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Thanksgiving Fantasy Matchups

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Thanksgiving Football

12:30PM ET Game

Green Bay @ Detroit

Thanksgiving's opener will be played in the comfy confines of Detroit's domed Ford Field, where Matthew Stafford has accounted for 12 all-purpose touchdowns in five games this season. The favorable-conditions factor can't be taken lightly this time of year, as winds blow violently and temperatures near zero when accounting for windchill factor elsewhere around the league. Lions and Packers skill-position players don't have to deal with any of that. You want to start fantasy players in environments like this. It can't hurt that this game has a lofty 50-point over-under, the highest of all Week 13 games. Stafford is a top-five QB1. ... Green Bay has been particularly leaky in run defense of late, boding well for Reggie Bush following his 100 total-yard Week 12 performance against Tampa Bay's top-nine run defense. Over the past four weeks, the Packers have been gashed by Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Andre Brown, and Adrian Peterson/Toby Gerhart for a combined 583 yards on 107 carries (5.45 YPC). With 311 yards on his own last 62 attempts (5.02 YPC), Bush is running at a highly efficient clip with a blowup game in sight. ... Nate Burleson returned healthy from his forearm injury in Week 12, dropping a 7-77-1 stat line on the Bucs. Here is Stafford's target distribution in Burleson's four 2013 starts: Calvin Johnson 44; Burleson 36; Joique Bell 22; Bush 18; Brandon Pettigrew 17; Kris Durham 13; Joseph Fauria 7.

Averaging nine targets per start, slot receiver Burleson will take on struggling Packers rookie slot CB Micah Hyde in coverage. Over the past two weeks, Pro Football Focus has charted Hyde with 10 completions allowed among 11 targets, for 120 yards and a touchdown. View Burleson as a steady WR3 option in standard leagues and every-week WR3 starter in PPR. ... Megatron's 861 receiving yards over his last five games are a single-season NFL record across a five-week span. Mega's last three lines against Packers DC Dom Capers' defense: 11-244-1; 5-143-1; 10-118. ... Change-of-pace back Bell's target numbers above are skewed by Bush's early-season missed game. Bell is very much worth stashing on fantasy rosters down the stretch, but isn't a standalone flex option. ... With Burleson back, Durham has been reduced to the Lions' third receiver and No. 4 or 5 pass-game option when you include Bush and Detroit's tight ends. Durham is only worth fantasy consideration in 16-team leagues. ... Pettigrew and Fauria do have an attractive matchup versus a Packers defense allowing the tenth most fantasy points to tight ends. Unfortunately, Pettigrew can be regarded as no more than a closed-eyes TE1 streamer with one game above 60 yards all year. Fauria is a red-zone specialist who isn't involved in Detroit's open-field offense. He will burn a hole in your lineup if he doesn't score. Fauria has hit pay dirt once in his last five games.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 13. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.

Regardless of their Week 13 quarterback's identity, the Packers will play smashmouth football as they have for the duration of Aaron Rodgers' (clavicle) absence. Averaging 24.3 touches a game in the meantime, Eddie Lacy will continue to be Green Bay's offensive centerpiece. In last week's tie with Minnesota, the Vikings entered the week ranked 14th versus the run. After Fat Eddie was through with them, they plummeted to 25th. Detroit's No. 4 run defense would be more worrisome had Lacy not dropped 23 runs for 99 yards on the Lions in these clubs' October meeting. Now returning from season highs in catches (6) and receiving yards (48), every-down back Lacy is a bona fide RB1. ... Matt Flynn is expected to be Green Bay's starting quarterback after going 21-of-36 for 218 yards and a touchdown off the bench in last week's tie. Coach Mike McCarthy is well aware of Flynn's strengths and weaknesses, having coached him for the first four years of his career and witnessed Flynn help knock former second-round pick Brian Brohm out of the league. The Packers will complement Flynn with a foundation power running game and put him in frequent shotgun looks, asking him to make high-percentage throws and get rid of the football quickly. Lifetime as a Packer, Flynn has completed 103-of-168 passes (61.3%) for 1,233 yards (7.34 YPA) and a 10:5 TD-to-INT ratio. Indoors facing a Detroit defense that ranks 28th versus the pass and will be without top CB Chris Houston (ankle), I don't think it would be a stretch to start Flynn in FanDuel's Thanksgiving-only game or lean on him in a two-quarterback league.

