Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
Projected Vegas Score: Vikings 23, Lions 20
Quarterbacks- With this only being a 3 game slate, most of these players are going to be in consideration for DFS. Case Keenum has played well as of late but I will classify him as a boom or bust GPP option on Thursday. The Lions rank 11th in pass-defense DVOA this season compared to 22nd against the run. The place to attack them has been on the ground, but on a 3 game slate you will have to get weird in GPPs. Matt Stafford has been in tremendous form as of late, averaging just under 20 fantasy points per game over the last 5 games. The matchup isn't great as the Vikings rank 9th in pass-defense DVOA though they have been worse on the road, like two weeks ago when they traveled to DC and gave up a 327-1 line to Captain Kirk Cousins. The Vikings are even better against the run, ranking 6th in DVOA and the Lions don't run match as it is. Stafford is a solid tournament option on Thursday.
Running Backs- Both of the Vikings Running Backs are in play on this slate. Latavius Murray has seen his role stabilize over the last 3 weeks, seeing an average of 17 rushing attempts over the last 5 weeks. He has seen all of the usage at the goal line, and is going to get the work if they are inside the 10 yard line on Thursday. Jerick McKinnon is still out-snapping Murray and will continue to see the passing game work. He has 19 targets over the last 3 weeks, and that makes him a stellar PPR play. As I said above, the place to attack Detroit has been on the ground and I prefer Murray on Fanduel and McKinnon on Draftkings. The Lions haven't been able to run the ball over the last month and a half, and I think it's a bit thin to look at them in a #bad matchup on a 3 game slate. There's a difference between being contrarian and making a bad play.
Wide Receivers- All three of the Vikings main pass catchers are in play on this slate, though I prefer Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph to Stefan Diggs based on matchups. Thielen has been an absolute monster this season and has now seen over 8 targets in every game except for 1 this season. Stefon Diggs should see the majority of Darius Slay's coverage, but will be able to avoid him on some downs as Slay doesn't usually travel into the slot. Kyle Rudolph has seen 7+ targets in each of the last 6 games, and the Lions rank top 5 in yardage allowed to opposing Tight Ends. All three of these guys are fine options with Diggs being the more GPP-centric play. I expect Marvin Jones to be bottled up by Xavier Rhodes, who has shut him down in all meetings dating back to last season. I can't trust Eric Ebron, which leaves Golden Tate as the preferred player to partner up with Matthew Stafford. Tate should be able to feast on the Vikings in the slot and he is an even better play in full PPR formats.
Overall Outlook- All three of these games feature some great fantasy plays and this one has no shortage. I don't see anyone that is a must play, though Adam Thielen is close. The Quarterbacks will go under-owned in this one compared to the other games and I like all of the options I listed in tournaments.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys
Projected Vegas Score: Chargers 24.5, Cowboys 23.5
Quarterbacks- This game features the highest O/U on the slate at 48 with Philip Rivers traveling to JerryWorld to take on Dak Prescott and the under-manned Cowboys. The entire Chargers offense is in play here against a below-average Cowboys defense. The Cowboys rank 21st in terms of pass-defense DVOA and have allowed 18 touchdowns through the air this season. I would normally say that Dak Prescott makes for a great bounce-back play at home based off recency bias, but the matchup is not good against this Chargers secondary. It looks like the Cowboys should get tackle Tyron Smith back which will be a huge boost for Dak who was under-pressure constantly without him the last two weeks. The Chargers rank 7th in pass-defense DVOA and feature an elite tandem of outside corners in Trevor Williams and Casey Hayward. With Tyron Smith back, that would push Dak into the low-owned GPP play range as nobody will play him after the dud he just put up on Sunday night.
Running Backs- I like both of the RBs in this game, though one is a bit more risky than the other. Melvin Gordon is the top Running Back play on the Turkey Day slate going against the Sean Lee-less Cowboys. The Cowboys have been routinely gashed on the ground when Lee has missed, and Gordon seemed to regain his role last week against the Bills. Gordon handled every carry in the 1st half, when the game was still in reach and Austin Ekeler seemed to be punished for his costly fumble the week before. You could possibly look at Ekeler as a deep GPP flier, but Gordon is the guy I want here. Alfred Morris was out-snapped by Rod Smith on Sunday night but that is probably due to game script with the Cowboys getting stomped by the Eagles. Smith will handle all of the passing work for the Cowboys, but Morris is going to handle the majority of the rushing work. The Chargers have a sick pass rush with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, but they are giving up the most yards per game on the ground at 138. Morris is firmly in play at the RB position on Thursday, though he won't see the volume that some other guys will.
Wide Receiver- Keenan Allen exploded in week 12 in what seemed like his first good matchup in months. He put up a 12-159-2 line against the Bills and is in another good spot on Thursday. Slot receivers have routinely punished the Cowboys this season and Allen makes for a top play on Thursday. I can't trust either of the Tight Ends for the Chargers, so if you're looking for a low-owned GPP play I would go with Rookie Mike Williams. Williams snap% has risen in every single game since returning from injury and he played just under 60% of the snaps last week seeing 8 targets. I have no interest in using any of the Dallas pass-catchers against this secondary, so if I was using Dak in a tournament I would roll him out #Naked and hope for a rushing touchdown.
Overall Outlook- There should be plenty of points scored in this one. I like the Rivers-Gordon-Allen stack in tournaments and you can certainly get weird with Dak or Morris.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
Projected Vegas Score: Redskins 26, Giants 18.5
Quarterbacks- What a nightcap we have here with the Giants expected to be trounced by Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. Eli Manning actually has a good matchup against a Redskins defense that ranks 16th in DVOA against the pass and has been roasted by the likes of Case Keenum as of late. It looks like he will be missing Sterling Shepard once again, and I just can't recommend him with literally nobody to throw to. Kirk Cousins is going to be the chalk on Thursday, and for good reason. The Giants have clearly given up on HC Ben McAdoo and rank 25th in DVOA. It's a smash spot for the Redskins as a whole.
Running Backs- The one Giants player you can look at in tournaments is Orleans Darkwa. His snap% is sticking around the same each week, but he has racked up 56 touches over the last 3 weeks and the Redskins just got destroyed on the ground by the Saints. The Redskins backfield situation is very interesting with Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson now both on IR. Samaje Perine, if he is active, will be locked into a high-volume role against a Giants team that has been gashed on the ground all season. The Giants are giving up over 130 yards per game to opposing backs, and Perine will be a popular option.
Wide Receivers- I really have no interest in the Giants pass catchers unless Sterling Shepard is surprisingly active. The Redskins have been tortured by slot receivers in 2017 making the spot for Shepard impeccable. Evan Engram will see a heavy target share once again, but might fly under the radar after a 1 catch performance last Sunday. The Redskins are notoriously bad against Tight Ends, so I can't ignore the spot but if Shepard misses it's much easier for defensed to key in on the dynamic Rookie. Jamison Crowder will most likely be the most popular option to pair with Captain Kirk on Thursday, but he has a difficult matchup with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot. Of the Redskins pass catchers, I would prefer Josh Doctson and Vernon Davis. Josh Doctson has seen 7 targets in each of the last 2 weeks and is poised for a breakout with Terrelle Pryor now on IR. We know the story with the Giants when it comes to Tight Ends...they have allowed a touchdown to an opposing Tight End in every game this season except for one, which happened to be last week. Despite not allowing a touchdown they still allowed 100+ yards and are the worst in the NFL at defending the position. Vernon Davis has perennially smashed when Jordan Reed has missed, plug and play.
Overall Outlook- Obviously the Redskins are who you want here and they are all going to be popular. It's hard to play the chalk in tournaments on 3 game slates, but the spot is so good you will need some Washington exposure on Thursday.
Written by Ben Hossler (Follow @BenHossler on Twitter)