DraftKings: Thursday Night Spotlight

Analyzes the game script for the Thursday night game. Examines factors to consider in setting Thursday night lineups, including injury considerations.

Thursday night NFL lineup submissions are different than any other type of DFS lineup submission for several reasons. First of all, we don’t have complete information on the other games that will play over the weekend. Who is injured and who is starting is often just a good estimate at this point. Due to this uncertainty it makes the players from the Thursday night game more appealing than those on Sunday. However, since the Thursday night game is nationally televised and is the only game on the players in this game tend to be more highly owned than we would expect given their expected output.

These high ownership levels cause a ripple effect in how we should attack the players in this game. When creating GPP lineups it is much more difficult to include these players in our lineups. This is because you should be taking a contrarian approach to GPPs and their high ownership levels don’t allow you to do so. I wrote about why this is important in this article last year.

However, if the players are owned more than what we would typically think we should break ties in favor of the highly owned players in cash games. This is because if the highly owned player has a big game you find yourself in a deficit right off the bat and could single handedly cost your lineup a win that week.

Based on these two key factors I will tend to recommend players from the Thursday night game for cash games more often than I will for GPPs which is in direct opposition of our normal strategy of diversifying in our GPPs. Because of these complexities the Thursday night game deserves a lot of our attention so each week I will be breaking the game down in detail. See this article for definitions of all DFS terms.

Thursday night game script

If you looked at the quarterback stats coming out of week one and been asked to put the stats with the respective quarterback you would have been hard pressed to guess who performed well. Alex Smith put up the Peyton Manning like game carving up the Texans defense by completing 22 of 33 attempts for 243 yards and 3 touchdowns. Travis Kelce was the biggest contributor pulling in all 6 of his targets for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns doing his best impression of Rob Gronkowski. On the other hand, Peyton Manning did his best to impersonate Alex Smith by putting up an abysmal 4.4 yards per attempt while completing only 24 of 40 attempts for 175 yards and a touchdown. But the Broncos picked up a win and both teams moved on.

The big question is will we see the same trends emerge this week. This week’s line opened with the Chiefs as a 1.5 point favorite at home with a total of 46. However, the money quickly poured in on the chiefs and the under pushing the line to the Chiefs -3 with a 42 point total. This leads us to believe that a lot of people don’t like what they saw with Manning and are willing to take a stand that he isn’t getting back to his normal self any time soon. In general, I am hesitant to change my stance on players or teams after one week but this type of quick line movement has be questioning this stance for this game. I am going to lean towards a Chiefs win in a lower scoring game for the Broncos than fantasy owners have become accustomed to.

Passing game

Broncos

Interestingly, if the game script were play out the way that we are projecting above it could actually help Peyton Manning’s stats as he will be asked to throw a lot of passes to keep the game close. Last year, the Broncos had one of the most favorable game scripts all year long with an average lead of 4.2 points and still passed on 64% of their plays. Gary Kubiak stepped in this offseason. Kubiak’s arrival is expected to bring a decreased pass ratio. However, the bigger driver of pass ratio is game script and the change from an average lead of 4.2 to an average deficit is a large change. It is often difficult to determine how a team will react when faced with situations that they aren’t familiar with but I would expect this to mean Manning should be throwing a lot more than normal.

The problem is we now see that the line isn’t favoring a successful pass efficiency game from Manning and he is priced high ($7,500) making him a must fade. If you are wanting a piece of the Broncos passing game the best choice is Demaryius Thomas ($8,400) who saw 44% of the team’s receptions last week despite a tough matchup with Jimmy Smith. That said I am not too interested in Thomas at his high price point. I will fade and look for some of the players in better matchups later in the week. I don’t see much reason to invest in Emmanuel Sanders ($7,600), Jordan Norwood ($3,000), or Owen Daniels ($3,300).

Chiefs

The Chiefs like to control the game in a conservative method. If they build a lead, as expected, they will quickly shell up and head towards the running game or a short passing attack from the professional game manager Alex Smith ($6,300). This makes Smith a tough quarterback to rely on in cash games and someone I won’t be playing. He doesn’t have enough upside in this matchup to be a great GPP play due to his performance last week and his high projected ownership due to this being a Thursday game. As such you should fade him in GPPs.

On the other hand the receiving game is a little more attractive. Last week Travis Kelce ($5,100) was finally freed playing 80% of the snaps and he rewarded the Chiefs and his fantasy owners with 6 receptions on 6 targets for 106 yards and 2 TDs as he tried to top Rob Gronkowski’s opening day performance. If the Chiefs take the conservative game plan as we expect then those targets could go up which makes Kelce an intriguing cash game play and he is always a good GPP play despite his expected ownership levels. But I wouldn’t go crazy in GPPs because of those ownership levels.

If you really want a piece of the Chiefs wide receivers you could take a chance on Jeremy Maclin ($6,500) but his matchup against Aqib Talib is less than favorable and the Chiefs wide receivers still haven’t scored a touchdown since 2013 so my exposure will be limited.

Running Game

Broncos

Last week C.J. Anderson ($6,700) was extremely disappointing as he split the carries evenly with Ronnie Hillman ($5,600). After the game we found out that Anderson was dealing with an injured toe and he missed practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday and is officially listed as questionable. Anderson is fully expected to play but the questionable tag, negative game script risk, and high price makes Anderson a fade for me in all games. If Anderson misses the game Hillman would get a full complement of caries and would become a solid cash game play.

Chiefs

As mentioned above the Chiefs are expected to play conservatively if the game plan goes as expected. This should mean lots of carries and dump off passes to Jamaal Charles ($7,600). This makes Charles a recommended cash game play. But just keep in mind that Andy Reid can randomly forget about Charles in any game so don’t go all in on Charles.

Defense and special teams

If you really want to pick from this group I would give the Chiefs defense ($2,900) a chance. They are very unlikely to get any sacks on Manning but if Manning is really struggling as much as everyone thinks he could force a pass that he thinks he can still make and it could go for a pick six. I won’t be taking this route though.

As always please send any questions to Buzzard@footballguys.com or follow me on Twitter Follow @SteveBuzzard