Welcome to the game-by-game DFS breakdown, Thanksgiving day edition. In this writeup, I’ll walk you through the players, stacks, one-offs, etc., that I’ll be targeting weekly in DFS.
My aim here is that you can apply this encyclopedia of stats and my word vomit to a variety of sites and contests with everything from cash to your GPP entries. With plenty of words ahead to peruse, let’s dive into this week’s action.
Happy holiday to everyone. Writing this article weekly has been amazing and it wouldn’t be possible without all of you. Thank you.
Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
CHI -2.5, O/U 41.5
Pace and playcalling
This game is going to be slow no matter how you slice it. Detroit is 24th in neutral pace immediately followed by Chicago at 25th. Both teams are enamored with their run games as well. Detroit ranks 31st in neutral passing rate (51.6%) while Chicago is dead last (45.8%).
Andy Dalton is in a fantastic spot against the Lions' pass defense. Detroit allows the eighth-highest adjusted completion rate (77.0%) and the highest yards per attempt (8.5). They have been abysmal against the deep ball with a 46.3% completion rate (eighth highest), 734 deep passing yards (the most in the NFL), and a 107.4 deep passer rating (sixth highest) allowed. I hate to say it, but I like Dalton this week. Dalton isn't a sexy option, but he is a great leverage play off David Montgomery, who will be chalky for tournaments. You can play him with Montgomery or just focus on the passing attack for Chicago. Dalton isn't someone we look at as an aggressive thrower of the football, especially after his beginning to the season in Chicago, but last week he showed a willingness to pull the trigger. Yes, it's an incredibly small sample, but he went deep on 21.7% of his throws against a better secondary in Baltimore. To give some context to that rate, Fields leads the NFL in deep ball rate (18.7%) among quarterbacks with ten or more deep passing attempts. Dalton didn't even attempt a deep pass in Weeks 1-2. If we see Dalton chucking it versus this defense at a low roster percentage and as leverage off the chalk, yes, I'll get exposure to him on this slate.
David Montgomery is the only Bears’ running back in play. Since his return to the starting lineups, he’s been the team’s bell-cow back, playing 85% and 95% of the snaps. Over his last two games, he’s averaged 15 touches and 62 total yards. In Week 4, Montgomery was on his way to a banner day against this defense with 23 carries and 106 rushing yards before he fell victim to injury. The Lions are terrible against running backs in all facets. Detroit has given up the second-most fantasy points per game (24.7), third-most rushing yards (1,210), and the fifth-highest yards after contact per attempt (2.5). Since his return, Montgomery has run a route on 58.6% of the Bears’ dropbacks, and he now faces one of the league’s worst (30th in DVOA) defenses against running backs in the passing game.
Herbert has only played 17 total snaps, with Montgomery back with five total touches. He doesn’t make the cut even for MME.
Allen Robinson is doubtful to suit up again this week. Chicago will trot out a starting trio of Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin, and Damiere Byrd with Robinson out. Jakeem Grant also played some snaps at receiver, but he only ran four routes, so leave him out of your player pool. Last week Mooney was the unquestioned alpha, drawing a ridiculous 41.1% target share and four deep targets while running half of his routes outside and in the slot. Mooney will see Amani Oruwariye and Jerry Jacobs on the outside and Will Harris or Mark Gilbert when he moves inside. Oruwariye is allowing a 70.7% catch rate and 78.6 passer rating in coverage. Jacobs has surrendered a 58.6% catch rate and 96.3 passer rating. Harris has only defended the slot on a limited basis with a 66.7% catch rate (six targets) and 79.7 passer rating allowed. It’s a similar story as Mark Gilbert is untested with a 60% catch rate (five targets) and an 88.8 passer rating.
Goodwin is a fantastic low-rostered play in this slate. Last week he saw a 23.5% target share while running about 87% of his routes outside. Goodwin was second on the team in deep targets with three. Goodwin showed off his wheels and rapport with Dalton last week, housing one from 49 yards out. Byrd ran about 60% of his routes out of the slot, but after drawing only two targets, he likely doesn’t make more than 1-2 lineups in 150.
