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NFL Barometer: Tradition 4.0

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

There is one week during the season where I love having Thursday games.

A few years back, RotoWire staffers hanging around town for the holiday assembled for a Thanksgiving dinner and decided to make things interesting. Rather than watch the Lions get blown out, Dallas disappoint (again), and curse the local cable company for refusing to pick up the NFL Network, we decided to increase our stake in the action by having a one-day fantasy league to cover the three games on the slate.

Now, it's an annual tradition and I've created the fourth annual RotoWire Thanksgiving Day Value Meter.

Find your five favorite friends or relatives that you'll be spending the holiday with. Before the start of the Houston-Detroit game, figure out a draft order and set up a three-to-six-team fantasy league just for the three games on Thursday. Keep it simple: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 RB/WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 D and use a very basic scoring system as well (20 pass yards = 1 pt, Pass TD = 4 pts, 10 rush/rec yards = 1 pt, Rush/Rec TD = 6 pts, FG = 3 pts, PAT = 1 pt, 2 pt Conv = 2 pts. For your team D, go with 1 pt for sacks, 2 pts for INT, 2 for safeties and 6 pts for a TD – including kickoff/punt returns). **Hint: Add a second flex that allows the use of another quarterback if you have a three- or four-team league. I also recommend using PPR in those small scenarios as well.

Even if you're just playing for a small prize (i.e. $10/entry, winner take all; sixth place drives the crazy aunt home, gets force-fed all leftover cranberry sauce), there's something to be said for having that extra little investment in games that you may otherwise find meaningless.

Below, I've compiled the initial set of rankings for the Thanksgiving Day games. An update will be made to the rankings on Wednesday if unexpected information comes from the official injury reports.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. - DVR

Quarterbacks

1. Tom Brady, NE
2. Robert Griffin III, WAS
3. Matthew Stafford, DET
4. Tony Romo, DAL
5. Matt Schaub, HOU
6. Mark Sanchez, NYJ

Running Backs

1. Arian Foster, HOU
2. Stevan Ridley, NE
3. Alfred Morris, WAS
4. Mikel Leshoure, DET
5. Felix Jones, DAL (check status, minor knee injury)
6. Shonn Greene, NYJ
7. Danny Woodhead, NE
8. Kevin Smith, DET
9. Bilal Powell, NYJ
10. James Casey, HOU
11. Justin Forsett, HOU (assuming Ben Tate doesn't play)
12. Lance Dunbar, DAL
13. Joique Bell, DET
14. Shane Vereen, NE
15. Evan Royster, WAS
16. Joe McKnight, NYJ
17. Phillip Tanner, DAL
18. Keiland Williams, WAS

Wide Receivers

1. Calvin Johnson, DET
2. Andre Johnson, HOU
3. Dez Bryant, DAL
4. Wes Welker, NE
5. Miles Austin, DAL
6. Brandon Lloyd, NE
7. Jeremy Kerley, NYJ
8. Santana Moss, WAS
9. Ryan Broyles, DET
10. Julian Edelman, NE
11. Mike Thomas, DET
12. Pierre Garcon, WAS (check status, role is very uncertain)
13. Leonard Hankerson, WAS
14. Kevin Walter, HOU
15. Stephen Hill, NYJ
16. Keshawn Martin, HOU
17. Josh Morgan, WAS
18. Kevin Ogletree, DAL (check status, suffered concussion Sunday)
19. Chaz Schilens, NYJ
20. Aldrick Robinson, WAS

Tight Ends

1. Jason Witten, DAL
2. Owen Daniels, HOU
3. Aaron Hernandez, NE (check status, could be a game-time decision)
4. Dustin Keller, NYJ
5. Logan Paulsen, WAS
6. Brandon Pettigrew, DET
7. Visanthe Shiancoe, NE
8. Tony Scheffler, DET
9. Garrett Graham, HOU
10. John Phillips, DAL

Kickers

1. Shayne Graham, HOU
2. Stephen Gostkowski, NE
3. Kai Forbath, WAS
4. Dan Bailey, DAL
5. Jason Hanson, DET
6. Nick Folk, NYJ

Defense/Special Teams

1. Texans
2. Cowboys
3. Patriots
4. Redskins
5. Lions
6. Jets

Points Allowed by Position (lower numbers indicate a more favorable matchup -- i.e. Washington has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season)

  HOU DET WAS DAL NYJ NE
QB 22nd 21st 4th 28th 27th 2nd
RB 32nd 29th 22nd 15th 6th 19th
WR 18th 19th 4th 23rd 28th 7th
TE 12th 6th 2nd 19th 7th 3rd

Upgrades

Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF - Look, I won't pretend as though I can read between the lines and definitely lock in Kaepernick as head coach Jim Harbaugh's choice to start Sunday against the Saints, but here are the comments for your enjoyment:

"I usually tend to go with the guy that has the hot hand and we have two quarterbacks that have a hot hand," Harbaugh said Monday. "So I thought Colin did an outstanding job. I thought he did a great job, poised in the pocket pushing the ball throwing with accuracy, did a nice job running the game plan. Everything he did was exemplary and really acquitted himself great, very proud of him for that."

