Week 15 Thursday Night Spotlight

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

hursday Night Football should be viewed as an island unto itself in the scope of the DFS NFL scene. With the Thursday Night game being nationally televised, representing the beginning of each week’s action, and being separated from the slate’s other games by multiple days, ownership of these players tends to be greater than it would be otherwise. As a result, the rostering decisions you make with respect to the Thursday Night game are far more binary than normal.

Each week, we’ll be previewing this game with the intention of finding cash game and GPP plays. However, because of the higher ownership that comes with Thursday Night players, there are generally fewer contrarian options to target from this game, relative to the other games contained in a weekly slate. It follows that since top options from the Thursday Night game are going to have a greater rate of ownership than similarly valued pieces from other games, we will often recommend such players as cash game plays, as a means of preventing an early deficit across the majority of your cash games.

Concerning GPPs, you will notice that we tend to highlight few players from the Thursday Night game as ideal tournament options. Our Steve Buzzard wrote a great article on the importance and impact of selecting tournament plays that have are likely to have lower ownership. Applying that logic in practice, the decision to fade the popular players from Thursday night games, that we know are likely to be more heavily owned than they should be, can enhance your standing relative to the field far more than if this game was being played in a different timeslot.

GAME SCRIPT

To say the least, this week’s Thurday Night Football affair probably will not one of the more enthralling games of the 2016 season. Vegas has slotted the host Seahawks as 14 point favorites over the Rams,showing very little respect for the team that has taken three straight games in this series. The Rams have of course earned this lack of confidence, losing four straight games by an average of 19 points – ultimately culminating in a 28 point loss to the Falcons on Sunday and subsequent firing of Jeff Fisher on Monday. Facing a Seahawks team looking to make a push for a playoff bye in what promises to be an extremely hostile environment, does not bode well for the fundamentally chanllenged Rams offense. Vegas projects the Rams to score 12 points in this game, and a 26-12 Seahawks victory overall, but it is difficult to see the Rams even reaching double digits on Thursday. The Seahawks offense has been wildly unpredictable in recent weeks, sandwiching a fantastic performance against the Panthers with two horrific outings. The Rams defense definitely has the talent to make things difficult for Russell Wilson, but it is fair to question if the focus and effort will be there, given how the unit has played of late. A total of 38 points may seem extraordinarily low, but considering that one team may have to do all of the scoring in order for that total to be hit, it is more than fair. I see the Seahawks covering this Thursday, by a score of 27-6, in what promises to be one of the more unwatchable midweek contests of 2016.

RUNNING GAME

Todd Gurley’s struggles have been well documented this season. Averaging only 3.3 yards per carry, the Rams running back has not come close to meeting the lofty expectations assigned him at the season’s outset. Seattle comes into this game allowing only 3.5 yards per carry, second best in the league. Minimal success at best should be the expectation for Gurley this Thursday, and there is little reason to consider him for your lineups.

Thomas Rawls struggled initially returning from injury in week 11, running for a combined 95 yards on 26 totes in his first two games. In Week 13 however, Rawls finally broke out, amassing 106 yards and two touchdowns in the Seahawks’ 40-7 victory over the Panthers. The game flow this Thursday definitely projects to favor Rawls, similarly to how that week 13 affair did – as the Seahawks should have little trouble jumping out to a sizable lead against the Rams. A quick check of the box score this past week does show that Rawls only got 12 carries, and that his backup Alex Collins received seven carries. Two points of note here though are that rushing attempts were not bountiful, as the Seahawks were trailing throughout, and that Collins received five of his seven carries on the team’s final drive, long after the game had been decided. Rawls should have no trouble seeing at least 15 touches on Thursday, and is a great bet to find the end zone. Week 15 brings us ample mid range options at running back, who will certainly be very popular targets. The appeal with players such as Bilal Powell and Kenneth Farrow is obvious, but I like Rawls as a similarly priced pivot, especially in tournaments, and an excellent option in both cash and tournaments in the Thursday/Saturday slate.

