- Kicking off our Week 12 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em with a look at the three games on Thanksgiving Day.
The weekly Start ’Em, Sit ’Em column here at SI.com ignores the Thursday night game as a rule. We want the column to have complete utility up until kickoff on Sunday, and don’t think there’s any harm in paying no attention to one game. Thanksgiving week, however, is a different story, because we don't want to totally write off three games. That would be doing our readers a disservice. And since this is a week for excess, we thought we’d give you two Start ’Em, Sit ’Em columns. One will be our traditional column, looking at all the action Sunday and the Monday night game, while the other—this one—will tackle the three games on Thanksgiving Day.
The format will be the same as a standard column. These players may be suiting up on Thanksgiving, but you still don’t need us to tell you to play Drew Brees or Ezekiel Elliott or Julio Jones. At the same time, you don’t need us to tell you to avoid Colt McCoy in Dallas, or that there’s no reason to force Taylor Gabriel into your lineup. We’ll keep ourselves focused on the players in the middle, falling just on either side of the start/sit divide.
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears (at Lions)
Word trickled out of Chicago on Monday that Trubisky suffered a shoulder injury late in the Bears’ 25-20 win over the Vikings in Week 11. It’s not a serious issue, and Trubisky could play on Thursday, despite the quick turnaround. Still, if he does, you do not want him in your lineup. It’s unlikely the Bears would chance their future in a game where they’re road favorites when they have a 1.5-game lead in the division. Should Trubisky play, we’ll likely see a scaled-back version of Chicago’s offense, which would be bad news for fantasy owners. If backup Chase Daniel gets the start, he's an easy sit.
Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Bears)
Marvin Jones is expected to miss another game with a knee injury, leaving Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington and Theo Riddick as Stafford’s top pass-catchers. He threw for 220 yards, 5.95 yards per attempt and one touchdown without Jones in the Lions’ 20-19 win over the Panthers last week, and wouldn’t be in better shape against a ruthless Bears defense on Thursday. Stafford’s just barely among the top-20 quarterbacks this week, meaning most fantasy owners should be able to do better.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (vs. Redskins)
Prescott flopped in a dream matchup last week, throwing for 208 yards, 6.5 YPA and zero touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 22-19 win over the Falcons. Redskins-Cowboys could be one of the slowest-paced games of the week, with both teams at their best when they’re leaning on their rushing attacks and defenses. Additionally, Washington ranks seventh against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA).
Tarik Cohen, Bears (at Lions)
Detroit has been beatable on the ground all year, ranking 20th in running back aFPA in standard-scoring leagues and 22nd in PPR formats. Cohen had one of his quietest games of the year last week, totaling 50 yards and losing a fumble on 10 touches, but he’ll be a key part of the Bears’ offense no matter who is under center. In Chicago’s win over Detroit in Week 10, Cohen had 44 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 13 touches.
Jordan Howard, Bears (at Lions)
Howard struggled mightily in that Bears’ win against the Lions, running for 21 yards on 11 carries. The Lions have been tough against the run since acquiring Snacks Harrison from the Giants, with their yards per carry allowed plummeting from about 6.5 to fewer than 4.0. Still, with the Bears favored and playing with either a banged up Mitchell Trubisky or backup quarterback Chase Daniel, it’s likely Matt Nagy will lean on the run more often than usual this week. That would play right into Howard’s hands.
LeGarrette Blount, Lions (vs. Bears)
Kerryon Johnson will miss at least one game with a knee injury, handing the reins of the backfield over to Blount. The veteran has played decent football in limited duty this season, running for 183 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries. The Bears, however, are a nightmare matchup for a running back, especially one who doesn’t catch passes, ranking third in positional aFPA in standard leagues. The Bears have allowed two rushing touchdowns all season, and Blount is only a threat to get in from the goal line. This is a terrible matchup for him.
Theo Riddick, Lions (vs. Bears)
Riddick does have some value in PPR leagues after taking over the Golden Tate role in the offense, but it’s hard to have much confidence in him this week. First of all, this game has an over/under of 45, and the Lions have an implied team total of 20.75 points. Second, Bryce Callahan has developed into one of the best slot corners in the league, and chances are strong that Riddick will see a healthy dose of him on Thursday. Even with Riddick’s increased role in the offense, he has 18 catches for all of 126 yards in three games since the team traded Tate to the Eagles.
Ito Smith, Falcons (at Saints)
Earlier this week I wrote that Smith was droppable, so I’m definitely not playing him on Thursday night. He now has 199 yards on 59 carries and 19 receptions for 126 yards on the season, and has clearly failed to become a reliable fantasy option since the Falcons placed Devonta Freeman on IR. Smith is entirely touchdown-dependent, and with byes all but in the rear-view mirror, he’s no longer a viable play in any fantasy formats.
Allen Robinson, Bears (at Lions)
Robinson was held in check last week, and with Mitchell Trubisky’s status up in the air, it’s possible that some fantasy owners may question if they should start him this week. Benching him would be a mistake. Chase Daniel is one of the more competent backups in the league, and he knows Matt Nagy’s offense as well as anyone after spending three years with the Chiefs and one year with the Eagles when Doug Pederson was the head coach. The Bears’ offense likely won’t be nearly as good if Trubisky cannot play, but it won’t fall to pieces without him. The Lions, meanwhile, rank 21st in wide receiver aFPA this season.
