Every week of the season, we here at Football Absurdity take a look at the Thursday Night Football game to find out the starts and sits for the week. But, this week is quite a bit different from all the other ones, because it’s Thanksgiving! We celebrate the Pilgrims being terrible at farming and getting their butts saved by the Native Americans by stuffing our faces with anything and everything we can find while watching not one, not two, but three football games! With that in mind, it would be a bit onerous for the reader to try to find the information they wanted, so we’ve broken down the players into different Thanksgiving-themed categories to help you out! But first, some context for these games:
Thanksgiving Football Schedule 2022
Buffalo Bills (7-3) at Detroit Lions (4-6) (O/U 54, BUF -9.0) 9:30 AM Pacific, CBS
New York Giants (7-3) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3) (O/U 44.5, DAL -9.0) 1:30 PM Pacific, FOX
New England Patriots (6-4) at Minnesota Vikings (8-2) (O/U 42.5, MIN -3.0) 5:20 PM Pacific, NBC
The Thanksgiving Turkeys (The Must-Starts)
These are the guys that you must get into your lineup this week if you have any chance of things going well for you. Look, I know, some of you are ham folks, but I’m a turkey guy. Mostly because my family and I can cook a bird without drying it out. Anyway, this isn’t for turkey takes, it’s for fantasy football. So, who are the must starts for Thanksiving? Since these lists are quite long, I’ve put these in the order that I would start them. If you have four or five of these running backs or wide receivers, then why are you even reading this?! Don’t you have a first-place trophy to polish?
Josh Allen, Bills
Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Saquon Barkley, Giants
Dalvin Cook, Vikings
Jamaal Williams, Lions
Devin Singletary, Bills
Tony Pollard, Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
Stefon Diggs, Bills
Justin Jefferson, Vikings
CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions
Jakobi Meyers, Patriots
Dalton Schultz, Cowboys
T.J. Hockenson, Vikings
The Mashed Potatoes (Low Risk, High Reward)
These players are guys on Thanksgiving who are sort of the “glue guys” of your fantasy football team. They’re just solid contributors who probably have a high floor, but a low ceiling. This is just like mashed potatoes. If you have packaged mashed potatoes and gravy from a packet at your Thanksgiving, you still have mashed potatoes and gravy. But, if those things end up in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing then good gosh, good golly, you’re going to have a good Thanksgiving. Still, it’s hard to go wrong with mashed potatoes. Even if they’re not great, they’re still good.
Gabriel Davis (RB), Bills
Gabriel Davis went from high risk, high reward to low risk, high reward in recent weeks. In the first seven games of the season, in order, he finished as WR14, WR66, WR87, WR1, WR18, WR71, and WR45. He basically went as his long touchdowns went, and he was the very definition of boom-or-bust. Then, in the last two weeks, after getting 10 targets (a season-high) and seven targets (tying a season-high), he finished as WR9 (but had 6 catches for 93 yards, a touchdown put him over the edge) and WR27 (5 catches for 68 yards, with no touchdown to help him).
Dawson Knox (TE), Bills
For most of the year, people saw Dawson Knox as a boom-bust tight end who mostly relied on his touchdowns to give him good weeks. And those people were objectively correct. In the first eight weeks of the season, Knox finished inside the top fifteen twice… in his two games where he scored a touchdown. His other games saw him finishing as high as TE18 and as low as TE49 on the week. Then, in the last couple of weeks, he had 7 targets and 6 targets, which are his first games this season with back-to-back games over four targets. In these games, he hasn’t scored a touchdown, and he finished as TE11 and TE4. Knox has turned in 11 catches for 127 yards in the last two games, and that’s something you keep riding until you can’t, especially against a porous Lions pass defense that should give the Bills a lot of opportunities to score.
Darius Slayton (WR), Giants
With Wan’Dale Robinson out for the season due to his ACL tear, there’s not really anybody but Slayton left in the Giants’ receiver corps. He is going to be The Man for this team, and he’s had increasing responsibility in that regard. Over the last four weeks, Slayton is averaging 6.5 targets, 4 receptions, and 76.3 yards per game. Slayton will have a great floor against the Cowboys since Daniel Jones will have basically him to throw to. Unfortunately, given that it’s Daniel Jones versus the Cowboys, I don’t expect a whole lot from Slayton.
