Turkey tastes like it never drank water while alive...
In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by WhyHunger.
- How do we carve up the Rams' new backfield?
- Utilization Report. 3 players with expanding appetites.
- Can the Lions shed a losing Thanksgiving tradition?
- Forget the turkey, pass the Lamb, please.
- Primetime Kirk Cousins... oh boy.
- The Fantasy Life Podcast is LIVE
- It's 11/23. Take it away, Dwain McFarland...
The surprise cuts keep coming, with the Rams waiving Darrell Henderson on Tuesday. The veteran RB saw a reduced role on Sunday, playing only 6% of snaps, but on Monday, Sean McVay indicated it was due to a pregame knee issue, which we know now wasn't the whole story.
Thanks to Henderson's lack of playing time on Sunday, we have a viable data point to help us understand how the backfield might get divided. In Week 11, Kyren Williams led the way, playing 55% of snaps and dominating passing downs. Cam Akers was the primary rusher, handling 52% of the rushing attempts.
The Rams have trailed by four-plus points on 42% of plays — well above the league average of 36% — and they rank 25th in TD-scoring drive rate (17%). Those two factors make Williams the more likely player to see the field the most.
Plus, the rookie is the only RB that hasn't been in McVay's doghouse.
As of three weeks ago, the money would have been on Akers as the No. 1 RB cut candidate.
Williams is a mid-range RB3 in PPR formats, and there is a chance his role grows.
Early-down grinders like Akers in struggling offenses rarely turn into a recipe for success, however, occasionally, you do find a boom-bust RB2 option like D'Onta Foreman. Consider Akers a low-end RB3.
Henderson joins Melvin Gordon in a quest to find a new job and is worth holding until we see where he lands. There are several high-touch RBs like Saquon Barkley and James Conner without quality depth behind them.
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Volume is king in fantasy football and sports betting, and this report will help you understand which players are due more or less according to their roles. Each week, Dwain dives deep into the data, so you don't have to.
Turkey Day Upgrades
📈 QB – Dak Prescott
Prescott has three consecutive top-10 finishes. The Cowboys aren’t throwing as often, but they are winning with efficiency. The veteran QB has two-plus TDs and at least 250 yards in the last three contests.
Historically, that wouldn’t seem like a lot, but passing yardage and TDs are down across the NFL. Over the last three seasons, teams averaged 250 yards and 1.6 TDs per game. This year, it is down to 237 and 1.4.
That makes Prescott’s numbers suddenly strong in comparison to his peers, and the Cowboys' offense is on a roll.
Prescott is a mid-range QB1 moving forward.
📈 RB – Tony Pollard
Ezekiel Elliott returned to the lineup in Week 11 against the Vikings, which led to a rotation. However, an important development occurred, with Pollard posting a 59% route participation and gobbling up 100% of the two-minute offense.
The fourth-year RB has demonstrated a high-end receiving profile in the past, and it is showing up again this year with the fifth-best YPRR (1.71) of RBs with at least 100 routes.
Pollard and Elliott split the rushing workload evenly, including the work inside the five-yard line. Elliott could regain the lead in those two areas as his knee gets stronger, but Pollard has outperformed Zeke in every efficiency metric.
If the fourth-year RB can hang onto 35-40% of the rushing attempts and 60-65% of the passing downs, he has RB1 potential in a surging Cowboys’ attack.
Pollard is a mid-range RB2 with RB1 upside the rest of the way.
📈 WR – Darius Slayton
Slayton doesn’t have the historical profile we want when considering veteran WRs off the waiver wire. He has never eclipsed the 17% TPRR threshold in a season. Because of this, he hasn’t made it into the Utilization Report free agent pool.
However, he has performed admirably since taking over a substantial role starting in Week 5. The fourth-year WR has four top-24 performances and only one dud (WR74) in his last six games. In that span, he has a respectable 22% target share and a WR1-worthy 2.48 YPRR.
With Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) out for the season, the competition for targets in the Giants' offense is meager. Last weekend, Slayton posted a season-high in route participation (87%) and slot routes (48%).
