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 estimates at this point. This uncertainty makes the players from the Thursday night game more appealing than their Sunday counterparts. 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 projected 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.
This Thursday night pits the 5-8 Rams against the 6-7 Buccaneers. The odds makers see this game as a low scoring affair by putting the total of the game at a measly 41 which is the second lowest on this weekend's slates. While both teams technically still have an outside chance of making the playoffs the odds are pretty long and they may be ready to call it a season.
One thing to look out for when the season is basically over is you have to start thinking about the incentives of each team and there players. That could include seeing how unproven players play in real games, testing out rookies, resting veterans, or helping players get contract bonuses or team goals. This game might be a little early in the season for those types of incentives but you should be on the lookout for them over the next few weeks. In this game I think both teams play it fairly straight up since they aren't officially eliminated from the playoffs. Although you may argue starting Case Keenum already falls in this bucket. I think the odds makers have called this game fairly accurately as I see the Rams winning and likely eliminating both teams from the playoffs by the end of the weekend.
When game totals are as low as this game it makes it very tough to play anyone in cash games since their won't likely be many yards or TDs to go around. Additionally since this is a Thursday night game and players will likely be over owned anyway it also makes this a tough game to play for GPPs. That said my suggestion is to completely fade this game once and once again beat your opponent over the weekend. As I stated a few weeks back if you are winning after this game there is a high probably that you won't be winning come the end of the week so let your opponents play against those odds.
That said there have been a few bright spots on both teams this year. In particular the Buccaneers passing game and the Rams running game. Starting with Jameis Winston $7,400 we have a great looking rookie quarterback. If you simply look at Winston's cumulative stats (235 yards/game and 18/11 TD/INT ratio) you would be a bit underwhelmed but he has had some very solid games including week 11 where he threw for five TDs. Additionally he has run for five more TDs which gives him good upside on any given week. Overall, I would call his season a success. But as mentioned he isn't a good play because the Rams pass defense continues to be about 3% above average. When you are priced up and facing a solid defense it becomes an easy fade. Even his upside isn't enough to get him into my lineups this week.
I would like to look for Winston's receiving options since Vincent Jackson has already been ruled out and when a target hog like Jackson is out I normally line up to get the other remaining pass catchers. But the Buccaneers just got Austin Seferian-Jenkins $5,400 back in week 13 and has only grabbed three catches for 31 yards in both games. As such he can easily pick up some of the slack that Jackson will be vacating. While that is a nice bump for Seferian-Jenkins it doesn't leave a big gaping hole to an underpriced player. Mike Evans $7,900 would likely be the other player to pick up the slack in Jackson's absence but Evans has had trouble all year holding onto the ball. With Winston likely not getting many yards or TDs as normal even the hole from Jackson isn't worth fielding your team with Buccaneers.
When we turn to the Rams passing game you should just move on each and every week. Case Keenum $6,000 has now started two games this season and recorded yardage totals of 136 and 124 in those two games. That's all you need to know. It also puts Jared Cook $4,700, Kenny Britt $5,000, Tavon Austin $5,900 completely off limits.
Todd Gurley $8,900 is certainly the highlight of the game as he can break a big play at any given time. The problem with Gurley is that when he doesn't break a big play he is a below average back that can't gain many yards after contact as witnessed by his week 9-13 performances. Over his career I expect Gurley to be a successful running back that overcomes this issue but I haven't seen the success so far this year. The Rams even started abandoning his game in weeks 12 and 13. But last week with an ineffective Keenum managing the game the Rams turned back to Gurley after having gotten away from him the last few games. He answered with a strong 140 yards on 16 carries plus two TDs. Unfortunately, that was Gurley's first 100 yard game since Week 8. Gurley is going to be popular after last week's game but I would expect the Buccaneers to be prepared for Gurley and sell out to stop the run in order to make Keenum beat them. It's very unlikely he will be able have a lot of success in doing so.
Doug Martin $7,400 had a disappointing 11 carries last week in a prime matchup against the Saints but he continued to impress by totaling 81 yards and a TD on those carries. That shot his season average up to a 5.1 yards per carry clip which is by far the best of his career. Getting Martin more involved in the game plan might be yet another way that the Buccaneers try to fill the void created by Jackson's missed game. The problem is game script could play havoc just like last week where the game is shortened by a run heavy Rams attack and there aren't many plays for Martin to execute or the Buccaneers fall behind hence my reason for staying away.