Flynn's Week 12 target distribution: Jarrett Boykin 9; Lacy and James Jones 6; Andrew Quarless and Jordy Nelson 4; James Starks and Brandon Bostick 2; John Kuhn 1. ... Regardless of the target stats, Nelson is a high-ceiling WR2 in Thursday's early game. He has at least 80 yards and/or a touchdown in 8-of-11 appearances this season. Enemy No. 1 receiver stats versus the Lions over their last six games: Antonio Brown 7-147-2; Dez Bryant 3-72-2; Brandon Marshall 7-139-2; A.J. Green 6-155-1; Josh Gordon 7-126; Vincent Jackson 2-61. ... There's something about Boykin's reliable style of play to which backup quarterbacks like Flynn and Scott Tolzien gravitate. He's playing in all passing situations and has been heavily targeted by both substitute signal callers. Due to playing-time concerns and Jones' presence, I still think Boykin is a riskier WR3 than his recent box-score stats suggest, but would quibble with no one continuing to trot him out as a fantasy starter. He's the No. 22 fantasy wideout over the past five weeks. ... Jones is returning from a seven-catch, 80-yard game and would be a preferred WR3 play over Boykin, in my opinion. Whereas Boykin is a part-time player, Jones is a full-timer with a high-scoring track record. View Jones as a boom-or-bust option more likely to boom in this plus matchup. ... Bostick (concussion) won't play against the Lions, leaving Quarless, UDFA Jake Stoneburner, and special teamer Ryan Taylor as Green Bay's tight ends. The Lions are just 25th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. There are many superior TE1 options available throughout Week 13's other games.

Score Prediction: Lions 28, Packers 24

4:30PM ET Game

Oakland @ Dallas

The second Thanksgiving game will also be played indoors with sneaky high-scoring potential as Dallas' high-octane passing offense takes on Oakland's leaky pass defense, and the somewhat-upstart Raiders offense faces a Cowboys defense ranked 32nd in yards allowed. Tony Romo is a shoo-in top-six fantasy quarterback play versus the Raiders, who lack imposing edge rushers with a patchwork-at-best secondary. Oakland has coughed up a 21:7 TD-to-INT ratio to enemy signal callers and the sixth-most 20-plus-yard passing plays (42) in the NFL. ... Only Calvin Johnson will be a superior Week 13 wideout play than Dez Bryant. Being schemed open again as coach Jason Garrett takes on a larger in-game playcalling role, Dez equaled a season high with nine receptions in Sunday's win over the Giants, seeing 16 targets. Notable opposing No. 1 receiver stats against the Raiders since Oakland's Week 7 bye: Antonio Brown 9-82; DeSean Jackson 5-150-1; Andre Johnson 10-116; Kendall Wright 6-103-1. ... This is Romo's target distribution in Miles Austin's four starts this year: Dez 43; Jason Witten 30; Austin 24; DeMarco Murray 22; Terrance Williams 9; Cole Beasley, James Hanna, and Dwayne Harris 5; Lance Dunbar 3. ... Neither Williams nor Beasley has seen more than four targets in any of Austin's 2013 starts. Until/unless the Cowboys shake up their receiver pecking order again, Williams and Beasley will lack fantasy start-ability.

