Fantasy Decisions: TNF Preview and Weekly Rankings


Thursday Night Football (TNF) is fantastic for the NFL. The juggernaut gets to lay claim to yet another day of the week and reap the benefits in the form of TV dollars. Between Sunday, Monday and now Thursday the NFL is the most watched program on TV three days out of the week. But for fantasy owners, TNF isn’t such a celebrated event. Yes, it gives us another night to root for our players, but it also means making many lineup decisions by Thursday afternoon rather than being granted the typical waiting period until Sunday roster locks. If you’ve played (or watched) TNF with any regularity, you quickly realize it’s just a different type of game. Games seem sloppier, scoring seems weird, and the players don’t seem as invested. And know this, your fantasy roster is absolutely affected by these odd events. In 2013, ESPN conducted a study looking at statistical differences in fantasy performances on Thursday night and the results were eye-popping. In general, three positions suffered greatly while one benefited from the mid-week event. Of the utmost importance, realize that if you have a quarterback playing TNF, expect to be underwhelmed. On all non-Thursday games (Sunday morning and afternoon, SNF, and MNF) QBs scoring average is 14.8. On Thursdays? A mere 11.9 points a game. That’s a difference of nearly three points a game, a massive statistical deviation. And as you may have expected, wide receivers and tight ends are subject to this disappointment as well. On average, a team’s wide receiving core averages 20.4 and the tight end group 7.0. But on TNF? Those numbers go down to 18.3 and 4.5 respectively.  But fret not, there is one positive to come out of the study. Due to a lack of firepower from passing offenses, defensive units tend to outperform the average. The average scoring from defenses goes from 6.8 to 8.6 on TNF. Also worth noting, running backs tend to be unaffected by the mid-week affair, seeing their average actually bump up from 15.9 to 16.2. So in summary, if you’ve got Aaron Rodgers tonight, you’re obviously not sitting him but be prepared to be underwhelmed.

TNF Preview

·      QBs

o   Teddy Bridgewater- Teddy exploded in his first career start this pass Sunday throwing for 317 yards and rushing for a touchdown. Unfortunately, he left the game with an ankle injury and is questionable coming into tonight’s game. Even if he is active, he should only be started in desperate situations. A rookie QB on a weak ankle in Lambeau screams STAY AWAY.

o   Aaron Rodgers- Last week in Chicago, Rodgers picked apart the Bears secondary to the tune of 302 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Packer QB will look to pick up right where he left off. Again, keep in mind the aforementioned disappoint quarterback stats, but you’re not sitting Rodgers. The last two QBs to face Minnesota, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, scored 19 and 20 points respectively. Start him but temper expectations.

·      RBs

o   Matt Asiata/Jerick McKinnon

§  Asiata is still the lead back in the Minnesota, but McKinnon is right at his heels begging for more touches. Asiata is coming off a fantastic game where he totaled more than 100 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. But McKinnon did his part as well; taking 18 carries for 135 yards. For now, Asiata remains the starter and will get red zone carries, but McKinnon is going to be taking more and more touches away as the season wears on. As for tonight, Asiata seems like a solid RB2 with McKinnon drawing flex consideration in deeper leagues. The Packers front seven has been lacking through the quarter mark of the season so look for the Vikings to exploit that weakness.

o   Eddie Lacy

§  Lacy has really struggled out of the gates. He’s yet to run for over 48 yards in a game and has only one touchdown, which came in his last game. A universal first round pick, owners are begging for Lacy to step up and prove his worth. With rain predicted tonight, it might be time for Lacy to wash away the bad feelings that surround him by busting out against the Vikings. I’m expecting Lacy’s first truly dominant game to come tonight in the form of 100 yards and 2 touchdowns.

·      WRs

o   Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings

§  With Bridgewater considered questionable, the two WRs should probably be sat in almost every format this week. Patterson always has the ability to break off a 70 yard touchdown but he hasn’t proven consistent enough to warrant starting status. As for Jennings, the longtime veteran has proven disappointing. While he has had at least 70 yards each of the last two weeks, it just doesn’t seem like that trend will continue on a dreary night in Wisconsin. If you have to, flex Cordarrelle but Jennings shouldn’t be played anywhere. Side note: if you’re looking for any positives about Jairus Wright, don’t expect them in this article. Yes he had eight receptions for a 132 yards last week, but that will prove more anomaly than anything else.

o   Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb

§  The Packers wide receiving duo has been fantasy’s best combo punch thus far, ranking second and fifth respectively amongst WRs. Jordy has at least nine receptions in three of four weeks and is the number one option on a high-power offense. He is a surefire number one receiver and every league and should be treated no differently tonight. Cobb, fantasy’s fifth ranked receiver, is a little more touchdown dependent than Nelson having only eclipsed the 100 yard marker once this year. Due to Cobb’s draft status, he likely has to be started in almost every format but please temper your expectations. In what looks like a nasty night, don’t expect an impressive performance

