Thanksgiving football has its share of traditions, which fans can expect, each and every year. Usually, the games are uniformly bad and unexciting. For years, fans have had to sit through the Lions getting massacred. We all ask ourselves the same question every Thanksgiving, “How long is the Lions contract with the NFL to have Thanksgiving games?”
This year though, it’s a whole new ball game. Not only are all the games good from a football fan’s perspective, two out of the three games should have tons of fantasy fireworks. Some of fantasy football’s biggest stars of the season are playing this Thursday and what could be this year’s biggest Waiver Wire Wonder Kevin Smith is also suiting up.
It’s a lot to digest, my friends. We’re going to talk about all the key fantasy football storylines in each Thanksgiving matchup. We have three games to talk about: Packers/Lions, Dolphins/Cowboys and the Sunday Night Harbaugh Bowl Ravens/49ers. We’ll start with the early game in Detroit, focusing our attention on what could be this year’s season-savior from the waiver wire: Kevin Smith.
Green Bay at Detroit
Go Absolutely Bonkers Again?
Nope. It doesn’t mean that he won’t have a good game or he won’t be useful for the rest of the season but to expect him to rack up 200 total yards and 3 touchdowns against the Packers is asking for a little too much. The Carolina Panthers have one of the worst run defenses in the league, which was on full display last Sunday as they made the injury prone Kevin Smith look like Jim Brown.
Still, there is encouraging news for those owners lucky enough to win Smith off the waiver wire. First of all, Green Bay’s rush defense is decent but it’s certainly not elite as evidenced by LeGarrette Blount’s 107 rushing yards and one touchdown performance last Sunday. The highlight of Blount’s performance was a 54-yard touchdown run, which was both amazing and depressing for Blount owners, who have been waiting on this all season long. Blount has been one of the season’s biggest busts, so if he can have a good game against the Packers, it’s reasonable to think that Smith should perform nicely as a solid RB2 on Turkey Day.
Going forward, Smith’s in no danger of losing his job as Jahvid Best continues to recover from his potentially season ending concussion. Smith also has a number of nice matchups after the Packers game including the Vikings, Raiders and Chargers in the fantasy playoffs; all teams with fantasy friendly defenses.
None of this takes away from the importance of Smith’s matchup with the Packers. He still has to have a solid performance for owners not to write off last Sunday’s performance as a fluke. It seems every season there is a running back, who comes out of nowhere and helps lead fantasy owners to a title. For Smith to be that guy, he’s doesn’t have to match his incredible performance against the Panthers but he does need to produce. All eyes will be on the Packers/Detroit game to see if Smith is the real deal.
The Walking Wounded
There’s a number of important injuries for the Green Bay Packers heading into their Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions. James Starks has already been diagnosed with a mild right knee sprain and a sprained ankle and is lockdown questionable for the Detroit game on a short week. Greg Jennings suffered a shin bruise in the Buccaneers game and missed most of the second half of the game.
Neither injury sounds terribly serious but since it’s a short week for both of these players, owners are going to have to pay extra close attention to wire reports to make sure both players are available for the game in the Motor City. If Starks can’t go, Ryan Grant gets a major bump in the rankings and if Jennings is somehow not ready to go, Jordy Nelson’s value goes up, if that’s even possible right now.
What Kind of Game Will
The easy answer is to say that Aaron Rodgers will throw for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns like he has in just about every game this season. If owners look a little deeper into the situation though they’ll notice several interesting subplots to this game. First and foremost, the Detroit Lions were the last team to beat the Packers. It seems like years ago since the last time we saw the Packers lose but the last time it happened it was last season when the Lions beat the Packers in a defensive slugfest, 7-3.
Even more important to note about that victory is not just that the Lions beat the Packers without Matthew Stafford starting but Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of the game with a concussion. The Lions are currently ranked 5th in the league in pass defense, allowing a little under 200 passing yards a game.
All of this isn’t to say that owners should be worried about starting Rodgers. Let’s face it, Rodgers is going to be fantasy football’s MVP this season and if you look up “Must Start” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Rodgers. I’m only saying this to point out that the Lions have stopped Rodgers before and perhaps owners should temper expectations a little bit with Rodgers. The Lions’ defensive line has been mauling quarterbacks this year and you can expect that they will do everything possible to abuse Rodgers all game long.