Start or Sit Fantasy Football: Thanksgiving Edition

Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions Start or Sit Thanksgiving

This year, we get our usual triple-tap set of Thanksgiving games, but this year, we don’t have to argue with our uncle about whether or not the change in frequency of pass interference calls is a Marxist-Soros plot to overthrow democracy. It’s going to be just us and our games, so it’s time to decide who we should start or sit. This week, we take a closer eye, specifically, at the Thanksgiving Day games and decide who we should start or sit on Thursday as we gorge ourselves on turkey and watch modern-day gladiatorial combat.


Deshaun Watson is an obvious start. He is a top-seven quarterback and is a set-and-forget starter. He takes on a Lions team that is middle-of-the-pack against opposing QBs in recent weeks. You can’t get away from Watson.

Andy Dalton and Alex Smith are more in the sleeper/getting too cute mold of quarterbacks. This is doubly true when you consider that you aren’t beholden to the Thanksgiving slate of games. You’re just getting itchy from slamming seven-layer dip and you want a quarterback to watch on Thanksgiving. Ignore the impulse to turn towards Alex Smith or Andy Dalton if you have better options available. But Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, and Lamar Jackson make for an interesting quandary.

Start or Sit Matthew Stafford

The NFL loves to put the Lions on Thanksgiving. Why? Well, they sort of started it back in 1934. So, I guess they get dibs on a game every year. That means every year, we get to see Matthew Stafford light up the scoreboard with his funslinging. Well, actually, that’s not really the case recently. An injury cost him his time in 2019, and he’s currently dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing hand. Also, he hasn’t thrown for over 250 yards or two touchdowns since 2015. He will be without Kenny Golladay, his star receiver. On the other side, the Texans have allowed at least 19 fantasy points to every QB to play them (outside of a torrential downpour in Cleveland) since week five. That includes Jake Luton. The defense is bad, so Stafford is a decent start based on the matchup, though he carries some concerning aspects for me.

Start or Sit Ben Roethlisberger

Now for Big Ben. Roethlisberger doesn’t get the Thanksgiving treatment nearly as often as Stafford but still has five thanksgiving games under his belt, including three straight from 2016 to 2018. Roethlisberger lights up Thanksgiving, which makes sense. He loves attention. He has at least 19 fantasy points in all five of his Thanksgiving Day games, and his only game with just one touchdown was twelve years ago. In his last three Turkey Day games, Ben Roethlisberger averaged four touchdowns while throwing for 282 yards per game.

Throw out the defensive statistics when the Ravens and Steelers matchup, especially when Ben can grandstand. I would start Ben Roethlisberger in the Primetime Thanksgiving slot.

Start or Sit Lamar Jackson

Finally, we come to Lamar Jackson. Things haven’t exactly gone Jackson’s way this season. The presumptive QB1 in drafts this season, Jackson is QB10 on the season and QB15 in points per game over the last five weeks. He’s not playing well, as teams have figured out how to let him run for a bunch of empty yards while stifling his passing game production. Over his last four games, he has just five passing touchdowns (and four interceptions). Teams are letting him run, which is giving him a decent floor, but he’s not getting the production through the air that fantasy quarterbacks usually get. This is a problem with the Greg Roman offense, and one we saw happen with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco as well. That’s neither here nor there.

Lamar Jackson makes his Thanksgiving Day debut against his rivals, the Steelers. The Ravens and Steelers have split his two starts against them in the last two years (L Jax sat in their week seventeen game last year). Unfortunately for would-be Lamar Jackson starters, the Steelers have his number. He has 135 yards rushing in the last two games, but he also has zero touchdowns. The most concerning statistic? Jackson has three touchdowns to five interceptions against the Steelers in two games. If I’m in a must-win situation, too many things are going against Jackson to start him, so I would sit Lamar Jackson.

Wide Receivers

Thanksgiving has a ton of high-flying wide receivers to consider. Kenny Golladay (if healthy), Terry McLaurin, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks are all must-starts. We also get some second-tier guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, CeeDee Lamb, and Marvin Jones to consider. Also, the Ravens wide receivers exist. I wouldn’t start anybody on Thursday who isn’t listed in this paragraph, unless you’re exceptionally desperate. Michael Gallup has fallen apart, the Ravens guys are just too inconsistent to trust, and then we’re looking at guys like Danny Amendola and Kenny Stills.

