Fantasy Cheat Sheet: Five tips that will help you win on Thanksgiving
Injuries to RBs, poor 'Skins' pass defense may make for big outing for Tony Romo
Robert Griffin III's willingness to spread targets dilutes value of Redskins receivers
Jets will rely on ground game, but that plays into defensive strength for the Pats
Thanksgiving Day is as American as apple pie, or pumpkin, if that's your holiday dessert of choice. Football has steadily become the centerpiece of the festivities and fantasy football is being digested more and more along the way, as well.
Expect a surprise performance in Detroit, more headaches in New York and a shootout in Dallas. It is fantasy football crunch time, and we're not talking about overdone turkey or the apple crisp. The playoffs are coming in a few weeks.
We get your geared up for the veritable football feast with an abbreviated SI.com Cheat Sheet, outlining five tips to help you get your pivotal Week 12 victory started off right. Check back Sunday morning for the usual fare of fantasy advice in the full Week 12 Cheat Sheet.
1. How about them Cowboys?
You waited almost three months for Tony Romo and company to hit full stride. Save for DeMarco Murray (foot), who is expected to sit out one more game, it is show time for your Cowboys.
There are a few good reasons to expect a 400-yard, three-plus-touchdown monster from Romo this week:
Cowboys injuries: Felix Jones (knee) is going to play hurt, and the Redskins are quietly the seventh-best rushing defense in the NFL right now. Unless Philip Tanner or Lance Dunbar is capable of cracking an elite run defense, expect the Cowboys' game plan to be pass-happy.
Matchup: The Redskins might have frustrated rookie Nick Foles, but Romo is no rookie -- no matter what you think of him. The Redskins are fourth-worst defense in the NFL and have the same lowly ranking in fantasy against quarterbacks and wide receivers. There are holes in the Washington secondary.
Redskins injuries: It was no coincidence the Redskins shut down the Eagles' receivers in Brandon Meriweather's debut. Well, Meriweather didn't make it through the game and is lost for the season due to a torn ACL. Cornerback Josh Wilson also has a rotator cuff injury and 37-year-old linebacker London Fletcher has a sprained ankle.
Cowboys health and continuity: It might not seem like it because their numbers have been a bit inconsistent, but Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten are as healthy as they have been all together in years. With a favorable matchup to exploit, Romo is going to have his best game since opening night.
2. Robert Griffin III's national introduction
As much as there is to like about the Cowboys, you are probably saying, "Well, isn't this just the perfect audience to witness the amazing talents of RGIII?"
The response: Exactly.
Griffin will push the pace in this game and turn it into a classic Thanksgiving Day shootout, helping Romo and the Cowboys stay aggressive with their aerial attack for 60 minutes. But here are the problems with the Redskins' fantasy options -- outside of the must-starts RGIII and Alfred Morris -- in this one:
RGIII is too good at sharing the spotlight. Santana Moss may be a promising option after his 61-yard touchdown a week ago, but is one catch a week really enough to trust him as a fantasy option? How about Pierre Garcon (foot), who might only play in a limited role again? Or fantasy nobodies Aldrick Robinson, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson or Logan Paulsen? Any of them could be good. Any of them could be completely worthless. Avoid them all.
The Cowboys' defense doesn't get a whole lot of credit, but it is the sixth-best unit in the NFL against the pass. Only the 49ers have allowed fewer than the Cowboys' six touchdown receptions through 10 games. You don't have to be a math whiz to know that's less than one per game.
3. Few days can make all the difference
The Texans were ripped by the Jaguars through the air Sunday. In case you've been living under a rock, the Jags have one of the worst passing games in the NFL.
Now, the Texans travel to Detroit on a short week to face the team that is, no kidding, the No. 1 passing offense in the league. So, expect fireworks, right?
Not so fast. Houston still has the fourth-best passing defense in the NFL and that's even with the rippings the Jags and Packers, with one Aaron Rodgers, gave them this season.
But if you're looking for some sleepers to start in Week 12, go with Brandon Pettigrew and Ryan Broyles. With the team-imposed suspension of Titus Young, Pettigrew and Broyles are going to get more targets than usual for Detroit.
And because a good defense takes away a talent like Calvin Johnson, either Pettigrew or Broyles is going to have to find the end zone. The Lions are not going to score on the ground against a Texans defense that has given up exactly zero rushing touchdowns to date, which is three less than the likes of the 49ers, Bears, Lions and Eagles.
4. Will Hernandez save the day?
The loss of Rob Gronkowski (broken forearm), perhaps for the remainder of the fantasy season, is Aaron Hernandez's fantasy owners' gain. Hernandez has been held out with an ankle injury for weeks and should immediately be an important part of the Pats' offense when he returns.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick loves to attack teams from unknown places and the recent absence of Hernandez gives the Jets nothing to work with on how Hernandez will be used in this game. This makes it imperative to use Hernandez, if he is active.
If he is not, get ready to push the button on Visanthe Shiancoe, who will be playing Gronk's tight end spot.
"[Gronk] does a lot for us, but there's a reason why you have other guys on the roster too," Tom Brady told The Sports Xchange. "Visanthe and Daniel Fells and Aaron Hernandez and (Michael Hoomanawanui), everyone's got to get in there and start trying to make up for having Gronk out."
5. Avoid the Jets
The Pats have been a defense to take advantage in the passing game, allowing starter-worthy production out of marginal receivers. The problem with this matchup for the Jets is a lack of reliable options in a passing game that ranks fourth-worst in the NFL. Whom do you trust?
Mark Sanchez? No way.
Tim Tebow? Forget it.
Jeremy Kerley? Who?
Stephen Hill? Not after that drop against the Pats last time these teams met and that drop against the Rams on Sunday.
Chaz Schilens? Perhaps, if you're really desperate. After the end of the bye weeks, you shouldn't be.
The point here is the Jets are still a running team, even if the only thing the Patriots do well is stop the run. The Jets will stick with the run for better or for worse.
As opposed to the last meeting between these two teams, when Shonn Greene rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown, the Jets' backfield is going to be a running back-by-committee after Bilal Powell broke out with two touchdowns against the Rams. New York's ground game faces a struggle against the Pats' top-10 run defense.
With Greene and Powell splitting time, neither will produce game-changing numbers. Keep both on the bench Thursday.
You have better takes on how these Thanksgiving Day games will turn out in fantasy? Tweet @EricMackFantasy and give him a piece of your mind. He's up for the challenge, are you?
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his last-minute Cheat Sheet on Sunday mornings and his Fantasy Fast Forward on Sunday nights. You find also him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice or challenging him to a head-to-head fantasy game @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).