FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 12 (Thanksgiving Slate)
The Thanksgiving slate is nigh, and it's always the most engaging slate of the year, no matter who is playing. We have three games with varying daily fantasy appeal, but there are some fun ways to approach all of them.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Let's take a look at each game and see which plays stand out.
Houston at Detroit
Spread: Houston -2.5
This is the only game of the three that isn't a (recent) divisional rematch, so that gives it extra appeal. Second-time-around divisional games can get a bit messy. Let's look at a snapshot of the teams' ranks based on numberFire's adjusted per-play metrics before breaking down each offense.
The Houston Texans' offense is the default offense to build around on the slate, specifically the passing offense. Both Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills were injured in Week 11, so we should be dealing with a pretty concentrated target tree.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson has played four games against bottom-half adjusted pass defenses. In those games, he has averaged 284.5 yards and 2.5 passing touchdowns. In terms of our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, he has averaged 0.36 expected points per drop back in this sample (the NFL average is 0.14 this season) along with a 58.6% Passing Success Rate (NFL average is 48.9%). He deserves a lot of attention in such a good matchup.
The market shares for the pass-catchers are a little hard to pinpoint because of the Cobb injury, but we do have four games where tight end Jordan Akins has played more than half the snaps. In those games, the targets are kind of dispersed: 17.4% for Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks and 13.6% for Akins before falling off to the quarternary play -- whomever that'd be without Cobb and Stills. Likely, it'd be Keke Coutee, who scored in Week 11 but had just four targets overall (three of which came in the red zone).
A better sample to dissect is their three post-bye games. In this split, Cooks leads the team with 22.2% of the targets with Fuller (21.2%) the only other pass-catcher above 11.1% (Akins). Cooks is averaging 7.3 targets per game in this sample with 1.7 downfield targets and 0.7 red zone targets per game. Fuller is at 7.0 targets per game with 1.7 downfield targets and no red zone work. Fuller and Cooks are strong plays. Akins at least fills the tight end slot. Coutee would have value if the red zone role returned again for Week 12.
Duke Johnson has averaged 13.3 carries (and 1.0 red zone carry) for just 36.7 yards per game on a terrible 22.5% Rushing Success Rate over the past three games without David Johnson out or leaving early. That comes with just 3.3 targets and 17.3 receiving yards per game with a single red zone target. The efficiency is dreadful, but there aren’t a ton of backs to pick from. Still, Johnson ranks last among qualified backs in rushing yards over expectation per attempt on the year. The odds he puts up a big game are low with how he has played.
A lot of this slate hinges on the status of Kenny Golladay and D'Andre Swift, who were both inactive this past week. Not in the sense that value opens up if they're out. Offenses get worse without key play-makers. That matters in daily fantasy football. And we sure have seen the Detroit Lions' offense struggle without them.
Matthew Stafford wasn't quite himself with his own hand injury on top of the missing skill position talent in Week 11. He had a 5.9-yard average depth of target last week with just 4 downfield throws on 33 attempts (12.1%; the NFL average is 16.4%). In six games without Golladay at full health, Stafford has averaged 16.8 FanDuel points and 257.0 yards per game on a per-drop back Passing NEP of 0.05. His average depth of target falls to 7.3 yards, and his downfield attempt rate is 14.4%. In games Golladay has finished, Stafford averages only a tinge more in the fantasy department (17.9 points per game) but is much more efficient: 0.24 Passing NEP per drop back. He also throws downfield more freely (17.1% of his passes travel at least 16 yards), and his passing average depth of target is 9.0 yards. Clearly, we should want this offense to have Golladay back for this game to remain close and put up points.
In games with Golladay out or limited, Marvin Jones has led the passing offense with an 18.0% target share, which is just 6.8 per game. However, he is averaging 1.7 downfield targets and 1.2 red zone targets, giving him some added juice on his targets. Adjusting his targets for the appropriate weight of downfield and red zone targets, he's around the equivalent of 8.8 per game.
T.J. Hockenson has 6.3 targets per game (16.7%) in these games without Golladay with a lowly 6.2-yard average depth of target. Marvin Hall holds a slim shot to relevance but was out-targeted 6 to 3 by converted cornerback Jamal Agnew in Week 11.
Without Swift, nobody really proved relevant last week in a plush rushing matchup. Kerryon Johnson played 39 snaps (to Adrian Peterson's 17) and had 6 carries and 5 targets. Peterson had seven and one, respectively. Assuming a negative game script holds based on the spread, Johnson would be the priority.
Of course, if Golladay and/or Swift play, they'll be core options. Golladay has a 21.7% target share in his healthy games with 2.3 downfield and 1.3 red zone targets per game (7.0 overall). Swift most recently broke out in Week 10, playing 72.9% of the snaps and handling 16 carries and 5 targets. The arrow would be way up on Detroit if either of them play.
