Thursday Night & London Football: Week 7
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Quarterback — The Bears head into their fifth straight game without starting QB Jay Cutler at the helm, and journeyman Brian Hoyer will look to continue his run of excellent play against the beat up secondary of Green Bay who has been torched through the air and will now be missing yet another member of their secondary. Hoyer has eclipsed 300 yards passing in each of his four starts this season, throwing for six touchdowns and zero interceptions across those starts. Yes, the match ups have been relatively easy, but so is Thursday’s match up against the Packers. The Bears have not been afraid to let Hoyer loose, as he’s attempted 49, 36, 42, and 49 passes in his four starts. Expect more of the same on Thursday at Lambeau against a Packers defense that operates as perhaps the premier “funnel defense” in the entire NFL, stuffing the run while getting lit through the air. Hoyer is likely to attempt another 40+ passes here, and should throw for 300 yards yet again. He’s in play in all formats across the DFS industry and is the preferred play over Aaron Rodgers in Thursday contests.
Running Back — Jordan Howard will continue to get the start at running back for the Bears, but after being a DFS darling for the past few weeks, his steam runs out here. Not only did he lose nearly 30% of snaps to Ka’Deem Carey in Week 6, Howard has a brutal matchup here against a Packers front that has snuffed opposing running games so far this year, ranking third this season in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA. They were first before the juggernaut rushing attack known as the Dallas Cowboys came into town last week, and Howard does not have the speed or shiftiness to make enough people miss to thrive in this matchup. Howard should be avoided here with several factors working against him.
Wide Receiver — Slot man Eddie Royal and flanker Kevin White will once again be out for the Bears, and the Cameron Meredith train should continue to rumble down the tracks, collecting fantasy points by the bunches and leaving all non-believers outside of the cash line. In his two starts for the Bears, Meredith has received 12 and 15 targets, turning those into 20 receptions for 243 yards and a touchdown. He will be facing reserve Packers’ cornerbacks all game long and should feast yet again as QB Brian Hoyer airs it out in Green Bay. Meredith is going to be insanely popular in all contests across the industry, but this is not a spot to get cute. Something will have to go very wrong for Meredith to fail to return value on his still much-too-low salary for Week 7. There will be a time to jump off the Cameron Meredith train, but that time has not yet come.
The other receiver to consider in the Bears’ passing game is Alshon Jeffery, who has not received nearly the target volume most analysts expected this season, however, he is coming off a 13 target game against the Jaguars and appears to be getting a bit healthier after dealing with nagging injuries all season long. Jeffery is a much riskier play than his teammate Cameron Meredith, but there is undeniable upside for Jeffery in this matchup against the beat up Green Bay secondary. Expect Jeffery to see double digit targets for the second straight game and perhaps find his way into the end zone for the first time this season.
Tight Ends — Bears’ TE Zach Miller has had a very productive season for the Bears and may benefit once again from the likely volume of Brian Hoyer’s passing attempts, but this is a tough match up against the athletic linebackers of the Packers, especially when considering the cake match ups that receivers Cam Meredith and Alshon Jeffery have. Miller, assuming he plays (limited practices all week) is an adequate play, though not a recommended one.
Defense/Special Teams – The Bears defense has not been as disastrous many were predicting, especially after all of the injuries they have sustained, but nevertheless should be avoided this week in Lambeau Field even against a struggling Packers offense.
Green Bay Packers
Quarterback — Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers continues to struggle, even at home in good matchups, which is what he has in Week 7. Rodgers has not thrown for over 300 yards in nearly a full seasons’ worth of football games, and has eclipsed 2 touchdown passes just once this year. Watching the tape, it is clear Rodgers’ talent remains intact – he still has the pocket presence, quick feet, and rocket arm that have defined his career – but the consistency and accuracy has deserted him. Rodgers has uncharacteristically missed a number of wide open touchdown passes this season. Will he put it together on Thursday at home against the Bears? Perhaps he will, but at this point it is difficult to invest a top dollar DFS salary in a QB who has not performed like one this season or last. Do not be shocked if Rodgers drops a big game on the Bears, especially with what should be an abysmal running game now that Eddie Lacy and James Starks are out. It is still prudent to exercise caution in investing much confidence in Rodgers’ Week 7 performance. There are better options in his price range.
Running Back — The Packers will be without starter Eddie Lacy and James Starks, and will use some combination of Don Jackson, Knile Davis, Ty Montgomery, and Randall Cobb in the backfield. Jackson and Davis are not even in the player pool on most sites and can be safely avoided even if they are, while Cobb and Montgomery are listed at wide receiver. So yeah, we can move on from this position.
