Is there a better day in the year?
Welcome, to one of my most favorite days of the year! A full day of football this Thursday is upon us and as a result, monster DFS contests. What better way to sit back and enjoy three games in the middle of the week than to have some action on them? DraftKings, as usual, has presented us with plenty of high paying tournaments on Thursday. With so much variance and just three games, it is the most unique slate of the year.
That being said, this article is going to be written different. Instead of suggesting the top plays, we are going to look more at DFS strategy. There is a huge edge to be had on Thursday and we will be there to take full advantage. Without wasting any more time, let’s dive into it!
First and foremost, contest selection. One of the most important decisions to make in any NFL DFS slate. This week, even more so. There are so many casual football fans who will be excited to throw a couple of dollars into big tournaments in the hopes of taking down a huge contest. Unaware of ownership percentages, stacking, or the value of using leverage, these lineups will never win and are easy to take advantage of.
Now in 2020, most strong DFS players know the importance of stacking. Correlation is the best path to winning tournaments. This statement carries more weight with smaller slates of games. It has been proven over and over again. I am not talking about a QB and WR pairing. I am talking about using a QB, RB, WR, and TE (or a combination of three to four players in different positions) all in the same game.
The most powerful concept in DFS. It is the ability to have the mindset to “zig” when others “zag”. To win large field GPP’s, you need to first determine what your competition is going to do. Then hope and pray for an alternative outcome that no-one expects to happen. This results similarly to “doubling down” where you will gain massive advantages against the rest of the field. Again, with just three games, most people playing DFS will only chose players who they feel comfortable and confident with. Variance would suggest there is no sure thing in the NFL…
Houston Texans (-3.0) @ Detroit Lions (+3.0): O/U 51.5
With the highest projected game total, we will likely see a considerable amount of ownership on the Texans. Detroit is as close to a dumpster fire as we’ve seen all year. They were just shutout to a Panthers team lead by rookie and XFL star, P.J. Walker. What’s worse is that Walker had a solid fantasy day and in the week prior, Alex Smith was able to throw nearly 400 yards against them. Now they need to slow down the dynamic Deshaun Watson? Good Luck.
It is important to note that it is extremely easy to predict what the rest of the field is going to do here. Without Randall Cobb, the receiver tree is narrow. You can include Keke Coutee, but realistically, it’s Fuller and Cooks. Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, and Duke Johnson are all projected to see between 40-50%+ ownership. If you decide to stack this team, you won’t be alone. Consider pivoting off one of these guys to Jordan Akins who is expected to see around 15% ownership. In addition, if you think Houston is putting up a ton of points, that means Detroit will likely be throwing the ball all game. Marvin Jones is the obvious bring back choice. Again, get different. By rostering either (or both) of Danny Amendola and/or Marvin Hall, your lineup instantly becomes unique.
If you want to take it a step further, do not hesitate to roster Matthew Stafford. Add two pass catchers on Detroit, with either Fuller or Cooks. You do not need to have every single player on your team with low-ownership. You do, however, need a couple of under the radar guys to shoot up the leader board.
Top Plays: Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, D’Andre Swift, Marvin Jones
Top GPP Plays: Matthew Stafford, Marvin Hall, Jordan Akins
WAS (+3.0) @ DAL (-3.0): O/U 46
The second game of the day is an interesting one. Ezekiel Elliot and Terry McLaurin are two of the more recognizable fantasy names on the day. Ownership will follow these two, no doubt. But there is not a ton of interest on the rest of the players in this game. Similar to Detroit and Houston, this is perfect to gain an edge in leverage.
Currently, Elliot is projected to see around 75% ownership. This is not all that surprising, considering he had a good day last week and is the only real running back who every football fan knows on this slate. Consider this; if Elliot is the top fantasy scoring running back on the day, you still have to compete with 75% of the field for first. Now there is a good chance he scores the most points at the position. But how many lineups, of the 75% playing Zeke, do you think are going to play Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, or Michael Gallup? Probably not a lot. They would negatively correlate with one another. Taking the Dallas pass attack will not only help you get ahead of the field if they do well because of low-ownership, but that also means Zeke probably is not going off. Hence, the double down scenario.
Terry McLaurin is a bit of a different conversation. He can do well, on his own, without the quarterback putting up many fantasy points. He is going to be one of the higher owned wide receivers, for good reason. He is in line for a big game against a pretty bad Cowboys secondary. McLaurin has seen at least seven targets in every single game this year. He is quarterback proof and is tough to fade any week.
Washington does not present a lot of fantasy relevant options. Antonio Gibson is fine, although his upside is limited in the pass-catching department. J.D. McKissic is a viable option if you are looking to get unique with a low-owned player. He does present upside after seeing 19 targets in his last three games.
Top Plays: Ezekiel Elliot, Terry McLaurin
Top GPP Plays: Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, J.D. McKissic
BAL (+5.0) @ PIT (-5.0): O/U 44.5
Finally, two good teams. The talk of the week has been around Gus Edwards after both J.K Dobbins and Mark Ingram tested positive for COVID-19. Initially, I thought Edwards was going to be the most popular player on DraftKings this Thursday. As we get closer to kickoff though, he appears to be coming in much less owned. With Pittsburgh presenting as one of the tougher matchups and salary not being much of a factor, I can understand Edwards being forgotten about.
The Ravens and Steelers duked it out only five weeks ago in a classic AFC North slugfest. A true ground and pound game saw Edwards finding success rushing 16 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. In that game, J.K. Dobbins also rushed 15 times for 115 yards. Considering we can choose from Ezekiel Elliot, James Conner, Antonio Gibson, Duke Johnson, and maybe D’Andre Swift, the clear feature back for Baltimore stands out as a fantastic option.
We can find the most leverage by rostering the Ravens offense. The Steelers DST will be one of the more popular options, again, due to lack of options. If this holds true, a combination of offensive players could easily shoot you to the top of GPP’s. Marquise Brown has been one of the larger fantasy disappointments this year and should be used at your own risk. Not only does he simply not look good this year, but Jackson has started to zero in on Willie Snead more often.
Another decision to make is Mark Andrews. I personally will not have a single share of him this Thursday. He is projected to be the highest owned tight end by a wide margin. Additionally, Pittsburgh ranks 1st in DVOA against the TE position. They are allowing just 4.5 fantasy points against to the position. Week 8, Andrews saw three receptions for 32 yards. If Andrews ends up scoring the third or fourth most fantasy points of tight ends, at nearly 50% ownership and $5,200, he presents as one of the greatest position opportunity loss players on the slate.
On the Pittsburgh side. No player is going to come in highly owned. The Baltimore defense is well respected in the industry and this game is projecting to be a similar outcome as the first meeting. All offensive weapons are certainly viable. Ben Roethlisberger has shown a liking to his young receivers as well as tight end Eric Ebron. With that, James Conner has struggled lately against some easy matchups. While other teams present as more fantasy-friendly options, game-stacking this one will go significantly overlooked.
Top Plays: Guss Edwards
Top GPP Plays: All offensive players in the game
More than anything, have fun with this slate. Do not dump in more money than you are willing to lose. The best part about the Thanksgiving Day slate is that you can create unique and somewhat bizarre lineups. One thing I can guarantee is that the lineup who wins the largest tournaments will be contrarian. Good luck and let’s cash.