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.
This week’s Thursday night game brings a lot of drama as Andrew Luck is currently listed as questionable for the game. The Colts are being very secretive about their plans, even keeping parts of practice closed from the media so as not to give away clues to his true status. We do have one clue about Luck’s status and that’s the current Vegas line. Last week we saw the Vegas line move approximately 6 points with his inactive status. This move means Vegas sees Luck as one of the most important players in the league which is hardly surprising. The line currently sits as Houston a 1 point favorite with a total of 44.5. Based on those lines it feels like Vegas is leaning towards Luck not playing. Jene Bramel (@jenebramel) also made a great point on Twitter noting that the multiple opinions that Luck received this week means it is likely that he heard something he didn’t like in at least one of them. All these signs have me worried about his status.
If Luck isn’t playing this game should be fairly competitive. Last week the Colts looked terrible against a less than stellar Jaguars team. Without Luck a lot of the holes in the Colts roster were exposed. Matt Hasselbeck played ok last week completing 30 of 47 for 282 yards and a touchdown. But it’s not a game that is going to get you excited about the Colts season going forward with him under center. The fact that he is sick doesn’t help either. Without Luck I see the Colts losing this game 24-21. If Luck plays he won’t be 100% which is yet another reason to expect the Colts to rest him. If Luck does play at less than 100% I expect the Colts to pull it out 24-21. Either way I expect both teams to take to the air frequently in what should be a relatively close game.
Andrew Luck ($7,700) is basically in do not play territory for me. If we break it down we have an expensive quarterback that didn’t play last week and is likely to sit again. He may get injured in game or could quickly go to the bench if the game gets out of hand towards either team. It all leads to a quick fade to me. On the other hand Matt Hasselbeck ($5,000) is a little more interesting. When it was announced that Hasselbeck was starting last week I added him to a few of my cash lineups. But I don’t see this game as such a favorable situation. The Texans will be able to put more pressure on Hasselbeck with J.J. Watt and could lead to several hurries, sacks, or picks. I am not sure Hasselbeck makes a great GPP play either due to his expected ownership levels so you won’t be seeing him in my lineups.
Hasselbeck leaned heavily on his stars last week with Coby Fleener ($3,200), T.Y. Hilton ($6,800), and Donte Moncrief ($5,400) being on the receiving end of 22 of his 30 completions. When all was said and done Fleener finished 9-83-1, Hilton 6-75-0, and Moncrief 7-67-0. But with the Colts likely to have less success than last week as mentioned above and quite a few less plays and attempts I don’t trust any of these guys in my cash or GPP games.
On the other side of the ball the Texans aren’t without their own issues. Ryan Mallet ($5,000) is coming off a beat down where he left the game in the third quarter down 42-0. Up to that point he had only completed 12-27 pass attempts for 150 yards. Brian Hoyer looked a lot better in mop up duty finishing 17-30 for 232 yards and 2 TDs in less than a half. Of course it’s a lot easier to pass when you are going against prevent defenses. The Texans have decided to stick with Mallet but his benching last week makes him a risky proposition in any cash games and I will be fading completely.
Injuries to Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington frees up 34% of the Texans targets this week. Obviously DeAndre Hopkins ($7,200) should be the big beneficiary of these targets as Ryan Griffin ($5,000) Jaelen Strong ($3,000), and Chandler Worthy ($3,000) aren’t who I would be relying on if I was Mallet and my job might be on the line. All are worth throwing a GPP dart throw at with lower ownership levels but nothing more.
Hopkins, on the other hand, should be a great play because not only is he likely to see such a large amount of targets but Colts shut down corner Vontae Davis is officially listed as questionable. While Davis is currently expected to play he won’t be nearly as effective as he normally is and Hopkins will be tough for him to contain. Hopkins will be the best play in this game. If Davis is out plug Hopkins in as a must start in your cash games.
When the Colts signed Frank Gore ($5,000) I was very concerned about his age and how he would hold for the season. So far the Colts have done a good job of taking that into consideration by limiting his carries to 13.5 per game. This has led to a relatively solid 4.2 yards per carry which is consistent with his last few years. Far less than what many expected coming into the season but a bigger concern is just to keep him healthy for later in the season as depth isn’t that strong. Unfortunately, the lack of carries make it tough to plug Gore into your lineups this week especially without Luck.
The final key player in this game is Arian Foster ($7,000). Foster had a slow return last week toting only 8 carries for 10 yards. Part of the problem was the score so I would expect his role to increase this week as Foster considered himself 100% after the game. But he isn’t safe enough for me to plug into my lineups yet. I will be waiting until he plays a full slate of carries before plugging him into my lineups.