Core Plays: Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, (Kenny Golladay, D'Andre Swift)
Secondary Plays: Marvin Jones, Matthew Stafford, T.J. Hockenson, Jordan Akins
Small-Slate Dart Throws: Keke Coutee, Kerryon Johnson, Duke Johnson
Washington at Dallas
Spread: Dallas -2.5
This is a rematch of a Week 7 game, one that saw Kyle Allen under center for the Washington Football Team and the hit that led to Andy Dalton's injury and missed time. Washington won 25-3, so I'm not sure it's the most predictive game to dig into overall. Let's get a snapshot of the game here and then break down the offenses.
Alex Smith has kept the Washington offense afloat in his three starts. He has averaged 0.10 Passing NEP per drop back, which is below the NFL average of 0.14, but it’s definitely workable. Also, elevated volume has led to multiple 300-yard passing games in his stint. As slight underdogs, the script could be neutral or lead to volume again. Plus, the Dallas Cowboys' defense is a subpar unit overall.
In Smith's three starts, he has featured running back J.D. McKissic, giving him 11.0 targets per game (27.7%), including 1.3 in the red zone per game. Terry McLaurin has 8.0 targets per game (20.2%) with 1.3 downfield and 1.0 red zone targets per game. McLaurin had 18.5 FanDuel points against the Cowboys in Week 7, via an 11-target, 90-yard, 1-touchdown game. He had a combined five high-leverage targets in that game. No other Football Teamer had more than four total targets. He's the focal point of the offense.
Logan Thomas is experiencing a rejuvenation with Smith under center. He had seen his route rate drop off a bit but has now run a route on 95.1%, 98.3%, and 100.0% of drop backs over the past three games. He has had just 5.7 targets per game in this split (14.3%) but is a viable play at tight end at just $5,000 with a lot of options surprisingly above him in salary.
The passing-game dart throw would probably be Cam Sims, who has had 4, 5, and 2 targets the past three games with 2, 2, and 0 downfield targets, which has led to 110, 54, and 20 receiving yards.
Antonio Gibson will draw a lot of attention, and it's both warranted and a little worrisome. Hear me out. Gibson has a stellar 54.3% Rushing Success Rate in this three-start sample but has only 11.7 carries (though 4.0 red zone opportunities) per game. He has four rushing scores over the past three contests. Even with those touchdowns, he has had 11.0, 20.5, and 16.9 FanDuel points. That'll surely work on a small slate, but he's really been boosted by touchdowns lately. He also lacks third-down work and receiving work. McKissic leads the team in target share under Smith, and if the Cowboys get out ahead, Gibson could fall flat. There's certain risk in loading up on Gibson.
McKissic himself has had 12.7, 14.4, and 8.4 FanDuel points over the past three games with just one touchdown. That's what receiving work can do for a player -- even on a half-PPR site.
The Cowboys' offense gets a big step up with Dalton back under center. Dalton is still subpar on the season (-0.01 Passing NEP per drop back), but Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci had combined for -0.30 Passing NEP per drop back. The upgrade is helping the offense overall, as we saw last week. Dalton's 6.1-yard average depth of target makes the offense more horizontal than vertical (NFL average is 7.8), but we should be thankful for Dalton's return (get it? because of Thanksgiving?).
On the season, Dalton has favored Amari Cooper, slightly. Cooper has 22.5% of the targets from Dalton. CeeDee Lamb has 21.6%. That said, the efficiency is wildly different. Cooper has averaged 9.0 yards per target (and 1.01 Reception NEP per target) on his 25 chances. Lamb has averaged 5.0 yards per target and 0.32 Reception NEP per target on his 24. The air yards are identical at 168 between them. It's a small sample, but Cooper really does grade out better by a good margin.
Michael Gallup was pretty much made for a three-game slate. He has a 13.7-yard average depth of target from Dalton on 15 targets. Gallup has also accounted for 5 of Dalton's 14 downfield throws (Lamb has 4, and Cooper has 2). His volatility can lead to big plays.
Dalton Schultz scored late in Week 11 and has a 13.5% target share from Dalton, same as Gallup and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Tight end is kind of strong for a small slate, but Schultz's $5,300 salary doesn't leave much room for error.
Elliott finally got a 100-yard game on the ground when he put up 103 on 21 carries in Week 11. He had just two targets but did score on one -- and receiving back Tony Pollard didn't see a single target. Elliott's 70% snap rate from Week 11 puts him into core play territory on a slate lacking sure things at running back.
Pollard has some appeal at $5,100 because he has had at least 40 rushing yards in four straight but has only 5 targets over the past four games. There isn't much of a ceiling with Elliott healthy, and he isn't even getting peppered out of the backfield like McKissic is. He'll probably be more popular than the workload suggests he should be.
Core Plays: Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Terry McLaurin
Secondary Plays: Antonio Gibson, CeeDee Lamb, Logan Thomas, J.D. McKissic
Small-Slate Dart Throws: Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Cam Sims, Tony Pollard
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Spread: Pittsburgh -3.0
[Editor's Note: This game has been postponed until Sunday.]
