Happy Thanksgiving! With three Thursday games, there are plenty of matchups to dive into, so let’s get a rundown of everything to look for today’s games.
Chicago Bears vs Detroit Lions:
- The best matchup for the Bears on offense should come from Allen Robinson. The Lions are 21st in yards allowed to No. 1 WRs and rank 24th in DVOA pass defense. Robinson has faced three teams that rank in the bottom 10 in DVOA pass defense (Lions, Raiders. and Giants) and in those games, Robinson has averaged 6.3 receptions for 104.6 yards and scored 3 TDs. Robinson has not gone under 6 receptions and 86 yards in any of those three games.
- Amid a terrible season, Mitch Trubisky has been relatively solid against poor pass defenses this season. Against pass defenses that rank 21st or worse, the Lions, Giants, Redskins, and Chargers, Trubisky has put up 89/130 (68.4%), for 935 yards (234 yards per game), 7.19 yards per attempt, 7 TDs, and 4 INTs. In the last six weeks, the Lions pass defense has dropped 17 spots in NFL rankings in pass success rate allowed. They rank 31st in the NFL in that span.
- With Taylor Gabriel out, look for Anthony Miller to continue to step up for the Bears at WR. In his last two games Miller has been targeted 20 times and caught 12 balls for 131 yards. Miller runs 79% of his snaps from the slot and the Lions main slot DB, Justin Coleman, has struggled this season. He has allowed the most receiving TDs in the NFL in the slot with 5 and has allowed the 14th highest yards per snap from the slot.
- The Lions run defense has struggled, ranking 20th in DVOA run defense and 27th in Adjusted Line Yards allowed. But I am not sure David Montgomery has shown enough to expect a bunch of big plays. He has averaged 3.3 yards per carry on the season and has been even worse in the last four games. Montgomery could be in line for 15-20 carries with a positive game script. In games the Bears have won this year, Montgomery has averaged 16.4 carries.
- The Lions defense has allowed the 12th highest target share to RBs out of the backfield and more importantly is dead last in yards per attempt allowed at 7.8. This should set up well for Tarik Cohen who has averaged 25.5 receiving yards and 3 TDs. He has received at least 4 targets in four straight games and received 15 in the last two weeks alone. Cohen caught 4 passes for 23 yards and a TD three weeks ago against the Lions.
- I don’t really have anything nice to say about this Lions offense having to go up against the Bears defense. With David Blough starting, it’s hard to think that the Lions will have any success through the air.
- In the game against the Bears three weeks ago, no RB ran for more than 36 yards. It should be noted that Bo Scarbrough did not play in that game and has rushed for 98 and 55 yards in his two starts. He has no receptions so don’t expect anything in the passing game. The Bears rank 12th in DVOA run defense and are 19th in Adjusted Line Yards allowed. I expect moderate success from Scarbrough.
I already bet the Bears -2 on Monday as soon as I heard Blough could be starting. But I would not recommend a side or total at this current number, unfortunately.
Buffalo Bills vs Dallas Cowboys:
- Buffalo brings to town the eighth-best DVOA run offense and the fifth-highest percentage of explosive runs in the NFL from its RBs. Dallas ranks 20th in run D success rate and has allowed the fifth-highest percentage of explosive runs. Keep an eye for when the Bills run around the left end of their offensive line as they rank fifth in Adjusted Line Yards. The Cowboys defense has been susceptible to that side of the line of scrimmage and have allowed the fourth-highest adjusted line yards to that side.
- Devin Singletary is the big play threat at RB for Buffalo and has received extensive carries of late. He has 15 or more carries in three of his last four games and has produced 318 yards on 64 carries (4.96 YPC) in that span. He is 12th in the NFL in success rate on the ground.
- Dallas is also 27th in success rate allowed to QBs running the football and we know how well Josh Allen likes to run the ball. Dallas has only faced two QBs who are mobile and like to run. Jeff Driskell burned them for 51 yards and Daniel Jones has 54 yards.
- In the passing game, John Brown has been Allen’s top target. The Dallas defense is 21st in defending the deep ball so Brown could get some looks over the top. The Dallas secondary has not faced a tough slate of WRs, mainly due to injuries and bad weather. In a controlled environment like Jerry World, Allen will definitely let it rip down the field to Brown.
- And there is no way I can leave out the Cole Beasley revenge game. He has received four or more targets in every game but one this season and has gained 74 or more yards in two of his last three games. A short yardage TD followed by a monster spike is very possible on Thursday.
- The Buffalo defense comes into this game as a true run funnel. They rank third-best in defensive pass success rate and fifth in DVOA pass defense but are 18th in success rate allowed and 26th in DVOA run defense. The one caveat is that Buffalo has faced the easiest schedule of opposing running offenses and passing offenses.
- Buffalo has not faced a single top 10 run offense this season, based on success rate. Dallas comes in third in success rate run offense and sixth in DVOA run offense. What’s even more amazing is that Buffalo has allowed the highest percentage of explosive runs to opposing RBs this season without facing any top 10 run offenses. They’ve been torched for big plays by a poor set of opponents. Joe Mixon, who has a grand total of 16 runs of 10+ this season, produced four 10+ yard runs against this Buffalo defense alone. The three best RBs that Buffalo has faced this year, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb, combined to rush for 301 yards on 58 carries (5.2 YPC) and 12 runs of 10+ yards. Ezekiel Elliot is licking his chops. Even Tony Pollard could break a big run or two against this Buffalo defense.