Start or Sit Marvin Jones

The Marvin Jones question comes down entirely to the Kenny Golladay question. As of writing this, Kenny Golladay isn’t looking good to play on Thanksgiving. He wasn’t even close to playing on Sunday, and with a quick turnaround, I’m not bullish about him playing just 96 hours later. That leaves the Jones question. Since the Lions drafted Golladay, he’s missed eleven games where Marvin Jones played. Marvin Jones balled out in basically every contest. He gains an extra reception on two extra targets per game, and he gets up to 68 yards per game. He’s a WR12 in these contests.

This season,  Golladay has missed five games, and Jones hasn’t quite been up to that level of production. He started off the year with just 78 yards in the two games Golladay missed, but has 20 targets in his last three games, averaging 5 receptions for 63.3 yards, and scoring twice in three games. He’s been a must-start in 3WR leagues, but he’s someone you can get away from on Thursday in 2WR leagues. He’s a good, not great start on Thanksgiving Day.

Start or Sit JuJu Smith-Schuster

While I would rank JuJu over Marvin Jones if everyone was healthy, that is not the case. JuJu left “early” in the Jacksonville game this weekend, but in reality, you can’t really discount his performance that much. He played 59 snaps, after averaging 62 snaps over the last couple of weeks (when he averaged 85 yards and a touchdown, on 7.5 catches per game).

Unfortunately, however, a foot injury might sideline JuJu Smith-Schuster on Thanksgiving against the Ravens. Even if JuJu plays, I am recommending you sit JuJu Smith-Schuster on Thanksgiving. The Steelers have a ton of playmakers in this passing game, and it could be any of them this week. The Steelers are staring down the barrel of being the last undefeated team in the NFL, so they have a bit of wiggle room to work with here. I doubt they push it with JuJu, and instead turn to Diontae Johnson and rookie Chase Claypool (and Eric Ebron) to guide their passing game to victory.

Even if he’s active, I doubt they really press with JuJu on Thanksgiving. Even if they do push it, the Steelers boast a ton of receivers, and the Ravens allow the fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers over the last five weeks (and fourth-fewest overall). It’s not a great matchup, he’s hurt, and the WR corps doesn’t need him to guide them to victory.

Start or Sit CeeDee Lamb

If you’re questioning starting or sitting CeeDee Lamb, the Gilbert-DiNucci Era in Dallas has you far too shook to think straight. CDL is a stud. He’s not on the same tier as a Davante Adams, but he’s a must-start guy with just ten games under his belt, He’s recovered from his dismal showings in weeks seven and eight (four catches, 27 yards) with four catches and a touchdown in each of his last two games. While he had just 34 receiving yards last week, he showed that he is a top-flight talent in this league with his TD catch last week. The Cowboys get Washington Football Team, who does well to stop opposing wide receivers, but CeeDee Lamb is reaching must-start status, regardless of opponent. I am recommending you start CeeDee Lamb this week.

Running Backs

This year’s Thanksgiving Day games feature a lot of smash start running backs. Rookie Antonio Gibson will make his debut to many people for Washington, Zeke and his 133 yards per game are as much a Thanksgiving staple as canned cranberries, and James Conner is a lock for 20 touches. But, that’s where things get a little scratchier. Should we start or sit Gus Edwards, D’Andre Swift, or Duke Johnson on Thanksgiving?

Start or Sit Gus Edwards

COVID-19 decimated the Baltimore running back room, and Mark Ingram & J.K. Dobbins not letting Gus Edwards into their clubhouse saved Edwards from missing Thursday Night Football. With Ingram and Dobbins out, it comes down to Edwards and Justice Hill. Edwards is a shoo-in for the majority of the 25 touches per game the Ravens give their running backs, with Hill getting mop-up duty. Edwards doesn’t really touch the football, but he has eight games in his career with over fifteen carries; he averages 95 yards per game, and has three touchdowns, in those games. Gus Edwards is a must-start this week on Thanksgiving.

Start or Sit D’Andre Swift

D’Andre Swift’s health plays the biggest role in deciding whether you should start or sit him. He’s currently dealing with a concussion, so luckily he will either be healthy or unhealthy. If D’Andre Swift plays, the Lions want him to be the bellcow. He’s touched the ball 37 times in his last two games, totaling 246 yards in those starts, scoring a touchdown. If D’Andre Swift is healthy, you’re going to want to start D’Andre Swift against the Houston Texans. The Texans’ run defense ranks as the second-worst on the season, and third-worst in the last five weeks, in terms of fantasy points allowed. They’ve given up 13 running back touchdowns on the season, which makes Swift a great start if healthy.