This is the lowest total on the slate (barely) and somehow has the largest spread (barely). The Pittsburgh Steelers won 28-24 in their Week 8 matchup, a game that lacked big outings for any specific players.
Lamar Jackson always has the potential to ruin a full slate with his rushing ability, so avoiding him on a three-game slate is really scary. However, he hasn't really had the passing to pair with the rushing this season. Jackson has run 10.3 times per game with 2.4 red zone rushes per game. That's not the issue. Jackson has just been okay with the other part of accumulating fantasy points. That's a problem.
He has averaged just 238.7 air yards per game and 194.8 passing yards per game on 27.6 attempts but at least is a tinge above the NFL average in downfield attempt rate at 18.1%. He hasn't been efficient on them and ranks 23rd among 31 quarterbacks with at least 30 deep throws in Passing NEP per attempt. The lack of splash plays have kept his ceiling reigned in, and the Steelers are seventh against the pass this season. Jackson threw just 28 times in Week 8 for 208 yards against the Steelers, resulting in 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He did run 16 times for 65 yards but had 3 fumbles.
The Baltimore Ravens' market shares are looking a bit different since their Week 7 bye. Mark Andrews leads the way with 23.7% of the targets (6.8 per game with 0.8 downfield and 1.0 red zone targets per game). But then it's Willie Snead ranking second with 21.9% of the targets (6.3 per game with actually 2.8 combined high-leverage looks). He's kind of taken over the Marquise Brown role in this four-game sample but can be rostered for just $5,300.
Conventional wisdom probably implies that Hollywood Brown is a must-start on a small slate, but he has had just 4.0 targets with 1.0 downfield looks per game since the bye. He's accounted for only 14.0% of the team's attempts. In Week 8, he saw just two targets but did catch a three-yard touchdown. Brown has yet to top 16.8 FanDuel points in a game and has been at 7.7 or below in five straight. There is always a chance that Brown breaks a big play, yet the underlying data isn't there to feel confident about his workload to do so.
Dez Bryant has a salary of just $4,800 and had 5 targets in Week 11 but just 10 air yards (for an average depth of target of just 2.0 yards downfield). I don't think we can chase that with any modicum of confidence.
So it turns out that J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram tested positive for COVID-19, which would leave a huge workload available for Gus Edwards at a $5,200 salary. Edwards is 13th among running backs in rushing yards over expectation per attempt on the season in a great rushing offense. He has yet to rush for more than 87 yards in a game, but those 87 yards actually came on a season-high 16 attempts against the Steelers in Week 8.
We have a five-game sample with Diontae Johnson back from injury -- which coincides with the post-breakout games for Chase Claypool and includes a healthy JuJu Smith-Schuster. I'll talk about the pass-catchers in a second but will start with Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger has had 15.62, 15.28, 25.04, 29.32, and 17.68 FanDuel points in these games. There's a floor and a bit of a ceiling. However, what really stands out is the volume: he has had at least 42 attempts in four of these games. He's actually below average in downfield attempt rate (16.7%). Within this sample, though, was his game against Baltimore, and it was his one low-volume game (32 attempts for 182 yards). The odds that Roethlisberger puts up a slate-changing fantasy performance seem low, given the lack of downfield attempts and the matchup. The saving grace is that the Steelers are the third-most pass-heavy team in the NFL over the past five weeks with the receiving corps back to full strength.
Okay, so. In these past five games, Johnson leads the way with 25.2% of the targets (11.0 per game with 2.0 downfield and 1.0 red zone targets per game). He's the preferred option. Smith-Schuster has a 21.6% target share (9.4 per game with 1.2 downfield and 1.6 red zone looks). Claypool is third with 18.8% of the targets (8.2 per game with 2.4 downfield and 1.0 red zone targets). JuJu hurt his foot in Week 11, so we could see targets even more concentrated to Johnson and Claypool. Unlike the Lions without Golladay, the Steelers' offense doesn't hinge on Smith-Schuster's health, so we can actually feel good with any potential volume bumps that arise if he were to miss Thursday's game.
You can add in Eric Ebron to that mix, also. He has a 14.7% target share over the past five weeks and is involved in the red zone with 1.6 such targets per game. But at $5,700, he's not necessarily a building block even at tight end.
The pass-heavy nature of the offense lately has led to a lack of rushing floor and upside for James Conner. He has just 14.0 carries and 3.0 targets per game with 67.6 scrimmage yards in this sample. Within that workload is 2.4 red zone carries per game, but he still can lose goal-line work to Benny Snell Jr. to some degree. The salary of $6,700 is viable on a small slate. The ceiling, though, seems too low to fear not rostering him.
Core Plays: Diontae Johnson, Lamar Jackson, Willie Snead, Chase Claypool
Secondary Plays: James Conner, Mark Andrews, J.K. Dobbins, Eric Ebron, JuJu Smith-Schuster
Small-Slate Dart Throws: Ben Roethlisberger, Marquise Brown