Thanksgiving brings us many traditions when it comes to food and family. Not to be overlooked, is the day full of football that Thanksgiving brings us as well. In this special version of the NFL Cheat Sheet, I’ll focus on the three games that will be played. So let’s get right into all the information and as always, you can get me on the ol’ Twitter machine @SBuchanan24.
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The Vegas Lines
1) Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Over/Under: 47 points
Line: Green Bay Packers -9
The Packers and Bears have the night game in this Thanksgiving matchup. Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler are set to do battle in this one. The Packers are coming off a victory against the Vikings where it was Eddie Lacy, not James Starks, that rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries. Starks only rushed for 14 yards on eight carries. In what has been a strange season for the Packers rushing game, Lacy may have earned his starting job back after last week’s performance. Either way, the Packers face a Bears defense that is must more fragile against the pass rather than the run. With a strong line for the Packers, it’ worth nothing who will indeed be the starting back for the Packers, as they should encounter some garbage time to help wind down that clock.
As for the Bears, they’re coming off a 17-15 loss to the Denver Broncos last week. After weeks of strong play from Cutler, The Denver defense flexed their muscles in this one and held him to just 11.5 DraftKings points in week 11. Cutler was 18/32 for 265 yards with no touchdowns and a late fourth quarter interception. The big difference makers in this one will be if Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte can find their way onto the field. Both are listed as questionable as of Tuesday, but both have been doing some workouts prior to the game Sunday and Monday. If Cutler even gets one of these players back for the Thursday game, it will give him a nice boost in his production for this game. The use of Cutler, in my opinion, hinders on the health of these two. At least get Jeffery back in the game and we’ll be in business. With the Bears projected to be down by so much, Cutler will have plenty of opportunities to air it out in this one.
2) Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys
Over/Under: 45.5 points
Line: Carolina Panthers -1
The Panthers have achieved 10-0 status and the Cowboys have their core back with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Vegas has this game pinned as a close one and I couldn’t agree more. With Romo and Dez fully healthy, the Cowboys COULD be one of the best teams in the NFC. They also have to stop the red-hot Panthers, who are coming off a game that saw Cam Newton go 21/34 for 246 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s good for 31.44 DraftKings points. The Dallas defense has been good against opposing wide receivers, allowing only six touchdowns, however, they’re not very efficient with stopping the run. The Cowboys have allowed eight rushing touchdowns on the season and 4.2 YPC. We all know how mobile the Panthers team can be, so stopping that will be a key element to staying in this one.
As for the Cowboys, in their first game back together, Romo and Bryant connected for four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. While it wasn’t the most impressive showing, it was still refreshing to see Bryant get into the end zone. Bryant is currently listed as questionable for this game, but his status isn’t in any jeopardy, as the Cowboys are allowing him to stay as a limited participant in order to be healthy come game time. With this game being so close, I expect a ton of passing from both sides, which one would think would end up favoring Romo in the long run. I don’t want to be “that guy” but if a team was potentially going to take down the Panthers, a fully healthy Cowboys team could get the job done.
3) Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
Over/Under: 45.5 Points
Line: Philadelphia Eagles -1
At the beginning of the season, this game certainly had the potential to an exciting one. A great game to kick off Thanksgiving. Fast forward to now, and I can’t say I’m overly excited. This game has the same point projection and line as Dallas and Carolina, with the Eagles favored by one. Mark Sanchez was back at the helm for week 11, as he completed 26/41 passes for 261 yards, throwing for two touchdowns and three interceptions. Any thought of capturing that magic from last season seems to disappear quickly last week. While Sanchez wasn’t horrible, his three interceptions are an obvious concern going forward. If anything, Sanchez certainly has a favorable against a flimsy Lions defense this week. This Lions defense has allowed 16 passing touchdowns this season with a 68% completion rate. If Sanchez can quell his interception woes, he could be in line for a decent week and a potential sneaky play on such a short slate.
When it comes to the Lions, not much has been going right for them against the Raiders last week. Stafford was one of the chalk plays of the week and wasn’t looking like much until he rushed for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Overall, Stafford ended up scoring 20.38 DraftKings points, which was his highest score in the past four weeks. Stafford completed 22/35 passes for 282 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.Stafford has been really tough to trust this year and rostering him has quickly become the contrarian move. He does have a good matchup this week, as the Eagles are one of the worst teams against wide receivers.The Eagles have allowed 15 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers and the fourth-most yards in the league at 1916. With almost no running game on the Lions, Stafford should be forced to throw and throw often.
Defense vs. Position Matchup Breakdown
Worst DvP Matchups – Quarterbacks
1) Carolina Panthers vs. Dallas Cowboys – The Panthers defense has been one of the most solid ones to pick on a weekly basis. Coming into this week, the Panthers are the third overall team against opposing quarterbacks. The Panthers have only allowed 12 passing touchdowns while intercepting 15. They’ve allowed a 58% completion rate on 404 attempts.
2) Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers – Coincidently, the next team against the quarterback playing on Thanksgiving is the Cowboys. The Cowboys have been solid in this spot, as they’ve allowed 11 passing touchdowns on the season and grabbing six interceptions. The Cowboys are allowing a 64% completion rate on 330 attempts.
