Thanksgiving is just a great week.
A time for friends, family and football.
Three games on Thursday and the opportunity to express gratitude for everything in your life. For me, I am so eternally grateful not just for my family, my friends and my co-workers, but also for you.
When I left ESPN it was with a tremendous amount of nerves. I had been there for 15 years, so change is always hard. But if I am being honest, I also wondered if anyone would find me. Would people seek out this column, my podcast, my daily show and my Sunday morning show? Would they be supportive of my new home and give me patience as we continue to tinker with the website, with all of our shows, with me handling a heavier workload than I ever have in my life?
The answer, I am so thrilled to report, has been a resounding yes. The numbers on this column, podcast and shows have exceeded my highest hopes and NBC has been thrilled as well. They (NBC) have been nothing but incredible to work with.
They even let me do things like plug www.RotoPass.com, my premium fantasy football subscription bundle which gives you access to six great premium and award-winning websites for one low price. These are sites that I use and that I have personally picked out. They have custom ranks, tools, DFS lineup optimizers, amazing content and so much more.
So in honor of Black Friday, if you use the promo code: BFRI you'll get 10% off at www.RotoPass.com. The subscription lasts 12 months from whenever you sign up, so if you sign up now you'll get access all through next football draft season and a lot of the 2023 regular football season.
It's a great product and makes a great gift for the fantasy player in your life. So yeah, the fact that NBC lets me do blatant plugs like this? Amazing. I am so incredibly thankful to work for NBC Sports.
But if there is one negative to Thanksgiving Week it's that, with three games on Thursday and everyone wanting to spend time with family on Thursday and Friday, it means time is limited and that I, in essence, fit five days of work into three. There will be no Fantasy Football Happy Hour show or podcast on this Thursday or Friday.
But we WILL be back with Fantasy Football Pregame this Sunday morning, 11am-1pm ET on Peacock and airing 12-1 on CNBC as well.
So with limited time, I decided instead of just phoning in some opening story, I'm just going to say how thankful I am for all of you. It means so much more than you'll ever know. Thank you thank you thank you. I hope you have an amazing holiday with your loved ones and, of course, by that I mean your fantasy team.
Now that I've said that, I'm just going to get right to the players.
Thank you to FF Happy Hour producer Damian Dabrowski for his help at various points in this column.
And with that...let's get to it:
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Quarterbacks I Love in Week 12:
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Houston
Thanksgiving is a time to show gratitude for family, friends, health, personal and career growth - and landing a quarterback who is QB7 on the season despite being taken very late in drafts. You know, the big stuff. Gotta think Tua is thankful for Mike McDaniel, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. So while Tua is QB7 on the season in PPG, in his six full games in 2022, he's averaging 24.4 PPG. That would be good enough for QB3, behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Tagovailoa has 260+ passing yards in all six of his full games and 3+ touchdown passes in four of them. There's every reason to believe he'll keep it going this week against a Houston defense that, over the past four weeks, has allowed the third-most yards per pass attempt. By the way, Tua leads all quarterbacks in completion rate this season and the Texans give up the fifth-highest completion rate on deep balls. I have Tua as a top-4 quarterback in Week 12.
Joe Burrow at Tennessee
Asked following Sunday's game how the Bengals have flipped their rivalry with the Steelers, winning four of their last five games against their longtime nemesis, Tyler Boyd broke it down like this: "We've got Joe Burrow." Now that's what I call good #analysis. And Ja'Marr Chase's absence has only shown how truly special Burrow is. Since Chase went down, Burrow is averaging 19.8 PPG and ranks top-5 in passing yards. Now Burrow has a great matchup against the Titans. Over the past four weeks, Tennessee is a bottom-five pass defense and opponents are averaging a league-high 44 pass attempts against them over that span. Give me another big game from Joe Burrow this week, with or without Chase in the lineup. Burrow is my QB6.
Geno Smith vs. Las Vegas
I can't think of a player who has beaten Vegas more already this season than Geno Smith. Seattle is 6-4 against the spread - including 4-1 in its last five - and with six wins on the season, they've already eclipsed their preseason Over/Under win total of 5.5. And now, for his next trick, Smith will put up numbers of Las Vegas' football team. (Not that it's all that hard.) The Raiders allowed the third-most fantasy PPG to opposing quarterbacks. In fact, seven of the 10 quarterbacks to face Las Vegas have scored 18+ fantasy points. And now Vegas faces a red-hot Geno Smith, who has multiple touchdowns in each of his last four games and 20+ rushing yards in each of his last three. Geno Smith is inside my Top 8 quarterbacks in Week 12.
