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 good estimates at this point. This uncertainty makes the players from the Thursday night game more appealing than those from the 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 last few weeks have been less than stellar in terms of DFS expectations going into the Thursday night games. This week we get a little more excitement as the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals host the NCF Central leading Minnesota Vikings. If you would have saw those rankings before the season you wouldn't have believed it and most people still don't completely buy into the success of the Vikings. This includes the odds makers as they have listed the Cardinals as 8.5 point favorites with a slightly favorable total of 46.5.
Both the Cardinals and Vikings have gotten to where they are behind extremely good defenses. But it is the Cardinals offense that has really put them over the top this year which is the reason for the expected blow out. If the game materializes into a blow out as is expected the Cardinals could turn to the ground to kill the clock in the second half. In that situation it doesn't mean the passing game is in bad shape because they will likely build their lead through the passing game and will need to score to do so.
Unfortunately the Vikings haven't been easy to score on and they will likely try to control the clock with Adrian Peterson and the running game as well as their tough defense. I don't think it will work as the Cardinals run defense will give them fits and I don't see the passing game overcoming it. I see the Cardinals winning fairly comfortably 24-14.
It is amazing what a good passing game can do to your offense as the Cardinals went from one of the worst in the league last year to an amazing year by Carson Palmer ($8,300) and now find themselves as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Palmer continues to have a career year averaging 307 passing yards per game. The Vikings are a tough defense allowing only 226 passing yards per game and 6.6 yards per attempt both of which are about 8% better than league average. Palmer has been fairly matchup proof posting yardage totals of 352 and 356 in his two matchups against the Rams and 363 yards in his matchup against the Seahawks. The problem is you have to pay a premium for Palmer at this point in the season and doing so is tough when you are facing such a stout defense, even if the game is going to take place indoors. I am going to be fading Palmer in both cash and GPPs.
Even if you aren't paying for Palmer that doesn't mean you should ignore his passing game. All three of the receiving options: Larry Fitzgerald ($7,200), John Brown ($6,300), and Michael Floyd ($6,100) are in play this week as they are finally getting back to 100% healthy. This full strength set of receivers does make it tough to predict who is going to get the most targets on a weekly basis.
Over the last two weeks since Floyd's return to the lineup the targets have been split as Fitzgerald (14, 11), Brown (7, 8), and Floyd (2, 12). Fitzgerald has been one of the most consistent and productive receivers all year. Additionally his ownership levels tend to be a little lower than you would expect because of his competition for targets. As such I think Fitzgerald makes for my favorite play of the three. That said I don't feel comfortable with any of them in my cash lineups this week instead I leave him more as a secondary GPP play. The other two I would also say qualify more as a deeper contrarian GPP only play for me as well unfortunately their likely ownership levels may put them out of the range for that. I could see either having a good day but it is going to be tough to say who.
When the Vikings have the ball they are going to try to run as much as possible which makes their passing game very unattractive. I don't really want any piece of Teddy Bridgewater ($6,000) against this Cardinals defense. The same holds true for Mike Wallace ($4,700) and Kyle Rudolph ($5,000). Wallace is simply not very good anymore averaging a career worst 30 yards per game and while Rudolph is always a TD threat there are better tight end options on the rest of the slate.
If I were to target any piece of the Vikings passing game it would be Stefon Diggs ($5,700) in a GPP. Diggs has had a strong rookie season averaging 69 yards per game. But his targets are tanking lately as he is averaging only 5.2 over the last five games and he has a tough matchup against Patrick Peterson. All of that may lead to a lower than normal ownership level and the chance for some garbage time yards will keep him in at least a few of my lineups.
This is a great spot for David Johnson ($6,500). Johnson is a rookie running back who had 35 carries coming into last week's game before exploding for 99 yards and 22 carries plus two catches for 21 yards. Rookie running backs typically improve throughout the season as they adapt to the NFL game. But they also improve because they have younger fresher legs. Johnson has especially fresh legs given the low carry total so far this year. Johnson should be a step quicker than the defense the rest of the year and I would expect him to parlay that into a solid game this week. Not only that but if he is able to ice the game away in the second half as the odds would indicate he could be looking for a very big game. The only worry is the Vikings defense who has been stingy in only allowing 232 points on the season. But it is the run defense that is the biggest weakness of the Vikings which is where they are actually slightly below average. Johnson is a strong cash and GPP play.
When the Vikings have the ball they will want to pound it with Adrian Peterson ($8,200) as much as possible. Unfortunately for Peterson this may be a game script that takes the ball out of his hand if they fall behind and when he is given a chance to run the Cardinals defense is stout against the run. Given the price point this is a weak that I will tend to go away from Peterson. One great use of Peterson could be as a GPP play under the game script that he and the Vikings build an early lead under his TD runs and stack him with the Palmer and a receiver hoping they are trying to come back. It would be a lower owned combination and a great play if it wasn't Thursday night but given how ownership levels are typically higher on Thursday night I am going to stay away from even this move. But these are the types of game scripts and ownership levels that you should be on the lookout for.