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 Thursday's game might be a good time for you to catch up on your household chores as the Cleveland Browns travel down the highway to face the Cincinnati Bengals. The odds makers have slated the Bengals as 11 point favorites with a total of 46 which puts the anticipated score at approximately 28.5-17.5. Final scores of games that get in the blow out territory are always tough to predict but I don't see the Browns keeping it competitive.
One thing that we should expect in blow outs is the trailing team taking to the air and the winning team taking to the ground in the second half. As such when building your projections and game scripts make sure you are adjusting teams for their normal passing tendencies based on the expected outcome of the game. On the other hand, if you are playing a GPP you may want to take the opposite approach and hope the game goes completely off script in the hopes everyone plays standard game scripts. Just due this in moderation as games go as planned more often than they haywire.
Andy Dalton ($8,200) is off to an amazing start this year as he is on pace to set career highs in almost every category including 284 passing yards per game, 8.6 yards per pass attempt along with a stellar 15/4 TD to INT ratio. We should expect the trend to continue this week in a plus matchup against the Browns who have allowed 7.5 yards per attempt themselves which is well above the league average 6.9. Unfortunately as I mentioned above the problem with Dalton this week is he should build a lead which may require him to throw less passes. If he threw for 220 yards on 25 pass attempts and two touchdowns it wouldn't surprise me in the least bit but it isn't the type of value I am looking for this week so I am passing.
Dalton's receivers face the same issue. A.J. Green ($8,500) has had a great season and is also on pace for a career high yards per game total of 92.7 which was greatly assisted by his Week 3 performance against the Ravens where he single handedly won plenty of people a GPP. But this week isn't the week throw him into your lineups. Tyler Eifert ($5,800) and Marvin Jones ($5,200) aren't much better either. If I really wanted exposure to the Bengals passing game I would roll with Green has the Browns don't have anyone that can slow him down and he could easily have two TDs in the first half. But he is a GPP only play for me.
When the Browns take to the air they will be relying on Johnny Manziel ($6,500) as Josh McCown is out with rib and shoulder injuries. Manziel has disappointed since he came into the league. For his career Manziel is 46-85 for 568 yards (6.7 YPA) with three TDs and three INTs. He has also added 19 carries for 71 yards (3.7 YPA). These stats were accrued in approximately three starts. Doing the math shows that he is not in line for a very productive game against a Bengals defense that only allows 6.6 yards per attempt themselves.
However, there are four things that make Manziel an interesting GPP play.
1. He will likely be low owned
2. His salary is cheap and paying down at quarterback allows us to pay up at positions that have more volatility.
3. The Browns will likely be trailing which will force the Browns to keep the ball in Manziel's hands.
4. When the ball is in Manziel's hands he can run when needed. Every 10 extra rushing yards that Manziel gets is like 25 passing yards so if he does break a big play or two on the ground he could return value on that low salary. Manziel won't be a staple of my GPP lineups but I will give him a few shots.
If I am playing Manziel I am stacking him with Travis Benjamin ($6,000) who caught all three of Manziel's TD passes this year while compiling 3-89-one and 3-115-two stat lines in those games. Clearly these two were on the same page early in the season and Benjamin fits Manziel's big play style. I still don't see Benjamin as a cash game play but you could do worse than stacking this duo.
Your other option is Gary Barnidge ($6,600) who has been hot since Manziel has come out of the lineup. Unfortunately when Manziel did play he barely looked Barnidge's way as he combined for 4-56 and no TDs over Manziel's two games. Since Manziel has been out Barnidge hasn't had a single game that bad all year. Luckily for Barnidge the Bengals defense has been very suspect against the tight end ranking second to last. If Manziel is smart enough to look for Barnidge he could be in line for a solid game. I just can't trust that he is smart enough to do so.
When the Bengals build the lead they tend to turn to Jeremy Hill ($6,800) to ice the game away so if the game script goes as planned look for Hill to have a big day in the second half. When you think this way you can build some powerful GPP lineups. However, you can't count on Hill in cash games given the nature of his scoring. He could really bust if the Bengals don't build a lead early.
The opposite can be said for Giovani Bernard ($6,200) who should get the majority of his points in the first half of the game but could get pulled while the Bengals ice the game away. The game script doesn't set up pretty for Bernard making him a high risk back without a sturdy floor. It's unusual to not be able to play either back in a game with such a favorable game script in cash games but I don't think you want to this week.
If you are looking for a back on the Browns I would try to look just about anywhere else. Duke Johnson ($5,900) and Isaiah Crowell ($5,300) are going to be off limits until they get a new quarterback, have a great matchup, and one of them gets injured. This week doesn't qualify.
One last place you may want to look for a play in this game is the Bengals defense ($5,000) who will have the chance to cause chaos against Manziel by forcing sacks, causing interceptions, and if they are lucky running back a score.