I watched Austin closely in his Week 12 return. He appeared stiff in his movement while displaying obvious rust both as a route runner and pass catcher. Austin can't be trusted in fantasy leagues until he does something productive. And I'm not overly optimistic he will. He has one game over 31 yards all year. ... Look for Bryant to be Romo's go-to option moving forward, with Witten as his consistent second read. Although the Raiders are just 18th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, they did cough up a 7-136-1 line to Garrett Graham two weeks ago, and eight catches combined to Titans tight ends last Sunday. Confidently trot out Witten. ... Oakland is playing stout defense, ranking No. 8 versus the run one week after holding Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene to 88 scoreless yards on 24 combined carries (3.67 YPC). Murray remains a high-end RB2 as an every-down back in a top-five scoring offense. The Cowboys have stayed committed to Murray over their last two games, feeding him 34 touches. He's turned them into 221 total yards and a score.

Having faced back-to-back top-seven pass defenses in each of his first two starts, rookie Matt McGloin now gets a matchup favorable enough to make him a legit two-quarterback-league play. Dallas' No. 31 unit has silver plattered the third most passing touchdowns (22) in football and ranks a disappointing 22nd in sacks. With a quick release, underrated arm, and plus ball location, McGloin is approaching low-end QB2 status, bypassing the likes of Chad Henne, Geno Smith, and Kellen Clemens. ... McGloin's target distribution through three appearances (two starts): Rod Streater 17; Rashad Jennings 12; Marcel Reece 10; Denarius Moore 9; Mychal Rivera and Andre Holmes 8; Jacoby Ford 6. ... Streater's stat lines in McGloin's starts: 6-84-1; 5-93. This is an appetizing matchup for Streater as Oakland's likely target leader beneath a dome. He's squarely in the WR3 hunt with plus value in PPR leagues. ... Rivera was quickly cleared from his Week 12 concussion and will serve as Oakland's primary pass-catching tight end at Dallas. Rivera is a somewhat attractive FanDuel option because he's as cheap as it gets and the Cowboys allow the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends. I'd still balk at deeming Rivera a realistic TE1 streamer.

With Moore still battling significant shoulder pain, Holmes is in line to pick up his second straight start after securing 2-of-5 targets for 32 yards in last week's loss to Tennessee. Holmes' size-speed combo and opportunity keep him on the deep league radar, but he hasn't demonstrated enough production for 12- or even 14-team league consideration. ... While McFadden may return from his hamstring injury for some change-up carries at Dallas, the Raiders' coaching staff has repeatedly indicated Jennings will remain the lead back in OC Greg Olson's offense. He's earned it. Beating first contact consistently and excelling as a checkdown outlet for rookie QB McGloin, Jennings has averaged 22 touches for 139 yards per game over the last month. Jennings has looser hips than DMC, making him less prone to stuffs and negative runs. The Cowboys' run defense is getting eviscerated without ILB Sean Lee, hemorrhaging 446 yards and three TDs on 66 carries (6.76 YPC) to Mark Ingram/Pierre Thomas/Darren Sproles and Andre Brown/Brandon Jacobs the past two weeks. Jennings is a legit RB2. McFadden is not a Week 13 fantasy option.

Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Raiders 20

8:30PM ET Game

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore

Thursday's Thanksgiving's finale is less appealing from a fantasy standpoint than games one and two. Pittsburgh-Baltimore pits against each other two top-13 defenses in both yards and points allowed. The final scores of the last four Steelers-Ravens games are 19-16, 13-10, 23-20, and 23-20. In all likelihood, this'll be a low-scoring slugfest outdoors in Baltimore's cold. Start your studs and don't get too cute. ... Although things don't always work out precisely as planned, the Steelers enter every game with a run-heavy approach featuring Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown as a target hog whenever Ben Roethlisberger drops back to pass. Their formula is predictable, but has become increasingly effective with three straight wins and a 5-2 record since an 0-4 start. With 18-plus touches in each of his eight rookie-year appearances, Bell is an every-week fantasy RB2 even as he meets Baltimore's top-11 run defense in Week 13. Le'Veon lacks an elite ceiling due to talent limitations, but his floor is high with heavy pass-game involvement and a stranglehold on early-down carries. ... Roethlisberger's upside is similarly capped, not by ability but by offensive approach. The Steelers won't ask him to make more than 30 pass drops Thursday night if they can help it. Big Ben has a difficult matchup against a Ravens defense that ranks 11th versus the pass and is tied for first in sacks. Roethlisberger is a middling fantasy QB2 on Thanksgiving night.