Best DvP Matchups – Quarterbacks
1) Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles – Even with a mediocre performance by Derek Carr last week, the Lions still remain as one of the worst against opposing quarterbacks. The Lions have allowed 16 passing touchdowns on the season while only grabbing four interceptions, which is tied for the least amount in the league with three other teams. As mentioned earlier, the Lions are allowing a 68% completion rate on 336 attempts.
2) Green Back Packers vs. Chicago Bears – Even with a decent spot for Cutler, I’ll still feel better about him if he gets some of his weapons back. The Packers have allowed 13 passing touchdowns on the season but have nabbed 11 interceptions. They’ve allowed a 59% completion rate on 361 attempts.
Worst DvP Matchups – Running Backs
1) Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears – Jeremy Langford has been a revelation for the Bears. When you lose Matt Forte, you certainly can’t expect to get that type of production back. Well, Langford has been showing us otherwise. He faces a fairly decent Packers defense against the run. They’ve allowed eight rushing touchdowns this season to go with an average of 3.8 YPC.
2) Philadelphia Eagles vs. Detroit Lions – Luckily for the Eagles, they really don’t have to worry about much of a running game coming from the Lions. The Eagles have allowed only one rushing touchdown on this season. Sounds great, but the 4.4 YPC is one of the worst in the leagues.
Best DvP Matchups – Running Backs
1) Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles – Unfortunately for the Lions, the Eagles DO have a running game and will certainly utilize it in this game. The Lions have allowed 13 rushing touchdowns on the season, which leads the league. The Lions are also giving up 3.9 YPC.
2) Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers – The run is something that certainly is implemented into the Carolina offense. The Cowboys have allowed eight rushing touchdowns this season and 4.2 YPC.
Worst DvP Matchups – Wide Receivers
1) Carolina Panthers vs. Dallas Cowboys – As I mentioned before, the Panthers defense has been fantastic this season. Against opposing wide receivers, the Panthers have allowed only six touchdowns on the season. Opposing wide receivers have only completed 53% of the passes thrown their direction.
2) Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears – The Packers are middle of the road when it comes to defending opposing wideouts. They’ve allowed seven touchdowns on the season with a 57% completion rate on 190 targets.
Best DvP Matchups – Wide Receivers
1) Philadelphia Eagles vs. Detroit Lions – If we had a spot for Matt Stafford to succeed, it would be this one. To connect with either Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate, Stafford can look forward to an Eagle defense that has allowed 15 touchdowns to wide receivers. The Eagles are also allowing a 62% completion rate on 242 targets.
2) Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles – The Lions have actually been decent against opposing wide receivers. They just happen to fall into second place in this short three game slate. The Lions have allowed eight touchdowns this season with a 67% completion rate on 205 targets.
Worst DvP Matchups – Tight Ends
1) Philadelphia Eagles vs. Detroit Lions – The Eagles check in as the second best team in the league against tight ends, so this is certainly not just because we have a three-game slate. The Eagles have two touchdowns to opposing tight ends with a 69% completion rate for 419 yards.
2) Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers – Finally! The Bears can be marked down as being good against someone. The Bears have held opposing tight ends to two touchdowns with a 69% completion rate for 484 yards.
Best DvP Matchups – Tight Ends
1) Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears – The Packers have been having their struggles against the tight end position this season. They’ve given up five touchdowns with a 58% completion rate on 100 targets.
2) Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles – The Lions haven’t been much better against tight ends either. They’ve allowed eight touchdowns to that position this season, allowing an absurd 70% completion rate on 74 targets.
One Quarterback You Should Build Lineups Around…
Aaron Rodgers ($7,400) – I don’t like to pay up for a quarterback on a normal basis, but on such a short slate, I’ll make the exception. Rodgers has a nice matchup against the Bears, who’ve allowed 19 passing touchdowns on the season and a 62% completion rate. Rodgers has been throwing really well lately, even with a fairly tough matchup last week against the Vikings. In the past three weeks, Rodgers has a 8:1 TD: INT ratio and is averaging 304 yards thrown. We certainly have some enticing names on the board in this short slate, but I think Rodgers might be the safest one of them all. With a pick of Stafford or even Romo, you might have some concerns, which are totally viable. Stafford has been extremely inconsistent (although I do like him in GPPs) and Romo is still not 100%. When I’m rolling out my lineups, I’ll have Rodgers at the top.
And the Wide Receiver You Should Pair Him With…
Davante Adams ($4,700) – This pick comes with an asterisk, as Adams is officially listed as questionable for Thursday. An ankle injury has him listed as a limited participant in practice this week. However, if he’s good to go, fire him up with Rodgers this week. Adams has been a target monster since his return, as he’s averaging 9.5 targets since his return. Now, keep in mind, that the bulk of those targets came in two games where Adams was fully healthy. His status for last week had him “in and out” of the game against the Vikings. It’s certainly worth noting his status heading into Thursday. If he is healthy, Adams should be worth every penny of his $4700 salary. If not, give a bump to James Jones.