Thanksgiving DFS Primer – 3 Game Slate Picks & Strategy PLUS Showdown Talk – pass the Gravy!

First of all I want to say thank you to everyone reading this and who visited the site to read my DFS Articles for Week 11. I am not ashamed to say that it was our single most trafficked weekend of the season and each of my articles from Thursday Night to Sunday to Sunday Night to Monday exceeded any other week regarding readers. So thank you. All I can continue to promise you is a view of the DFS Landscape for any given week and how I am attacking it and who I am targeting. I play Season Long Fantasy and DFS and I take both very seriously, so again I just want to say Thank You for checking it out. I am humbled by the response.

OK so we had 3 games on Thanksgiving Day and now we only have 2 to look forward to (unless the NFL somehow convinces another game to move). While it was already an incredibly condensed slate with 3 games, believe me it is even more condensed with two and the opportunity to build a completely unique lineup is going to be extremely difficult. Since Draft Kings simply removed all of the players from the Pittsburgh Baltimore game and did not adjust any pricing on the other games – you can practically fit in whomever you want. This sounds like a DFS player’s dream but the reality is it will simply lend itself to higher ownership percentages on all of the “studs” and again the idea of uniqueness in a tournament is almost out the window.

So being different in your lineup builds is going to have to be a must if you want to succeed in tournaments and one major way that you can be different on a condensed slate like this is by leaving money on the table. What does that mean? It means that on Draft Kings the majority of new, inexperienced (aka the masses) are not grizzled DFS Vets like yours truly and they will literally try and use every dollar they can of that salary cap. What that ultimately leads to, with so a limited number of players to choose from, are a lot of duplicate or eerily similar lineups. I know it is scary – you build your lineup and there is $2,000 left of your salary cap and if you just upgrade your Running Back you could afford ZEKE and use up all of the available dollars… that exact scenario will occur time and time again when people are building there lineups – so what I am saying is you can simply be different by leaving money on the table and not doing the exact scenario as I described. It takes guts to do it but no guts no glory right? By the way, that isn’t me saying Zeke isn’t a good play (we will talk about that later) but I have a hard and fast rule that I will leave a minimum of $400 on the table and most weeks on full slates I will leave closer to $800 or $1,000 on the table when I lock my lineups. With only 2 games to choose from and a great need to differentiate I may leave $2,000 on the table in my builds. This strategy can help in the main slate, but is particularly the optimal way to play in Showdown Contests.

Before the Steelers Ravens game was pulled this section of the article was going to talk about the idea that the Thanksgiving slate would be a great one to consider playing Showdown tournaments and cash games for each of the games. Well, with now only having two games to choose from I think I need to underline and circle that idea in red ink. As we start to talk about the two games on the main slate here I think you will start to build lineups in your head. The reality is there are a lot of good to solid plays on the main slate and with a lot less available to choose from you will naturally start leaning in certain ways on teams you want to stack or players you want to avoid. This is a perfect mentality on Showdown slates and by sticking to one game you can also get a little weird with your stacks, for instance including Kickers and 3rd of 4th passing options. I will highlight some Showdown strategy when I discuss each game below but again, I recommend you taking a look at playing some Showdowns. Especially if you have an affinity for one game over the other.

Houston Texans vs Detroit Lions

Without Lamar Jackson or Ben Rothlisberger on the slate anymore, I don’t think there is any question that the best projected quarterback play across the two games is Deshaun Watson. Honestly he was my favorite play even when the other two guys were playing on Thursday, but now there isn’t any question. Watson has outscored each of the other 3 starters consistently across the year by an average of 8.5 fantasy points and he has yet to score under 14 Fantasy Points yet this season. Additionally he has scored in the mid 30 Fantasy points twice. No other quarterback on Thursday comes close. So easy – lock him in right? Well I will give two words of warning before you do. First ownership. With Lamar and Ben also on the slate, Watson was likely going to fall in a High 30% or low 40% ownership. Without Lamar and Ben on the slate and with value to be found, I could easily see Deshaun Watson close to 50 – 60+% ownership and that does give me some pause. Also while there is value on this slate, with two games wiped away the amount of value available has decreased. So you do need to keep in mind Watson is the most expensive player on the entire slate so finding the right mix of salaries will be all the more important. .