Overall, Cole Kmet has drawn an 18.5% target share while tying Robinson for the team lead in red-zone target share (21%). Since Jimmy Graham’s return in Week 9, Kmet has run a route on 72% of dropbacks (Graham, 20%). Graham has drawn two red-zone targets compared to Kmet’s one, but it’s an immensely small sample. The Lions are 22nd in DVOA against tight ends allowing 535 receiving yards (15th). If you’re looking for plays from this passing game, I prefer Mooney and Goodwin over Kmet. Graham is a fine showdown play, but I won’t roster him in a single entry or three-max contest on this slate.
**Update: Goff is questionable. If he is out, downgrade the pass catchers for the Lions, but Swift should remain a strong play despite the Lions missing two starting offensive lineman.**
Jared Goff has been dreadful. Over his last six games, he's thrown one passing touchdown and eclipsed 250 passing yards only once. The last time these teams met, Goff tossed for 299 yards and two scores. This Bears' secondary has been a fraud allowing the seventh-highest yards per attempt (7.9) and 16 passing touchdowns (10th most). Much like the dumpster value diving idea behind playing Dalton, Goff can open up a ton and auto makes your team different. Goff has numerous paths to failure, whether the pace of this game or the Lions' paltry passing rate if this game stays close. Goff is best reserved for MME or large-field contests.
D'Andre Swift is a core play on this slate. For correlation's, sake is it usually a no-no to play running backs from the same game? Yes. Is Swift like most running backs? No. He leads the team with a 20.3% target share and 6.7 targets per game, essentially operating as the team's number one receiver. Even with Jamaal Williams back last week, he played 73% of the snaps with 17 touches and 136 total yards. Detroit's offensive line has been opening holes regularly, ranking ninth in yards before contact per attempt (1.79) since Week 6 per FTN Data. Swift matches up with a Bears' run defense that has fallen off mightily. They have allowed the seventh-most rushing yards (1,054) and fourth-most (nine) rushing touchdowns to running backs. Chicago has fallen to 29th in explosive run rate allowed. Swift has dominated the red zone work since Week 5 when he and Williams have been active. Over that span, he has ten red zone opportunities to Williams' three. Williams doesn't even make the MME list this week. He will likely siphon off 8-10 touches on the ground, but Swift owns the high-value touches in this offense, both in the passing game and near pay dirt.
The Lions will roll out a starting receiver lineup of Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds. Raymond and Reynolds will run about 95% of their routes on the perimeter, while St. Brown (91% slot) will work inside. The primary receiving options I’ll mix in mini correlations or game stacks from this receiver group are Raymond and St. Brown. Raymond is second on the team with a 15.5% target share (32.1% of the team’s air yards) while leading the team in deep targets (nine). The Bears are 29th in DVOA against deep passing. The first time they played this season, Raymond went for two scores. He’ll match up with Kindle Vildor and Jaylon Johnson on the outside. Vildor is allowing a 69.6% catch rate and 136.7 passer rating. Johnson has been tougher, only giving up a 53.7% catch rate and 81.4 passer rating. Raymond will match up on Vildor’s side of the field more, with Reynolds seeing a tad more Johnson. This is the matchup we covet as Vildor has been one of the worst corners in the league.
St. Brown leads the wide receivers in target share and red zone target share (14%). He’ll line up against Duke Shelley if he’s able to suit up. Shelley allows a 77.5% catch rate and 105.4 passer rating in slot coverage. In their first meeting, St. Brown logged a 21.0% target share with six receptions, 70 receiving yards, and two red-zone targets. Reynolds only drew three targets last week while playing 90% of the snaps. If he runs over half of his routes against Johnson, you can cross him off the player list.