The Giants want to win via ball control and minimizing mistakes, but Slayton could come through in a big way if New York gives him a full-time role and schemes up more easy looks.
Slayton is a WR3 moving forward and is due for a big game.
📈 TE – T.J. Hockenson
Hockenson came up small in the Week 11 box score thanks to a terrible day for the offense, but he had another stellar utilization outing with a 29% target share. Kirk Cousins looked to his new tight end on 100% of end zone targets and 67% of third and fourth-down opportunities.
Hockenson and Justin Jefferson complement each other’s game – rather than battling Amon-Ra St. Brown for looks in the same area of the field.
Hockenson is a mid-range TE1 with high-end TE1 potential the rest of the way.
📷 It's not easy being an NFL photographer. It takes some balls.
😲 Just how good is this rookie WR? What a list.
✂️ Letting go is therapeutic. You have permission too.
😎 The Fantasy Life Podcast is LIVE. Marcas & Dwain, get you ready for the Thanksgiving games!
⚠️ Be careful who you call out on the internet. This Jets fan got posterized.
💰 Need Thanksgiving Picks? (Rhetorical question, we know you do) Geoff & OWS have you covered on Underdog & Sleeper & DFS.
😍 Jimmy G is getting the love. Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends...
🚓 NFL fans can be rough. An all-time IG Story. You need to see this.
🎄 My wife loves hallmark Christmas Movies. This is so true.
🥶 This QB needs to chill. But not too much.
You take care of the food, family, and friends – Fantasy Life has you covered for Thanksgiving football! Today, Matt LaMarca, Chris Allen and Jonathan Fuller get you ready with our game previews and tomorrow, we will be back with our best bets and fantasy plays.
🦃 Bills (-9.5) at Lions – 54.5 total
As much as some things change, some things stay the same. I’ve spent my Thanksgiving mornings doing many things throughout my life, including watching the parade, playing football, and sleeping one off. That said, when 12:30 p.m. ET rolls around, you’ll find me parked in front of the television, watching the Lions.
Unfortunately for Lions fans, that hasn’t necessarily been an enjoyable experience in recent years. They’re just 6-15 on Thanksgiving, dating back to 2000, and they’ve struggled against the spread as well. That includes a 4-11 against-the-spread record as underdogs in their last 15 occasions.
Now, they’ll have to spend Turkey Day battling arguably the best team in the league. Buffalo didn’t look like their usual dominant selves in Week 11, but that’s defensible. They had to deal with extreme weather conditions, which ultimately resulted in their game vs. the Browns being moved to Detroit.
Even in a fake home game, the Bills still racked up 31 points and 357 yards of total offense. That number could’ve been higher, but the team settled for six field goals to go along with just two touchdowns. The Bills rank second in the league in both yards and points per game, and when combined with their excellent defense, they rank first in yardage differential.
Bills offense leads NFL in both:
Drives ending in scores (48.1%)
Drives ending in turnovers (17%)
That's wild and has to be pretty unique. When teams say the only thing holding them back is themselves (and mainly turnovers), it's usually just speak, but in this case it's true.
— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports)
Nov 22, 2022
They should be able to provide more of the same vs. the Lions. Detroit has won three straight games, but their defense has still been extremely vulnerable. They’ve allowed at least 389 yards in all three contests, and they’ve been outgained by a total of 308 yards in that stretch. Overall, they rank 25th in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA for the season.
That does not bode well for a matchup vs. the Bills, especially with a short week for preparation. Historically, short weeks have given favorites an advantage, posting a record of 119-95-4 against the spread dating back to 2003.
The Lions have fared well as underdogs under head coach Dan Campbell – he owns a record of 13-4 when getting at least four points – and the public surprisingly has some interest in them on Thanksgiving. However, the sharps appear to like the Bills, and I think they should dominate this matchup. There’s always a chance that the Lions walk in the backdoor, but laying less than 10 points with Buffalo feels like a strong wager.