Ok enough for the warnings … I will be playing a lot of Watson. The Matchup is too juicy to ignore. Four times this season Watson has thrown for over 300 yards and the Detroit Lions rank 24th against the pass giving up an average of over 270 yards through the air. Additionally Watson is getting it done on the ground including a Rushing Score last week. Over the last 4 games he is averaging 7.7 rushing attempts per game and 39.5 yards on the ground. You have to like that against a team ranked 18th against quarterbacks and giving up 27.5 fantasy points to the position on average this season.

So who is Watson throwing to? Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks and Keke Coutee? Yes, Randall Cobb is going to miss Thanksgiving day as will Kenny Stills which I believe will open the door for Coutee – who caught a Touchdown pass last week I should add. Between Fuller and Cooks, you are looking at the two highest owned wide receivers on the slate so stacking them with Watson is likely to be your highest owned stack on the slate too. So we have to look at other options to try and gain some leverage on the field. Before I talk about who I like in that contrarian role, I think we need to consider that we just saw both DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel go off on the Lions with Moore going 7 for 127 and Samuel going 8 for 70 and a score. In that game Robbie Anderson looked like the odd man out only collecting 46 yards – so there is reason to believe that the Lions are going to allow 2 or more Houston pass catchers room to move. This is where I will enter Keke Coutee into this conversation. Both Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills will miss Thanksgiving day and that should allow Coutee more snaps and perhaps more targets. He did score a touchdown last week and he is projected for 5% ownership going into this slate of games.

I like mixing and matching Fuller or Cooks with Coutee as he allows you to gain leverage over the double stack of Fuller and Cooks together – and I think Coutee has some upside as well. If you are multi-entering, having a mix of these guys is a solid way to play. This also applies to the Tight Ends Darren Fells and Jordan Aikins. Last week Aikins saw 6 targets to Fells’ 2 and as such Aikins is seeing a slighter higher ownership share (so naturally I lean more to big Darren Fells) but neither player is even close to the ownership on Fuller and Cooks is seeing – and lets say Aikins sees 6 or more targets again including a red zone look? Is it possible? If you are multi-entering, stacking Watson with Fuller or Cooks with a Tight End could be a contrarian approach. I prefer Coutee over the Tight Ends only because one bright spot that the Lions Defense has shown this season has come against Tight Ends but certainly in Showdown lineups I wouldn’t sleep on Aikins or Fells in my Texans stack.

This brings me to Duke Johnson. The Duke has done anything but impress since taking over the starting position at running back – BUT – I kinda like taking a shot here. The Lions have just let opposing Running Backs loose against them allowing 139+ yards per game and I think there is a real possibility that the Texans take a lead and lean on Johnson a bit more than they have. The downside here is that Watson just doesn’t seem to target running backs, so I do think Duke is limited in what he can deliver for you – so he does come with some risks. Right now Duke is projected at nearly 40% ownership which I really do not like and frankly presents more of an opportunity to fade him (based especially on his recent performances) but I will add that in Showdown tournaments Duke is a very strong leverage play if you are rolling out Lions stacks. Running that stack back with Duke versus a pass catcher or Watson himself could give you leverage on the field in a big way and if he does break out in this game, you could position yourself well in Showdowns.

