NFL Thanksgiving Slate Fantasy Positional Breakdown: Stack the Superdome Saints
- Which Thanksgiving Day players are at the top of the FantasyLabs Models?
- Matthew Freedman breaks down the best options, starting with Drew Brees.
Thanksgiving is here, and the NFL is still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.2 points per game per team. Eat some pie, loosen your belt and enjoy a three-game Turkey Day slate while spending time with people you can barely tolerate.
The action kicks off on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. ET.
In this special, Thanksgiving breakdown, I’m looking at two players per position at the top of the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news feed.
For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
>> Sign up for The Action Network’s daily newsletter to get the smartest NFL conversation delivered into your inbox each morning.
- Drew Brees: $6,700 DraftKings; $9,000 FanDuel
- Dak Prescott: $5,100 DraftKings; $7,400 FanDuel
Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints (-13) vs. Atlanta Falcons, 60 Over/Under
Remember last year when people thought Brees had a bad season, even though he completed an NFL-record 72.0% of his passes? He’s upped the ante this year with an outrageous league-high 76.9% completion rate. On top of that, his 2017 touchdown rate of 4.3% has progressed to 7.5% this year.
Entering the season, Brees had been a top-six fantasy quarterback every single year since joining the Saints in 2006 — except for last season. Unsurprisingly, he has reclaimed his top-six status this year and is once again producing at a prolific rate.
It’s hard to identify an area of the passing game in which Brees is deficient. He doesn’t air it out often, but he leads the league with his 139.8 QB Rating on deep passes (Pro Football Focus). He has an NFL-high completion rate of 76.5% without play action.
Possessing one of the quickest releases in the league, Brees leads all quarterbacks with his 82.6% completion rate when holding the ball for no more than 2.5 seconds in the pocket — and no passer gets rid of the ball within that time span more frequently than Brees does with his 64.3% rate. He’s exceeded his expected completion percentage by an NFL-best 9.9% margin (Next Gen Stats).
Winners of nine games in a row, the Saints are +200 favorites to win the Super Bowl. With an NFL-best 37.8 points per game, the Saints are the No. 1 team in The Action Network NFL Power Ratings. Coming off a 363-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Eagles, Brees is in peak form. He’s now a -210 favorite to win the MVP Award.
There is some marginal cause for concern with Brees in that he has averaged only 28.8 pass attempts per game since the return of running back Mark Ingram (suspension). While that number is likely deflated because of the small sample, there’s no doubt that in the Ingram-Alvin Kamara era, Brees has seen his passing volume decline.
- 2006-16, pre-Ingram & Kamara (174 games): 39.9 pass attempts, 309.0 yards and 2.22 touchdowns passing
- 2017-18, Kamara only (four games): 40.3 pass attempts, 323.8 yards and two touchdowns passing
- 2017-18, Ingram & Kamara (22 games): 32.3 pass attempts, 273.1 yards and 1.82 touchdowns passing
With Ingram, Brees this season has averaged 278.2 yards passing per game. It’s alarming that Brees has been so negatively impacted by the presence of his longtime back. Since Ingram’s return, the Saints have a 55.1% rush rate, which would lead the league if extrapolated over the entire season.
But Brees is still in a great spot as a significant home favorite at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (the Coors Field of fantasy football). An incredibly fantasy-friendly venue, the Superdome has an A-graded 58-41-2 over/under record with Brees, good for a 14.6% return on investment for over bettors since 2006, when Brees joined the Saints (per Bet Labs).
In the Superdome, Brees is one of the best home quarterbacks in the league.
Additionally, Brees has a great matchup against the Falcons, whom he has the pleasure of playing twice per year. When he faced them in Week 3, he scored a slate-high 43.5 DraftKings points with a ridiculous 396-3-0 passing and 3-7-2 rushing performance. In his seven previous games against the Falcons under defensive-minded head coach Dan Quinn, Brees has averaged 323.9 yards passing per start.
The Falcons defense is dead last in the league with a 20.9% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and it has allowed a top-two mark of 25.4 DraftKings points per game to quarterbacks. Every quarterback to face the Falcons this year has passed for either 300 yards or three touchdowns except for the backup Nick Foles in Week 1 and the pass-averse Prescott last week.
The Falcons defense has suffered a rash of injuries: Free safety Keanu Neal (knee, injured reserve) and strong safety Ricardo Allen (Achilles, IR) are out. Cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (thigh) and Robert Alford (foot) and safety Damontae Kazee (shoulder) have been limited in practice this week and are questionable. Most importantly, middle linebacker Deion Jones (foot) is yet to practice in full even though he was activated from IR last week. He’s tentatively expected to play on Thanksgiving, but he very well could sit one more game. Monitor Jones’ status on Thursday.
The Saints are also dealing with injuries. Left tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder) is almost certain not to play, but left guard Andrus Peat (hip), center Max Unger (quad) and right guard Larry Warford (concussion) have all practiced this week and seem likely to suit up. For Brees, the real question is whether dynamic rookie wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (foot) will be able to play. He missed practice on both Monday and Tuesday.
But even without Smith, Brees should roll. The Saints are implied for an outrageous slate-high 36.25 points, and Brees has position-high median, ceiling and floor projections in our Models.
On Thursday night, I might look to bet the over on Brees’ passing yardage prop. In his 13 home starts with wide receiver Michael Thomas, he’s averaged 310.5 yards passing per game. To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 187-89-8, good for a 66% win rate.
Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Brees is the No. 1 quarterback in the Koerner and SportsGeek Models for both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Dak Prescott: Dallas Cowboys (-7) vs. Washington Redskins, 40.5 O/U
Since the Cowboys traded for wide receiver Amari Cooper, Dak has been much more efficient. Before Cooper, he averaged 6.8 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A). With Coop, he’s averaged a 7.4 AY/A.
But that efficiency hasn’t translated into much more production.
- With Cooper (Weeks 9-11): 17.8 DraftKings points, 240.3 yards and one touchdown passing, 0.33 interceptions, 8.3 yards and 0.67 touchdowns rushing
- Without Cooper (Weeks 1-7): 17.0 DraftKings points, 202.4 yards and 1.14 touchdowns passing, 0.57 interceptions, 33.7 yards and 0.29 touchdowns rushing
This, though, could be the week Dak has his Coop-accompanied breakout. Historically, Dak has been at his best as a home favorite, averaging 20.7 DraftKings points per game with a solid +3.63 Plus/Minus and 73.3% Consistency Rating.
Dak’s splits as a home favorite are quite notable.
- Home favorite (15 games): 239.4 yards and 1.60 touchdown passing, 0.40 interceptions, 25.9 yards and 0.40 touchdowns rushing
- All other situations (27 games): 204.1 yards and 1.19 touchdowns passing, 0.59 interceptions, 18.9 yards and 0.37 touchdowns rushing
As a home favorite, Dak has only once been cheaper than he is now: Week 1, 2016 — his first NFL game. He’s in an excellent buy-low spot.
Then again …
Is it a tad troubling that the Cowboys are literally 0-7 against the spread on Thanksgiving under Garrett as a full-time coach? Is it alarming that they’ve failed to cover the spread by a horrible 10.44 points per game? Is it necessary for me to keep on asking rhetorical questions in this way?
You bet it is.
But the Cowboys have one massive factor in their favor: The Redskins are one of the most injured teams in the league. On offense, their injuries are legion.
- QB Alex Smith: Leg, IR
- WR Jamison Crowder: Ankle, questionable – out since Week 6
- WR Paul Richardson: Shoulder, IR
- RB Chris Thompson: Ribs, questionable – out since Week 9
- LT Trent Williams: Thumb, questionable – out since Week 9
- LG Shawn Lauvao: knee, IR
- RG Brandon Scherff: pectoral, IR
Without their starting quarterback, two best wide receivers, best pass-catching back and at least two starting offensive linemen, the Redskins could struggle to sustain drives, which in turn could put more pressure on their defense and make it more vulnerable.
On top of that, the Redskins will likely be without cornerback Quinton Dunbar (shin), who missed Weeks 7 and 8, exited Week 9 after aggravating his leg injury and sat out Weeks 10-11. The Redskins have struggled mightily to replace him on the outside.
For Weeks 7-10, Dunbar was replaced by the combination of Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson — rookies who respectively entered the league as seventh-round and undrafted roster fodder. Collectively, they have allowed a 27-444-3 receiving line on 38 targets. Last week, the Redskins moved cornerback Fabian Moreau from the slot to the outside, and they moved Stroman to the slot.
Regardless of how the Redskins deploy them on Thursday, Dak will likely have numerous opportunities to exploit corners who are either inexperienced or playing out of position.
On top of that, it’s probable that the Redskins will use Josh Norman in shadow coverage against Cooper for much of the game. Although they have been reluctant in previous seasons to employ their No. 1 corner in this way, over the past month they’ve finally let their top corner tail four of the top receivers in the game: Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins. Norman was an All-Pro in 2015, but those days are long gone: The receiving quartet combined for a 23-364-2 stat line on 33 targets.
If the Redskins have Norman shadow Cooper, that actually might benefit Dak, who’s the No. 1 DraftKings quarterback in five of our Models and the No. 1 FanDuel quarterback in three of them.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.