T.J. Hockenson will have more big games before the season ends, but this doesn’t look like one of those weeks. Hockenson leads the team with a 19.6% target share, 30% end zone target share, and a 23% red zone target share. The Bears have been tough against tight ends, ranking eighth in DVOA and allowing only 39 receptions (27th) and 342 receiving yards (30th).
This will be the fastest game on the Thanksgiving slate while also having the highest total. Dallas is seventh in neutral-script pace, followed by Las Vegas that sits at tenth. Both teams will throw the ball a ton as the Raiders are fourth in neutral passing rate (64.7%). Since Week 5, Dallas is 12th in passing percentage (59.2%) in close games.
Derek Carr has been broken since losing field stretcher Henry Ruggs. He’s seen considerable decreases across the board. After logging 20-point fantasy games in four of his first seven weeks, he’s only surpassed 12 fantasy points once.
Passing yard per game
Passing TDs per game
Yards per attempt
Carr has seen his deep passing rate and deep completion percentage fall from 16.2% and 48.8% to 9.3% and 40%. To add some context to his deep passing rate if Carr was throwing downfield at that percentage (9.3%) all season he would rank 28th out of 36 quarterbacks with ten or more deep attempts. This will be a huge problem for Carr this week. Dallas is allowing the fifth-lowest adjusted completion rate, but where they really shine is against short passing ranking first in DVOA. They are 26th in DVOA against deep passing, but considering the 180-degree turn Carr’s season has taken it’s unlikely we see him challenge this secondary deep. I don’t have any interest in Carr in this slate.
Josh Jacobs has been the model of futility this season. Since Week 9, he has averaged 14.4 touches (9.7 rushing attempts) and 64 total yards per game. He has managed only one breakaway run all season while sitting outside the top 30 running backs in evaded tackles, yards created per touch, and juke rate (per Player Profiler). He takes on a Cowboys defense that has allowed 851 (21st) rushing yards to running backs and the sixth-lowest rushing touchdown mark (five). Dallas has been prone to giving up chunk plays on the ground, ranking 23rd in explosive run rate and seventh in gash rate allowed. Jacobs doesn’t have that big-play ability this season.
Kenyan Drake, however, is an interesting play in a game stack or cheap mini correlation from this high total game. Drake has averaged 7.3 touches and 53.3 total yards per game since Week 9. When given volume he’s shown burst and elusiveness, ranking seventh in yards created per touch and fourth in yards per touch.
Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards and Zay Jones will start for Las Vegas this week. Since Week 9, Renfrow has led the way in target share and red zone targets running 78% of his routes from the slot. He’s seen at least nine targets in two of his last three games but hasn’t surpassed the 50-yard receiving mark since Week 7. Renfrow will match up with Jourdan Lewis inside, who has been extremely good this season. Since Week 6, he’s allowed a 68.4% catch rate and a 62.2 passer rating.
Jones and Edwards have been the full-time outside complements running about 75% of their routes on the perimeter. Jones has taken over as the deep threat from Ruggs, while Edwards has remained in his tertiary role. Edwards will run about half of his routes against Trevon Diggs this week. Diggs has been the Cowboys’ worst corner since Week 6, allowing a 71.4% catch rate and 116.7 passer rating, but make no mistake, Diggs can shut Edwards down. Diggs is a big physical corner who should have no issues bodying up Edwards and pressing him at the line. With Renfrow facing the league’s best defense against short passing, he’s a fade. Jones is the only Raiders receiver I’m considering as an MME sprinkle this week. If Carr decides to take a deep shot against this defense, it’s likely headed to Jones. DeSean Jackson has been averaging only 7.5 routes per game since joining Las Vegas, so counting on him in DFS is risky as he has only seen one target across two games.
Darren Waller is a player I will try and wedge into as many lineups as possible. Since Week 9, he has led the team with a 23.1% target share and four red-zone targets. He leads the team in first read share (26%) and end zone target share (35%). Waller is tied with Renfrow for the highest red zone target share (23%). Dallas is 24th in DVOA (per Football Outsiders) against the tight end position allowing 53 receptions (12th-most) and 616 receiving yards (ninth-most).
