This Thursday gives us three games to worry about instead of one. Between the six teams featured on the NFL’s annual Thanksgiving Day triple-feature, some of you might have half of your team playing before Sunday. That’s quite a few players that we need to make a decision on before the weekend which seems like a daunting feat, especially since this is the last week before the playoffs and it could be make or break for many of you. Here’s a preview for the games and what you might be able to expect on this crucial day of fantasy football in NFL Week 13.
***** = Must start
**** = Strong start
*** = Average start
** = Last resort
* = Sit
(12:30pm ET) Green Bay @ Detroit
Matt Flynn: ***
Flynn will see his first start for the Packers in the first of three games today. He faces a Detroit defense that’s giving up the 10th most fantasy points to quarterbacks (19). Last week, Mike Glennon led his Buccaneers to a 24-21 victory against the Lions D and finished the day with a 138.39 passer rating. If a rookie could do that, Flynn should be able to produce against Detroit, especially with how well Jarrett Boykin has stepped up in Randall Cobb‘s absence. Flynn could start if you need him to but if you have a safer option, take it.
Matthew Stafford: ****
Last week, Stafford may have thrown 4 interceptions, but he also threw 3 touchdowns and just under 300 yards. Despite having a bad day, he still produced some fantasy numbers and while that doesn’t do Lions fans any good in reality, it works for us in fantasy. Stafford is a safe start against a Packers D that’s allowing an average of 19 points to opposing QBs.
Jordy Nelson: ****
Nelson hasn’t scored less than 5 fantasy points all season and it just so happens that occurred last week (as well as week 10). Nonetheless, against a defense that gives up the 2nd most fantasy points to receivers, he should be able to find the endzone at least once along with 70+ yards as Matt Flynn will probably look to lean on him.
Jarrett Boykin: ****
The second year receiver has performed well since being called upon in week 6. He’s only had 2 games under 8 fantasy points in the 7 starts he’s made. He and Nelson should have a nice day sharing the 30 points the Lions are giving up on average to WRs.
James Jones: ***
Jones hasn’t hit double digits in fantasy since week 5. His targets are up and down. He should be a solid 5 points with a good bit of upside.
Calvin Johnson: *****
This shouldn’t even be a question. Start Megatron.
Nate Burleson: ***
Last week, Calvin may have crossed the century mark, but Burleson caught the TD. He came back with a nice outing after missing 7 games and should continue to see double-digit targets from Stafford. Green Bay is giving up 25 fantasy points per game to receivers.
Kris Durham: **
He’ll get a few looks but his upside is very low. he finished last week with 46 yards on 3 catches and lost a fumble.
Eddie Lacy: *****
The Alabama rookie has had 5 touchdowns in his last 6 games. Despite the fact that Detroit is allowing only 15 fantasy points per game to RBs, Lacy will most likely find the endzone yet again and chances are he’ll get all 15 of those fantasy points.
Reggie Bush: ***
As long as the Lions aren’t way behind by the half, Reggie Bush remains fully relevant in the running game. Luckily he averages over 6 targets a game so he should find some kind of room to score you some fantasy points with a lot of upside against a Packers D giving up 16 fantasy points per game to RBs.
Jouique Bell: **
Unless Bush fumbles, gets injured or the Lions commit fully to the passing game, Bell isn’t featured on more than a handful of carries and targets. He’s only worth a start if you have no one better.
Brandon Pettigrew: **
He hasn’t hit double digits in fantasy points at all this season and there’s no reason to think he’ll break out against Green Bay.
Joseph Fauria: *
He’s only a redzone target and if he doesn’t get the TD he doesn’t produce. Leave him on the bench.
(4:30pm ET) Oakland @ Dallas
Matt McGloin: ***
The Cowboys are the worst team in the NFL against fantasy quarterbacks. McGloin isn’t elite by any means, but this is the best possible matchup for the rookie QB. He’ll also have a full backfield which should open some space for him in the passing game. If your starter has a really tough matchup, McGloin could be a nice sleeper this week.
Tony Romo: *****
Romo has had a rough couple weeks but one fact always prevails when it comes to the man under center in Dallas. He comes to play on Thanksgiving. Add that with the fact that Oakland doesn’t have the edge pass rush to pressure Tony and you’ve got a must-start fantasy QB for week 13 against a Raiders D who already lets up 20 points per game to fantasy QBs.
Rod Streater: ***
He’s been very sinusoidal (pretty much up and down) for the Raiders so far this season, but he’s had over 80 yards receiving in 3 of his last 4 games. He faces a shaky Cowboys secondary and could find some room to score this week.
Dez Bryant: *****
No question here. He should have a nice afternoon against the Raiders secondary.
Terrance Williams/Mile Austin: ***
When Austin plays, Williams targets seem to drop. However, Romo is expected to throw quite a bit on Thursday and both should be able to scoop up a few passes a piece at least.
