Mark Chamberlin
Not Your Typical Thanksgiving Day Article

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Thanksgiving is a time for being thankful. It’s the beginning of the holiday season. A time of good cheer, family, and (for most of us) to indulge in all things food and football. In a word, it’s wonderful. However, in this game? It’s the most stressful time of year. With the right attitude, it can be fun, but no matter how positive you are you are still on the edge of your seat with each play. So, rather than spend these couple hundred words spinning a web of happy thoughts like most that you read this weekend, I will try to help you make those gut-wrenching decisions in what is for many, their make-or-break week this season.

Percy Harvin - Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. Unless your team is loaded, start him. He was restricted to just 21 snaps in his return in Week 11, but coach Pete Carroll has said there will be no limit this week. Harvin survived his first game back, and made a couple of special plays (only one with the ball though), so with home field advantage on the line the Seattle Seahawks will pull out all the stops with their most dynamic player. No ‘risky’ player has more upside than Harvin this week.

Cordarrelle Patterson - He received his first start in Week 12 and has seen an attention-grabbing 20 targets the last two weeks. Between his game-breaking ability every time he touches the ball and the quantity of work he has been seeing, he is going to have a breakout week, soon. The ravaged Chicago defense is as good of a bet as any for it to happen against.

Tavon Austin - The explosiveness promised from Austin since he was drafted in April has finally been on display the last two games, but he has touched the ball on offense just nine times total the last four weeks. Against a brutally difficult San Francisco defense, I do not recommend deploying him this week. A less than 20-yard performance will happen until his workload increases, and this time of year you cannot afford for that to happen with him in your starting lineup.

Terrance Williams - The Oakland Raiders possess one of the worst pass defenses in the league, but Williams has touched the ball just seven times over his last four games, even less than Miles Austin. His inefficient outing against Detroit (10 targets, two receptions) has been followed by diminishing targets each week. Despite the good matchup, the raw Williams needs to spend this week at least on the bench (if not waivers) until he proves his November swoon is just temporary growing pains.

Ray Rice - He’s not as bad as the New York Jets made him look last week, but he is not as strong as he looked against Chicago the previous week. He simply hasn't been right this year since going down with the hip injury in Week 2. A short week against Pittsburgh, which has been playing much better defense of late (the second quarter against Detroit and the New England game withstanding) won’t help either. In his last four games against Pittsburgh, he has combined for 65 carries for just 206 yards, barely three yards per carry. His best outing was for just 78 yards and a touchdown late last season. There are better risks to take.

Le’Veon Bell - And while some owner’s don’t have an option, Bell is not a much better risk than Ray Rice. He has lived on quantity of touches, receptions and the occasional touchdown all season. He only has one single-digit points per reception fantasy game, but he also hasn't scored more than 20 points since his two-touchdown debut against Minnesota. If you can play
Eddie Lacy , Giovani Bernard , Danny Woodhead , Zac Stacy , or Pierre Thomas instead, there is no debate. You may be more gun shy if your alternatives are waiver wire pickups like Ben Tate , Andre Ellington , Shane Vereen , Andre Brown , or even first-round disappointment C.J. Spiller, but  don’t fret; they’re the right play. Their worst case isn’t much different than Bell’s and their ceiling is much, much higher.

Jordan Cameron - Yes,
Brandon Weeden is back. Yes, Jordan Cameron has scored just one touchdown since Week 4. I understand your concern. I’m not worried because the Cleveland Browns have noticed the issue, too. After Cameron developed into an afterthought in the offensive game plan midseason, the Browns have come off the bye and given him 17 targets in two weeks. It hasn’t resulted in many fantasy points, yet, but don’t forget Cameron was successful with the inept Weeden under center to open the season. Against a pitiful Jacksonville defense expect Cameron to make a return to the end zone this week.

Colin Kaepernick - If you have leaned on him to this point in the season, and are still fighting for a spot in the playoffs, bravo. Kaepernick has been more bad than good since Week 1 as he has been very touchdown dependent to even provide adequate weeks. Yes, last week against Washington was more a result of poor defense from Washington than it was a strong performance from Kaepernick, but it’s exactly the type of game he needs to get on track. Having
Michael Crabtree return, even in just a limited role, will only help. He was without Mario Manningham until recently, so when Vernon Davis has been out of the lineup due to injury his performance has been putrid. As he gets his weapons back he will perform better, and the St. Louis Rams are about as challenging of a pass defense as Washington.

Carson Palmer - On the other side of the coin, Palmer has really come on since the bye with a string of very strong performances. This looks like the week his owners trust him enough to send him out there, especially if his owners are choosing between guys like him, Robert Griffin III,
Matt Ryan , Nick Foles , or maybe even a Tom Brady owner getting cute. Don’t fall for the trap. The Philadelphia defense has been much improved over the last few weeks and with the exception of the matchup against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, Palmer has been lousy away from home. This is a good week to use his weapons as the Cardinals should be playing from behind, but the improving Eagles are due for a turnover barrage, something Palmer is infamous for handing to his opponents.

So, there’s your end of the lineup guide to desperation week in fantasy football. It is the most wonderful time of year, but also the most stressful. Set it, forget it, sip some cocktails, eat way too much food, and when you check in when all is said and done heading into Sunday Night just bask in the playoff berth you’re about to clinch. Or, if (when?) things don’t go as planned as they have all season long, at least you won’t have to worry about this game again until August, right?

Cheers, everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

* oh shoot, not a Thanksgiving article, sorry! *