Others receiving votes: Over the past four weeks, Cleveland ranks bottom-8 in yards per pass attempt and touchdown rate. Now they have to face Tom Brady coming off a bye. Brady has multiple touchdown passes in both of his games off of byes since joining the Bucs, by the way. He also had a season-high 8.9 yards per attempt in Week 10 and his highest aDOT since Week 2. Tom Brady upping his game as the playoffs approach? We just never seen it. I'm shocked. ... Give me some of the opposing quarterback in the same game and Brady's former backup in New England: Jacoby Brissett. Believe it or not, Brissett is averaging 20.9 PPG over his last three games, thanks in no small part to having six-plus carries in each. ... The Atlanta Falcons and thousands of fantasy managers have a lot in common: each week they put Marcus Mariota in their lineups and come away thinking, "Well, you could do a lot worse than that." Mariota now has 17+ fantasy points in five of his past seven games and, in those five games, has posted 40+ rushing yards or a rushing touchdown in each. As a Commanders fan I know first-hand how we can't have nice things. In a home game where they should beat the Falcons easily, they will under-perform and make Mariota look much better than he actually is.
Quarterbacks I Hate in Week 12:
Kirk Cousins vs. New England
Kirk Cousins playing on national TV on Thanksgiving night with the entire bloated and drunken country watching? Against a Bill Belichick defense? A week after getting embarrassed by the Dallas Cowboys at home? Ooof. Kirk Cousins seems like a nice guy. He doesn't deserve this. This is cruel and unusual punishment. Okay, fine. Maybe not unusual. Kirk Cousins struggling in primetime is quite usual, unfortunately. And it's even more common for quarterbacks to struggle against the Patriots this season. Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields are the only quarterbacks to put up 17+ fantasy points against them this season, and I am confident reporting that Kirk Cousins can't run like Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields. The Patriots are also top-4 on the season in passing yards allowed per game, interception rate, sack rate and pressure rate. Those last two are especially troubling for Cousins and the Vikings because last week Dallas pressured Cousins on 57% of his drop-backs and sacked him seven times and ...well... 40-3. I have Cousins inside my top 40 quarterbacks this week, but well outside my top 3. He's my QB22 and, in fact, my BetMGM "Berry Boost" for Thanksgiving is a "Prime Time Kirk" inspired Single Game Parlay (where BetMGM has boosted the odds for me): taking the under on multiple Kirk Cousins props. If you want to check it out, you can do so at www.BetMGM.com/Berry.
Aaron Rodgers at Philadelphia
On a Thursday where all of us eat birds, it feels only fair the following Sunday that Birds get to eat humans. Or, at least, one human. Aaron Rodgers getting stuffed sort of sounds like it makes sense and it kind of works if you dwell on it. Instead, dwell on the fact the Eagles are allowing the fewest fantasy PPG to quarterbacks this season. In fact, only two quarterbacks have scored 12 or more against them and none have posted 17+. Philadelphia also allows the fewest yards per pass attempt and the second-fewest passing yards per game. If that's not impressive enough, the Eagles have allowed one or fewer touchdown passes in seven of their 10 games, including five of their past six. Now, in past seasons, Aaron Rodgers would be just the quarterback to come in and turn those kinds of numbers upside-down. But unless I'm holding my stat sheet upside-down, the Packers are 26th in the league in scoring this season, tied for 11th place in the NFC and Rodgers has yet to hit 20 fantasy points in a game even once this season. I have No. 12 outside my top 22 quarterbacks in Week 12.