I also like the Texans Defense on this slate. Despite facing a team that was completely shut out last week, the Texans look to be trending towards less than 20% owned and with only 4 defenses to choose from, that is saying something. The Texans have been getting better as of late, largely on the shoulders of JJ Watt and while you can’t predict another shut out, clearly this Lions offense has not shown itself to be a well oiled machine. I think stacking Duke Johnson and the Texans Defense is a smart play. On the other hand, on lineups where I am stacking Watson and his pass catchers I will stay away from the Texans D. Simply because if I believe multiple pass catchers will have a solid – big day that would signal to me that the Texans are in need of scoring points due to the Lions scoring points, which limits the upside of rostering the Texans D. Hopefully that makes sense.

Matthew Stafford could be a sneaky leverage play for you to consider. He is projected to be the second highest owned QB on the slate but in saying this, his ownership is less than half of Watsons. Using Stafford and one of his pass catchers with a mini stack of the Chalky Texans could be a fine way to approach things. Yes I know I just said that the Texans Defense has been getting better and yes Kenny Golladay is still out AND yes so is Danny Amendola BUT the Texans are still a team allowing 266+ yards per game through the air and if we are to believe that the Texans will have a lead here then we need to assume Stafford will be throwing. He has yet to attempt less than 30 pass catchers in a game this season already after all. I also think coming off a game where his offense scored no points, Stafford will have a chip on his shoulder and I love a guy with a chip on his shoulder.

So far we have spoken about a Texans team that is not only Chalky from an ownership standpoint but pricey too. Well I think we can find some value with the Lions pass catchers – at least their wide receivers. Now before I get to your values I think one of my favorite players to target on Turkey Day is Marvin Jones Jr. Jones is likely to come in around 40% owned but with Golladay out over the last three weeks MJJ has seen 27 Targets from Stafford and last week’s offensive anomaly broke a 3 game Touchdown Streak for the wily veteran. I think Marivn gets back on track during a big game on Thanksgiving and I love to run my Texans stacks with him. Plus with so much ownership coming on the Texans side of the ball, I think the Stafford Marvin Jones stack is easy to get to for me. Now lets talk some value! Marvin Hall, Quintez Cephus and Jamal Agnew Who? Right, I hear ya. With no Danny Amendola and no Kenny Golladay, these guys are getting playing time and they are getting targeted! Marvin Hall broke out in week 8 taking 4 catches for 113 yards and while he has been a lot quieter lately he is still seeing an average of 3.5 Targets without Golladay and Amendola on the field and he is cheap and very low owned. I do not mind double stacking Stafford and Jones with Hall. I also don’t mind looking at Jamal Agnew in a similar way. Agnew saw 6 targets last week tying him with Marvin Jones in that regard, but he wasn’t able to do a lot with them. Perhaps he finds more room to run against the Texans defense. I am just bringing these 4 up because the chalk stack for the Lions will be Stafford with Jones and Hockenson and if you are multi-entering taking a few shots on stacking Stafford and Jones with Hall, Agnew, Cephus or Wright could provide you some leverage. Each has seen games of 6 or more targets over the last 4 weeks, due to the injuries to the Lions wide receiver corps, and any one of the four could have a game on Thanksgiving. This Lions squad is a great one to run in Showdown by the way just with the value available with some of these wide receivers. By the way, Mohammed Sanu has been brought up from the Lion’s Practice squad and wouldn’t that be something to see MoSan take one to the house… hey, crazier things have happened on Thanksgiving Day.

So let’s talk about Hockenson. TJ is projected as the highest owned Tight End on Thanksgiving day and I’ll be honest, I am not of the mindset that you need Hockenson in your lineup to win. Let me explain. When both Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola went down Fantasy Analysts everywhere got back on the Hockenson train but he has only cracked over 15 Fantasy Points twice all season and only once during this stretch from week 8 on. Additionally despite being labeled a “red zone threat” Hockenson has only caught 1 touchdown pass during that same span. Now you can’t say he isn’t being targeted – he is. 7 Targets last week, 8 targets in Week 9, 10 Targets in Week 8 – but had his season high of 68 yards in that losing effort last week and in fact he has not cracked 70 yards all season. Not even close honestly. My point here is that I just don’t have him as a Must Play on Turkey Day. I also think most of his ownership largely comes from the idea that Mark Andrews and Eric Ebron are no longer on this slate and Hockenson was the next, best man up when players were editing their lineups. Now could this be the TJ Hockenson break out game – certainly, it’s not like the Texans are known for shutting down Tight Ends. It is just more likely to me he finishes like he has all season. 4 catches for 65 yards. I think you will need him to score a touchdown for him to pay off his ownership and I just don’t see that as a guarantee by any stretch. So while I will have shares of him, I likely will use him more as a run back in Texans stacks than I will stacked with Stafford himself.

