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NFL Prime Time – Week 4 Thursday Night Football (FREE)

Eric MacPherson



Adam Pfeifer's NFL Matchups column previewing 49ers and Rams, looks at Matt Breida and Todd Gurley for Week 6 fantasy football.

NFL Prime Time Games – Week 4

Greetings Gamers!  Now we are getting a very exciting matchup to launch our Week 4 DFS contests.  Just how the heck are we already a month into the season, my how time just races forward.

Because these games are outside of the standard NFL Week cadence, information and injury reports may be a little behind, but all game write-ups will be posted by Saturday morning most weeks.

Feedback is always welcome and you can reach out to me in Premium Slack, Twitter @EMacDFS and of course [email protected]

With most of the main sites offering “late swap” for the multi-day contests, the release schedule will be no later than:

Thursday Night Game: Wednesday night or Thursday morning

London game: Friday night or Saturday morning (kickoff is generally around 9am ET on Sunday for these games)

Sunday Night Game: Friday night or Saturday morning

Monday Night Game: Friday night or Saturday morning


Week 3 Summary

This week the Prime Time games had some intrigue and excitement that was not necessarily projected in the standard set of outcomes.

CLE 21 vs NYJ 17 Congratulations to Cleveland for garnering their first win in seemingly forever (635 days to be exact).  The pre-game guessing started off with birthday boy Carlos Hyde was with his wife in the hospital as she was in labor – he did play the game and had two touchdowns including the game winner and then he and his wife welcomed Carlos Hyde Jr later that evening.

Sam Darnold looked good through the first half of the game, but not to bury the lede, once fellow rookie Baker Mayfield got in the game after a Tyrod Taylor concussion, the Browns offense started showing some signs of life and should be interesting going forward.

DET 26 vs NE 10 Well this was a bit of a surprise with the student Matt Patricia besting the teacher Bill Belichick and Tom Brady looking a little tired and like a 41 year-old quarterback with even fewer dynamic options than usual.  The Patriots will likely look much different in a month when Julian Edelman returns and if Josh Gordon can effectively be incorporated into the plan. Short term though they are in trouble with the loss of Rex Burkhead so we can look to Rob Gronkowski and James White once more in Week 4.

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The only real excitement from this game was Kerryon Johnson becoming the first Lions player in five years to surpass 100 yards rushing in a single game.  The Detroit passing offense is formidable with its many options, but with everything spread around, we will need to be very price/matchup conscious with our selections.

PIT 30 at TBR 27 had some early weather issues before the game and parts of the field were a little rough, but we had an appearance by SHITZmagic until he shed that moniker with a masterful comeback falling just short of the victory.  Along the way, he did however become the first player in NFL history to top 400 passing yards in three consecutive games.

Ben Roethlisberger overcame his traditional road woes going for 353/3/1 with touchdowns to Vance McDonald, Antonio Brown and Ryan Switzer.  It looks like Le’Veon Bell will not be with the team anytime soon, but we can enjoy James Conner in all fantasy formats.


Week 4

Thursday Night Football

Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams -7.0 / 49.5

This should be an interesting game to see if the Vikings can recover from their shocking upset at the hands of the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.  Hopefully the short week and the travel do not give them much time to dwell in the doldrums as they are still a phenomenal team with designs on going far in the playoffs and this is an outstanding matchup of contenders.

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback – Kirk Cousins has to be enjoying a more stable environment than the one perpetuated by Dannyboy Snyder in Washington.  With a trio of excellent pass catchers in his pair of productive receivers and tight end, Cousins should be able to take what the defense gives him… of course this will be one of his toughest matchups against – wait, Aqib Talib is slated for ankle surgery and Marcus Peters may be out for the next month with a calf injury… damn, we can only hope that some gamers will miss this news and overvalue the effectiveness of the Rams secondary.  Sam Shields, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Troy Hill are all solid players, but they now have to cover for two Pro-Bowlers.

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Running Back – Welp, I was one of many who rolled with the less-then-dynamic duo of Latavius Murray and the Vikings D/ST in my “cash” games and while it was awful seeing the lowly Bills race out to a commanding lead, there was some consolation that Murray did get seven targets for 5/30 and while that doesn’t having us turn cartwheels, at least he should be involved in all facets of the game while Dalvin Cook is on the shelf.  Murray will still be heavily touchdown dependent, so the Prime Time single game contests will likely be the only place he graces my rosters this week, if at all.

Wide Receiver – Adam Thielen continues to do excellent work out of the slot (#1 in targets, #2 in receptions and #4 in yards)  and Stephon Diggs has been solid in two of his three games (last week’s dud being the exception) and he has already been in the end zone three times.  Both of these guys are fine options in all formats this week.

Tight End – Kyle Rudolph projects as a fringe TE10, but he has 16 targets versus the five compiled by the rest of the Vikings options at this position.  We know from Kirk Cousins’ days in Washington that he is no stranger to relying on his tight end and that bodes well for Rudolph who has two red zone targets through the first three games (the team has had 8 passes and 6 rushes in the red zone on the season).

Defense/Special Teams only as a contrarian or salary cap move in the single game contests.


Los Angeles Rams

Quarterback – Jared Goff checks in as a QB12-15 on most projection systems for the full week, but we know that Head Coach Sean McVay always tries to put Goff in advantages situations which is a boon for his efficiency.  Even against this top defense, we can consider him in both the single game contests and the Monday-Thursday slates that are wrapping up.  With the Vikings boasting a top five passing defense according to Football Outsiders DVOA metrics, the love should probably be contained there.