I’ll have exposure to Dak Prescott on this slate, but there are concerns with how Dallas could attack this defense. The Raiders are a zone-heavy defense (about 70% of their corners’ coverage snaps) that’s main aim is to keep everything in front of them and limit the big plays. This season, Las Vegas has done that well, ranking 11th in DVOA against deep passing and allowing the fifth-lowest yards per attempt (6.5). This secondary has conceded the sixth-lowest explosive pass rate. Prescott has played three other defenses (LAC, PHI, CAR) that heavily incorporate zone concepts. In those three games, Dallas took the air out of the ball, with Prescott averaging 25 pass attempts and 221 passing yards. Prescott surpassed 20 fantasy points in two of those three games on the strength of three and four passing touchdown outings. In Prescott’s six other games, he’s averaged 42.3 pass attempts per game. While Prescott could be one of the highest-scoring quarterbacks on this slate, it will likely come via touchdown efficiency and not volume.
**Update: Tyron Smith’s splits are noticeable for Ezekiell Elliott. He has become my favorite pay up option on the slate. If the Cowboys keep the ball on the ground Elliott will eat. Double Dallas running back lineups are viable on this three game slate.**
In Weeks 2-4 against those zone-centric squads, Ezekiel Elliott averaged 19.3 touches, 118.6 total yards, and a touchdown per game. Elliott tackles a Raiders’ run defense that’s given up 1,041 rushing yards (eighth-most), eight rushing touchdowns (ninth-most), and the sixth-highest fantasy points per game (21.3) to running backs. The Raiders have also been giving to opposing backs in the passing game, ranking 24th in DVOA and surrendering four receiving touchdowns (third-most). Elliott saw his snaps dip to 49% before last week, but they rebounded to 69% in Week 11.
All the reasons that make Elliott a strong play that will be chalky also apply to Tony Pollard. Pollard is the leverage play off Elliott. Since Week 9, their workload split has been close. In Weeks 2-4, Pollard averaged 12.6 touches and 80 total yards per game. If Pollard gets in the end zone in this game, he could be one of the better value plays on the slate.
**Update: CeeDee Lamb still has not been cleared from concussion protocol, so he’s not definite to play. Make sure if you have him rostered you leave salary to late swap.If he is in bump down my love for Cedrick Wilson, but Dalton Schultz will be my favorite tight end play of the slate regardless of Lamb’s status.** If CeeDee Lamb cannot clear concussion protocol, the Cowboys will start Michael Gallup and Noah Brown on the outside, with Cedrick Wilson lining up in the slot. Brown will head to the bench if Lamb can give it a go. Lamb leads the team with a 22% target share and 31% of the team’s air yards. He’s also first on the team in end zone target share (25%). With Cooper out, Lamb will run about 80% of his routes on the perimeter against Casey Hayward and Brandon Facyson. Hayward has been nasty this year, allowing a 44.8% catch rate and 60.0 passer rating. Facyson has been more pliable, allowing a 60% catch rate and 101.6 passer rating. Hayward isn’t shadowing, so don’t expect Lamb to see him the entire game, but on half of his routes is a possibility. Gallup will run about 85% of his routes (57% RWR) on the outside against Facyson and Hayward. Gallup has averaged 7.5 targets and 43 receiving yards per game since his return while also drawing two red-zone looks. Both players are worth rostering on this slate. The biggest question between the two is who makes the most of their time against Facyson because Hayward isn’t a corner I want to attack. I don’t have any interest in Noah Brown if he starts.
In the six games, Wilson has played at least 57% of the snaps he’s run 87% of his routes from the slot. In those weeks, he’s drawn a 7.8% target share and a 9% red zone target share overall. Wilson will match up against Nate Hobbs, who is the easiest corner matchup on the board. Hobbs is allowing an 88.2% catch rate and 96.4 passer rating. Wilson is a player I’ll have a lot of exposure to. While the ceiling isn’t massive (only one game surpassing 50 yards receiving), he has scored three times on the season and could be in line for heavier usage this week.