Aside from Marvin Jones though, I am excited for the Detroit backfield however. Deandre Swift is still in the concussion protocol – but if he is able to play, he faces a Texans team that is dead last in the league against running backs. In week 10 when the backfield really became his he balled out going 16 for 81 one the ground and five balls for 68 yards and a score. I think due to the injury worry and the fact that there are more high profile running backs on this slate, Swift is going a little bit under the radar – so what news on him. If he can go, I think he should be a lock and perhaps the best play to run back a Texans stack with. If Swift can’t go, we saw Kerryon Johnson take 70% of the running back snaps in week 11 and while I’d expect Johnson’s ownership to shoot up a little I don’t see him overtaking Zeke or Antonio Gibson in the other game and for me Johnson is a lock just as Swift would be for me. At least from what we saw last week the odd man out here seems to be Adrian Peterson and while I don’t mind you taking a shot here or there on AP if you are multi-entering I think he is more of a Showdown slate play than he is for the main slate.

Also if you are multi-entering I don’t mind taking a shit on the Lions defense. I can tell you, if ownership projections hold NO ONE is playing the Lions defense. However Deshaun Watson is one of the most sacked Quarterbacks in the league and it isn’t unheard of for him to toss an interception or for a fumble to occur either. If you really want to grab a leverage play, grab the Detroit Defense, especially in Showdowns. I don’t even hate a Showdown lineup with both Watson and the Lions Defense in it. Sounds crazy – get crazy!

Favorite Play in this Game: Deshaun Watson

Top Plays in this Game: Watson, Matthew Stafford, Fuller, Cooks, Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Backfield

Secondary Plays: Keke Coutee, TJ Hockenson, Duke Johnson, Texans Tight Ends

Dart Throw: Texans Defense, Lions Defense, Marvin Hall, Jamal Agnew, Quintez Cephus, Adrian Peterson

Dallas Cowboys vs The Washington Football Team.

I am just going to start by saying this – outside of a few players in this game, most of this game is projecting to be any higher than 30%, owned which is a little crazy to me. The Cowboys are on a roll and the Washington Football Team is starting to pick things up with Alex Smith under center. There is just such heavy concentration on the earlier game that I think this game has a lot of sneaky fantasy appeal and I think you can take advantage of it. So lets talk about some leverage points first.

Quarterbacks in this game offer leverage plays against a 30% owned Stafford and a 60% owned Watson but of course none of them posses the rushing upside of Watson I think either Alex Smith or Andy Dalton could have a chance at out scoring Stafford. The thing is – no one seems to be clicking on either Smith or Dalton. I don’t know why either.

In Alex Smith you have a guy who is coming back from a catastrophic injury. Has he gotten his sea legs under him yet? In two of the last 3 Games Smith has gone for over 300 yards passing and last week he had his first passing touchdown of his comeback. Two weeks ago he also attempted 55 passes. Now he gets to face a Cowboys defense who is allowing 242 passing yards per game and 30+ Fantasy Points on average to opposing quarterbacks – the last in the league in that category. The Washington Football team are coming off a great team win and are not completely out of the picture for a wild card slot. I think on Thanksgiving Day, Smith is poised for a big game and for me, I think he is a great pivot from Stafford.