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Running Back – Todd Gurley should be in the mix for top running back honors every week, particularly on full-PPR sites.  This will be one of the most difficult matchups he faces all season and on the single game contests where he will be the most popular option – we will need to be bold and also have some serious stones to roll with “the fade” rather than just talk about it.  It will not be a surprise to see him crest over the 70-75th%ile in popularity for these contests and for me that is the tipping point.  I would rather flip the script and take one of the many excellent receiving options in the hopes that Gurley has a poor game and if we are really lucky, doesn’t find the end zone.  This is not going to be a feel good decision, but if we want to dramatically separate ourselves from The Masses, it is the most direct route.

Keep in mind last year that when these teams squared off in Minnesota, the home team hammered out a 24-7 victory behind an excellent defensive performance and Latavius Murray running for 95 yards and two scores on 15 carries (Jerrick McKinnon had 14 carries for 48 yards and 5 receptions for 12 yards).  In this game Gurley had 15 carries for 37 yards and a score along with four targets resulting in 3/19/0 – so “the fade” does not seem as outlandish as it did in the prior paragraph, now does it?

Wide Receiver – Xavier Rhodes is the best the Vikings have to keep Brandin Cooks in check, but what will they then do with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp?  Now there is a reasonable chance that Rhodes may not shadow anyone for the whole game, which means that Robert Woods would be the other likely option he tries to neutralize.  So under either of the front running scenarios, it would seem that Cooper Kupp will be the least impacted with the other dynamic offensive options providing him with some cover.  Through three weeks the wide receiver target share has been Woods 29, Cooks 25 and Kupp 21 with the tight ends getting 4 and Todd Gurley seeing 14. No other receiver has seen a single target and actually Malcolm Brown with 4 as the only other player to be in the mix.

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Tight End – As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett have combined for eight targets on the season with them each getting a pair in Weeks 2 and 3, so there is not much to see here – touchdown lottery ticket time.

Defense/Special Teams – Even with the injuries to their secondary, the Rams are still a viable fantasy option because they have their ability to force sacks and turnovers.  Through three games, Kirk Cousins has been sacked nine times and thrown two interceptions.

Summary This should be a fun game and while both defenses are good, there are definitely a solid ten offensive players that have excellent odds of being part of a touchdown, which should help diffuse the popularity of the secondary players.


Single Game Ranking (taking into account projected production, pricing and popularity)

  1. Adam Thielen (on both DraftKings and FanDuel)
  2. Jared Goff (as long as he is not throwing the touchdowns to Gurley, we are golden because… wait for it…)
  3. Todd Gurley (again, I think the “correct” strategy is to veer away from Gurley, which will inherently give you a 20% lineup – but it certainly will be scary as hell)
  4. Cooper Kupp (it is all about the red zone and underneath routes along with the hope that Xavier Rhodes is shutting down the other options juuuuuuust enough)
  5. Kirk Cousins (with the QBs, we need scores – that is why I have Cousins here, but Thielen as the top play – we could see a line of 8/80/1 for the fifth year receiver and Cousins still having a sub-par game)
  6. Stephon Diggs (will Cousins have time to get him the ball when he is operating mid-deep down the field)
  7. Robert Woods (because there is a good chance the Xavier Rhodes just shadows Brandin Cooks I would have no issue boosting this ranking – just remember that the Rams do have a plethora of options and will not need to force it to anyone)
  8. Brandin Cooks (he is just behind Woods for target volume and though he will likely draw a lot of Rhodes one big play pays things off)
  9. Latavius Murray (he disappointed sooooooo many last week, but just look to last year to see “what could be” in this matchup – I would still rate him here even if Dalvin Cook returns)
  10. Dalvin Cook (while he did practice on Tuesday and says he “feels great” it is hard for me to go here until we see it – just know by then it will of course be too late to help us)
  11. Kyle Rudolph (targets have trended up since Week 1 from 2 to 8 to 6 and there is no other competition at this position)
  12. Sam Ficken (5/5 on PATs last week, but missed his sole field goal – don’t forget he was with the Rams down the stretch last season as the Greg Zuerlein fill-in)
  13. Dan Bailey (though he was cut by the Cowboys, that was a salary cap move – Bailey is vying with Justin Tucker as they most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history)
  14. Rams D/ST (even with the injuries, they do have upside and are at home)
  15. Vikings D/ST (on the road, against a very good team is going to make it tough – but returns can happen at any time)
  16. Malcolm Brown (through three games he has 18 carries for 93 yards along with four targets for 2/18/0 – this is a FanDuel dart throw and a DraftKings salary saver)
  17. Laquon Treadwell (fingers crossed)

Reach out to me in Premium Slack or on Twitter @EMacDFS if you have any questions.

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Good Luck Gamers! ~ EMac

Eric "EMac" MacPherson won the 2007 Fantasy Baseball grand prize (trip for two to the MLB All-Star game) in the Roto format on ESPN. He won again in 2008, this time in the H2H format. As one of the early adopters of daily fantasy sports, EMac has been providing content for baseball and basketball as well as both professional and college football since 2012 for a variety of websites including DraftKings Playbook, FanVice, RotoWorld, Daily Fantasy Bootcamp, and RotoGrinders. He is well into his third decade of fantasy sports and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Follow him on Twitter @EMacDFS or contact EMac by emailing [email protected].

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