Running Backs I Love in Week 12:
Kenneth Walker vs. Las Vegas
Kenneth Walker's last performance was his worst rushing game as a pro, putting up just 17 yards on 10 carries against the Bucs. But don't think that Walker has suddenly turned into a fantasy pumpkin, which is not actually a phrase but is an overrated Thanksgiving dish. Don't at me. Anyway, I'm not putting much stock in that. Tampa has a good run defense and Seattle's Week 11 bye will have Walker ready to explode, just like when you literally had only one job to do and that was to take out the pie but you were watching football and totally forgot and it exploded everywhere and your Mom yelled at you in front of everyone and Thanksgiving was a silent, covered in smushed apple bits on the wall affair. To give just one random example. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Ken Walker. Last time we saw him he also got involved more in the passing game in Week 10, running a route on 73% of pass plays and earning a 24% target share. And even on the off-chance Walker has turned into a pumpkin, the Raiders' defense stands like a huge, gaping glass slipper. Running backs, busses, even large herds of elephants could fit in with ease. That's right. I'm now off the holiday and onto Cinderella. I'm completely unfocused, just like the Raiders' run defense. On the season, Las Vegas allows the fourth-most PPG to running backs. Considering Walker is averaging 22 touches per game in his five games as a starter, as well as 20.2 PPG over that same span, I have him as a top 5 back in Week 12.
Aaron Jones at Philadelphia
Green Bay may have misunderstood my #FreeAaronJones campaign. I didn't mean that they should free up his offseason by missing the playoffs. I just wanted him to get more touches. And well, at least the Packers are giving me that. Jones has 18+ touches in three of his past four games, including two games in that span with 150+ scrimmage yards. That sort of workload sets up well against an Eagles' defense that is actually struggling against the run. Since Week 6, Philadelphia is allowing the fifth-most rushing yards to running backs. And while Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph arrived on the scene last week to improve the run defense, Week 11 still marked the third consecutive game the Eagles surrendered at least 90 scrimmage yards to a running back. I have Jones inside my top 12 running backs this week.
Jeff Wilson vs. Houston
Jeff Wilson has led Miami running backs in touches in each of his two games since joining the Dolphins, out-snapping Raheem Mostert over that stretch, 68-43, on the way to 215 scrimmage yards and two scores. He's also averaged 19.2 PPG as a Dolphin. But honestly, even if Wilson was sharing a 12-man Miami backfield, I might still consider playing him this week against this Houston defense. It's as bad as Davis Mills' neck is long. Houston gives up the most fantasy PPG to running backs on the season, and it's not like they're exactly improving as the season goes on. The Texans have surrendered 140+ rushing yards and at least one rushing touchdown in five straight games. I have Wilson as my RB13 this week.
Others receiving votes: Much like a football he would carry, Melvin Gordon has been released by Denver. Hey-yo! The result? A pretty clever meme goodbye from Gordon himself and a lot of carries for Latavius Murray. Murray already received a season-high 21 touches last week. He also has 3+ receptions in each of his past two games, and has scored in three of four. Denver's new RB1 is in line for a nice day against a Carolina defense that, over the past four weeks, is allowing 127 rushing yards per game and 5.2 YPC to backs. ... Unless Leonard Fournette discovered the Fountain of Youth on the bye, Rachaad White retains a ton of upside in that Tampa offense. This week White faces a Cleveland defense allowing the third-most rushing yards to running backs on the season and is flex-worthy. ... Let's be clear - this is a deeper league play, since the Rams haven't had any RB be good this year. But with Darrell Henderson released and who knows what the hell is going on with Cam Akers...Kyren Williams has emerged in the Rams' backfield. In Week 10, Williams had season-highs in touches (8) and snap rate (55%) and also posted 30 receiving yards - tied for the most by a Rams running back this season. Continued passing game usage will do for him in Week 11 against a Chiefs defense that is bottom-5 against running backs in receptions, receiving yards and catch rate. ... James Cook actually outscored his brother Dalvin Cook, 8.2 to 7.2 fantasy points, last week. And while I doubt that happens most weeks, don't be surprised if James bests his older brother again in Week 12. Dalvin faces the Patriots, but James gets a Lions unit that is allowing 129 scrimmage yards per game to running backs.
