NFL Week 12 Predictions: Projecting Top Fantasy Performers in Thanksgiving Games

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 11: Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings tackles Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions during the second quarter of the game on November 11, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Thanksgiving is meant for family, food and fun, but more important than any of that nonsense, it's a day for fantasy football owners to get a massive early-week lead heading into the bulk of Week 12 NFL action.

With top performers adorning each of Thursday's games, it seems likely that huge fantasy days are coming. Nevertheless, considering these squads all had a shortened week to prepare, almost nothing is guaranteed.

Last season's stable of games saw exactly two 20-point fantasy performances using standard scoring: then-Dallas Cowboys receiver Laurent Robinson and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Still, all it takes is a quick look at the matchups to see that will do a 180-degree shift this week. With that in mind, here is a look at my predictions for the top fantasy performer in each of Thursday's slate of games.

Houston Texans at Detroit Lions: WR Calvin Johnson

Perhaps the Texans simply need a wake up call every few weeks to avoid complacency, but the Jacksonville Jaguars exposed massive holes in the team's defense last week.

Chad Henne came in cold off the bench and threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns, as the Houston secondary continually allowed big plays. Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon both broke out for massive gains and had brilliant fantasy performances for their owners.

Though many will say last week was a classic "trap game," this is the same Texans defense that also gave up six touchdowns to Aaron Rodgers in Week 6. 

With all that taken in to consideration, look for Matthew Stafford to be aggressive early and hit Calvin Johnson on some downfield strikes early. Johnson has 24 receptions for 479 yards and two touchdowns in the Lions' past three games and seems to be on a mission to make his 2,000-yard preseason prediction come to fruition.

He's been limited all week in practice, but don't let that fool you. Johnson will excel on Thanksgiving and may be among the top scorers at any position this week.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: QB Tony Romo

Believe it or not, Tony Romo has actually become an extremely consistent fantasy option since the Cowboys returned from their Week 5 bye.

The embattled signal-caller has put up no fewer than 14 fantasy points in any of Dallas' last six games—and that includes his embarrassing four-interception outing against the New York Giants. In fact, Romo's high point during that period (19 points) actually came against the Giants.

Nonetheless, if there is any contest where the Cowboys' quarterback can finally become an elite fantasy option again, it will be against the Redskins.

Washington comes into Week 12 ranking 28th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 289.2 yards per game thus far. Included in that paltry performance have been games where both Sam Bradford and Christian Ponder went easily over 300 yards passing.

With Romo having gone over the 300-yard mark in three of his past four games, there's little reason to expect a dip in performance. 

All that remains to be seen is whether he can turn some of the yardage output into touchdowns.

New England Patriots at New York Jets: TE Aaron Hernandez

Frustrating injuries have derailed his 2012 campaign, but Aaron Hernandez could be returning at the perfect time for the Patriots and fantasy owners.

Rob Gronkowski will miss the next four-to-six weeks with a broken forearm, meaning there should be a bevy of targets—particularly in the end zone—available for the taking.

Obviously, that should mean big things for Wes Welker's value as a safety valve. Welker and Gronkowski have both been Tom Brady's best underneath receivers all season and have seen their effectiveness go up with Brandon Lloyd on the outside stretching the defense. 

However, given the short week of preparation, Hernandez should be in line for a huge game against the Jets. The Patriots won't have time to adjust the game plan enough to account fully for Gronkowski's absence, putting Hernandez in a position to reward his owners' patience.

With the Patriots' offense hitting a scary-good apex, look for Hernandez to have his first multi-score game since Week 15 of the 2010 season.