In addition to family, food, and giving thanks for Antonio Brown, fantasy football fans were treated to a trio of entertaining NFL games on Thanksgiving that were littered with stellar fantasy performances. With no byes on the Week 12 schedule, fantasy squads are at full force with playoff berths on the line and the first three games of the week certainly didn’t disappoint. Grab a fork and finish off that last piece of pumpkin pie as we take a quick spin through the top fantasy storylines from Thursday’s games.
Vikings at Lions
Minnesota and Detroit got the turkey day party started early in a NFC North battle where the Vikings were looking for revenge after an overtime loss to the Lions in Week 9. Scoring was slow in this game, with two first quarter touchdowns followed by five field goals as Lions kicker Matt Prater had himself a big day in a 16-13 win. Minnesota’s abysmal running game struggled once again, as Jerick McKinnon led the way with 31 yards on nine carries. The Vikings have not rushed for over 100 yards since Week 4 and don’t appear to be on the verge of cracking the century mark anytime soon. With speedy wide receiver Stefon Diggs (knee) inactive, it was Kyle Rudolph (9 rec, 64 yards) and Adam Thielen (8 rec, 53 yards) leading the Minnesota passing game. Rudolph and Thielen were targeted a combined 21 times by Sam Bradford, who struggled to push the ball downfield throughout the game.
Anquan Boldin scored the only touchdown of the day for Detroit, and finished with a healthy seven grabs for 69 yards and the score. Marvin Jones led the Lions with 11 targets, but hauled in just four passes for 54 yards. Theo Riddick (ankle) shook off his questionable tag and led the uninspiring Lions backfield with 45 yards on nine carries while Dwayne Washington saw just five attempts. Riddick’s receiving skills make him the only Detroit running back worth starting with the Lions owning the NFL’s 30th-ranked rushing attack. The excitement in this game was saved for the final seconds, as the winning field goal was set up by an errant Sam Bradford pass that was intercepted by Detroit CB Darius Slay, who made the play of the day. How about I just go eat some hay? I can make things out of clay and lay by the bay…whad’ya say?
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Redskins at Cowboys
Kirk Cousins continued his blazing hot streak in the afternoon game on Thursday, racking up 449 yards on 53 passing attempts while throwing a three-pack of touchdowns. The impressive performance was not enough, as Washington fell to Dallas 31-26, but Cousins is in the midst of a serious run. In his last four outings, Cousins is averaging a beefy 386 yards per game and has thrown 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Tight end Jordan Reed was Cousins’ favorite target, catching 10 of 12 targets for 95 yards and two touchdowns after sending chills down the spines of fantasy owners when he briefly left the game with a shoulder injury. Hefty running back Rob Kelley showed why he is better suited for favorable game scripts, following up his 137-yard Week 11 performance with just 37 yards on 14 carries.
The Dallas Cowboys were unsurprisingly led by rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rumbled for 97 yards on 20 carries and found the end zone twice. Elliott continues to shred NFL defenses and has at least 92 rushing yards in every game since Week 2. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was his usual reliable self on Thursday, responsibly leading the Cowboys’ offense with 195 yards and a touchdown. Prescott also chipped in with a rushing score to go with 39 yards on the ground, as the Dallas offense was effective yet again. Dez Bryant led the Dallas receiving game, catching five of seven targets for 72 yards in a heated matchup with Washington CB Josh Norman. Dez has been extremely productive while averaging eight targets per game over the last three weeks, and is the type of fantasy stud that causes heartburn for opposing owners in the playoffs.
Steelers at Colts
The Thursday night cap was the Antonio Brown show, as the Steelers star snared three touchdowns on five receptions in a 28-7 Pittsburgh win. Ben Roethlisberger needed just 20 pass attempts, his lowest total of the season, to dismantle the Colts as he threw for 221 yards while finding Brown thrice in the end zone. Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell was productive as usual, turning 23 carries in 120 yards and a score while catching four passes for 22 yards. Bell and Brown led the way, but Ladarius Green also contributed 67 yards on a pair of catches. Green has promising talent, but isn’t seeing the field as much as fantasy owners would like since his return from injury. Per Pro Football Focus, Green saw only 14 snaps on Thursday, compared to 41 for fellow tight end Jesse James, a trend that will keep Green’s fantasy contributions to a minimum.
Indianapolis didn’t have much of a shot in this game with Andrew Luck (concussion) sidelined, but backup Scott Tolzien did manage to find Donte Moncrief for a touchdown. Moncrief has now scored in four consecutive games and has found the end zone in five of the six games he has played this season. Moncrief was Tolzien’s top option on the night with 11 targets, thanks to a back injury knocking T.Y. Hilton from the game. No news has surfaced yet on the status of Hilton, but the Colts won’t step on the field again until December 5th, leaving plenty of time for both Hilton and Andrew Luck to heal. Running back Frank Gore was stuffed for 28 yards on 15 carries as the Steelers D/ST delivered in a prime streaming spot, holding Indianapolis to just seven points while recording two interceptions and three sacks.
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Rob Gronkowski (lung) turned in a “limited” practice on Thursday and is heading toward a murky Sunday morning situation that won’t be easy on fantasy owners with New England playing an afternoon game. Stay tuned. … Michael Bennett (ankle) did not practice on Thursday and should be monitored as Sunday approaches. … LeSean McCoy (thumb) practiced in full on Thursday and will be good to go on Sunday despite the hand issue. … Ryan Mathews (knee) did not practice on Thursday while Darren Sproles (rib) was a full participant. The Eagles have an extra day to prepare for their game this week, so more definitive news on the Philadelphia backfield will emerge in coming days, but Sproles will likely handle receiving work with Wendell Smallwood responsible for early downs against Green Bay on Monday. … Mark Ingram (concussion) practiced again on Thursday and appears on track to play on Sunday against Los Angeles where he will continue to split backfield duties with Tim Hightower. … Sammy Watkins (foot) practiced on Thursday and looks like a candidate to make a return to game action this week. Add Watkins to the weekend injury watch list, but even if he doesn’t suit up in Week 12, fantasy owners should be able to count on the Bills wide receiver down the stretch. … Jeremy Maclin (groin) did not practice on Thursday and will likely miss Week 12 as his nightmare season continues. … Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Ameer Abdullah’s injured foot is “structurally sound” and his return to the field could be coming soon. Abdullah is worth a stash for teams hunting for running back depth as the fantasy playoffs arrive. … Michael Floyd (hamstring) missed practice on Thursday and his Sunday status is now in doubt. Floyd is a gamble this week at wide receiver even in a decent matchup.
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