What are you thankful for? Aside from family, friends and tasty food this holiday season, be happy knowing there are no bye weeks for the rest of the season. In most leagues, the fantasy football playoffs begin in Week 13 or Week 14. In order to earn a playoff berth and improve seeding, be cautious of consuming too many carbohydrates or alcohol in fear of a post-Thanksgiving-meal sleep. Just kidding. Make sure to set your lineups in time for Thursday’s three games and take advantage of the sneaky favorable matchups.
Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota (at Detroit)
Whomever thinks a player cannot lose their starting job due to injury is wrong. Example: Teddy Bridgewater. In the first game on Thanksgiving Day, Detroit may be in trouble. The Lions passing defense is ranked 25th at 247.4 yards per game. The unit has allowed 11 passing touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Winners of four consecutive Thanksgiving games after losing nine in a row from 2004-12, Detroit defeated Minnesota 16-13 last year. Keenum, the former backup to Sam Bradford, has thrown 12 touchdown passes and five interceptions in eight games, and passed for 592 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions in the previous two weeks against Washington and Cleveland. Against the Rams on Sunday, he had 280 passing yards and one touchdown. Even without rookie running back Dalvin Cook, this is a more prolific Vikings offense that averages 24.1 points per game, ranked ninth in the league. Keenum has a rapport with wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and tight end Kyle Rudolph is always dangerous in the red zone. Unless Detroit has a good pass rush and causes several turnovers, Keenum should thrive inside a weather-controlled dome.
Danny Woodhead, RB, Baltimore (vs. Houston)
It feels weird to know the Texans have one of the league’s worst defenses, ranked 10th at 350.7 yards per game. Houston has the seventh-best rushing defense (96.9) and sixth-worst passing defense (253.8). This is why Woodhead, who was activated off injured reserve last Saturday, has an opportunity to make a big impact through the air. Baltimore signed Woodhead to a three-year contract in the off-season with the hopes he will be a mismatch for opposing teams. And for every fantasy owner who kept Woodhead on the bench since his season-opening hamstring injury, expect to be rewarded. Headed into last week’s game, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote: “Only one running back (Darren Sproles) caught more third-down passes than Woodhead from 2010 to 2016. Of Woodhead’s 78 catches on third downs during that span, he converted 51 percent of them (40) into first downs.” Not surprisingly, Woodhead only had one rushing attempt in his return, along with three receptions for 33 yards. Expect his role to expand next weekend and I don’t think the Texans can stop Woodhead as a pass-catcher.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee (at Indianapolis)
This is a down year for the 29-year-old veteran, but don’t count Murray out against the Colts. Indianapolis has a respectable rushing defense at 111.3 yards per game and 10 touchdowns. Murray is averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has scored four touchdowns on the ground and one receiving. The Colts’ rushing defense may not be as good as the numbers indicate, however, due to the first four games in which Indianapolis’ Frank Gore (42, 46, 57) and Seattle’s Eddie Lacy (52) had the most rushing yards. That’s how a good average can be affected. When the Titans and Colts played in Week 6, Derrick Henry rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown, while a banged-up Murray had 40 yards on 12 carries. Maybe Murray, who turns 30 in February, is about to hit the wall and has lost his must-start RB1 or RB2 status. Henry probably deserves to get the lion’s share of carries considering he averages 4.4 yards per carry. But at least for this week, I’m not buying it considering what occurred a month and a half ago in Tennessee. Although Murray has played hurt for much of 2017, he can still hurt the AFC South’s last-place Colts (3-7).
Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco (vs. Seattle)
Starting Goodwin as a flex is risky. The Seahawks are missing cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor, which further depletes the “Legion of Boom”. Without Sherman and Chancellor, opposing teams are more likely to beat defenders deep. I don’t think Goodwin will have a super productive game regarding receptions but he does have a chance at catching a long touchdown pass. A former Olympian who competed in long jump in track and field, Goodwin ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash in 2013. His stats are underwhelming with just three receptions on the season for 151 yards, including an 83-yard touchdown against the New York Giants in Week 11. The Seahawks’ secondary, for their lofty standards, is faltering this season due to unexpected circumstances. The 49ers (1-9) don’t do many things well, but if Seattle gets a lead, the defense might start playing softer coverage. Goodwin’s potential is best suited for deeper leagues because the odds of him scoring double-digit points is unlikely. If you’re in a pinch there aren’t too many guys available on waivers who have big-play upside.
Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota (at Detroit)
If there was ever any doubt, Thielen is a must-start stud who has probably been more productive than the average fantasy owner realizes. Thielen was ranked third (PPR) and fifth (non-PPR) in wide receiver stat leaders coming into Week 11. The Lions secondary is ranked in the bottom third, but even if the numbers were reversed, Thielen is a threat to have more than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. Against the Rams on Sunday, Thielen had six receptions for 126 yards and a score. In the previous two games, he caught eight receptions for 166 yards and five receptions for 98 yards. Thielen has scored a touchdown in three consecutive games, and in 10 games this season, he’s had at least 96 receiving yards six times. He is Keenum’s no-doubt WR1; Thielen should torch the Lions and the Falcons in Week 13. His first two fantasy playoff opponents (Carolina and Cincinnati) have good a secondary, but that shouldn’t scare anyone. If you make the championship game, Thielen has a great matchup against Green Bay’s 18th-ranked passing defense.
Other Players to Like
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh (vs. Green Bay)
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati (vs. Cleveland)
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta (vs. Tampa Bay)
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina (at New York Jets)
Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City (vs. Buffalo)
Mike Wallace, WR, Baltimore (vs. Houston)
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants (at Washington)
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo (at Kansas City)