FanDuel: Thursday Night Spotlight

Analyzes the game script for the Thursday night game. Examines factors to consider in setting Thursday night lineups, including injury considerations.

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.

Thursday night game script

This week Washington heads to New York to take on the Giants. The odds makers have instilled the Giants as a solid 3.5-point favorite in the game with a middling 44 points as the total. The Giants enter the game at 0-2 and in desperate need of a win against a division rival. Washington, on the other hand, find themselves in a good spot to be the surprise leader of the division after three weeks if they can win and the Cowboys lose. I think the odds makers have this one pegged well. I see the Giants winning this game to stay in contention for the division.

Passing game

The Giants passing game starts and ends with Odell Beckham Jr Jr. ($9,100) who had a big game last week against the Atlanta recording seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. Beckham did this despite what looked to be a challenging matchup against Desmond Trufant. That’s because Beckham was all over the field and has only been lining up on the left side on 46% of the snaps. When he does line up on the left side this week he will be matched up against Deangelo Hall. Beckham should have no troubles with Hall and makes for a great start this week, especially in cash games. But then again you could say that nearly every week since as we saw last week matchup shouldn’t be a deterrent in your Beckham usage. If you are playing in GPPs you could certainly fade Beckham given his projected high ownership rates. The worry is his high ownership projection and the possibility that he explodes for a huge game against a risk taker like Hall makes it a high risk proposition.

The rest of the Giants passing game isn’t nearly as interesting as Washington has only allowed their first two opponents to combine for 39-66 for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Of course those two opponents were the Rams and the Dolphins but when any team can put up 300 passing yards per game any given week holding teams to that over two games should raise eyebrows. That leaves Eli Manning ($8,000) as too expensive for my taste. The rest of the receivers aren’t much better even though there should be extra targets to go around with the Giants somewhat surprisingly cutting Preston Parker this week after some awful drops the first two weeks. Leave Larry Donnell ($5,400) and Rueben Randle ($5,400) for another week.

When Washington has the ball they will likely take to the ground. Thus far this season they have attempted 58 passes compared to 74 rushing attempts. When they do take to the air they are below average as Kirk Cousins ($6,200) has been asked to be a game manager so as not to make mistakes and avoid the question of going to Robert Griffin III III. Through two games Cousins is averaging 6.2 net yards per attempt. Look elsewhere for your quarterback.

However, despite the lack of passing yards Cousins’ pass catchers are still interesting due to the absence of Desean Jackson.  Through the first two games Pierre Garcon ($5,900) and Jordan Reed ($5,300) have been heavily targeted with Garcon receiving 27% of the targets and Reed 30%. In particular, Reed’s targets are outstanding for a tight end with only Tyler Eiffert receiving a higher percent of his team’s targets. Last week the Giants left Jacob Tamme wide open for his longest catch of his career on the way to a four-catch 77 yard game. Don’t be surprised to see Reed beat that and makes for a fine tight end play this week. My only concern last week was his potential quad injury but he played almost the entire game last week and was left off the injury reports this week.

Garcon on the other hand is in a tough situation. I took advantage of Garcon’s matchup last week and I think he is in another good situation this week as he will likely see a lot of Prince Amukamara. The problem is for his price point and the expected total he is a little too risky for a cash game play. Additionally, given the high expected ownership rates, due to Thursday night, and Cousins’ game manager mentality I think you should pass on him in GPPs as well.

Running game

If the Giants do build a lead they should try to ice the game away on the ground. Unfortunately, they don’t really have a solid run game to turn to in order to do so. What’s worse the Giants are giving carries to all three of their lead backs; Rashad Jennings ($6,200), Shane Vereen ($6,100), and Andre Williams ($5,400). So far the split this year has seen Jennings receiving 47% of the carries with Vereen and Williams at 19% and 26% respectively. A split close to this should continue to make none of them an interesting option this week.

When Washington takes to the ground they will also be splitting up their carries between the always over rated Alfred Morris ($6,600) and the exciting rookie Matt Jones ($6,400). Last week Jones cemented himself into the running back rotation by putting up a huge game to the tune of 19 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns. If you played Jones last week you probably won your game. The problem is you don’t get points from last week this week. Don’t let recency bias cloud your judgement Jones will likely be the low end of the running back split with it shaping up something like 55% to Morris and 45% to Jones. At those ratios and their prices you can’t play either. Let’s hope the splits start to trend to Jones in the future so we can take advantage of him in future weeks before he gets too expensive.

Defense and Special Teams

While the offenses aren’t expected to score much we still can’t trust either of the defenses in this game since the score is projected to be close which will keep either team from playing in full desperation mode. As such you should ignore both New York ($4,200) and Washington ($4,100). If you are really looking for some extra action on this game you could do worse than going with Josh Brown who was surprisingly left at ($4,500) despite a decent performance of nine points last week and extremely high ownership rates.

As always please send any questions to or follow me on Twitter Follow @SteveBuzzard.

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