Running Backs I Hate in Week 12:
Alvin Kamara at San Francisco
Last week Alvin Kamara became just the second player in Saints' history to reach 9,000 career all-purpose yards, joining Marques Colston. He trails Colston on the all-time team list by 711 yards now. He also is behind Colston's Saints record on career touchdowns by just one, 72-71. I'm 100% confident Kamara won't catch Colston in yardage this week - that's what you call a #BoldPrediction - but I also think it's a fair bet Kamara doesn't equal the touchdown mark, either. San Francisco allows the second-fewest fantasy PPG to running backs this season, and only one back has eclipsed 70+ yards against them this season. And in an off season for him, Kamara has especially struggled on the road. He has less than eight fantasy points in three of four road games so far this season. He also has failed to score a touchdown in eight of his nine games this season and his touches have dropped recently, too, averaging just 13 touches per game over his past three games. I have Kamara just outside my top 20 running backs in Week 12, a week in which Marques Colston should continue to enjoy the view from the top.
Bengals RB at Tennessee
I don't care if it's Joe Mixon or Samaje Perine, I'm out on Cincinnati running backs this week. Tennessee has allowed one rushing touchdown to a running back this season, and that came way back in Week 1. Tennessee also allows the fourth-fewest yards per reception to running backs and, over the past four weeks, Tennessee is allowing under 40 rushing yards per game to backs and just 2.5 YPC. Yes, it's an absolutely brutal matchup for Cincinnati's backs. But it's not all bad news, Bengals. As Tyler Boyd pointed out, you've got Joe Burrow. And he's awesome. Burrow can help Cincinnati win this game...but he still can't make me rank Mixon/Perine inside the top 20 at running back this week.
Cordarrelle Patterson at Washington
This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that I can say positive things about my 6-5 Washington Commanders. I mean, it's rare I can do that this far into a season. So it feels good. I am truly blessed. Yes, yes...I am aware that despite the winning record, they are in last place in the NFC East. Thanks for bringing it up. You know what? Why do you always have to be so negative?! I hate you! And I hate Thanksgiving! And I hate this disgusting green bean casserole! Why do you make it every year! No one likes it, you stupid JERK! Okay, where was I...ah, yes, something about Cordarrelle Patterson having a tough matchup against my mighty Commanders. Over the past four weeks, Washington is a top-5 rush defense against running backs. They've also allowed just one rushing touchdown to a back over their past six games. Meanwhile, in his three games since returning from IR, Patterson is averaging just 10.7 touches and a 7% target share, with just 18 receiving yards total. I have Patterson outside my top 30 backs in Week 12. But it could be worse. He could be green bean casserole.
Pass Catchers I Love in Week 12:
Keenan Allen at Arizona
After a seven-game absence, Keenan Allen returned Monday night to put up five catches for 94 yards on eight targets, with three of those targets coming on deep balls. If that's being rusty, then give me all the oxidized iron you can get. (That's called a science joke, kids.) Those numbers aside, the Chargers did ease Allen back into action at least a little bit, as he played only 68% of snaps. Yet Allen still got a 28% target share with those eight balls thrown his way. Since the start of last season, when seeing 8+ targets, Allen is averaging 16.9 PPG. Facing a Cardinals defense this week that has allowed seven touchdowns to the slot on the season, tied for third-most in the league, Allen also has a good chance to score for the first time all season. I have him inside my top 10 wide receivers for Week 12.
Tyler Lockett vs. Las Vegas
Tyler Lockett leads Seattle in slot targets and routes this season. In fact, 42% of his targets have come from the slot. Meanwhile, against the slot this season, the Raiders allow the most yards per game and the highest slot rate. There isn't a better matchup for a star slot receiver than the Las Vegas Raiders. Oh, and by the way: against all receivers everywhere on the field, Las Vegas has allowed a 71% catch rate, worst in the league. So I guess you could say that Josh McDaniels actually has succeeded in bringing a high-powered passing offense to the field for the Raiders games. Be careful what you wish for. This week Lockett is my WR15.
Terry McLaurin vs. Atlanta
In games with Taylor Heinicke under center this season, Terry McLaurin has a 32% target share and is averaging 15.2 PPG. Is Heinicke-to-McLaurin the NFL's new Montana-to-Rice? Let's not be ridiculous. Montana and Rice were never as good as my unstoppable Commanders combo. Although I bet even a second-rate quarterback-receiver duo like Montana and Rice could put up numbers against these Falcons. On the season, Atlanta allows the second-most PPG to receivers. In fact, Atlanta has given up 75+ yards to 12 different wide receivers already this season. Let's pencil in McLaurin as No. 13 and as WR12 in Week 12.