- As mentioned, Buffalo does have a top 5 pass defense, but they have faced the easiest schedule of opponent pass offenses in the NFL. The best pass offenses they have faced are the 13th ranked New England Patriots and 12th ranked Philadelphia Eagles. Led by CB Tre’Davious White, the Bills almost always have the opposing No. 1 WR locked down. After back to back poor outings and having to go up against White, it is hard to imagine Amari Cooper having a big game.
- However, with White shadowing Cooper, Michael Gallup has a shot to shine on Thanksgiving. Gallup has produced three games of 113 or more yards receiving in out of nine total games played. He has been targeted 29 times in the last three games alone and has 17 receptions for 279 yards. Buffalo has given up some big games to No. 2 WRs this season. Allen Hurns (4-53-1 TD), Jarvis Landry (9-97-1 TD), Preston Williams (6-82-0 TD), Auden Tate (6-88-0 TD), and Jamison Crowder (14-99-0 TD) have produced good numbers against this secondary. Gallup is on par with or with any of these No. 2 WRs and another 100+ yard receiving game could be in the works.
Side I like: I am on Dallas -6.5 (-115 5Dimes).
Buffalo hasn’t faced any offense even remotely close to the level of this Cowboys offense, especially on the road. Dallas is seventh in pressures generated on defense and Allen is 28th in passer rating when facing pressure. I expect the Cowboys to come after Allen and force him to make mistakes. I would recommend Dallas at any number under 7.
New Orleans Saints vs Atlanta Falcons:
- The Saints struggled to protect Drew Brees just three weeks ago, allowing six sacks and the Saints were held to only nine points. The Falcons defense came back to earth last week, allowing 446 yards and 35 points to Tampa.
- Ever since he came back to the lineup, Brees has completed at least 71% of his passes in every game. If the Saints can protect Brees against the Falcons, he should have great success. Brees has the seventh-best passer rating when the pocket is clean. The Falcons rank 29th in DVOA pass defense and are 29th in success rate. The Falcons are a pass funnel defense, as they rank 11th in DVOA run defense.
- Michael Thomas is a machine and was targeted 14 times with 13 receptions and 152 yards in his last meeting against the Falcons. He has been targeted at least 10 times in seven straight games and has produced 100+ yards in all but one of the last seven games. The Falcons have allowed the most yardage to No. 1 WRs in the NFL this season. There is absolutely no reason why he won’t produce another 9+ reception, 100+ yard game.
- Falcons slot CB Damontae Kazee has been torched all season and Chris Godwin destroyed him again last week for 184 yards on 7 receptions. Kazee has allowed a passer rating of 130.1, 26 receptions for 318 yards and 3 TDs. In fact, the Falcons have four defenders who have at least 99 snaps of coverage in the slot, and they all have allowed a QB rating of at least 113. Both Thomas and Tre’Quan Smith operate from the slot, but Thomas is targeted way more often when he does line up in the slot. Smith could have the opportunity to pick up big yardage if he’s targeted more often than the two times in their first meeting. If you are looking for a potential cheap flier in a DFS lineup, Smith could be that guy.
- Jared Cook could also be a solid option at TE and considering there are no other legit TEs on today’s slate, Cook will be the best option. In the Week 10 game against Atlanta, Cook received 10 targets and caught 6 for 74 yards.
- As mentioned earlier, the Falcons have a solid run defense. Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray gained only 36 yards on 9 carries in their first meeting. Not sure why any team runs the ball on this Atlanta defense if they don’t have to. The Saints have targeted RBs out of the backfield at the highest rate in the NFL this year, but the Falcons have done a good job limiting targets to opposing RBs. It might be expected the Saints will use short passes to their RBs instead of running against this defense.
- The Falcons have questions on offense with injuries to Julio Jones and Devonte Freeman. Both should play but on a short week, it will be interesting to see how much and how effective each will be.
- The Saints come in seventh in DVOA defense against the run and 11th against the pass. The Falcons have struggled running the ball all season, ranking 23rd in success rate from their RBs, but to be fair they have faced the toughest schedule of opposing run defenses.
- With Marshon Lattimore potentially back tonight and Jones hobbling, another Falcons WR will have to step up. Calvin Ridley and potential longshot DFS play, Russell Gage, will need to have a good game.
- Gage has been targeted 28 times in the last four games, including 10 last week with Jones in and out of the game. Gage has caught 21 passes in that span. Ridley was targeted 14 times and caught 6 for 85 and 1 TD last week as well. Gage is being used as a possession WR with a poor 9.3 yards per reception average and the fifth-lowest ADOT among WRs in the last four weeks at 6.37.
- With a Saints pass rush that has generated the fifth-highest pressure rate and a Falcons offense that has allowed the seventh-most pressures, Matt Ryan will need the short passing game to be effective.
Total that I like: Under 48.5 (-110 5Dimes)
The Falcons have too much talent and in a division game, I can’t lay 7 points with a road team like New Orleans. But I also think that with the injury to Jones and the Saints highly motivated to avenge the embarrassing loss just three weeks ago, I can not back the Falcons. Instead, I am taking the under here. The Saints are extremely efficient on offense but are not an explosive offense anymore. Brees has the lowest percentage of pass attempts of over 20 yards in the NFL among starters and the Saints rank 24th in explosive pass plays. They matriculate down the field with short passes to Kamara, Cook, and Thomas and rank 27th in pace in neutral game situations. The Falcons will have to deal with a top 10 defense, including a top 10 pass rush, and with a leaky OL will be forced to throw short all game. Late in season on a short week, games in division have gone under more often. Since 2000, Thursday games in division from Week 10 on, have gone under in 11 of 19 games (58%).