Scary Terry McLauren is right behind Fuller and Cooks from an ownership perspective but with his concentrated target share, I think it is certainly an arguable point to make that he may have one of the best opportunities on the entire slate at his position. McLauren has seen 7 or more targets in every game this season and over the last 3 games with Smith under center he has yet to finish with less than 84 yards. And while he only has one touchdown in that span, that came in his best game of the season in a similar rival game against the Giants where he also went for a season high of 115 yards. With the Cowboys ranked 31st against Wide Receivers I think McLauren should be a lock in your lineups. He is carrying a Q tag going into the game but practiced in full on Wednesday and is expected to play.

I think you can find some value and contrarian plays here with the WFT Wide Receiver. Stephen Sims caught all 3 of his targets last week including a Touchdown. Cam Sims also saw two targets from Alex Smith last week. Dontrelle Inman took 5 targets for 45 yards last week and he has two touchdowns on the season. Isaiah Wright and Jeff Badet also saw 1 target a piece and despite yet recording a target the speedy former Buffalo Bill Robert Foster is also active for the WFT. While I likely won’t go much further than Stephen Sims or Dontrelle Inman the two things you can take a away from this is that Alex Smith is spreading the ball around and you have Cheap Low Owned options available to pair with McLauaren in a stack with Smith that can help you be a bit contrarian from the field. I think that a Washington WR stack in a Showdown lineup makes a lot of sense too.

Where I think a lot of people will go however is with Tight End Logan Thomas who certainly has been getting a work out running routes all season. However much like Hockenson, I am just not with a lot of the DFS Analysts in playing Thomas here. First only twice this season has Thomas seen more than 5 targets per game and only twice has he topped 60 yards. Additionally while he has scored double digit fantasy points four times this season only one of those was over 15 points and in a competitive game like last week he came away with a whopping 2.8 points. I just don’t think Alex Smith is looking Thomas’ way. I think a bit reason to point to this is how he has been spreading the ball around to his wide receivers. I won’t fault you for playing him, just like I won’t fault you for playing Hockenson but for me I’d rather look at either Fells or Aikins or the tight end on the other side of this game. I just think think they have more opportunities and are more involved than Thomas. Maybe that’s just me and I miss the Logan Thomas breakout game. C’est La Vie.

The second highest owned Running Back on the Slate is Antonio Gibson and I think it is well deserved. Why? First he is a fantastic player and as a rookie he really has become the core of the Washington run game. He also has 1 or more touchdowns in each of Alex Smith’s start and has also seen 7 targets from Smith over that span. While the Cowboys are ranked 10th against running backs they are still giving up over 150 yards on the ground on average I think Gibson is in line for a nice game. Now I think one thing that most people are on the belief of is that it is tough to get to Gibson with JD McKissic having a large roll in this offense – but I’d like to challenge that. The Rub on McKissic is that with Alex Smith under center he is using McKissic a lot in the passing game – and that was true in week 9 and 10 with JD seeing 14 and 15 targets respectively. However we saw that drop off last week in a big way and after seeing the success that the team had in that game I have to wonder if the same trend will occur here. I think it doesn’t help that a big reason for the Cowboys being highly ranked against running backs is that they are yet to allow over 30 yards in the air to running backs, which has been McKissic’s bread and butter. And while McKissic is getting a handful of snaps per game running the ball – and has his only rushing touchdown on the season in Week 10 – I think it is pretty clear from the eye test that this is Antonio Gibson’s backfield. So I will be fairly heavy on Gibson in my lineups and while I will have a few shots on McKissic, I just am not as worried about him cutting into Gibson’s workload as others in the industry are.

I think the Washington FT Defense should be firmly in play as well. They have a strong front line and know how to rush the quarterback and they have been tough on Wide Receivers on a whole. They are ranked 1st against the pass holding teams to an average 217 yards per game. They do have a weakness on the ground game, so I could see the Cowboys going a bit more run heavy but all in all I like the Washington FT Defense and I like the Stack with Gibson as a nice inclusion on Houston Texans stacks or even Detroit Lions stacks.

