Thursday night NFL lineup submissions are different from any other type of DFS lineup submission for several reasons. First, we don't have complete information on the other games that will play over the weekend. Who is injured and who is starting are often just a good estimate at this point. This uncertainty makes the players from the Thursday night game more appealing than players in Sunday games. But 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.
But 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.
The NFL has brought us yet another Thursday night barn burner. Unlike last week when the game was between two interesting, but defensive teams, this week we have two of the worst teams in the league facing off against each other when the Titans visit the Jaguars. Luckily for these teams they are in the AFC South and have a shot to make the playoffs as they are right in the hunt despite the Jaguars sitting at 3-6 and the Titans at 2-7. With a win the Jaguars will have the same number of wins as both the Colts and Texans who lead the division at 4-5. Plus both of them are currently underdogs in their games this week. Don't be surprised if by Sunday night your division leaders include the Jacksonville Jaguars.
First, the Jaguars need to beat the Titans and the odds makers seem to believe they will listing them as a three point favorite with a game total of 43. This would favor a relatively conservative game plan for each of the teams and they should keep the ball on the ground. But I am not sure that is how it is going to pan out. The Jaguars have decided to be more aggressive on offense this year with their passing attack. Part of that is because they have had little success running the ball averaging only 96 yards per game on a league average 4.1 yards per carry. With TJ. Yeldon banged up they may be left with no choice but to air the ball out to their young talented wide receivers.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans have been just as unsuccessful running the ball averaging only 4.0 yards per attempt. The even bigger problem for the Titans is they don't have a star running back and the Jaguars have a stout run defense that ranks first in the league at 3.3 rushing yards allowed per attempt. Additionally the Jaguars are weak against the pass allowing 7.5 yards per attempt leaving very little incentive for the Titans to run the ball. Based on these game factors I think both teams take to the air and pass more often than normal with the Jaguars coming out on top in a game that is higher scoring than most expect 28-24.
Blake Bortles ($7,500) has taken a solid leap forward this year after many people had written him off as he is now the ninth ranked quarterback in fantasy for the year. His stats are up across the board as he is averaging 265 yards per game and 6.7 yards per attempt up. This is up from last year's terrible production of 207 yards per game and 6.1 yards per attempt. As mentioned in my intro, I expect the Jaguars to take to the air early and often in this one with a banged up TJ Yeldon ($6,400) which should yield great returns for Bortles as the Titans are allowing a whopping 8.0 yards per attempt which is significantly worse than the league average of 7.4. All of this together makes Bortles a great GPP play and if you are feeling a little daring with your picks I wouldn't mind playing him in your cash games either.
If you are going to play Bortles in a GPP you have some great options to stack him with. A lot of Bortles success this year can be attributed to the development of Allen Robinson ($7,700) and Allen Hurns ($7,500) as both have taken a big step forward this year. Last year Robinson and Hurns were some of the least productive receivers in the league averaging a paltry 55 and 42 yards per game, respectively. This year they are up to an impressive 84 and 77, respectively. Both have also seen their yards per catch go through the roof. Making them two very explosive options. Robinson is averaging 17 yards per catch and has scored a touchdown once every six catches. Hurns has been basically just as good averaging 16.8 yards per catch and a similar touchdown every six catches including one in each of his last seven games.
The only problem with this duo is their prices are starting to catch up with their production. Like Bortles I won't fault you for playing either of these guys in your cash game but given their price points I think they are better left for GPP. With their big play capability they could easily hit GPP value in a play or two. Unfortunately, stacking these guys with Bortles will be a common play in GPPs in which case I say stack them both and hope that Bortles absolutely blows up. Most people are hesitant to stack two wide receivers from the same team and especially when it is with a mediocre QB like Bortles but I think this is a perfect opportunity to do so.
When the Titans take to the air they will do so behind Marcus Mariota ($7,100). Mariota has had a relatively successful rookie season despite almost no help on the offensive side of the ball. Mariota is averaging a very respectable 8.0 yards per attempt which puts him in the elite category just barely behind MVP favorite Tom Brady who is averaging 8.2. This efficiency combined with the plus matchup against the Jaguars passing game, the Titans lack of a running game, and the Jaguars tough run defense opens up a perfect storm for a blow up game for Mariota. I don't trust playing him in my cash games but he should be in your GPP portfolio and he will be much lower owned than Bortles.
While we typically like to stack our QBs I don't think it is necessary with quarterbacks that are as cheap as Mariota as it gives you a chance to differentiate from the masses. If you want to stack you have some decent options though. Both Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter (out for the year) will miss this week's game which should leave additional opportunities for rookie sensation Dorial Green-Beckham ($5,500) Delanie Walker ($5,700). Green-Beckham has been getting more playing time since Week 6 where he has been averaging 63% of the snaps which is approximately double what he was doing earlier in the year bringing his total for the season up to 39%. Unfortunately it hasn't really helped his targets as he has had one, two, 10, and two in those four games. Green-Beckham is a deep GPP only play but if he gets a few more looks from his fellow rookie quarterback against the suspect Jags defense he could be in for a big game.
If you don't feel like taking a chance on Green-Beckham then Walker is your man as he has been as consistent as any tight end in the league this year. For the season he has a game log of receptions of three, seven, four, eight, seven, six, seven, three and averages 63 yards per game with a safe 11.3 yards per catch. So while Walker doesn't blow up very often he is very likely to not kill your team either. Plus he won a few GPPs in Week 9 when he blew up for two TDs.
Here the answer is simple. If the game flow goes as expected I don't really see any need in stretching for any of the running backs on either team. Sure Yeldon could score a TD but I rather play the odds and the way I think the game script is going to go and skip the running game altogether.