Although his ability as a runner wasn't on display often against the Bears on Monday night, Kapernick's threat to run around the goal line and chew up 40-50 yards in any given week make him a reasonable bet to finish as a top-12 quarterback in weeks where he starts over Alex Smith.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN - Limited opportunities for Hillman through eight games haven't translated to significant results (3.8 YPC, 49 carries), but he's the high-upside option in backfield looking to replace Willis McGahee for the rest of the season. The Broncos rank third in the NFL in total offense (394.2 YPG), making the distribution of carries between Hillman and Lance Ball very interesting. It appears as though former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno is simply an afterthought, and the Broncos' willingness to trade up to select Hillman in the third round of April's draft is a pretty good indication from the front office that there's some internal confidence about his ability to contribute.

Bryce Brown, RB, PHI - LeSean McCoy was carted off the field Sunday with a concussion, and later required assistance from an Eagles team trainer to direct him the proper way toward the shower. That certainly sounds like a combination of events that will keep McCoy from playing in Week 12 (and possibly longer), although we are talking about a team that once let linebacker Stewart Bradley return to a game after falling down in between plays due to a concussion. Brown seems unlikely to match McCoy's production as a receiver out of the backfield, but he's averaged 4.4 YPC in limited work thus far and could be useful against a Carolina defense that ranks 20th against the run (118.4 YPG, 4.2 YPC) this season.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG - Nicks was targeted 14 times and caught nine balls for 75 yards in Week 10 against the Bengals. After a bye in Week 11, he revealed that he's “pretty close” to 100 percent after getting extra time to rest his foot and knee injuries. As previously documented in this space, the Giants' upcoming schedule offers plenty of shootout potential with the Packers, Redskins, Saints, Falcons and Ravens on tap through Week 16.

Ryan Broyles, WR, DET - Mike Thomas has been tabbed as the starter in place of Titus Young, who is going to be deactivated Thursday for disciplinary reasons. Enter Broyles, who was taken in the second round by the Lions in April despite his status as a player returning from a torn ACL. Most of his work will likely come working as a slot receiver, but the lack of talented options behind Calvin Johnson should afford Broyles plenty of extra looks in Week 12, and possibly beyond. Playing in an offense averaging 44 passing attempts per game, there's reason to invest here with the coaching staff souring on Young.

St. Louis Defense - Ryan Skelton-Kolb under center behind an offensive line that can't block? Sign me up for the Rams if you're in need of a defense to stream this week.

Downgrades

Antonio Gates, TE, SD - On the surface, it's not a complete disaster. Gates is 13th in fantasy points among tight ends this season, but he's averaged just four targets per game over the Chargers' last four contests since the team's Week 7 bye, and the six-catch, 81-yard performance against the Broncos in Week 6 (10 targets, TD) seems like a distant memory. Perhaps the success of Tony Gonzalez in his age-36 season is making it more difficult to write off the 32-year-old Gates, but his YPT mark (7.0) is down for the second straight season and it seems as though the decline is truly here.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI - Ryan Lindley? Seriously? I once thought Fitzgerald's fantasy value was indestructible. Time to add that to the pile of things I've been wrong about. Fortunately for Fitzgerald, Kevin Kolb (ribs) could return to practice this week and he'll assume the starting job as soon as he's healthy enough to do so. Though 10 games, 29 receivers have more fantasy points than Fitzgerald this season. That group includes Cecil Shorts, Mike Williams, Andre Roberts and Brian Hartline. The opportunities have been there, as Fitzgerald is tied for fifth in the NFL with 104 targets this season, but this is another mark on the side of the ledger that suggests all targets are not created equal. With three games on Thanksgiving Day this week, the uncertainty at quarterback in Arizona makes it plausible to consider benching Fitzgerald depending on the alternatives.

Jordy Nelson, WR, GB - Maybe he's not 100 percent healthy, or perhaps the extra attention he's been receiving is hurting his production, but Nelson has 11 catches for 167 yards and one touchdown over his last three games. Nelson played 51 of the Packers' 62 offensive snaps in Sunday's win over the Lions, so the Packers don't appear to be overly concerned about making his injury any worse (if that's even an issue). Last time I faded him, he shredded the Houston secondary for nine catches, 121 yards and three scores.

Andre Roberts, WR, ARI - If we're questioning whether or not Fitzgerald can be started this week, Roberts is strong drop candidate.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT - Considering how regularly Mark Ingram has been trashed this year, it's surprising there are so many owners willing to invest in the Steelers' three-headed monster at running back, especially when Jonathan Dwyer continues to outperform Mendenhall. In the RotoWire Steak League (16-teamer, where running backs are difficult to come by), I sent Mendenhall and Jeremy Maclin to a fellow owner for Denarius Moore and Jermichael Finley. That trade could completely burn me, but now that bye weeks are done maximizing talent at each starting spot is the only way to make up ground.

Rashad Jennings, RB, JAC - Maurice Jones-Drew isn't expected to play in Week 12, but head coach Mike Mularkey gave Parmelee 24 carries against the Texans to Jennings' three, and has already announced that the Jags will stick with him against the Titans on Sunday. Over the last five weeks, Jennings' carry count has swirled around the drain: 21, 17, 12, 11, 3.

Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ - There was little difference between the 3.6 YPC Greene averaged against the Rams on Sunday and Bilal Powell's 3.8 mark, but Powell found the end zone twice and has a slight edge for the season (3.9 against 3.7 YPC).

Alex Green, RB, GB - Lost his job Sunday. James Starks was given 25 carries (74 yards), Green did not touch the ball.

Nick Foles, QB, PHI - Thanks for making me look stupid, Panda Jerk.

John Skelton, QB, ARI - You have officially derailed.

Follow me on Twitter @DerekVanRiper