Pat Freiermuth at Indianapolis
After posting eight catches for 79 yards on 12 targets last week, Pat Freiermuth now has at least four catches and seven targets in four consecutive games. Kenny Pickett has definitely developed chemistry in recent weeks with his tight end, replacing the connection he had in his first few games with opposing defensive backs. And get this: since Chase Claypool was dealt, Freiermuth has only become more involved in the passing game with a 30% target share in those two games and with 47% of those targets coming in the slot. Facing a Colts defense this week that allows the fifth-highest catch rate to tight ends, I have Freiermuth as a top-5 tight end.
Others receiving votes: Last week in Detroit playing against the Browns, Gabe Davis had a solid game with five catches for 68 yards on seven targets. But this week he returns to Detroit for the full experience: getting to run routes against the Lions secondary. Hashtag blessed. Over half of Davis's targets this season have been on deep passes, while Detroit allows the most catches and yards on deep passes this season. ... The Steelers allow the second-most yards per game to the slot. Unfortunately for them, this week they play the emerging Parris Campbell who is averaging 18.5 PPG and a 24.5% target share in his last four games with Matt Ryan at quarterback. ... With the Giants receiving corps now down Wan'Dale Robinson, as well, Darius Slayton is the receiver you want. Over the past four weeks, Slayton is averaging 14.6 PPG with at least 58 receiving yards in each game. ... In his two games since returning from injury, Treylon Burks has a 22% target share including a season-high 29% share last week. This week Burks faces a Cincinnati defense that has allowed a wide receiver touchdown in five straight games, as well as more than 17 yards per reception to WRs over its past three. ... If you want a Saints tight end who might throw you a touchdown pass every few weeks, you want Taysom Hill. But if you want one to produce consistently in the receiving department, Juwan Johnson is your guy. Johnson has finished as a top 10 tight end in four of the past five weeks and he has posted three straight games with at least 40 receiving yards.
Pass Catchers I Hate in Week 12
Diontae Johnson at Indianapolis
The Steelers traded Chase Claypool before the deadline but did they also perhaps trade Diontae Johnson and just not tell anyone about it? Because Johnson is nowhere to be found. In his past seven games, he has zero games with more than five receptions. He doesn't have double-digit targets in a game since Week 7. And he's now gone 12 consecutive games - including Pittsburgh's wildcard game last January - without a touchdown reception, last cracking the end zone last season in Pittsburgh's second-to-last regular season game. It's unlikely to get better this week, as the Colts allow the fewest fantasy PPG to wide receivers on the season. Johnson is outside my top 35 wide receivers again this week. But hey, congrats to whichever NFL team landed Diontae Johnson at the deadline.
Allen Lazard at Philadelphia
Being Aaron Rodgers' No. 1 receiver isn't what it used to be. And really, even prime Davante Adams might struggle against this Eagles team. Philadelphia allows the second-lowest catch rate to wide receivers this season, and only one receiver (my beloved Terry McLaurin) has put 80+ yards on them. The Eagles have also yielded just six touchdowns to wide receivers this season, tied for fourth-fewest. In fact, only one receiver all season has managed to put up 14+ fantasy points on the Eagles without also scoring a touchdown. Can you guess who? That's right: it was Terry "Better than Jerry Rice" McLaurin. (Everyone calls him that now, right?) I have Lazard as just WR29 this week.
D.J. Moore vs. Denver
I can't speak for the rest of the United States, but I know D.J. Moore has World Cup fever because he's been low-scoring all season. Woooh, yeah! Soccer jokes! But seriously, D.J. Moore has been more disappointing than Argentina taking on Saudi Arabia. Woooh, yeah! Timely soccer jokes! Moore now has eight games this season with 8.0 or fewer fantasy points, including three straight with fewer than seven fantasy points and 30 receiving yards. So Baker Mayfield's return under center hasn't exactly turned things around for Moore. In fact, in games not started by PJ Walker this season, Moore is averaging just 8.7 PPG. Woof. And now Moore gets his third different QB in three weeks, as Sam Darnold was announced as the starter. Not great, Bob! (Note: I am assuming your name is Bob.) Especially since Moore has to play a Denver defense allowing the fewest yards to wide receivers on the season. I have Moore outside of my top 40 wide receivers this week. Leaving Moore out of your Week 12 lineups should definitely be your GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL.