If there's one thing I've ever been jealous of Americans for, it's their awesome Thanskgiving tradition. The 3 Fs, Football, Family and Food, are something every nation should adopt on the last Thursday in November. The only bad thing about the tradition are the Detroit Lions. There was a time when Barry Sanders ran around on Turkey Day to make things interesting, but the thought of Matthew Stafford carving up the Green Bay Packers like he did the Browns is far fetched (especially considering his injury). At least the afternoon game will be interesting, right?
Not so fast, viewers will be treated with the Oakland Raiders visiting the Dallas Cowboys. Let's give the schedule makers a pat on the back for setting that contest up on Thanksgiving; good luck keeping your pumpkin pie down. At least the night game has promise, that is had promise until the Denver Broncos went on a 4-game losing skid. Denver hosts the New York Giants, who recently snapped their own 4-game slide. The Giants should be able to take care of business, but here's hoping the game is entertaining. Let's take a look from the fantasy side of things, to see who you'll be grateful for come turkey time.
Continue on after the jump to check out the forecasts for this Thanksgiving's games...
Packers @ Lions
Aaron Rodgers - Well it's pretty simple, the Lions have little defense and little chance at stopping Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay QB has a pretty good shot at upstaging Peyton Manning's 6-TD performance in 2004, if he's still in the game after half time. The Lions may be able to sack Rodgers a few times, but seriously what Rodgers fantasy owner hasn't been looking forward to this game since draft day? Turkey Day forecast: 275 pass yards, 4 PaTDs, 0 INTs
Greg Jennings - Thanks to Jennings for breaking out against San Francisco last Sunday, we really do appreciate it. Jennings may be able to match his game totals by the end of the first half in this one, while the Packers are still throwing the ball to get a big lead. If you can name anyone on the Lions that stands a chance at covering Jennings, I'll inform you that you're delirious. Week 12 forecast: 5 catches, 100 yards, 2 TDs
Donald Driver - The veteran WR is having an excellent season to date, and while he may not top 100 yards in Detroit, he's certainly worth starting. You can lay down some coin on Driver scoring, because it's all but guaranteed that he'll reach pay dirt. Heck, your lineup wouldn't look too bad if you had Rodgers, Jennings and Driver as your QB, WR1, WR2. Even James Jones might make a good WR3 this week. Week 12 forecast: 7 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD
Ryan Grant - After the performance against San Francisco, it's hard to even consider putting Grant on the bench for this Thanksgiving Day match-up. You'd seriously have to have MJD and AP to think of benching Grant against the Lions. The Packers should be leading (and by a bunch), so the RB should benefit and receive a healthy amount of carries. Put him in and smile at the results. Week 12 forecast: 125 rush yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 15 yards
Jermichael Finley - Finley returned to the lineup last weekend, and will likely be in the lineup against Detroit. The Green Bay TE managed 7 catches for 54 yards in his return, and will see similar success against the Lions. While he's certainly not going to set the world on fire, he's a good option against a very bad team. Week 12 forecast: 6 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD
Green Bay Team DEF - The Packers defense is finally turning into a well oiled machine, but also has some key players lost for the season. That shouldn't make a difference against the Lions, even though Matt Stafford launched 5 TDs and 422 yards against Cleveland. Calvin Johnson's big performance shouldn't scare you away from the Packers defense either. However, and this is a big however, the Lions may be able to put up some points in comeback mode, which could hurt the value a tad. Week 12 forecast: 20 points allowed, 3 sacks, 3 INTs, 1 FR, 1 Def TD
Calvin Johnson - Megatron is Detroit's best chance at getting back into the game if they get down early, and best chance to stay with the Packers if the game is close. His fantasy season has been disappointing thus far, and his injuries have his status in question for this divisional game. It's unlikely he'll play, so keep him out of your lineup. Week 12 forecast: Injured.
Dante Culpepper - Matt Stafford looked very good against Cleveland (as I've said several times already) and Detroit faces a slightly dinged up Packers squad. Stafford suffered a separated shoulder Sunday, and it's unclear whether he'll play at the time I write this. Dante Culpepper will likely get the nod, and I don't think he'll do anything better or worse than Stafford against the Packers. Regardless, it won't be wise to start either unless INTs don't count against you in your fantasy league. Week 12 forecast: Stafford OUT; Culpepper IN (bench both)
Kevin Smith - I'll spare writing out the rest of the Lions "fantasy options" because after Smith, there really aren't any. Where Detroit's RB will benefit is in the receiving game, as the Packers will likely lead and Smith will not receive a lot of carries. On the season, Smith has 33 recepitons for 321 yards and a TD; 104 yards and the TD came last week against the Browns. Smith isn't a great fantasy option, but I wouldn't label him a dud either. Week 12 forecast: 40 rush yards, 0 TDs; 5 receptions, 60 yards, 1 TD
Oakland @ Dallas
Zach Miller - Miller's presence against Cincinnati helped the Raiders pull off the unthinkable upset. As a result, he's the only viable fantasy option in this game versus the Cowboys. While Bruce Gradkowski is playing well (compared to JaMarcus Russell), there's no Raider worth starting on Turkey Day other than Miller. The Raiders TE is a good fantasy option, and gets his credit where credit is due. Week 12 forecast: 5 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD
Tony Romo - The Raiders defense held the Bengals to just 348 total yards (61 of those coming on one run), and Carson Palmer had just 207 pass yards with 1 INT and 0 PaTDs (2 rushing TDs). The Raiders defense certainly isn't a terrible one, and can likely keep Romo in check. It's hard to say "bench Romo", but bench Romo. The Cowboys will win this game in snoozing fashion, running hard and playing solid defense. Week 12 forecast: 200 pass yards, 1 PaTD, 1 INT
Marion Barber - The Dallas RB hasn't scored since week 8, so expect that streak to come to a hault Thursday. Barber had 20 carries for 99 yards against Washington and more importantly, looked healthy. The Cowboys should grind out a power perfromance in order to beat the Raiders, and Barber will be a big factor in that area. I really like Barber's odds of having 2 TDs, and I really like his chances at topping 100. Week 12 forecast: 110 rush yards, 2 TDs; 1 catch, 10 yards
Felix Jones - Jones should prove to be quite a punch in the Dallas RB combo, and is a borderline fantasy start. It's hard to say how well he will do, but his potential is there. He's still got speed (the knee brace is off), and the Raiders will likely be seeing Jones get 10-15 touches. It's hard to recommend starting Jones, and I can almost feel a big game coming. It's your call, but I think "bench him" is the better option. Week 12 forecast: 60 rush yards, 0 TDs; 1 catch, 25 yards
Miles Austin - The Cowboys WR hasn't score a TD in two games, and I'll put money down that says he won't score against the Raiders. Oakland's secondary will be able to keep Austin in check for most of the game, as he nor any of the Dallas WRs are serious fantasy threats in this game. If Jason Witten ends up missing the game, Austin and the rest of Dallas receiving crew's chance go up a bit in terms of fantasy production. Week 12 forecast: 3 catches, 55 yards, 0 TDs
Jason Witten - Now here's a receiving threat you should consider starting. The big TE is looking for some action, and I think he gets plenty against the Raiders. Witten hasn't scored a TD since week 2, but that will come to an end as Romo will find Witten in the red zone for six. UPDATE: Witten is a game-time decision with a foot injury, perhaps Martellus Bennett can be stashed in case of emergency purposes.. Week 12 forecast: 3 catches, 45 yards, 1 TD (if he plays)
Dallas Team DEF - Any time a team is facing Oakland, it's worth considering a spot in your starting lineup for. The Cowboys defense should provide a good pass rush and create a few turnovers in what likely will be a low scoring contest. If it ends up a high scoring affair, it likely won't be on Oakland's side of the billionare's scoreboard. Start the Cowboys unit, because it should give you a reason to actually watch this snooze fest. Week 12 forecast: 10 points allowed, 5 sacks, 2 INTs
New York @ Denver
Brandon Marshall - The Broncos are a team desperately looking to get off a 4-game skid, and Brandon Marshall gives them a good chance at making the Giants game competitive. Marshall was held to just 3 catches for 26 yards against San Diego; the last time Denver's WR was held to just 3 catches in a game, he responded by scoring 4 TDs in the 3 games that followed. Marshall is a good turkey day delight, even if the Broncos get smashed into sweet potato pie. Week 12 forecast: 8 catches, 100 yards, 1 TD
Kyle Orton - Orton replaced Chris Simms in Sunday's loss to the Chargers, and played decent in his return. It's likely that Orton will be starting against the Giants, but it's best to sit him out of this contest. While Marshall is a good option, Orton isn't reliable from a fantasy perspective to start. Week 12 forecast: 200 pass yards, 1 PaTD, 1 INT
Knowshon Moreno - The Giants have allowed 14 rush TDs on the season, making Moreno an ok option in most leagues. He's a borderline option as a RB2 in 10-12 man leagues, but has better value as a flex in a pinch. New York typically doesn't give up a lot of yards on the ground, ranked 11th in the NFL in rush ypg. Week 12 forecast: 65 rush yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 15 yards
Eli Manning - After a great start to 2009, Manning cooled off during the Giants own four game losing streak. Last week, he heated back up throwing for 384 yards and 3 PaTDs. The Broncos do have the 3rd ranked pass defense in the NFL, but Manning is still worth starting in prime time on Thursday Night. Week 12 forecast: 245 pass yards, 3 PaTDs, 1 INT
Steve Smith - Smith hasn't had 100 yards receiving since week 4, and I expect the Broncos to keep his yardage in check this week. However, keeping Smith out of the end zone may prove to be difficult, and Smith makes a good WR3 play in leagues that have large starting lineups, and a WR2 in PPR leagues. Week 12 forecast: 6 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD
Mario Manningham - The former Wolverine is fresh off a 126 yard performance against Atlanta. Look for Manningham to have decent yardage total, and a TD. He makes a fairly good start in any size league this week, mainly because of his big play ability (15.4 ypr on the season). Week 12 forecast: 5 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD
Hakeem Nicks - While Nicks should find the end zone, I'm not quite sure his yardage is going to warrant a starting position in your lineup. Nicks, like Manningham, has the big play ability (16.9 ypr), but is targetted less often. If you're just looking for a TD, give Nicks the nod. Week 12 forecast: 2 catches, 35 yards, 1 TD
Kevin Boss - With no more TDs to go around, it will be a wise move to leave Boss on the bench this Thursday. The Giants TE has been scoring "like a Boss" the past three weeks, totalling 4 TDs. However, the Denver defense has done quite well defending TEs this season, so bench him. Week 12 forecast: 4 catches, 45 yards, 0 TDs
Brandon Jacobs - Jacobs has been a fantasy dud for the better part of 2009, and suffered a leg injury against the Falcons. He's likely to play this week, but the Broncos have allowed just 6 rush TDs on the season. I don't think Jacobs is a tremendous option, but he may surprise. I'm still going to request his benching though. Week 12 forecast: 55 rush yards, 0 TDs; 1 catch, 10 yards
Ahmad Bradshaw - Bradshaw is still getting his touches despite the broken bone in his foot. He also shed his protective boot in last week's practices leading up to the Falcons game. At this point, Bradshaw is likely to miss the game in Denver, so stash him on your bench.. Week 12 forecast: Injured.
I'm going to take this time to predict the outcomes in each game, giving myself another opportunity to be dead wrong come Turkey Day. I'll take the Packers to handle the Lions, 45-20; The Cowboys to beat the Raiders, 24-10; and the Giants to overcome the Broncos, 27-14. I'll be back on Saturday with the regular edition for Week 12, including the sit/start forecasts. Until then, everyone please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and don't trample anyone on Black Friday.