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 on Sunday. 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.
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 and you don't own him, 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's game should be a good offensive game as New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins. These are two of the hotter teams this year. The Patriots have been on a roll all season long outscoring teams by an average of 14 points per game and lead the AFC east by 2 games over the Jets who they beat last week. In beating the Jets, the Patriots scored 30 points after the Jets had only allowed 75 total in their first five games. Amazingly, the 30 points scored by the Patriots actually decreased their average output all the way down to 35.5 points per game.
The Dolphins on the other hand are riding a hot streak themselves. After firing Joe Philbin following a 1-3 start they have reeled off two straight convincing wins over the Titans 38-10 and last week over the Texans 44-26 which they led 41-0 at half time. This week's game is a little tougher though. Beating up on the Titans and Texans is one thing but can they do the same to the Patriots?
The oddsmakers have listed the Patriots as eight-point favorites, so it seems like they aren't really of the mindset that Dan Campbell has miraculously turned the Dolphins around, and I tend to believe that as well. As much as the media likes to beat the drum that firing a coach will turn your season around on a dime, history actually tells us that teams rarely improve the rest of the season once you account for natural regression to the mean. As such, you should expect the Dolphins to be roughly the same team we thought earlier in the year more so than these last two weeks. I agree with this sentiment and see the Patriots continuing their winning ways with a 32-20 win. The high scoring nature of this game coupled with it being on Thursday night and players being heavily owned as such make this game a risky game to play or fade so be careful managing your bankroll.
I normally like to start with the quarterbacks, but let's be honest the passing game really starts and ends with Rob Gronkowski ($8,400) in New England. Gronkowski, of course, scored the game winning touchdown last week. Gronkowski is the best non-quarterback in the league and this week he should have no trouble reaching value in this high-scoring game against the Dolphins. The only question will be whether you want to fade him and look for a cheaper value play on Sunday or go with the masses and slightly overpay for him. I will probably just take the safe route and pay up for Gronkowski and beat the masses elsewhere. In GPPs, I have no problems going against the grain.
But of course someone has to throw the ball to Gronkowski and the Patriots have one of the hottest QBs in the league doing so in Tom Brady ($9,200). While Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are starting to show their age a bit, Brady has looked as good as ever this season, averaging 342 yards per game, which would be his best season by far. As with Gronkowski, the biggest worry about Brady is going to be whether you want to slightly slightly overpay for him and go with the masses, or fade him and take your chances on a better value play later in the week. As with Gronkowski, my advice is that you stick with Brady and beat folks elsewhere.
One question I will get asked quite often is, "Does it make sense to stack Brady and Gronkowski in a cash game?" The answer is a resounding yes. Obviously we all know that stacking those two in a GPP leads to a higher upside, which in turn should cause a bigger downside. But when two players offer excellent value that downside risk is offset by better value. Additionally, in this case we are mitigating another downside risk which is that both of these players will likely be very heavily owned. Their high ownership levels would put you at risk of losing the contest if either blew up like they are capable of doing.
As for the rest of the Patriots passing game, Julian Edelman ($7,600) has looked a bit inconsistent the last two games after injuring his finger in the Colts game and then getting blown up early in the game last week against the Jets. Edelman was still heavily targeted (9 targets) but only reeled in 5 of the passes for 54 yards.
Miami could find themselves trailing early and often, which of course makes the passing game interesting. Ryan Tannehill ($7,700) is playing the best ball of his career after completing 18 of 19 passes last week and 22 of 29 the week before for 266 and 282 yards, respectively, in his first two games under Campbell. Unfortunately, this has caused his price to increase to levels that just don't make sense even with how well he is playing. I am going to fade him in this matchup with the Patriots. I don't even particularly like him as a GPP candidate because your hope is that he will be playing catchup which means the Patriots and Tom Brady will already have had a good game.
I am also going to pass on all of his targets. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Jarvis Landry. Unfortunately, the problem is since Campbell has taken over, the Dolphins have really started to spread the ball around. For the first four weeks of the season, Landry was averaging 11.75 targets per game. Since the coaching change, that has decreased to 4.5. Two games doesn't necessarily make a trend, and he was still tied for second in targets since the coaching change, but I don't want to invest in someone until I know he is going to be targeted more heavily.
The other two target-leaders since the coaching change have been Jordan Cameron (10) and Rishard Matthews (9). As long as the Dolphins continue to spread the ball around so much I am going to pass on their passing game other than GPPs. All three of these receivers are in play for GPPs with Cameron the least appealing.
As the game is likely to be high scoring both team's running games are certainly in play as they could score early and often. However, none of the running backs are great value. Lamar Miller ($7,400) will likely be very popular after blowing up last week for 226 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. But I would be hesitant to put him into my lineup. As we mentioned above it is very likely that the Dolphins will be trailing a good amount of this game. As such they may take the ball out of Miller's hand and trust their hot quarterback. Miller stays involved in the passing game so that doesn't ruin his value but it will certainly hinder it. I will probably get some shares but I doubt I will be as invested in Miller as the general public.
As for the Patriots, they are always a bit of a challenge to pick since their roles depend so heavily on game flow. With this game likely trending towards a second half lead, look for the carries to be split fairly evenly with LeGarrette Blount ($6,200) getting the majority of the carries in the second half after Dion Lewis ($7,000) eats in the first half. When all is said and done, that makes them too risky for me to play in any cash games, but they are plenty in play for GPPs since they could easily see two touchdowns.