Wide Receivers — The Packers wide receivers are strong plays this week. With the Packers missing running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks, expect a near total abandonment of the running game in what could result in a fast paced shootout at Lambeau Field. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are the obvious plays here, but with third wideout Davante Adams out of the mix with a concussions, expect Ty Montgomery and perhaps even Jeff Janis to see a lot of work in the passing game. Cobb and Nelson are in consideration in all formats, and Ty Montgomery is the minimum price at most places across the industry, coming off a 10-reception game against the Cowboys. The Packers did trail for most of that game, and it is at least conceivable that if the Packers grab an early lead on Thursday they will look to run the ball with newly acquired Knile Davis of practice squad call up Don Jackson, but do not count on it. At least one Packers’ wide receiver having a big game seems like a near lock, and multiple guys could reach value here in what should be a very pass-oriented offense.
Tight End — In theory, Richard Rodgers could see a large volume of passes given all the injuries to Packers skill position players, but Rodgers has little talent, no explosive ability, and has never been a high upside play. Look elsewhere.
Defense/Special Teams – The Packers are badly beat up in the secondary and the Bears should be able to move the ball against them with relative ease. There is a bit of appeal in a home matchup here in a short week, but do not expect a huge performance out of the Packers DST tonight.
New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams (London, England)
New York Giants
Quarterback – First of all, this game is being played at 9:30am at Twickenham Stadium on London so it is only likely included on Thursday slates and on some sites where they are creating a sub-slate leading off with this contest.
Last week, Eli Manning and the Giants passing attack bounced back in a big way against the Ravens to the tune of 403 yards and three passing TDs. Most notably, Manning attempted a season-high 46 passes. The game flow in that contest projects a lot more favorably than this one considering Joe Flacco himself had attempted 40-plus passes in every game since Week 1 so a shootout was always possible. Additionally, the Giants rank dead last in time of possession this season so Manning typically sees limited opportunities. Even so, his price tag on DraftKings ($6,100) and FantasyDraft ($11,400) is ultra-enticing for tournaments against a defense that has struggled to cover opposing receivers; they have allowed the sixth most fantasy points to the position. The pace will not be favorable but the Giants are only allowing 3.5 YPC so it remains to be seen whether or not the Rams can get their offense going. Manning is a mid-tier QB2 with upside now that Odell Beckham Jr. is feeling it once again.
Running Back – The backfield is always tough to rely on although the Rams are allowing 4.2 yards per carry and 115.7 rushing yards per game. Still, Rashad Jennings is TD-reliant and Bobby Rainey’s targets regressed last week with the return of Jennings so neither are really fantasy relevant.
Wide Receiver – Any time Odell Beckham Jr. squares off against a non-elite corner, he has a chance to bust out. He has hit a nice little stride now with 13 receptions for 278 yards and three TDs over the last two ballgames. The problem is his price has risen with the production and E.J. Gaines is no pushover. Still, he makes for a prime targets in large field GPPs. Of the receivers, Sterling Shepard is the one who can be ignored as he will draw the individual matchup against the Rams’ best corner (Lamarcus Joyner) in the slot. While Shepard is more talented than his numbers suggest lately, this is not the matchup for him to bounce back. Of all the receivers on this squad, Victor Cruz is the most intriguing on a per-dollar basis. Troy Hill has graded as Pro Football Focus’ second worst cornerback this season and Cruz will match up against him for most of the contest. In two of the past three weeks, Cruz has been targeted seven-plus times although he has only hauled in a combined eight passes during those two games. Remember Cruz began the year with 12-plus fantasy points in back-to-back games and for the most part the Giants passing offense has regressed since that time.
Tight End – With Larry Donnell back, he and TE Will Tye are eating into each other’s value and neither are worthy of consideration.
Defense/Special Teams – Case Keenum actually put up some big numbers in Week 6 but the Giants have only surrendered two passing TDs so far. The unit as a whole is improved and most importantly they are respectable against the run. Opposing defenses have produced the fifth most fantasy points against the Rams offense as Keenum has already been sacked 13 times and thrown six interceptions. With the Rams only implied to score 20.5 points, the Giants are a solid defensive unit this weekend.
Los Angeles Rams
Quarterback – Last week QB Case Keenum had the second best day of his career with 321 passing yards and three aerial scores. That says more about the Detroit Lions who have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers this season and he is still a pass (unless you are looking for a differentiation play in the Thursday/Sunday morning contests which will be including this game being played in London).
Running Back – Todd Gurley has a matchup this week against the New York Giants who have been a middle-of-the-pack team against opposing running backs. Even with RB Benny Cunningham in the mix siphoning off half a dozen touches every week, Gurley is still a viable differentiation option in games sets that include this overseas affair.
Wide Receiver – Over the last three games, WR Kenny Britt is averaging 6.0 targets, 5.3 receptions, 97.7 yards and 0.7 touchdowns. The catch rate will likely decrease, but he is a fine option on DraftKings at $4,300 and FantasyDraft at $8,400 and in play on FanDuel at $6,200.
Tight End – Lance Kendricks had his best fantasy game last week, but with just 18 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown through six games, we can move along.
Defense/Special Teams – The Rams defense actually has a decent matchup against the Eli Manning and the G-Men, even on a neutral field. Opposing defenses have averaged a tick over 7 DraftKings and FanDuel points per game and we can look to them as yet another contrarian option from this early morning contest.