Macaroni & Cheese/Green Bean Casserole/Yams with Marshmallows (High Risk, High Reward)
Basically, anything anyone can bring as a side. We’ve all had terrible versions of these (boxed mac & cheese, or green beans from a can and some French’s onions with cream of whatever soup) and we’ve all had absolutely incredible versions of these foods. If you want this food at your Thanksgiving dinner table, chances are you are going to do it yourself (or designate it to the one person that always knocks it out of the park) to make sure that it’s done right. You don’t want to trust your 23-year-old cousin, who means well but thinks that having a toaster oven and air fryer means that he’s “being an adult” with bringing one of these. These starts can make or break your fantasy week, but thanks to their upside, you could also have a dominating lead heading into Sunday.
Daniel Jones (QB), Giants
On a day when we are supposed to have calming and loving interactions with our families, starting Daniel Jones is more akin to snorting a line of coke and trying to jump Snake River Canyon. He’s finished inside the top three twice in his last three games, but outside the top thirteen in the other three contests. The man is an emotional rollercoaster, and it seems as though he goes as his matchups go. His two games inside the top three came against Jacksonville and Detroit, who yield a lot of fantasy points to quarterbacks. This week, he gets the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys spend Sunday repeatedly reminding the Vikings that bad things happen when you don’t give Kirk Cousins the victory chains. The Cowboys allow the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, but despite that, Jones can still get two one-yard rushing touchdowns and finish inside the top six. Personally, however, given the strong matchup, I am staying away from Danny Dimez.
DJ Chark (WR), Lions
As of right now, DJ Chark has only three games under his belt as a member of the Detroit Lions, and he played a full complement of snaps in three of them. In those three games, he averaged six targets per game… for 2.3 catches and 33 yards. Now, DJ Chark was known as a big play, big game threat before injuries and trouble getting on the same page with Jared Goff prevented him from continuing that this year. But, given that the Lions go up against the Buffalo Bills and their top-ten defense against opposing wide receivers, I don’t want to start DJ Chark this week. The one glimmer of hope? The Bills allow the fourth-most 20+ yard passing plays per game in the NFL.
D’Andre Swift (RB), Lions
Swift returned from injury in week eight and had just 10 touches in that game. It turned out that that was as good as it would get for him, at least for now. With Swift admitting that he’s not 100% and the coaching staff taking swipes at him in the media for his effort, Swift has seen just 50 snaps in the last three games combined, after seeing 33 in his return to action in week eight. But, here’s the thing: he’s been playable in those games. Granted, he needed to score touchdowns to get there, but he has been RB31 or better in all four games since returning from his injury and has been RB18, RB17, and RB26 in the three other games. So, he’s been useful. This week, Swift takes on a Buffalo team that ranks seventeenth in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing running backs, so it’s not really a matchup to shy away from on the ground, especially for a back as talented as Swift. If you need to swing for the fences and hope that Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift can replicate the week nine Michael Carter/James Robinson explosion, then start D’Andre Swift.
Isaiah McKenzie (WR), Bills
Isaiah McKenzie has been very up-and-down this season, but the only thing keeping him from being on the “do not start” list is the fact that they are playing the Detroit Lions. The Lions have a terrible pass defense and Isaiah McKenzie will be a part of the “get right” the Bills offense is likely to go through on Thanksgiving. He could have a touchdown, but he could also have just one target like he’s had in two of his last four games. He’s just as likely to get you 3 or fewer PPR points as he is to be the guy who gets 70 and two touchdowns. Personally, I wouldn’t roll the dice, however. Speaking of rolls (nailed it)…
The Dinner Rolls (Low Risk, Low Reward)
Whether it’s a bag from the grocery store deli, Kings Hawaiian, or Pillsbury crescent rolls, we all have small carb bombs on our Thanksgiving tables. Their main role (no pun intended) is to sop up whatever deliciousness is left over from your plate when you’re done eating the good stuff. In the end, a bad dinner roll still serves that job. It’s a low-risk, low-reward Thanksgiving food, and helps keep the dinner plate together while providing a valuable bread base to make sure that you really feel that tryptophan during the night game. These guys are low-risk, but also low-reward. They’re solid players to have in your fantasy football lineups this week, but they’re unlikely to tilt the week.