PASSING GAME

We can quickly dismiss Rams quarterback Jared Goff as an option this week. The rookie failed to take advantage of a dream scenario this past week at home against the Falcons awful pass defense, throwing for 235 yards and two interceptions. On the road going up against the Seahawks secondary, he warrants zero consideration. In fact, it is fair to expect the Seahawks defense to be one of the more chalk plays of the entire slate.

Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin are the only two Rams receiving options that see enough targets to even warrant mentioning here. Both saw double digit targets this past week, but Britt has been the far more consistent option all season. Britt is approaching 1,000 receiving yards on the season - quite the accomplishment given the state of the Rams offense. Additionally, he was able to total 94 yards on six catches against the Seahawks in week two. While his pricing is certainly reasonable relative to his output this season, the sense I am getting is that in rostering him, you would really be praying for him to hit 3x value as a best case scenario, with obvious downside in play given the likelihood that the Rams will struggle to move the ball with any consistency this Thursday. I love Britt as a talent, but do not want to tie my cash or tournament lineups to Jared Goff’s arm. Tavon Austin’s calling card is supposed to be his explosiveness, but the receiver has not recorded a play of 25 yards or more since five. His nine touch, 89 yard performance this past week was nice to see, but he had not eclipsed 45 receiving yards in any of his previous four games. Further uninspiring, Austin has not totaled more than 30 yards in any of his last three encounters with the Seahawks. He is an easy pass this week.

Russell Wilson’s price is largely reflective of his recent struggles, as Wilson can now be had at a cost similar to many of the mid-tier quarterback options, as opposed to being grouped amongst the elite players at his position, which we have historically been accustomed to. He is coming into this game on the heels of a horrendous four game stretch in which he has not crossed 280 yards passing, or accounted for more than one touchdown in any contest. Unfortunately, Wilson also is riding a four game streak of poor play against the Rams, averaging 258 yards passing with a 3:3 Touchdown to Interception ratio in that span. That being said, the Rams have been torched for 117 points the past three weeks, and it’s fair to wonder if the dismal nature of this season has taken an effect on what had been a proud and productive Rams defense. The opportunity should be there for Wilson to bust out of his prolonged slump this week, but his recent play has me taming my expectations, and only considering him as someone to allocate a marginal percentage of tournament stake toward.

Though his weekly fantasy output has not been overly productive, Doug Baldwin has been nothing if not consistent in recent weeks, catching six or more passes in five of six games – and recording a 100 yard effort in the lone outlier in that span. Baldwin’s consistent target numbers, seven or more targets in three straight games, make it likely that if the Seahawks passing game does finally get back on track, he is likely to be a primary beneficiary. Priced as top 12 receiver, I am not looking to roster Baldwin in cash games, but a stack with Russell Wilson in tournaments is a viable method of attaining exposure to this game.

If Doug Baldwin is too pricey for your taste, Tyler Lockett is the other viable option in the Seahawks passing game. Lockett has seen his role in the passing game grow as the season has progressed, as he has seen six targets in each of the team’s last three games. The Seahawks clearly are looking to leverage his explosive abilities however possible, as they have allocated him at least one carry the past three weeks, as well – with his lone rush two weeks ago going for a 75 yard touchdown. No other player in this game offers the upside that Lockett does relative to his price, however he also comes with the risk of returning 1x value (or less.) Because of his volatility, I am only considering Lockett in tournaments.

Jimmy Graham has unquestionably re-emerged as a top tight end option in 2016, but he has scuffled of late, much like the rest of the Seahawks offense. Graham has not breached 70 yards in any of his last five contests, and given that the Seahawks are unlikely to be throwing actively for the entirety of this game, he is likely going to need to score a touchdown this week in order to hit value. From the scope of the full week’s slate, Graham is not my preferred choice amongst the elite tight ends.

SUMMARY

With only a team total of 12 points, I am not giving serious consideration to any Rams this week. Thomas Rawls is my favorite Seahawk this week, as he has been coming on in recent weeks, and game flow most definitely will be in his favor. I am not overly enthuasiastic concerning the Seahawks passing game, as the entire unit has struggled recently, and additionally have not faired well against the Rams in recent meetings. Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, and Tyler Lockett are all in consideration for tournaments, but I do not have enough faith to trust any of them in cash games.


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