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Thanksgiving/Black Friday fantasy preview: Who to start, avoid in Week 12 games

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for Keenan Allen, the resurgence of Creed and the fact that the Patriots have a legitimate shot at landing Caleb Williams in the 2024 NFL Draft. Don't judge me.

And of course, I'm thankful for three NFL games on Thanksgiving and one on Black Friday. In the spirit of the season, here are some of the tastiest fantasy plays of the long weekend ... and a few cranberry sauces (terrible options that no one likes) as well.

Green Bay Packers
2023 · 4-6-0
Detroit Lions
2023 · 8-2-0

WHERE: Ford Field (Detroit)

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX


The Obvious: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, RB Jahmyr Gibbs

Jayden Reed
Green Bay Packers · WR

The Lions have allowed 21.2 fantasy points per game to the slot this season, third-most in the NFL, including eight receiving touchdowns, most in the league. Jayden Reed runs the vast majority of his routes in the slot and has garnered more than 50 percent of the team’s slot targets on the season. He also has 80-plus scrimmage yards in three of his last four games and has scored in three of his last five. I know it’s not easy to trust any Packers wideout this year, but we play the numbers, not the feels. 

David Montgomery
Detroit Lions · RB

With the meteoric rise of rookie Gibbs, it’s not hard to overlook the veteran “plodder” in David Montgomery. Don’t make that mistake. Since returning from injury, Montgomery has 214 scrimmage yards and two rushing touchdowns in two games. The last time he faced Green Bay, he shouldered 34 touches and had 141 yards, three touchdowns and a career-high 34.1 fantasy points in a 34-20 Lions win. The Packers are far more susceptible to the run than they are the pass, and you should feel confident starting both Lions backs in this one.


AJ Dillon
Green Bay Packers · RB

With Aaron Jones suffering a knee injury on Sunday, some of you may be tempted to roll out “lead-back” AJ Dillon on Thanksgiving. Don’t do it. Dillon has yet to reach 14 fantasy points this year and has totaled just 24.2 in the three games Jones has missed. He scored a whopping 1.1 points in the Week 4 meeting with Detroit, which is allowing the fourth-fewest schedule-adjusted fantasy points to RBs on the season, and he has averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2023 (36th of 42 qualified backs). Plus, the Packers are big underdogs on the road. The odds are simply not in Dillon’s favor.

Other thoughts: Jared Goff is a borderline QB1 in a tough matchup at home (coming off a three-INT stinker against the Bears), and Sam LaPorta is still a startable tight end despite a cold stretch since the bye. The Lions D/ST is also in play as a streamer. Otherwise, the remaining options on both teams are all dart throws.

Washington Commanders
2023 · 4-7-0
Dallas Cowboys
2023 · 7-3-0

WHERE: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS


The Obvious: WR CeeDee Lamb

Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · QB

The Cowboys’ captain should be Captain Obvious in this spot but coming off a 16-point game against the Panthers, a quick dose of reassurance is in order. Start. Dak. Prescott. Prior to an expected dip in an unfriendly matchup with Carolina, he had scored 24-plus fantasy points in four straight contests, averaging nearly 30 fantasy points per game in that span. On Thanksgiving, he draws a Commanders defense allowing the most fantasy points to QBs. It has allowed 20-plus fantasy points to a QB eight times in 11 games, including 22.54 to Tommy DeVito on Sunday. Prescott is my undisputed QB1 on the week, and the mega-stack with Lamb has a legit shot at 50-plus fantasy points on Thursday.

Tony Pollard
Dallas Cowboys · RB

To be honest, Pollard’s 18 fantasy points against the Panthers were mildly disappointing considering how juicy the matchup was. Still, it was encouraging to see him score for the first time since Week 1 and hit 80 scrimmage yards for the first time since Week 6. Meanwhile, the Commanders have allowed double-digit fantasy performances to six RBs (two Seahawks) over the last five weeks and surrendered 204 receiving yards and four receiving TDs to a run of Saquon Barkley (twice), Rhamondre Stevenson and Kenneth Walker III during that span. Pollard has upside in the air attack and a good shot at another TD in a game the Cowboys are projected to score around 30 points. Roll him out again.

Brandin Cooks
Dallas Cowboys · WR

Last week, I included Brandin Cooks in the waiver wire column but recommended benching him for the tough matchup with Carolina before rolling him into action in Week 12. Washington has allowed the most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to wide receivers this season and has specifically allowed the most yards (749) and touchdowns (10) on deep passes. Plus, his name is Cooks. On Thanksgiving. It’s a lock. Seriously though, he’s a legitimate WR2 in my book.


Washington Commanders
Wide receivers

The Cowboys secondary is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to wideouts this season and are particularly good against outside receivers. Given his usage, Terry McLaurin still has a shot at double-digit fantasy points, but I’d expect the low end of that window. Meanwhile, Jahan Dotson does have a decent shot at a touchdown but will be incredibly volatile without one. 