·      Other TNF notes

o   With Minnesota TE Kyle Rudolph hurt and Green Bay TE Andrew Quarless not a factor in his offense, neither TE is worth starting tonight

o   Packers defense looks like a sneaky good play tonight, especially while potentially playing against Christian Ponder. Expect a few turnovers and a handful of sacks as well


Weekly Rankings

·      QB

1.     Drew Brees

2.     Philip Rivers

3.     Andrew Luck

4.     Aaron Rodgers

5.     Peyton Manning

6.     Matthew Stafford

7.     Matt Ryan

8.     Eli Manning

9.     Cam Newton

10.  Ben Roethlisberger

11.  Russell Wilson

12.  Jay Cutler

13.  Tony Romo

14.  Colin Kaepernick

15.  Nick Foles

16.  Joe Flacco

17.  Alex Smith

18.  Andy Dalton

19. Ryan Fitzpatrick

20. Mike Glennon

·      RB

1.     Demarco Murray

2.     Giovani Bernard

3.     Le’Veon Bell

4.     Marshawn Lynch

5.     Arian Foster

6.     Matt Forte

7.     Rashad Jennings

8.     Jamaal Charles

9.     Eddie Lacy

10.  LeSean McCoy

11. Frank Gore

12. Andre Ellington

13. Montee Ball

14. Matt Asiata

15. Zac Stacy

16. Alfred Morris

17. Reggie Bush

18. Ahmad Bradshaw

19. Ben Tate

20. Doug Martin

21. Bishop Sankey

22. C.J. Spiller

23. Chris Ivory

24. Khiry Robinson

25. Justin Forsett

·      WR

1.     Antonio Brown

2.     Calvin Johnson

3.     Jordy Nelson

4.     A.J. Green

5.     Julio Jones

6.     Dez Bryant

7.     Demaryius Thomas

8.     Brandon Marshall

9.     Michael Crabtree

10. Randall Cobb

11.  Jeremy Maclin

12.  Keenan Allen

13.  Steve Smith

14.  Alshon Jeffery

15.  Percy Harvin

16.  Andre Johnson

17.  Vincent Jackson

18.  Victor Cruz

19.  Emmanuel Sanders

20.  Kelvin Benjamin

21.  Reggie Wayne

22.  Sammy Watkins

23.  Deandre Hopkins

24.  Michael Floyd

25.  Julian Edelman

·      TE

1.     Jimmy Graham

2.     Julius Thomas

3.     Rob Gronkowski

4.     Martellus Bennett

5.     Heath Miller

6.     Greg Olsen

7.     Larry Donnell

8.     Travis Kelce

9.     Jordan Cameron

10.  Delanie Walker

11.  Antonio Gates

12.  Owen Daniels

13.  Garrett Graham

14.  Zach Ertz

15.  Jason Witten

·      Defense/ST

1.     Seahawks

2.     Chargers

3.     49ers

4.     Packers

5.     Lions

6.     Steelers

7.     Bengals

8.     Broncos

9.     Eagles

10.  Panthers

11.  Browns

12.  Titans

13.  Saints

14.  Texans

15.  Cowboys

·      Flex

1.     Demarco Murray

2.     Giovani Bernard

3.     Le’Veon Bell

4.     Marshawn Lynch

5.     Antonio Brown

6.     Calvin Johnson

7.     Jordy Nelson

8.     Arian Foster

9.     Matt Forte

10.  Rashad Jennings

11.  Jamaal Charles

12.  A.J. Green

13.  Julio Jones

14.  Dez Bryant

15.  Demaryius Thomas

16.  Eddie Lacy

17.  LeSean McCoy

18.  Frank Gore

19.  Andre Ellington

20.  Montee Ball

21.  Brandon Marshall

22.  Michael Crabtree

23.  Randall Cobb

24.  Matt Asiata

25.  Zac Stacy

26.  Alfred Morris

27.  Reggie Bush

28.  Jeremy Maclin

29.  Keenan Allen

30.  Steve Smith

31.  Alshon Jeffery

32. Percy Harvin

33. Andre Johnson

34. Vincent Jackson

35.  Ahmad Bradshaw

36. Ben Tate

37.  Doug Martin

38.  Bishop Sankey

39.  C.J. Spiller

40.  Victor Cruz

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This has been another edition of Fantasy Decisions with Bradley Maddox. Always remember: An elite owner stays ahead of the curve