The highest owned player on the slate is Ezekiel Elliot and it isn’t even close. The thing is – I don’t hate it. Zeke is cheap compared to where he was earlier in the season and the Washington FT is giving up over 120 yards on the ground. Zeke certainly has had his struggles since Dak Prescott went down but he is coming off of his first 100 yard game of the season and looks a bit renewed following the bye week. Zeke should have ample opportunity to ply his trade on turkey day and so I think he is firmly in play – but if you really want to have some leverage, especially if you are multi-entering and in Showdown lineups, take a couple shots on Tony Pollard. Pollard is not going to see a ton of opportunities barring an injury to Zeke – but boy did he make use of the opportunities he did see last week taking 5 carries for 60 yards including a 42 yard Touchdown scamper. I know I’ll have at least 1 lineup with a cheap low owned Pollard in the flex. I will tell you if Zeke’s ownership continues to creep up, I think my interest in him will decrease. The reality is that he has shown he has much of an opportunity to bust as he has one to smash and if he busts and you can get leverage on 70-80% of the field, I think you will be happy I mentioned that. Take that for what you will .

The Cowboys receivers and Andy Dalton though are absolutely some of my favorite plays on the slate. None of the receivers are seeing any higher ownership than 39% and with such concentrated ownership on Fuller, Cooks, McLauaren and Marvin Jones – I think they all can be considered Sneaky Plays. Amari Cooper is clearly the number one target for Andy Dalton and I think he needs to be strongly considered here. Last week he took 7 catches for 81 yards and while he has only one touchdown on the season I think with Dalton back under center Cooper has positive regression coming in that department. I also think that the performance Ceedee Lamb put on last week has gotten him firmly back on Dalton’s Radar and how can you not like the athleticism he showed on that Touchdown last week. Michael Gallup seems like the odd man out here but at a projected ownership of 14% I don’t hate adding Gallup to a stack with Dalton and either Cooper or Lamb. Which brings me to Dalton himself. The Red Rocket looked great in his return to the field last week throwing for over 200 yards and 3 Touchdowns. Heck he even ran for 5 yards. Dalton is projected at 11% ownership and I think a Dalton Cooper Lamb stack is going to go criminally overlooked. While it is a tougher matchup against the Washington FT Defense, I just don’t see the Cowboys offense being shut down here and I would not be surprised to see many winning lineups with some Cowboys stacked up – and I don’t just mean Zeke.

Finally we can talk about my favorite Tight End Play – Dalton Schultz. Schultz saw 6 targets last week and scored a touchdown but it is the matchup that makes Schultz my favorite. The Washington FT is in the bottom ⅓ of the league against Tight Ends and I think Schultz has a golden opportunity to capitalize. With little competition for tight end targets, a great matchup and a projected ownership of 10% less than Hockenson’s, I will have a lot of Dalton Schultz in my lineups and I really have a thing going for a Dalton Cooper Schultz stack running it back with McLauren on the other side.

I should mention, the chalk defense on the slate is the Cowboys but I think that has more to do with price than anything else. There certainly could be opportunities for the Cowboys defense to perform but I don’t see the same potential for sacks and turnovers that I do with Houston or with the Washington FT. The thing is, with so much value and DK not adjusting pricing on the slate – I don’t think you need to spend all the way down on the Cowboys to play who you want to. For me I’d rather load up on Washington players than I would play the defense against them so I am going to go against the grain and fade the Cowboys.

Favorite Play in this game: Terry McLauren

Top Plays: McLauren, Alex Smith, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliot, Antonio Gibson, Dalton Schultz

Secondary Plays: Ceedee Lamb, Andy Dalton, JD McKissic, Washington FT D

Dart Throws: Michael Gallup, Logan Thomas, Stephen Sims, Cam Sims

Good Luck in your Contests and have a happy safe and healthy Thanksgiving!

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