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. We have loads of information and NFL DFS showdown picks to get into for both DraftKings and FanDuel on this Week 1 Thursday Night Football slate between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
NFL DFS Showdown Picks: Week 1 Thursday Night Football
This should be a fun game to open the season, as the Buccaneers host the Cowboys. Starting right guard Zack Martin will be out for the Cowboys after a positive COVID-19 test, and backup Brandon Knight is out as a close contact. Right tackle La’el Collins is dealing with a neck issue, and backup right tackle Josh Ball is on the injured reserve. Suddenly, what was going to be a healthy and improved offensive line is almost as depleted as it was last season.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Chris Godwin was limited in practice on Tuesday with a quad issue. Though the severity is not known, he is expected to take the field on Thursday. Running back Giovani Bernard has been working through a sprained ankle, and his availability will have a direct impact on Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette.
Things are looking up again for Dallas with Dak Prescott under center. In Weeks 2, 3 and 4 Prescott was posting 450-plus yards passing in three straight games before suffering a gruesome ankle injury. Last year Tampa Bay had the fifth-best passing DVOA, but they will have their work cut out for them trying to contain a trio of terrific receivers and a group of running backs and tight ends that are all above-average pass catchers. Still, this matchup is not going to be a walk in the park for Dallas, and Prescott could struggle a bit as he shakes off the rust.
Ezekiel Elliott is supposedly in the best shape of his career, and having Prescott under center should certainly open things up. But Dallas is also missing some key offensive linemen for Week 1. The real question, is how much of the running game pie will be Elliott’s, with Tony Pollard having asserted himself last season? It could be a tall order for Elliott to get 20 touches in the opener. Pollard is a single-slate option with his ability to break a long run. The Tampa Bay defense is not a pushover by any stretch, recording the top rushing DVOA last season.
Thursday’s matchup features two of the best receiving corps in the league. Dallas has Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, who have made Michael Gallup a luxury option as the third wide receiver. The plethora of options available for the Cowboys cuts both ways. While it will be difficult for the Buccaneers to cover everyone, Prescott can take what the defense gives him as he regains his mojo.
Cedrick Wilson is the fourth wide receiver who will work in throughout the game, but he needs a lot to break his way to be fantasy relevant. The receivers could benefit from some volume if Tampa Bay is able to put a couple of scores on the board early. That said, there is no obvious direct benefit in that event for any specific pass catcher.
Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz will likely share the tight end duties, and both are decent receivers and adequate blockers. Even if one of them is going to definitively see more snaps, that is no guarantee for targets. For the large-field tournaments tonight, let salary considerations and popularity guide decisions.
Last year Tom Brady had 12 interceptions on 610 pass attempts. That works out to a 2% interception rate, which is just above his career average yet still below league average. Brady was sacked only 21 times, and he is a master of throwing the ball away, which makes defensive fantasy production hard to come by.
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Brady is coming off a phenomenal season where he won his seventh Lombardi Trophy. After the season he said he was dealing with a torn MCL in his left knee that required offseason surgery. Brady had a whopping 40 touchdowns passing last season while learning a new offense.
The wild card here will be the availability of offseason acquisition Bernard, who is dealing with an ankle issue. Even in today’s information age, his status is unlikely to be known until pregame warmups. If he is active, he will likely see most of the passing down work. If Bernard is out, Jones is the logical option in the passing game, which would give him a boost. Otherwise Jones and Fournette will be splitting just the running opportunities in all likelihood. Last year Jones had the regular-season edge, but he fell out of favor in the playoffs, while Fournette became the favored option. Unless someone gets hurt, this is shaping up to be a crowded backfield.
It would be a shock for Godwin (quad) to miss this game, though his effectiveness is currently shrouded in mystery. This is probably gamesmanship by Tampa Bay and getting undo attention since everything is magnified for the season opener. Last year each of Godwin, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown missed time and seemed to be a favorite of Brady. With everyone likely at full strength tonight, along with Scotty Miller and a capable trio of tight ends, it is going to be hard to pinpoint the best Tampa Bay option on a game-to-game basis.
Rob Gronkowski is the top tight end, but he has a lot of miles on him, and there is no reason to run him into the ground during a 17-game regular season. That should open opportunities for O.J. Howard, who played just four games last season and has been working back from an Achilles injury. Cameron Brate played in all 16 regular-season games, but he only had 34 targets, which was his lowest in five years.
The Buccaneers once again look to be one of the best defenses in the league. Anything can happen on single-game slates, though in games with higher projected point totals a D/ST generally needs a pick-six or scoop-and-score to be a meaningful fantasy option.
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.
EMac’s Week 1 Thursday Night Football NFL DFS Rankings
Week 1 Thursday Night Football Top 10 NFL DFS Showdown Picks
- Antonio Brown: The salary savings on both DraftKings and FanDuel compared to the other offensive options make him the best overall play.
- Tom Brady: Brady is the focal point of the Tampa offense, with his proclivity to spread everything around. The only knock is that he is unlikely to produce anything on the ground.
- Dak Prescott: Forget about preseason action, Prescott only practiced a handful of times. Against a fierce defense with such a long layoff, he could have a slow start. On the flip side, the game flow could also lead to 40 pass attempts, providing both a floor and upside.
- Chris Godwin: Easily the best all-around Buccaneer receiver, and the specter of potential quad issues should keep his popularity in check.
- Amari Cooper: Though he has 1,000 yards in four of his five seasons, he has been overshadowed by the Lamb hype.
- O.J. Howard: In his four games last year with Brady, Howard saw six, three, four and six targets.
- CeeDee Lamb: On top of being the No. 2, Lamb should get the first crack at returning punts.
- Mike Evans: Somehow even reaching the 1,000-yard milestone in each of his seven seasons makes him the fifth-best receiver in this game.
- Ezekiel Elliott: Last year was a rollercoaster, as Elliott had four games with 20-plus full-PPR fantasy points in his first five, and then he reached that mark just twice in the final 11 games. This is a bell-cow salary for someone who may only see opportunities in the mid-teens.
- Michael Gallup: The forgotten man in Dallas, capable of 100 yards and two touchdowns if the Buccaneers lose track of him.
Week 1 Thursday Night Football Secondary NFL DFS Showdown Picks
- Ronald Jones: In the unlikely event that Bernard is inactive, he moves above Elliott for the salary discount.
- Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz: Salary savings and touchdown potential have them in this tier, but it is a coinflip decision as to which is the better play.
Week 1 Thursday Night Football Lottery Tickets NFL DFS Picks
- Giovani Bernard: DraftKings only where he is cheap and gets a full point per reception.
- Tony Pollard: In this crowded offense he will likely see only around eight opportunities unless something happens to Elliott. He does return kickoffs.
- Leonard Fournette: Thursday’s salary is burdensome. He is only in play as a touchdown-hunting option around lineup No. 35-50.
- Buccaneers D/ST: A rusty Prescott could throw a pick-six or suffer a strip sack.
- Rob Gronkowski: Best case is three catches for 30 yards and a score. This is a nice leverage point to move away from the masses.
- Scotty Miller: Does just enough to warrant his own line.
- Dallas D/ST: They will need a splash play to be a difference maker against the ever-careful Brady.
- Cedrick Wilson, Cameron Brate, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden: Should at least set foot on the field tonight.
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