins have been absolutely creamed by tight ends recently, yielding 10-133-1 to Packers tight ends in Week 11, 7-77-1 to Vikings tight ends in Week 10, and 10-108-1 to Bengals tight ends in Week 9. With five-plus catches in three straight games, Witten is a sensible Week 12 streamer.

Kirk Cousins enters Thursday’s trip to JerryWorld similarly consistent to Prescott with top-14 fantasy results in eight of his last nine games and 260-plus yards in six straight. Cousins’ fantasy finishes over his last four games are QB5, QB6, QB12, QB3. While not exceptionally skilled, Cousins is a timing-and-rhythm passer who is in full rhythm with an extremely talented, multi-dimensional pass-catcher corps in a hyper-efficient offense that ranks second in the league in yards per play (6.4). Although Dallas has allowed just one enemy quarterback to throw for multiple touchdowns (Ben Roethlisberger) over its last five games, otherwise the Cowboys have faced the weak passing games of Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia over the past month. The Redskins rank No. 3 in the NFL in passing offense and No. 5 in yards per pass attempt (8.1). Dallas is vulnerable in the secondary, missing LCB Morris Claiborne (pelvis) and SS Barry Church (forearm) and leaning on slot CB Orlando Scandrick (hamstrings) at far less than full health. Whereas many quarterbacks have to deal with adverse weather conditions this time of year, this game’s domed environment further enhances Cousins’ outlook. … Since supplanting Matt Jones as the Skins’ feature back three games ago, Rob Kelley has logged touch totals of 21 > 23 > 24 on snap rates of 47% > 67% > 62%. In order, change-up back Chris Thompson’s touch counts are 12 > 7 > 3 during that stretch. Kelley’s floor is always a concern due to his lack of passing-game usage, but his early-down and goal-line roles are vise-grip secure and Kelley’s recent production is impossible to quibble with after scoring five TDs in Washington’s last four games. Kelley could bust if the Redskins fall behind. With the way Cousins is playing, the smart money is on Washington staying competitive and Kelley staying fed.

Cousins’ targets with DeSean Jackson active in Week 11: Pierre Garcon 7; Jackson and Jordan Reed 6; Thompson and Jamison Crowder 3; Kelley 2. … Back from his rotator cuff injury in last Sunday night’s beatdown of Green Bay, Jackson logged a 71% snap rate and turned six targets into a 4-51-1 stat line. Jackson will run most of his routes at rookie LCB Anthony Brown, who is filling in for Claiborne and gave up Steve Smith Sr.’s touchdown last week. Jackson remains a shaky WR3 investment in season-long leagues with zero 60-yard games since Week 3 in an offense that doesn’t funnel targets to one specific player. In Thanksgiving-only DFS contests, D-Jax is the rare player who can single-handedly vault your lineup up the leaderboard. … Although Reed is not seeing the volume he did earlier in the year with the Redskins’ pass-catcher corps at full strength, he remains a quality play against a Dallas defense yielding the NFL’s fourth most receptions (59) and 12th most yards (590) to tight ends. It should be noted that Reed is likely to draw shadow coverage from FS Byron Jones, who is PFF’s No. 14 cover safety among 86 qualifiers. Reed has managed stat lines of 5-70-0, 4-45-0, 3-33-0 in his last three meetings with Rod Marinelli’s defense. Still, this game’s high-scoring potential makes Reed the highest-ceiling tight end play on the Thanksgiving slate. … Smith Sr. (8-99-1) had his way with Dallas last week, mainly running interior routes where Crowder also roams. Although Crowder’s weekly target totals (9 > 13 > 6 > 3) have been inconsistent, his production has not with 100-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five straight games. Crowder is going to run a ton of patterns at banged-up slot CB Scandrick and the Cowboys’ linebackers. Despite the concerning usage, Crowder has become extremely difficult to fade as the poster boy for Washington’s passing-game efficiency. … Garcon has the toughest draw in Washington’s pass-catcher corps against surprisingly sturdy RCB Brandon Carr, although Garcon has been a reliable producer with 65-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games. Put simply, all of the Redskins’ pass catchers are pretty solid fantasy options in a pretty solid Week 12 spot. Figuring out which members of the unit are going to have the biggest games on a week-by-week basis has become increasingly tricky.

Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Redskins 23

 

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8:30 PM ET Game

Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis
Vegas Projected Score: Steelers 27.75, Colts 19.75

The Colts’ loss of Andrew Luck (concussion) dramatically shifts the dynamic of this matchup. What once looked like a shootout becomes a game the Steelers should control with Le’Veon Bell as the top fantasy play on Thanksgiving and arguably all of the Week 12 slate. Since returning from his Weeks 1-3 suspension, Bell has averaged an otherworldly 142 all-purpose yards per game. He is a running back and wide receiver tied up in one body averaging 18.3 carries and 9.3 targets per game. The Colts rank No. 31 in run-defense DVOA and have yielded a league-high five receiving touchdowns to enemy backs on top of the NFL’s tenth most receiving yards (458) to the position. Bell’s outlook is further enhanced by the Colts’ loss of FS Clayton Geathers (concussion), who is PFF’s No. 6 run-support safety among 86 qualifiers. … After managing the game in last week’s windy win over Cleveland, Ben Roethlisberger figures to come out slinging in order to build a lead before Bell takes this one home. Five of the last seven quarterbacks to face the Colts have posted top-six fantasy results, while Indy has permitted multiple touchdown passes in seven straight games. We can still mention Roethlisberger’s home-road splits out of obligation in a Matchups writeup; Since the beginning of the 2014 season, Ben has an ugly 19:19 TD-to-INT ratio in away games versus a 54:13 TD-to-INT ratio at home. Whereas Roethlisberger has thrown three or more touchdown passes in seven straight home starts, he has thrown for one touchdown or fewer in six of his last seven road games, including last January’s playoffs. Beneath the Lucas Oil dome against a Colts pass defense that was weak even before top CB Vontae Davis suffered a debilitating foot/ankle injury, I’ll take my chances fading the splits and bet on Ben in this plum spot.

Ben’s targets since he returned from a knee injury three games ago: Antonio Brown 39; Le’Veon 28; Eli Rogers 21; Jesse James 12; Cobi Hamilton 7; Sammie Coates and Ladarius Green 6. … With Josh Norman likely to chase Dez Bryant and T.Y. Hilton expected to be missing Luck, Brown is the clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver play on Thanksgiving. Davis would normally cover Brown for most of this game, but the Colts’ best cornerback spent the week in a protective boot after getting toasted by Tajae Sharpe for a 34-yard touchdown bomb in Week 11 and limping noticeably during the game. Based on how hobbled Davis looked last week, I would want him to play if I were a fantasy owner of Brown. … Rogers has drawn target totals of 10 > 5 > 6 on snap rates of 67% > 85% > 65% over the past three weeks. Rogers never offers a great ceiling, but he would stand to benefit if the desperate Colts dedicate double teams and/or two-man coverage to defend Brown with Davis hobbled. Rogers has lower-end PPR appeal with four or more catches in four straight games. … Hamilton played 62% of Pittsburgh’s Week 11 offensive downs. He has yet to clear 40 yards through five appearances. A plodding 11th-percentile SPARQ athlete, Hamilton is a minimum-cost Hail Mary punt in Thanksgiving-only DFS tournaments. … Green’s role did not expand in his second game as a Steeler, logging a 12% snap rate against the Browns after playing 16% in Week 10. James remained a full-time player in Week 11, handling a 99% playing-time clip as part of Pittsburgh’s run-first game plan. At least until Green gets fully up to speed on the playbook, James looks like the superior play. With zero 60-yard games on the season, James remains a touchdown-or-bust streamer.

In the absence of Luck, the Colts’ best approach would be to ride Frank Gore and try to keep Pittsburgh’s lethal offense off the field. Indy’s offensive line is at full strength and Pittsburgh’s Cameron Heyward-less run defense has had vulnerable moments this year despite ranking a respectable No. 11 in DVOA. Always a high-floor fantasy option, Gore has at least 15 touches in 9-of-10 games and 20-plus in six of his last eight. Gore also has a useful 13-129-2 receiving line over his last four games, while Pittsburgh has surrendered the NFL’s seventh most catches (54) and second most receiving yards (591) to enemy running backs. … Scott Tolzien had a solid preseason, completing 41-of-62 passes (66.1%) for 390 yards (6.3 YPA), two touchdowns, and a pick with only one sack taken. Tolzien has thrown just one regular season pass in three years, however. Essentially a rich man’s Matt Flynn, Tolzien is competent enough to keep T.Y. Hilton afloat on high-percentage interior routes against a middling Steelers pass defense that ranks No. 16 in DVOA and No. 18 in sacks (21). Still, the downgrade from Luck is severe enough that we can’t be surprised if Hilton or Donte Moncrief lays a box-score egg. For Moncrief, perhaps just as concerning as Tolzien’s under-center presence is a late-week hamstring injury that caused Moncrief to be listed as questionable on the Colts’ final injury report. It’s believed Moncrief tweaked the hammy in Wednesday’s practice. … Complementary pass catchers Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen, and Jack Doyle look like options to avoid. The Colts demoted Doyle (65% snap rate) in favor of Allen (82%) in last week’s win over Tennessee and were rewarded with a drive-killing drop by Allen, who went catch-less on two targets. Doyle also busted with one seven-yard catch on two targets.

Score Prediction: Steelers 30, Colts 20



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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