Dalton Schultz is a reason to consider two-TE builds on this slate. Last week he played 99% of the snaps, and without Blake Jarwin, he likely won’t leave the field this week. Schultz has drawn a 17.2% target share this year with three games of at least eight targets. Schultz has a 9% red zone target share. The Raiders have struggled to defend the tight end position ranking 29th in DVOA (per Football Outsiders), giving up 667 receiving yards (sixth-most) and six receiving touchdowns (third-most). Schultz is a core play this week. If you’re not rostering Waller, Schultz is my favorite tight-end play. Dallas could lean on their underneath options in Schultz and Wilson this week.
Buffalo is a known pace-up (fifth neutral script pace) and passing-rate (first, 67.8%) wonderland. New Orleans has picked it up in both aspects since Trevor Siemian became the starter. Since Week 9, they are eighth in neutral pace and 14th (58.3%) in passing rate.
The word is out on Josh Allen. Allen has five games in which he’s had less than 6.0 yards per attempt. While Miami contained their passing attack in two weeks with a man heavy approach the answer has been in those other three contests to drop into zone and make Allen beat you underneath. Pittsburgh and Jacksonville dropped their corners into zone coverage on 70-82% of their snaps (per PFF). In those two games Allen completed 62.2% of his passes for only 5.4 yards per attempt and a 1:2 touchdown to interception ratio. The Saints could easily deploy the same strategy this week as we saw them utilize their corner in zone on 70-72% of their snaps in Week 11. The upside case for Allen is that the Saints secondary has shown some weakness around the edges over their last four games. In that stretch they have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 68.5% of their passes with 9.0 yards per attempt (7:2 touchdown to interception ratio). Since Week 8 they are 29th in explosive pass rate allowed, so there is still an upside case to be made for Allen.
The Bills backfield has dissolved into the three-way mess. Over the last two games the work has been split up between Zack Moss, Devin Singletary and Matt Breida in all phases. Against a run defense that’s 31st in rushing yards and fantasy points per game allowed to running backs, no thank you. New Orleans is ranked inside the top four in adjusted line yards, second-level yards, and open-field yards allowed. The Saints are also third in stuff rate (54.5%). Each of these backs will see 5-10 unproductive touches this week against a top three defense against running backs.
Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley will get the starts for Buffalo. Beasley has seen his snaps limited in the previous week, but in Week 11 he was back up near his usual (57%) allotment. Against Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, Beasley led the way with a 25.5% target share and 19.5% of the team’s air yards. Beasley second in first read share (23%) and red zone target share (15%) behind only Diggs. He’ll run about 85% of his routes out of the slot against P.J. Williams and Malcolm Jenkins. Williams has allowed a 100% (nine targets) this season with a 101.9 passer rating. Jenkins has given up a 72.7% catch rate and 99.8 passer rating in coverage.
Stefon Diggs was right behind him in those two games with a 23.5% target share and 28.5% of the air yards. Diggs has seen a team-leading 32% endzone target share and 28% red zone target share running about 78% of his routes on the perimeter. Beasley leads the team in targets against zone (47) with Diggs immediately behind him (46). Diggs will lineup against Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo this week. It’s possible Lattimore shadows this week as he has followed Terry McLaurin, DK Metcalf and Mike Evans on at least 65% of their routes.
Lattimore has allowed a 58.9% catch rate and 122.2 passer rating, so even if he shadows this isn’t a coffin nail for Diggs. Adebo has been beatable giving up a 65.2% catch rate and 107.8 passer rating. If you’re not paying up for Elliott on this slate, Diggs is the target.