Ben's target distribution the past three weeks: Brown 34; Heath Miller 21; Emmanuel Sanders 15; Bell 13; Jerricho Cotchery 8; Markus Wheaton 6. ... Target magnet Brown leads the NFL with 80 receptions and has caught at least five passes in each of his last three meetings with Baltimore. He's an every-week WR2 in standard leagues and WR1 in PPR. ... Because Miller lacks big-play ability coming off January's triple-knee ligament tear -- he isn't scoring touchdowns or stretching the seam anymore -- Miller only plays fantasy dividends when he gets receiving volume. Baltimore has allowed the second fewest receptions in the league to tight ends, and held Miller to 17 yards on two catches in these clubs' October 20 game. Fantasy owners should aim higher wherever possible. ... Cotchery's flukish three-game touchdown binge crashed to an end in last week's win over Cleveland, as Pittsburgh's slot receiver was held catch-less on one target despite playing nearly 50 snaps. Cotchery is a fantasy WR4/5. ... Sanders will be a better Week 13 fantasy bet than Cotchery, though not by much. The Ravens held Sanders to one catch for seven yards in Week 7. On pace for a 63-816-5 stat line this season, Sanders is always a low-ceiling WR3 play.

Despite their lack of 2013 run-game success, the Ravens have stayed similarly committed to the ground game. Even as Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combined for an anemic 60 yards on 27 Week 12 runs (2.22 YPC), Baltimore finished with more rushing attempts than passes versus the Jets. Rice has begun to look better physically in recent weeks, but the Ravens' run blocking is putrid enough that Rice is just a dicey RB2/flex against Pittsburgh's No. 23 run defense. Working in Rice's Week 13 favor is the Steelers' loss of 325-pound NT Steve McLendon to a multi-week ankle injury. Pittsburgh is also dealing with injuries to RE Brett Keisel (foot) and OLB LaMarr Woodley (calf), who were both inactive for Week 12. Keisel will play Thursday night; Woodley will not. ... Pierce has been a second-year flop, failing to clear 4.0 yards per attempt in all but one game this season. He's got double-digit carries in back-to-back weeks but still isn't a flex option. He isn't running well enough. ... Although they are far from impenetrable through the air, Pittsburgh's statistical defensive strength has been versus the pass, where they rank tenth in the league and have limited opponents to 13 passing touchdowns through 11 games. With a 14:14 TD-to-INT ratio on the season and 249-yard per-game average, Joe Flacco is in the two-quarterback-league discussion only versus the Steelers.

Flacco's target distribution since Baltimore's Week 8 bye: Torrey Smith 34; Jacoby Jones 18; Rice 16; Ed Dickson 15; Marlon Brown 14; Dallas Clark and Tandon Doss 11; Deonte Thompson 8. ... Falling off the cliff at age 33, Steelers RCB Ike Taylor has played a huge role in Calvin Johnson (6-179-2) and Josh Gordon's (14-237-1) mammoth Weeks 11-12 games. Smith isn't on those size-speed freaks' level, but runs better than both. You can be sure OC Jim Caldwell will try to get Smith the ball deep. ... Jones' Week 12 stat line of 4-103-1 against the Jets' pathetic secondary is hard to trust as a sign of things to come. Better suited for special teams, Jones hadn't so much as cleared 50 receiving yards in a game up until last week. Chase the most recent box score at your own risk. ... Brown actually played more snaps than Jones against New York, but was targeted just three times, securing one pass for one yard. I'd rather not start either Ravens complementary receiver in this low-scoring game, but would take my chances on Brown before Jones if forced to choose between the two. ... Dickson and Clark already lacked re-draft value before this meeting with a Pittsburgh defense allowing the tenth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Look elsewhere.

Score Prediction: Ravens 17, Steelers 14

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