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Thursday Night Football Preview

by Connor Allen
Updated On: October 10, 2019, 5:23 pm ET

Last week marked the second straight Thursday Night Football game that was exciting. The Seahawks barely held on against the Rams after the usually automatic Greg Zuerlein missed a game-winning field goal. Before we dive into this week’s matchup and the rest of the news around the league be sure to check out Ian Hartitz’ WR/CB matchups piece.

 

Thursday Night Football

While the last two weeks of Thursday Night Football have produced 61 and 59 points with both winding up as one-score wins, this one will look a bit different. The Giants travel to Foxborough to take on the Patriots as 17-point underdogs. The spread originally opened with the Patriots as 15-point favorites but was quickly bet up as more Giants players were announced inactive (TE Evan Engram, WR Sterling Shepard, RB Saquon Barkley). The total opened at 46.5 but has made massive moves towards the under with a 6-point drop all the way to 40.5 (Pinnacle). This means Vegas opened the game with implied team totals of 30.75 (Patriots) and 15.75 (Giants). After the line movement, the implied team totals are 28.75 (Patriots) and 11.75 (Giants).

Rookie QB Daniel Jones will be making his fourth career start this week and is 2-1 so far overall. The record is a lot more impressive than his uneven play on the field though. He looked inconsistent but exciting against Tampa Bay, was merely average against Washington’s bottom-dwelling defense, and then looked like a rookie against Minnesota. All-in-all, he has completed 64.2 percent of his passes while averaging seven yards per attempt. The issue is, he now faces a Patriots pass defense which has been stellar, albeit against poor competition. The Patriots rank first in overall defensive DVOA (Football Outsiders), second in pass defense, 3rd in explosive pass rate allowed, and second in passing success rate allowed. They have yet to allow a 300-yard passer and have held 3-of-5 opponents under 150 total passing yards. With Daniel Jones’ pass-catching corps looking extremely thin and the strength of the Patriots pass defense, Jones should not be started in any fantasy league this week. Golden Tate is the only semi-viable pass-catcher from a fantasy perspective but even with potential volume, I would look elsewhere as he should see the coverage of Stephon Gilmore nearly half the time. I would also shy away from starting RB Jonathan Hilliman. Even though he flashed some upside when Wayne Gallman went down, this is a bad matchup and the Giants won’t score much, if at all. It’s really tough for me to imagine the Giants moving the ball consistently in this one. Maybe Jones is able to make a few plays with his legs but other than that I’m not confident they even score a single touchdown.

The Patriots Offense has started off hot this season with 33 > 43 > 30  > 16 > 33  in their first five games. A lot of those teams have horrible defenses (Miami, NY Jets, Washington) but so do the Giants, especially their secondary. They rank 29th in pass defense, 32nd in explosive pass rate allowed, and 27th in passing success rate. Bill Belichick is notorious for repeatedly attacking an opponent’s clear weakness and game-planning to do so. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him do the same here except the weather may get in the way. I write a weather column for Rotoworld each week and look at the potential impacts of weather on each game. With 20 MPH winds and gusts of 30-or-more projected, this is a situation to monitor. Quarterbacks’ yards per attempt and completion percentage take a sizeable dip at around 20 MPH, right where this game is expected to be. Not that Brady is a downfield passer by any means, but his arm isn’t strong at this point in his career so even intermediate passes may be a bit off the mark. I would probably still start Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Tom Brady in leagues you have them but if you have similar options, you should consider making the switch. WR Phillip Dorsett has already been ruled out meaning Jakobi Meyers should see more snaps. If winds prove to be too much for a sustainable passing attack the Patriots may lean on RB Sony Michel. He has seen 15 > 21 > 9 > 17 > 16 touches in five weeks but is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. He was finally utilized in the passing game last week with three targets. That may have been more of a function of their lack of running back depth rather than the Patriots desired approach and will be something to look for going forward. Rex Burkhead is listed as questionable for this matchup and could seize some of that passing work if active.

Prediction: 24-6 Patriots

(3-2 on TNF Predictions)

 

Injury Report

Sammy Watkins (hamstring) didn’t practice on Wednesday. He wasn’t able to play much on Sunday, leaving the game almost immediately after the game started. It’s a bad start to the week for Watkins who shouldn’t be trusted to play a full complement of snaps in Week 6 against the Texans. Tyreek Hill also practiced on Wednesday and has a good shot of playing this weekend. When fully healthy, Watkins will be no more than the team’s No. 2 or 3 option with the return of Hill.

Todd Gurley (quad) didn’t practice on Wednesday. Coach Sean McVay clarified that Gurley has a thigh contusion. If he gets in a limited practice there’s a good chance he plays against the 49ers. Malcolm Brown would see the majority of carries if Gurley were to miss this one.

DeSean Jackson (abdomen) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. He has played just a handful of snaps since his Week 1 explosion against Washington. Jackson is shaping up to miss his fifth straight game this week against Minnesota.

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T.J. Hockenson remains in the league's concussion protocol. He practiced on Wednesday and is considered day-to-day. He’ll need to be fully cleared from the protocol in order to play against the Packers on Monday.

Chris Herndon (hamstring) is not practicing Wednesday. Coach Adam Gase noted that Herndon pulled his hamstring while running routes on Friday. This is another setback for a player who sat out Weeks 1-4 with a suspension and the Week 5 bye. If you’ve held onto him for this long in fantasy leagues, you may as well continue.

Kenny Stills (hamstring) was limited in practice Wednesday. Stills didn’t suit up last Sunday after getting in three limited practices so we can’t draw much from his current participation. He would be a fringe flex option if he’s able to go against the Chiefs in what should be a back-and-forth affair.

Christian McCaffrey (back) did not practice Wednesday. It was coined a “vet day,” but he was officially listed as a back issue. This sounds like a complete non-issue but is something to keep an eye out for on Thursday. I personally expect McCaffrey to be 100 percent for the Panthers matchup in London against the Bucs.

Chargers placed C Mike Pouncey (neck) on injured reserve, ending his 2019 season. He is expected to undergo neck surgery which could hold him out for an extended period of time beyond this season. The Chargers’ offensive line was already among the worst in the league at pass-blocking and will now likely take another step back.

 

Quick Hits

Cardinals waived CB Chris Jones. He started for the Cardinals the first three weeks but was promptly benched and didn’t play at all against the Bengals last week. The Cardinals claimed CB Trevor Williams in a corresponding move. … Coach Brian Flores said the starting quarterback situation is "settled" and Josh Rosen will start the remainder of the season. Flores “likes his progress.” He has a good matchup this week against Washington. … In an Instagram video Wednesday, free agent Antonio Brown encouraged the Patriots to give him a call and re-sign him. This is hardly newsworthy at this point with the Patriots highly unlikely to take him back. It’s unclear if any team will take a risk on Brown at this point. …  NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Case Keenum is expected to start Week 6 against the Dolphins. Interim coach Bill Callahan is yet to name a starter but Keenum is probably their best option at this point.  …. 49ers RT Mike McGlinchey (knee) will be out for 4-6 weeks. This is a big deal for the 49ers offensive line who will now be without both starting tackles (McGlinchey and Staley). The Rams pass-rush may have a field day against the weakened 49ers offensive line. … Vontaze Burfict's appeal for his season-ending suspension was upheld. A rare good decision by the NFL, there’s a legitimate chance he doesn’t play in the NFL again.