Rashad Jennings: ****
Despite Darren McFadden‘s return, the Raiders have stated that Jennings has earned his role in the offense. He faces the worst defense against fantasy RBs, so Jennings is a solid start for week 13.
Darren McFadden: **
It’s unclear how involved he’ll be in his first game back after missing 3 weeks but McFadden always has the athleticism to surprise and with Dallas occupied stacking Jennings as best they can, DMC could come back strong. However, he’s too risky of a play if this is a make or break week for your team.
Demarco Murray: ***
The Raiders are average against fantasy running backs and it’s expected that Romo will be throwing quite a bit, but Murray should find some space when he gets the ball. The problem is, it’s hard to think he’ll see many touches since he’s only had more than 16 twice this year.
Mychal Rivera: *
He’s not consistent or productive enough to trust in fantasy. Leave him in free agency – particularly given that, while he has progressed through the league’s concussion protocol, a return of symptoms may require late deactivation on a short week.
Jason Witten: ***
The Raiders are also average against tight ends and Witten will look to build off of his 2 TD outing in week 12. With a high volume of passes expected, many could go in the direction of the eleven year veteran.
(8:30pm ET) Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
Ben Roethlisberger: ***
Par for the course, Pittsburgh will probably lead off the game with a run-heavy gameplan and fall back to the pass if that doesn’t pan out. Roethlisberger has thrown 11 TDs and 3 INTs in the past 4 games and the Ravens are 16th in the league against fantasy QBs. He’s always a risky play because of his sporadic play this year but it seems like he’s beginning to hit a stride. The Steelers need this win to give them a boost going forward, so Big Ben should come to play Thursday night.
Joe Flacco: *
Flacco has thrown 14 TDs this year… along with 14 INTs. Regardless of his matchup, it seems the Ravens are determined to place the world on his shoulders from week to week which has only produced disappointment thus far. You could definitely do better than the Superbowl MVP believe it or not.
Antonio Brown: ****
He’s been having the best year of his career but this week could prove to be difficult for the emerging star. While the Ravens are giving up 24 fantasy points to opposing WRs, Brown faces a rival Ravens defense that could make or break him this week. That said, the fourth year receiver has hit double digits in fantasy for the last 4 weeks, including last week against “Mt. Haden” and the Cleveland Browns.
Jerricho Cotchery: **
He put up a goose egg last week but he also has 7 touchdowns this season. Roethlisberger likes to target him in the redzone, but with his up and down play it’s hard to say if the former New York Jet will produce Thursday. He’s a low-end FLEX play.
Emmanuel Sanders: **
Much like Cotchery, Sanders has been up and down all season. Their stats are very similar except for the fact that Sanders only has 3 TDs to Cotchery’s 7, so it’s safe to look to other avenues if you can for week 13.
Torrey Smith: ***
He’s a very talented athlete but with the horrid play of Joe Flacco it’s hard to trust that he’s going to produce anything of notable worth. Smith can probably get you 9 points, but beyond that is mostly a distant hope, especially against a Steelers defense that’s giving up the 10th fewest fantasy points to WRs.
Jacoby Jones/Marlon Brown: *
Jones and Brown have been quiet all season save for one big game a piece. While it’s always probable that one of the two could produce a respectable game, it’s much wiser to seek a better option than the second tier wide receivers of the Ravens on Thursday, just to be safe. If you had to choose one, Brown may have more upside.
Le’Veon Bell: ***
He’s only recorded less than 8 fantasy points once in his 8 games this season and the Steelers like to feed him the ball early. The downside here is that the Ravens are giving up the 3rd fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs. If the Steelers get near the goal line, expect Bell to punch it in but don’t go into this week’s matchup thinking he’ll cross the century mark – a feat he hasn’t been able to reach all season on the ground.
Ray Rice: ***
The Ravens star RB has been a shell of himself this season… if you took that shell and smashed it on the floor. However, as I’ve stated in the past, if the Ravens feed him the ball he can produce fantasy points. In the only two games where he’s had over 20 carries, the stout back has given owners 20 fantasy points. Considering the Steelers are giving up 20 fantasy points per game to RBs, one can only hope that the Ravens see the logic in feeding him a plate of carries with a side of mashed potatoes.
Heath Miller: **
The veteran tight end is an average start week to week, much like the Ravens are average against his position. His consistent underperforming leaves much to be desired. That said, it’s safe to look elsewhere for your tight end slot this week in fantasy.
Dallas Clark: *
Outside of his 12 targets in week 1, Clark has hardly been on the radar of Joe Flacco. It’s safe to say that he won’t be worth a start against the Steelers who are only allowing 7 fantasy points per game to tight ends.
For more insight and analysis from Ryley Henry, follow him on Twitter: @ryleyhenryff