Amari Cooper, Cowboys (vs. Redskins)
Cooper has played three games with the Cowboys this season, catching 14 of 23 targets for 169 yards and one touchdown. Washington in recent weeks has been burned by Tre’Quan Smith (three catches, 111 yards, two touchdowns), Devin Funchess (5-74-1), Torrey Smith (5-43-1), Michael Gallup (3-81-1), Calvin Ridley (6-71-1), Chris Godwin (7-103) and Keke Coutee (5-77). This is a good spot for Cooper, especially with the Cowboys playing at home and favored by 7.5 points.
Tre’Quan Smith, Saints (vs. Falcons)
Smith exploded last week, catching 10 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ 48-7 dismantling of the Eagles. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara combined for just five targets in that game, which opened up more volume for Smith, but he likely proved something to Drew Brees and Sean Payton by making the Eagles pay with all that opporutnity. The over/under in Falcons-Saints is 60.5, and the Falcons are ranked 30th in wide receiver aFPA. The Saints have an implied team total of a whopping 36.75 points, meaning oddsmakers are expecting there to be more than enough scoring to go around for Smith to show up alongside Thomas, Kamara and Mark Ingram.
Calvin Ridley, Falcons (at Saints)
Ridley has been quiet after a hot start to the season, totaling 24 catches for 268 yards and one touchdown in his last six games. This should be a good spot for him to get back on track. Many of the contextual factors that we just talked about benefitting Smith are in place for him, too, and while the Saints have improved defensively over the last month or so, they’re still 26th in wide receiver aFPA on the season. The Falcons have no hope of slowing down the Saints, meaning that Matt Ryan is going to have to do what he can to keep up with Drew Brees if the visitors have any chance of pulling off the upset. That should mean eight-plus targets for Ridley.
Anthony Miller, Bears (at Lions)
Miller has made the most of his opportunities this season, turning 44 targets into 26 catches for 357 yards and five touchdowns. Still, it’s hard to have much confidence in a player getting fewer than five targets per game. It’s even more challenging when he’s playing either with a quarterback who’s dealing with an injured throwing shoulder, or that quarterback’s backup. The Lions are banged up in the secondary, but Miller is just a WR4/5 this week.
Bruce Ellington, Lions (vs. Bears)
Ellington stepped up in Marvin Jones’ absence last week, catching six of nine targets for 52 yards in the Lions’ 20-19 win over the Panthers. That could have him on the fantasy radar this week, especially with Jones likely to miss Thursday’s divisional clash with the Bears. The Bears, however, have clamped down on wide receivers this season, ranking 10th in wide receiver aFPA in standard leagues. With the pass rush as fearsome as ever now that Khalil Mack is back to 100%, it could be a long day for Matthew Stafford and, by extension, his pass-catchers.
Maurice Harris, Redskins (at Cowboys)
You’ll never believe this, but it appears Harris’ fantasy value was short-lived. After catching 10 passes for 124 yards in Week 9, he has six grabs for 65 yards in his last two games. Colt McCoy isn’t a helpless quarterback by any stretch of the imagination, but the Cowboys are 14th in quarterback aFPA and sixth in receiver aFPA. This is not exactly the matchup in which you want to back McCoy. What’s more, the Cowboys are 3-1 at home this year, with their only loss coming to the Titans. You shouldn’t be in a spot where you have to reach down to Harris’ neighborhood in the wide receiver rankings this week.
Mohamed Sanu, Falcons (at Saints)
Sanu has everything working for him in this matchup that Ridley does. So why is Ridley a start while Sanu is a sit? It has a lot to do with ceiling. The two players have essentially the same floor. Ridley has 39 catches on 53 targets for 532 yards this season. Sanu has 38 grabs on 54 targets for 472 yards. Ridley, however, has seven touchdowns, and two multi-score games. Sanu has three scores, all of which have come in different contests. Julio Jones and Tevin Coleman dominate this offense, while Austin Hooper has also developed into a reliable weapon for Matt Ryan. I feel comfortable taking a shot on upside given the context of this game, but it’s Ridley who has that upside in spades, while Sanu is more of a floor player.
Jordan Reed, Redskins (at Cowboys)
Reed had his best game of the season last week, catching seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s 23-21 loss to Houston. He has been shockingly quiet this season given his excellent health, but he has had at least six targets in five of his last six games, including each of his last four, and got 11 looks last week, his second-highest mark of the season. On top of that, his touchdown came from Colt McCoy, who will take over as Washington’s starter this week with Alex Smith out for the season. Dallas ranks 22nd against tight ends in standard-league aFPA and 26th in PPR formats.
Austin Hooper, Falcons (at Saints)
I get a lot of Hooper questions every week, but he has become a pretty safe low-end TE1 in my estimation. He’s not going to win you very many weeks, but he has a reliable target share in a pass-happy offense, he’s attached to a terrible defense, and he has his quarterback’s trust in the red zone. Hooper’s averaging 6.3 targets per game this season, and has had eight or more looks in four of his last six games. In those four games, he has put up 32 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns. That comes out to 8.78 points per game in standard leagues, and 16.78 points per game in PPR formats.
Ben Watson, Saints (vs. Falcons)
Even though Watson’s playing in one of the league’s best, most consistently explosive offenses, he too often gets lost in the shuffle. In Week 9, he caught three of four targets for 62 yards and a score. Two weeks before that, he had six receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown. In the other three games that the Saints have played in the last five weeks, he has one catch on two targets for one yard. There’s always some value in taking a shot on a guy in an elite offense, but Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram dominate the touches in New Orleans, and with Tre’Quan Smith emerging, Watson’s role in the passing game could reduce even further.