Emmanuel Sanders is a worthy stack partner with Allen. Sanders has seen a 15% target share this season (17% against Pittsburgh and Jacksonville) with a 26% end zone target share (second on the team). Sanders will also work outside on about 80% of his routes. If Lattimore shadows Diggs, this would bump Sanders’ time against Adebo, which is a plus. Gabriel Davis doesn’t make my MME list. Despite popping off for 105 receiving yards in Week 10 he’s averaged only three targets per game since Week 9 with 38% of snaps played.
Dawson Knox has a 13.8% target share when active with a 14% red zone target share. Knox has been a go-to weapon for Allen on underneath routes, but this game is likely more a Beasley game. New Orleans is fourth in DVOA against the position. Despite seeing the eighth-most tight end targets (79), they are 25th in receiving yards (433) allowed. They have given up only one receiving touchdown this season to tight ends, the second-lowest mark in the league.
New Orleans is in a tough spot, especially through the air against Buffalo, who is first in pass defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders). They have limited passing attacks to a 68.8% adjusted completion rate (30th) and the league's lowest passing touchdowns (seven). I’ll only look to use the Saints offense in a mini correlation with a Bills skill player or as a run-back with an Allen stack, so Trevor Siemian is a definite no. **Update: Mark Ingram has been listed as questionable, but some reports feel like he is closer to doubtful. If Ingram is out, Tony Jones is likely the leader of this backfield. Again with this being the last game on the last roster Ingram in the flex and prepare to swap if he is out. Jones is an easy swap, but my preference if you’re staying in this game and looking for a run back to a Bills stack it’s Tre’Quan Smith. If you are rostering Jones leave the salary needed to flip to Smith if needed. **
Yes, people, the Jonathan Taylor call from the Week 11 game-by-game article will echo into eternity. But Mark Ingram is not that type of play. Ingram could get the call as the starter for New Orleans against this week, although he is also banged up. Over the last two games, Ingram has averaged 78% of the snaps played with 20 touches and 110.5 total yards per game. He’s averaged 7.5 targets per game as well. He is a volume play against this defense. The Bills are second in yards after contact per attempt allowed (2.8). They are 26th in open field yards allowed, but there should be concerns if the Saints banged up line can get him to the second level. They are ranked 25th and 30th in second-level and open-field yards. Since Week 6, they are 17th in yards before contact, per FTN Data. Ingram is still a player that will see 17-20 touches and all of the pass game work (62.9% routes per dropback). If somehow Ingram is out, this could turn into a mess. Last week Dwayne Washington (6% snaps, two touches) and Tony Jones (15% snaps, three touches) worked in behind Ingram. Jones would likely lead the backfield if he's out, but it could be more of a 50/50 split.
Since Week 9, Tre'Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway have been the only full-time receivers for the Saints. Smith is the leader in target share (17.3%) while seeing three red-zone targets running nearly 60% of his routes from the slot. Smith will line up opposite Taron Johnson, who has been stellar, allowing only a 50% catch rate and 61.2 passer rating. Smith is only a large field or MME sprinkle. Callaway isn’t someone I care about against Tre'Davious White and Levi Wallace. White is giving up a 54.4% catch rate and 62.4 passer rating. Wallace is a similar story conceding a 57.7% catch rate and 71.1 passer rating.
With Adam Trautman out, Nick Vannett and Juwan Johnson could split the tight end routes. Vannett ran 15 routes (one target) while Juwan Johnson was inactive last week. Johnson has crested 11 routes in a game only once (Week 2). The Bills are 12th in DVOA against the tight end position allowing 406 receiving yards (26th). There are better tight end plays on this slate that could bury punt options like these.
Derek has written for Fantasy Data, 4for4, Player Profiler, and as a co-author of the best selling Fantasy Football Black Book Series. His DFS, redraft, and dynasty takes have been projected to the masses with recurring guest roles on Sirius XM and DK Sweat. Born in Louisiana, he is a diehard Saints fan (Whodat). Derek now resides in Fort Worth, Texas, with his beautiful, football-loving wife and three kids.