Other Thoughts: You likely have to start Brian Robinson even in a touch matchup, given how productive he's been. I also like both tight ends in this game: Logan Thomas to pick up some of the slack dropped by the Washington wide receivers and Jake Ferguson for the likelihood of a touchdown.

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San Francisco 49ers
2023 · 7-3-0
Seattle Seahawks
2023 · 6-4-0

WHERE: Lumen Field (Seattle)

WHEN: 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC


The Obvious: RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Brandon Aiyuk, TE George Kittle, WR DK Metcalf

Brock Purdy
San Francisco 49ers · QB

Deebo Samuel has essentially “missed” three games this season: He was injured early against the Browns and did not play against the Vikings or Bengals. In those games, Brock Purdy averaged 12.9 fantasy points. In the seven games with Samuel, Purdy has averaged 21.4 with 250-plus yards and three-plus touchdown passes in three straight. Simply put, with Samuel opening up the offense in the unique way he does, Purdy is a top-five fantasy QB. I see no reason for that to change against a middle-of-the-road Seahawks defense, as the Niners continue their march towards the playoffs.

Tyler Lockett
Seattle Seahawks · WR

Despite the mythos surrounding the elite 49ers defense, it has actually been relatively soft against fantasy wide receivers this season. It has allowed 90-plus yards to six wideouts, including Jordan Addison and Marquise Brown, who aren’t dissimilar from Lockett in archetype. And it's allowed six touchdowns to the position in the last four games. With a floor around 10 fantasy points and a ceiling well over 20, I think Lockett is in play on Turkey Day.

Deebo Samuel
San Francisco 49ers · WR

I’ll keep this one brief. Samuel has been very volatile this season. It feels like only Kyle Shanahan knows when he’s going to pop off, but history might offer a small clue this week: In four games against Seattle in his career, Samuel has scored 15, 19, 25 and 36 fantasy points, with a total of 501 yards in those four games. This could stem from his effectiveness against zone coverage, which the Seahawks run at the fourth-highest rate in the league this year. He’s a risk worth taking this week.

Other Thoughts: You're absolutely benching Geno Smith in this one, but there aren't really any other regulars who should ride the pine. If you're in need, and Kenneth Walker III is ruled inactive as expected, waiver-wire pickup Zach Charbonnet is a flex-worthy RB in a middling matchup.

Miami Dolphins
2023 · 7-3-0
New York Jets
2023 · 4-6-0

WHERE: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

WHEN: 3 p.m. ET on Prime Video


The Obvious: WR Tyreek Hill, RB Raheem Mostert

Outside of the unbenchable Tyreek Hill and the still-lead-back Raheem Mostert (with De’Von Achane injured again), the Dolphins defense might unironically be the highest scorer for fantasy in this game. Robert Saleh and the Jets have (finally) replaced Zach Wilson ... with Tim Boyle. In three career starts, Boyle has three touchdowns, six interceptions and 175 pass yards per game. He has a 63.5 career passer rating. Boyle will be this NFL season’s 49th different starting QB -- and possibly one of its worst. Roll out the Dolphins D/ST and let the turnover feast begin.


Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · QB

After a Week 1 smackdown against the porous Chargers defense, Tagovailoa has yet to reach 15 fantasy points in any of his four road contests since. In those games, he’s thrown only four touchdowns to three interceptions. Now he faces a Jets defense allowing the fewest schedule-adjusted fantasy points to QBs this season. If you’ve got an alternate, play him. If you don’t, consider streaming a guy like Gardner Minshew off the waiver wire.

Jaylen Waddle
Miami Dolphins · WR

You’re starting Tyreek Hill because he’s Tyreek Hill, but you shouldn't start any other wide receivers against this New York secondary. A few superstars (Stefon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, A.J. Brown) have had good games against the Jets in 2023, but otherwise, it’s been an absolute wasteland. Find somebody else for your WR2/flex spot this week.

Breece Hall
New York Jets · RB

Over the last month, Hall has averaged 29.5 rushing yards per game and gone without a rushing touchdowns. He’s remained relevant by averaging more than 12 fantasy points per game as a receiver in that span. Bad news for Breece: The Dolphins have allowed the fewest receptions and fourth-fewest receiving yards to RBs in 2023. The only running back to score on them through the air was Jerick McKinnon. The only back to top three receptions against them was Austin Ekeler (back in Week 1). This is a terrible matchup. It’ll be tough to sit Hall, but do it if you can.

Other Thoughts: If you have an iron stomach (useful the day after Thanksgiving), you could start Garrett Wilson in a plus matchup. Just remember. It's Tim Boyle throwing him the ball.

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