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Thursday Night DFS Preview: Get creative in building your lineup for Cleveland-Denver

Welcome back to Week 7 of the Thursday Night Football Showdown Build here at Aaron Torres Online. Unlike last week where we had good fantasy options to use in the Thursday night matchup, this week is a stinker. When we get two good teams, we have plenty of players we could use in our showdown contests, when we have two mediocre teams and one is dealing with significant injuries, we have much less to choose from. Let’s put in the work, find the top options and sprinkle in some value to make some money. I hope you have been able to use the information in these articles to build out a winning lineup and cash in so far. Normally, we build these lineups to cash in 50/50 contests but this week, with a sloppy game and a lot of backups, I am going to try my hand in a few small tournaments for this week’s game. This is going to be an ugly one folks, so we must remember to play responsibly while taking a shot at a nice tournament payday.

As you know, I come to you weekly with a column specifically focused on one type of DFS contest, the Showdown style on DraftKings. I am here every Thursday, specifically giving you players and strategy for the Thursday Night Football Showdown contests. Showdown Style is a DFS contests, also referred to as Captain Mode contests, where your roster consists of only 6 players and must include players from both teams. The positions in this type of contest are a “Captain” and 5 “Flex” players. This means that you can play a QB, RB, WR, TE, K or Defense in any of those roster spots with no minimum or maximum at any position. The player you select as the captain will score 1.5 time the standard fantasy point value for every statistic but drafting a player in the captain spot will also cost you more salary than if you were to draft them in a flex spot.

Before we get started, remember to check out my “DFS Flash” podcast, a quick whip around DFS show, that’s only 15-20 minutes and gets you ready for the full Sunday DFS slate ahead. Make sure to subscribe here or listen below.

With that, let’s build out our week 7 Thursday Night Football Showdown Slate Lineup!

The Captain Spot

As I mentioned, the player you use in this spot is going to cost you more salary by being the captain, but it will also score you 1.5 times the standard point value earned. This week, three of the top six options on the slate are not going to be playing in Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. On the other side, Teddy Bridgewater is banged up with both foot and quad issues and is questionable heading into the game. The only offensive weapons I’m really looking at in the captain spot this week are Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant. Fant looked good last week catching nine passes on 11 targets, but he also only got four targets the week before. Sutton gets more consistent targets and would be considered the safer floor option, so if you choose to go this route I would lean Sutton over Fant as captain.

Sutton will likely be a “chalk” play at captain, so a sneaky pivot would be to use one of the defenses in the captain spot. In a tournament, you have to be contrarian in these showdown style contests to get the payoff. The Denver defense will probably be popular since they get to take on a backup quarterback in Case Keenum and backup running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton. Keenum is a veteran who has been around a while and is familiar with Kevin Stefanski’s system from their time together in Minnesota, so I expect him to manage the game well and not be turnover prone.

I’ll look at the Cleveland defense here who are coming off of two bad games, but those games were against Justin Herbert and Kyler Murray, not Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock. This is a defense that had a NINE sack game in Week 3 and have played well when they haven’t had to face top tier quarterbacks. I’m playing the narrative that Myles Garrett told his defense that they need to be the ones to win this game with the offensive stars out, and he even held a players only meeting this week, likely relaying just that. Last time he called one of these meetings was before the Week 3 game, and they responded with that 9-sack game. In a game that could be a sloppy, low scoring game, I’m going to be contrarian and pay all the way down for the Cleveland Defense as my captain, which will allow me to put a lot of relevant players into my flex spots and differentiate my lineup in a tournament.

Flex Spots with high salaries

We can hammer this area for most of our flex plays this week since we paid down for our captain spot and can afford what is left of the bigger names for flex spots. I will start by looking at the two Denver pass catchers we mentioned earlier with Sutton and Fant commanding most of the targets in that passing game. I do like Tim Patrick as well, but the volume isn’t as consistent, and you basically rely on his getting in the end zone to return value. With the risky captain pick, Ill put the two guys with safer floor into my lineup to try to give me a baseline to work with. With Bridgewater banged up and facing a fierce defensive front I will likely leave him out. Melvin Gordon at $7,400 and Javonte Williams at $7,000 are in a complete timeshare at running back and cannibalize each other’s value in fantasy. I like Williams as the more explosive back at a lower salary, but I probably won’t play either back this week in a matchup against Cleveland who has given up the 2nd fewest fantasy points to running backs so far this season.

On the Cleveland side, the only options even available at higher salaries are Odell Beckham Jr. and Case Keenum. Jarvis Landry could also be an option if he returns from his IR stint which is possible. Beckham is still dealing with the sprained shoulder and hasn’t practiced during the week. I do expect Beckham to play and if he does, he will likely be the focal point of the offense, especially if Landry does not play. If only one of the two plays, I will put that one in my lineup and expect they will get some volume in a depleted offense. Case Keenum could also end up in my lineup solely based off not many other options to play. He won’t be asked to do too much, but he can be efficient and throw a couple of touchdowns in a semi-revenge game against a team he led back in 2018.

Flex Spots with value

There are a few options to work with here since we have a few backups thrust into significant roles in this game. Donovan Peoples-Jones had a big game last week with 101 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, but one of those was on a fluke Hail Mary play so you can’t count on that. He is playable though at his $6,400 salary, especially if one of the other wide receivers doesn’t suit up. If both Beckham and Landry are out then I would put him in the lineup and hope for increased volume. The other pass catcher worth a look is David Njoku. At only $5,400 he could end up being Keenum’s safety valve and we saw his upside potential 2 weeks ago when he caught 7 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown in a monster game.

Most people playing this contest will look to have one of the inexpensive Cleveland running backs in their lineups. With Chubb and Hunt both out for this game, D’Ernest Johnson at $4,600 and Demetric Felton at $5,000 are certainly in play. It is expected that Johnson handles the traditional running back role while Felton plays as a pass catching back with receiving versatility. With Johnson expected to be the lead back, I would lean his way to play him in a flex especially with the discount in salary as well.

Final Build Thoughts

Once I made the decision to go with the Cleveland Defense as my captain, the options opened for me, and I could play any flex players I wanted while still staying under the salary cap. I put both Sutton and Fant in there and put D’Ernest Johnson in as the expected lead back who can also catch a few passes. The final spots were between the Cleveland receivers and Keenum. Since the status of Beckham and Landry are still up in the air, I opted to roll the dice with Peoples-Jones. With DPJ being the only healthy one of the trio in practice this week, he is probably the one building a connection with Keenum on the short week, so I rolled with him and gave the final spot to Keenum to pair with him. Even if Keenum only throws 20 times, if 2 of those are touchdowns, he will return value for us and may be lesser owned since he is a backup. Since we are being a little different this week and playing a tournament, lets stay with a contrarian build!

Week 5 Thursday Night Football Showdown Style Lineup (* for tournament play)

Captain – Cleveland Defense

Flex – Courtland Sutton

Flex – Noah Fant

Flex – D’Ernest Johnson

Flex – Donovan Peoples-Jones

Flex – Case Keenum

Make sure to follow JB on Twitter @FantasyCoach JB


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