Damien Harris (RB), Patriots
While Rhamondre Stevenson took over as the stud RB1 in New England, Damien Harris is still there. He’s missed time with various injuries, but last week against a good Jets’ run defense, he finished with 10 touches for 93 yards. Granted, he had 30 of those on one run, but 9 touches for 63 yards is still really good! That’s what Damien Harris is likely to give you this week, an extremely solid week, 7 or 8 PPR points, with a chance at a touchdown. He carries a low upside, but he also carries a low risk of goosing you. He’s a glue guy for your roster to get some points.
Adam Thielen (WR), Vikings
When we drafted Adam Thielen, we figured that we would be drafting a solid floor player with a good chance at touchdowns who would be able to get us spike weeks when he scored touchdowns. Unfortunately, he has just two games with touchdowns on the year, though the targets still remain. He had only three last week, but Kirk Cousins was too busy getting ground into a fine paste to stop and get it to Thielen. Before that game, however, he had eight-straight games of 7 or more targets, going all the way back to week two. Even T.J. Hockenson’s arrival didn’t stop him from getting targets, just Kirk Cousins repeatedly getting Falcon Punched with 200% damage last week stopped him. Thielen is a high-floor PPR play who is a good option to toss into your lineup should you want to get a little action in the Thanksgiving games as your 13-year-old niece teaches you TikTok dances.
Michael Gallup (WR), Cowboys
Read the Adam Thielen description above, then close your eyes and picture a guy who is basically 80% of that on a weekly basis. Then you would have Michael Gallup. Over the last three games, he has 6, 7, and 4 targets, and he’s finished with an average of 4 catches for 42 yards. He’s just sort of… there. He will get you some points, especially in a PPR league, and against this Vikings defense. His best bet for a big game is a touchdown, which isn’t something you really want to bank on for your players.
The Stuffing (High Risk, Low Reward)
If you asked ten people what constitutes Thanksgiving stuffing, you would probably get ten different answers. So if you tell someone to bring “stuffing,” without clarification, you could get Stove Top or you could get a bespoke sausage stuffing made with all home-grown ingredients and the finest artisanal sausage. Invariable, however, in varying amounts, they are always hard and soft at the same time. The long and the short of it is that you have no idea what you’re going to get from the stuffing, and that makes it an extremely risky side to make. If you’ve sat through enough Thanksgivings with subpar stuffing options, you know what I mean. You could even excise it from your meal entirely and nobody would really throw much of a fuss. Even then, those people are usually happy with Stove Top. The low reward for such a volatile dish, no? These fantasy options offer the chance at a zero and as many as five or six PPR points. You don’t want to start them because of the low ceiling and the even lower floor.
Mac Jones (QB), Patriots
I’ll rip the Band-Aid off Mac Jones is just okay, and he’s just okay in precisely the way that isn’t good for fantasy football. There’s a genre of quarterback that includes guys like Mac Jones, Jared Goff, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Matt Ryan. If you’re a great version of one of these guys (MVP Ryan) or you’re on a heater in a good matchup (Mexico Jimmy G), then you can pour on the points. But, since you don’t run, things can get messy in a hurry… and things are incredibly messy for Mac Jones this season. The next game he throws for multiple touchdowns will be his first, and he is QB35 in fantasy points per game. He has as many games inside the top 20 as he has outside the top 28 (and I can’t stress this enough, 32 or fewer quarterbacks play every week). He’s all risk, you don’t want him.
