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Thanksgiving Thursday Matchups to Exploit

It’s Thanksgiving Thursday and that means a day of lounging, drinking, letting others handle the cooking and hopefully DFS profits. With only three games taking place, we’ll highlight each one and try to provide some context to your decision making.

Bears (-3, 43.5) at Lions
Mitch Trubisky’s likely absence — he’s listed as ‘Doubtful’ — throws a bit of a cutter into the Thanksgiving slate but life and football power forward. While it may be tempting to throw a Hail Mary with Chase Daniel ($6,000) at minimum price, it’s worth noting that the Bears are already the second most run reliant team on the slate, so while there are obvious benefits to rolling with Daniel, you may be putting yourself in a position where there is zero margin for error throughout the rest of your lineup. Both Jordan Howard ($6,100) and Tarik Cohen ($6,000) face a better outlook, at least based on what the matchup tells us. Not only are the Bears a run-heavy unit, but the Lions give up a slate-high 34.28 percent of their yardage on the ground. That didn’t help either one when these two teams met in Week 10 but that can also be considered a buying opportunity. Howard has handled a shade under 17 touches over the past four weeks with Cohen averaging nine over that same span. Conventional wisdom suggests both will be busy.

On the other side of the ball, the pass-happy Lions will be facing off against a Bears funnel defense that allows three quarters of it’s yardage to come through the air. That plays into the Lions’ strengths, particularly with their top runner, Kerryon Johnson, ruled out. Even as a three-point underdog with a relatively low Vegas total, Matthew Stafford ($6,800) has some appeal as a low(er)-owned tournament option.

Here’s a counter-intuitive wrinkle to consider for differentiation in tournaments: Pair Stafford with the Bears D/ST ($4,700). Stafford isn’t afraid to give the opposing defense chances at takeaways, and the Bears have players who can create them. You’ll obviously need Stafford to handle his business overall, but the isolated result of any potential turnover is a net positive — and maybe if the fantasy gods are smiling down upon you, the Bears can take one back for six. These are the types of scenarios you need to hope for if you want to take down a massive small-slate tournament.

Redskins at Cowboys (-7, 41)
If footballers haven’t had their fill of backup quarterback play during the day’s first course, there will be a second helping when Colt McCoy ($6,500) slides under center. While those who decide to go against the grain will have the potential to gain leverage over a tournament field, neither McCoy nor Dak Prescott ($7,400) stand out as viable tournament plays as both the Cowboys and Redskins lean heavily on a ball-controlling ground attack — hence the slate-low Vegas total.

Even with that established, it’s still worth giving Amari Cooper ($6,500) an extended look. The Cowboys may not want to air things out offensively, but the Redskins continue to provide tough sledding for those looking to advance via the ground. Ezekiel Elliott ($8,700) will continue to devour touches (one has to believe he’ll receive significantly more than the 17 he saw in his first meeting with the ‘Skins) and is always a solid bet to deliver on his price tag, but Cooper is the player who stands out here based on matchup strengths. His volume has been inconsistent, but he did see eight and 10 targets, respectively, in his first two games with Dallas and has allowed the offense to operate with a sense of increased balance.

The Cowboys are no slouches against the run either, a likely deterrent to those who might’ve otherwise considered taking a stroll down narrative street and running Adrian Peterson ($6,700) into a lineup. As much as the Redskins ran the ball before losing their starting quarterback, the logical assumption is that they’re going to keep pounding the rock. One caveat though: While Peterson has been undeniably productive in Washington’s wins, he’s been virtually non-existent in most of their losses. If Peterson is on your radar for Thursday, make sure you’re comfortable with the potential game flow and script.

Falcons at New Orleans (-13, 60.5)
The NFL saves us the best for last this year. Expect the big hitters in this matchup, particularly on the New Orleans side, to be heavily owned. A game with this total can’t be faded, but you’ll want to make sure you have the right pieces in this contest. Nobody can predict the future obviously, but the signs available suggest to us that the Saints will put up a large sum of points while the Falcons play catch up for much of the second half.

With the expected scoring so high, it stands to reason Drew Brees ($9,000), in spite of his cost, will be a popular play. The Saints’ implied point total compared to the other teams on the slate means Brees has a good shot of being the highest-scoring quarterback on the slate as well. The question you’ll have to ask yourself is whether you’re more comfortable taking the field at QB or finding the requisite value throughout the rest of your roster to offset the cost it’ll take to roster Brees.

Regardless of whether you decide to go heavy, light or completely fade Brees altogether, the trio of Alvin Kamara ($8,900), Michael Thomas ($8,800) and Mark Ingram ($7,400) figure to be busy. Not only are the Saints heavy favorites, but the Falcons are susceptible to the run, setting up a scenario in which Brees and Co. are milking the clock late in the game — an obvious plus for Kamara and Ingram. If you’re torn between these three, it’s worth noting that Thomas has only received double-digit targets once over his last seven games. He’s remained productive in spite of the tighter workload, but was below 10 FanDuel points in two contests over that span. Nobody is going to scoff at the notion of rostering Thomas, but when you only have room for a finite number of studs, you have to nitpick.

Pivoting to Matt Ryan ($8,600) in this expected shootout will be a tempting move, but a scenario exists in which the Falcons can’t keep the Saints off the field. That means Ryan will need to be at his most efficient in order to provide his expected value. If you remain bullish on the Falcons’ ability compete and linger within striking distance throughout this contest, you’ll also want to strongly consider paying up for Julio Jones ($8,800). After much hand-wringing over his aversion to finding the end zone, he’s broken the plane in each of his last three games while topping 100 yards in his last five. Over that stretch he’s averaged 11.2 targets per game and has converted nearly 70 percent of them into catches. Even if Ryan struggles overall, Jones is a nice bet to deliver a strong performance.

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