Start or Sit Duke Johnson

Sit Duke Johnson, he’s playing terribly. Okay. Thank you for reading. Actually… it isn’t that simple. The Lions have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs over the last five weeks, yielding an average of 35.1 HPPR points to RBs in that span. They gave a dead cat bounce game to Mike Davis last week and yielded two top-24 weeks to the WFT duo. Dalvin Cook smashed them, and both Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins topped 17.8 HPPR points the week prior. Why am I going into exhausting detail here? You can see the different mix of running backs who have absolutely crushed the Lions run defense lately.

But, there’s still a problem with recommending you start Duke Johnson in a plush matchup… he’s still Duke Johnson. Johnson took the reins from the concussed David Johnson over the last three weeks and has done almost nothing with his opportunities. He has one touchdown, but just 162 yards over those three games (catching seven balls). I am going to lean into the opportunity, however. Duke Johnson has no competition for touches out of the backfield, getting 15.6 touches per game over the last three games. He’s not the strongest play, but I would start Duke Johnson as a flex player this week.

Tight Ends

While QB, WR and RB has distinct tiers for the startable and sittable players, TE is a little muddier this week. While there are only five tight ends I have any degree of confidence in starting, Except for T.J. Hockenson (must-start) they all sort of sit in the same tier of TE. Mark Andrews is separating himself from the pack, soaking up a ton of targets in Nick Boyle’s honor. While he’s disappointed you this year, you can’t really get away from Mark Andrews, either. That leaves three guys who sit on the periphery of tight end relevance to dig through: should we start or sit Eric Ebron, Dalton Schultz, or Logan Thomas?

Start or Sit Eric Ebron

Eric Ebron has turned into a solid fantasy football force over his last five weeks. He’s averaging just 4 catches for 39 yards per game, but he’s a red zone force, catching three touchdowns in his last four games. He’s become one of Big Ben’s preferred targets, getting at least five targets in five-straight games. With JuJu Smith-Schuster hobbled at best, and out at worst, that means more targets for Eric Ebron. Ebron is the TE6 in the last five weeks, with only one dud in that stretch. The Ravens are middling against opposing TEs (#17), so I am not worried about the matchup. I am going to start Eric Ebron this week.

Start or Sit Dalton Schultz

Dalton Schultz already has four distinct seasons this year. He went from strict backup, then Blake Jarwin’s injury thrust him into the must-start territory. Then Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton’s injuries made him waiver wire fodder. Now, he’s sort of back. In his last three games, Schultz averages six targets per game, which he’s turned into 14 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. That’s how desperate we are at tight end this year, we are gushing over 4.7 catches for 42 yards per game over a small sample size.

Nevertheless, Schultz is a part of this passing game, and this passing game should do numbers on Thanksgiving (they always do). Football Team stifles opposing tight ends, however, and were part of the “turn off Dalton Schultz’s production spigot” in week seven. Schultz is a backend starter with a chance at a touchdown. He led all tight ends with four red zone targets last week. I would start Dalton Schultz, but not over Eric Ebron.

Start or Sit Logan Thomas

I went all-in on Logan Thomas last week. And he burned me. He burned a lot of us last week, posting just two catches for six yards as Antonio Gibson did all the hard work to lead Washington to victory. I am calling that an aberration, and thinking that Dallas puts up more of a fight than a hobbled Cincinnati squad. Thomas continued his streak of at least four targets per game, which is now up to ten games. He has sixteen targets in the last three games, so I am going to look past the down play. Thomas is a backend starter this week, with a matchup that look iffy on paper. However, the Cowboys have faced just four tight ends to get 5+ targets against them this year. Four of them scored, and the guy who didn’t (Greg Olsen) ended with five catches for 61 yards. If you have Logan Thomas, go ahead and start Logan Thomas this week. I would start him over Dalton Schultz, but not Eric Ebron this week.


There you have it! I hope this has been helpful for your start or sit decisions for Thanksgiving. Hopefully next year, we can actually have family over, and you pine for the sweet solitude of the COVID-19 Thanksgiving!

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About Jeff Krisko

You can follow me on twitter, @jeffkrisko for the same lukewarm takes you read here.

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