Kirk Cousins (QB), Vikings
Kirk Cousins got absolutely demolished last week against the Cowboys, mustering just two fantasy points. But, in the five games prior to collapsing into both a metaphorical and literal heap (he was sacked seven times), he finished with at least 15 fantasy points. He also didn’t finish with more than 24 fantasy points in a game. Kirk Cousins is just… a steady force when he isn’t getting obliterated by the opposing defense. That’s where things get messy for starting Kirk Cousins. The Cowboys obliterated Cousins last week thanks to a shaky offensive line and a high pressure rate. The Vikings are likely to be without LT Christian Darrisaw in this one, which means the shaky offensive line is there. But what about the pressure rate? Well, the Patriots are fifth in QB pressure rate, just 1.8% behind the #2 team… the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t know how you can start Kirk Cousins, against a great pass rush, against Bill Belichick, in an island game, with his very limited ceiling.
Jared Goff (QB), Lions
Jared Goff, in good matchups, is a guy you can kind of squint and want to start. After all, he has a handful of strong weapons at his disposal: D’Andre Swift, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jamaal Williams, T.J. Hockenson. Unfortunately, the Lions’ go-to move is to inch toward the three-yard line where they give Jamaal Williams the football to run it in for a score. That doesn’t bode well for a fantasy quarterback, since recent reports indicate that touchdowns are important for a fantasy quarterback. Unfortunately, he hasn’t finished inside the top fifteen since week four, and that was one of two games where Goff finished inside the top 15 on the season. He’s also been QB20 or worse in two-straight games. With the Bills on the docket, that’s not someone you want to try to start.
Hunter Henry (TE), Patriots
In a world where we worry about getting goose egged by our tight end, Hunter Henry is there to offer you a few fantasy points, instead. Henry has had more than two targets just three times in his last six games, but in those games, he finished with 9.4 PPR points, 16.1 PPR points, and 9.0 PPR points. Those are good baselines for a tight end. Unfortunately, the man is the king of getting between 7-10 fantasy points on a good day. Henry likely won’t goose you, or he could give you a TE11 week without a touchdown, or a TE8 week if he scores. It’s not a lot of risks, but it’s also not a lot of reward.
James Cook (RB), Bills
James Cook finished last week with 13 opportunities for 86 yards, but he did it in just 25% of snaps, marking the ninth time in ten games that he played 25% or fewer of snaps. Those 13 opportunities and 86 yards also marked 22% of his opportunities and 24.5% of his yards on the season. James Cook had himself a big week last week against the Browns, but they also allow the second-most fantasy points to running backs and the fourth-most yards per carry to the position. Your best-case scenario is a replication of that against a Lions team that has been stout against the run recently (22nd in fantasy points per game to running backs during their winning streak). I just don’t see it happening.
Matt Breida (RB), Giants
Matt Breida finished last week with 9.3 PPR points… because one of his four touches finished with him scoring a touchdown. I wouldn’t rely on Matt Breida for anything in this matchup, as the Cowboys’ defense is bottom-eight in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and Breida averages just four touches per game.
The Canned Cranberry Sauce (Do Not Start)
Sure, some people at the table might like the canned cranberries. They might like the way that they slorp out of the can and still have the rings for easy cutting at the table. I don’t know, I’m not here to yuck your yum. But, I have to tell you: that is absolutely vile stuff sent from the mouth of hell itself. These players are ones that you might find some angle to want to start, but chances are, you’re overthinking it. You can just leave them out of your lineup instead of putting them in there on the small chance that they do something. Just like you can just keep the cranberries away from your Thanksgiving table and only anger Aunt Mildred and Uncle Chuck, who are already mad because they think that the Democrats have a secret cabal in the bottom of a pizza parlor with MS-13 and ISIS, anyway.
Khalil Shakir (WR), Kalif Raymond (WR), Josh Reynolds (WR), Brock Wright (TE), James Mitchell (TE), Noah Brown (WR), Peyton Hendershot (TE), Kendrick Bourne (WR), Nelson Agholor (WR), DeVante Parker (WR), Jonnu Smith (TE), K.J. Osborn (WR), Alexander Mattison (RB)