Week 16 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 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

The Eagles come into this game losers of five straight and seven of eight games, while the Giants have reeled of eight wins in their last nine games. The opposite directions that these teams are heading clearly accounts for why, even on the road, the Giants have been slotted as 2.5 point favorites. Though the teams are heading in directly opposite directions, their offenses have been relatively inept, as both rank in the bottom 13 in yards per game this season. This perhaps explains the relatively low total of 41 points. Eli Manning has not exactly been on fire in recent weeks, failing to surpass 201 yards in any of the team’s past four games. Instead, the Giants have been relying on their defense that has only given up more than 20 points once in their past six games. It is difficult to see the Eagles suddenly playing with the passion required to take down this very much motivated Giants team, and I see both teams staying their present course, with the Giants prevailing 20-13.

RUNNING GAME

The Giants have yet to have a 100 yard runner in a game this season, which essentially sums up the state of their running game. Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins have both seen double digit touches each of the last two weeks, but neither player has even topped 60 yards rushing in that span. Even with Shane Vereen reinjuring his triceps, there is not enough appeal here to consider either as a realistic option.

Ryan Mathews was able to take advtange of having the Eagles’ backfield effectively to himself this past weekend, with Darren Sproles missing Sunday’s game with a concussion. In that game, Mathews set  a season high for yards rushjng, turning 20 carries into 128 yards. Sproles is looking to be on track to return on Thursday however, which should be expected to eat into Mathews’ workload. Equally unhelpful, the Giants come into this game surrendering only 90.1 yards per game on the ground – sixth best in the league. With legitimate volume concerns re-arising in conjunction with Sproles’s integration into the gameplan, I will be steering clear of Mathews. Outside of being on the field for a material amount of snaps, Sproles offers little quantifiable value, as he not surpassed 80 total yards since week 8, and has only even crossed 60 total yards once since then. A dart throw on Sproles would be entirely reliant on him reaching the end zone, which is not a gamble I am looking to take.

PASSING GAME

Despite his team rolling to 10 wins, Eli Manning has seen his production wain in his 13th season, particularly over the past two months, as he has only surpassed 250 yards once over his past eight games. His numbers passing have been even poorer recently, as he has thrown for between 193 and 201 yards in each of his last four games. Manning has failed to take advantage of solid matchups against the Steelers, Browns, and Cowboys in that time frame, and inspires little confidence against an Eagles pass defense that is only allowing 239 yards per game. There is no reason to expect Manning to suddenly break out of his slump with a big game this week.

Odell Beckham Jr Jr has essentially put the Giants’ passing game on his back in recent weeks, accounting for 45 percent of Eli Manning’s passing yards over the past four games. Unfortunately, that only translates to an average of 88.5 yards per game for Beckham. Clearly the focal point of the team’s offense, it’s disheartening to see that Beckham has only surpassed 100 yards receiving on two occasions this season. His 10 receiving scores remind us that despite his team’s anemic passing performance on the whole, Beckham is a good bet to score in any matchup. Unfortunately, given his price tag, one score and 90 yards is not enough to offer an acceptable return on investment. In cash games, I feel that the percentage of your salary cap that would be required to roster Beckham is better off allocated to an elite running back. Beckham is in play for tournaments given how common high-priced running back usage is likely to be in the week 16 slate.

Sterling Shepard is only averaging four catches and 42 yards receiving during his rookie campaign, but he is priced as a mid tier option because he has had a knack for finding the end zone, scoring seven times. Though it is clear that Eli Manning looks to Shepard in the red zone, even if Shepard does score once again, considering how few catches and yards Shepard has been allocating, he would still struggle to truly pay off. Additionally, if Shepard fails to score, you are almost certainly looking at a dead spot on your roster if you plug him in. The lack of upside here has me shying away all together from Shepard.

Despite a dearth of talent at the receiver position, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has managed to put up impressive yardage totals of late, throwing for over 300 yards twice in his last three games. Those strong numbers though have largely been a result of high volume – at least 42 pass attempts in each game in that span – moreso than efficiency and effectiveness by Wentz. His true quality of play has really manifested itself in the red zone, as Wentz has yet to account for three touchdowns in any game in his rookie season. This ineffectiveness in the area of the field that contributes so much to a quarterback’s fantasy success, really limits Wentz’s appeal. His matchup with the Giants in week nine was highly characteristic of Wentz’s play on the whole in 2016, as he threw for 364 yards on 47 attempts, however he had no touchdowns and two interceptions. Wentz may throw for a good chunk of yards this week, but expecting that to translate to a usable fantasy performance is unwise.

Jordan Matthews has received the target allotment consistent with a number one receiver, seeing double digits targets in six of his last seven games. Unfortunately, that has failed to translate into a useful fantasy output, as Matthews has not topped 90 yards in any game in that timeframe, and has only reached pay dirt once in that stretch. Matthews’s decidedly middling production of late does not have me hopeful for a sudden outburst this Thursday. Zach Ertz has emerged as the de facto number two receiver for the Eagles as the season has progressed. While he averaged just five targets over his first seven contests played, Ertz has seen close to 11 balls thrown his way over his last five games. Ertz has converted his increased role into production, amassing at least 79 yards each of the last three Sundays. His touchdown upside as limited, as the offense as a whole has struggled to reach the end zone, but I am behind Ertz as a cash game target, given his consistency and the injuries that have effected so many of the premier options at the position.

SUMMARY

I do not see substantial offensive fireworks in this game. Neither offense has been particularly dynamic of late, and on a short week I doubt either team will even reach 25 points. Zach Ertz is my favorite target for cash games from this week’s showdown, as he is seeing plenty of targets, and the lack of quality options at the tight end position makes him viable even if he is not overly likely to score. Odell Beckham Jr is only an option for me in tournaments, as the Giants passing game has been lacking on the whole for the past two months, and in cash games I prefer to use the share of my salary that would be needed to roster Beckham, as a means to slot in a top running back.


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