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🐑 Giants at Cowboys (-9.5) – 45.5 total
While we fight through the tryptophan haze of Thanksgiving, the blazing Cowboys host the short-handed Giants as nine-point favorites. The 45.5-point total is the second-highest on the slate, but I’m not expecting much out of New York’s offense.
Wan’Dale Robinson is out for the year, and a knee injury and the Giants kept Richie James out of their Monday walkthrough. Isaiah Hodgins and Darius Slayton are the next men up, with Kenny Golladay in tow. However, the Cowboys’ defensive front had Kirk Cousins under fire on 60.0% of his dropbacks just four days ago.
We may see Jones and Saquon Barkley on the move to combat Dallas’ pass rush, like Green Bay did in Week 10. Aaron Rodgers had a season-high 47.8% play-action rate (with two touchdowns to Christian Watson), while Aaron Jones slashed through the Cowboys for 138 yards and a score. Barkley’s been more of a boom-bust rusher, but the Giants will need as much help as possible to get anything going on offense.
If the ground game struggles, look for Jones to test the Cowboys’ secondary with Slayton. He owns 33.3% of the team’s intermediate and deep targets over the last two weeks. Golladay may be just enough fodder to keep Trevon Diggs occupied, giving Slayton more room to operate. Otherwise, expect more short-area looks to Barkley and the tight ends to keep the offense moving.
On the flip side, start all your Cowboys. Well, leave Jalen Tolbert on the wire.
Since his return, Dak Prescott has been top 5 in EPA per play and CPOE. Between Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard, there’s been a Dallas rusher in the top 12 going back to Week 6. Even Michael Gallup’s managed a splash play or two. But CeeDee Lamb will be the most popular play of the slate. The Cowboys' offense is humming...
Cowboys offense: Weeks 1-6 vs Weeks 7-11 in league rankings in the big 10 categories.
— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm)
Nov 22, 2022
The Giants have ceded an average of 71.0 yards per game to receivers who primarily play on the interior. Even with his dud on Sunday, Lamb was still second in targets and one of Dak’s primary targets when under pressure. With Lamb’s 32.0% target share and high play-action usage, he’s worth building around in DFS.
🦃 Patriots at Vikings (-2.5) – 42.5 total
The final Thanksgiving game has the Minnesota Vikings (8-2) as 2.5-point favorites hosting the New England Patriots (6-4). With the lowest game total of the day at 42.5 points, it’s safe to say Vegas isn’t expecting fireworks in Minneapolis.
Patriots have allowed under 125 yards of offense in back to back games.
Since 1978, only one other defense has done that.
That was the great 2000 Titans (who allowed the fewest yards in the league) did it in the last two weeks of the season.
Also: Sam Ehlinger, Zack Wilson lol
— Football Perspective (@fbgchase)
Nov 21, 2022
That’s not great news considering the number of fantasy stars on display here. Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, T.J. Hockenson, and Rhamondre Stevenson are all must-start options, but this game environment suggests you want to look elsewhere for your flex-level plays.
If you are playing Turkey Day DFS, there are a number of low-cost WRs in this matchup who can provide salary relief, allowing you to pay up in other spots. DeVante Parker (questionable), K.J. Osborn, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton are all priced below $4,000 on DraftKings and should see the field plenty in this game.
From a betting perspective, these are two teams trending in opposite directions, as the Patriots have won three in a row and held their last two opponents to just three points, while the Vikings only scored three points themselves last week. Bill Belichick versus primetime Kirk Cousins doesn’t seem like a recipe for success for Minnesota. To make matters worse, they will be without LT Christian Darrisaw, which could force Kirk to operate under pressure again for much of this game.
It sure seems like everything is set up in the Patriots’ favor, but that just means the Vikings will probably surprise us all with a great performance. The good news is that we should know by halftime whether it’s safe to succumb to a food coma nap or if this game can deliver action worth watching.
Elijah Moore is a super villain LMAO
— Mak (@nyjmak)
Nov 22, 2022