For each of the featured games, typically Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football slates, we will be providing free analysis for the single-slate action on DraftKings and FanDuel. This will include team capsules, player rankings, comments and NFL DFS picks for today. There are loads of information and NFL DFS showdown picks to get into for both DraftKings and FanDuel on this Week 3 Thursday Night Football slate featuring the Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers.
NFL DFS Showdown Picks: Week 3 Thursday Night Football
This has been a rough start to the season for Houston, who will be without quarterback Tyrod Taylor, receivers Danny Amendola and Nico Collins, and a host of defensive players. By comparison, the Panthers are relatively healthy and will be coming in as road favorites by just over a touchdown.
Sam Darnold has been solid through two weeks, and he is on the fringe of being a top-10 fantasy producer. He is averaging 292 yards passing and has three touchdowns and one interception. Playing with Christian McCaffrey is a bonus for any quarterback, and while he is second on Carolina with 15 targets, six players have at least four targets in the first two games. This is a good matchup for Darnold against a bottom-of-the-barrel defense that has half of the projected starting lineup out or limited with injuries.
McCaffrey has picked right back up after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Through two games he has 45 carries for 170 yards and a touchdown, along with 15 targets for 154 yards. While the carries are likely to be dialed back somewhat, the targets should continue to remain steady, and he will get his share of touchdown opportunities. Rookie Chuba Hubbard has had 10 opportunities on the season, though if they Panthers can gain control of this game, he should be in line for increased work since there is no reason to push McCaffrey.
While it is too early to declare that Darnold has moved D.J. Moore ahead of Robby Anderson, the former has twice as many targets. Rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. is second among wideouts, with nine targets while working a lot of the short routes.
Brandon Zylstra played 12 snaps in the opener with nary a look, but he did bring in all three of his targets on Sunday for 44 yards and a touchdown. This is not likely to be a trend, as he only played two additional snaps. He just happened to get a few looks, having run only nine total routes.
Dan Arnold clearly is the passing tight end, having run routes on all but two of his 41 passing snaps. This far outpaces incumbent Ian Thomas, who has been held in as a blocker on 37% of his passing plays. It should be no surprise that Arnold has seven targets and Thomas has just four. Even in New York Darnold targeted the tight end position often.
Through the first two games Houston allowed only two sacks and forced one fumble and one interception. The Panthers could rack up that line in the first quarter against a rookie quarterback. On the season Carolina leads the NFL with 10 sacks, and they also have three interceptions.
Tyrod Taylor is out with another untimely injury just when it seemed he was finally in the driver’s seat of an NFL offense. Houston has said that Deshaun Watson will not be active this season, so that means rookie Davis Mills will be drawing his first NFL start on a short week of practice. Including the pandemic-shortened season, Mills appeared in 14 games for Stanford and had decent passing numbers but only 63 carries for 86 yards and three touchdowns rushing. College stats count sacks against rushing yardage, but it does not look like that is a skillset that Mills has. However, it would not be a surprise to see Mills scramble on broken plays or possible run for a touchdown if the Texans get in the red zone, especially if he faces pressure.
Mark Ingram seems to be the lead running back, though David Johnson has the most experience in the system. Phillip Lindsay is lurking and scored a touchdown last week on a first quarter pass from Taylor before he went down. Rex Burkhead played in 21 passing plays, which was second to only Johnson. This entire position looks like a stay-away situation, even in the single-game format, until around lineup 50 for anyone other than Ingram. After that it would seem that Johnson will be the main pass-catching back, but even then he will have to share probably half of the snaps with Burkhead and Lindsay.
Brandon Cooks is going to be the default Texan for single-game slate lineups, though at least DraftKings ($10,000) and FanDuel ($13,000) were somewhat proactive with his salary. In the fourth quarter he caught a touchdown from Mills, and he has looked solid through the first two games, with 21 targets for 210 yards and a touchdown. Just know that the defense is going to be on him even more than DFS gamers.
Chris Conley is the next man up with Danny Amendola and Nico Collins on the sidelines. Conley has had some moments throughout his career, but there is a reason he has only played in 85 games. It is hard to expect much in a game with a debuting quarterback, though it just takes one play to make it all worthwhile. Anthony Miller will be in the mix, but he has not even been active in the first two games.
Jordan Akins and Pharaoh Brown have played on 97 and 85 snaps, respectively, and they share the field nearly a third of the time in two-tight-end sets. Both are viable options, particularly for their salary relief on DraftKings, though good luck deciphering which is the better option before lock.
Houston is second in the NFL with five takeaways, though they have only three sacks. While a splash play could always occur, the Panthers are not likely to take many chances in a game that could see them becoming the first 3-0 team on the season.
Thursday Night Football Single-Game NFL DFS Strategy
The rankings below are best utilized for building out single-entry and three-max lineups and for head-to-head and three-man formats. They provide a nice barometer for player value, but for those taking the MME approach, remember that correlation is key. This means matching a receiver or two with a quarterback in the Captain/MVP slot. This also works conversely with pairing a Captain/MVP pass catcher with their quarterback.
Week 3 Thursday Night Football NFL DFS Rankings
Top 10 NFL DFS Showdown Picks
- Christian McCaffrey: Easily will be on 90% of all entries and could approach 97%.
- Sam Darnold: Unlikely to get much on the ground, but he at least consolidates all the passing production.
- D.J. Moore: Chalk play No. 3; he has as many targets as the next two Carolina players combined.
- Brandin Cooks: Leave either Cooks or Moore off rosters to differentiate.
- Chris Conley: Makes it all possible on DraftKings at $1,600. On FanDuel he ranks just below the kickers.
- Davis Mills: Will have the entire game to collect fantasy production.
- Robby Anderson: King of the efficient big plays, and he has done it with Darnold before.
- Joey Slye: In what could be a low-scoring game or one with dispersed touchdowns, kickers can be more valuable. Slye is the slightly better kicker on an accuracy basis. This is not much of a home-field advantage, as he spent the last two seasons kicking for Carolina.
- Carolina D/ST: DraftKings is charging full freight at $6,200, though expect this unit to still be on a quarter of all rosters.
- Zane Gonzalez: Brought in to replace Slye after spending two seasons with Arizona. Similar success rate to Slye but with season and a half more experience.
Secondary NFL DFS Showdown Picks
- Mark Ingram: Not much of a discount considering the work is split so many ways and he is the rushing choice.
- David Johnson: Should be the main passing-down back, which means most of the plays, but he too will be sharing his role.
- Jordan Akins/Pharaoh Brown: Coin flip on DraftKings. Brown or Arnold will make the popular FanDuel cash lineup possible.
- Dan Arnold/Ian Thomas: The salary and projections lean towards Arnold almost two-to-one.
- Terrace Marshall: He is on the field and getting just enough targets to stay out of the next section.
Lottery Ticket NFL DFS Showdown Picks
- Chuba Hubbard: Playing for a blowout, but keep in mind Houston keeping this reasonably close is a possibility.
- Rex Burkhead and Phillip Lindsay: Either could score or end up with a donut.
- Anthony Miller and Andre Roberts: Next wideouts up due to Houston injuries. Roberts returns kicks and punts.
- Brandon Zylstra: Just enough routes to warrant his own line. No targets in Week 1, three last week.
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