NFL DFS Picks: Thursday Night Football - Vikings vs. Eagles [9/14/23]
Welcome to Week 2 of the season after a relatively boring Week 1 with a slew of disappointing performances from the top tier and explosive performances from guys like Jakobi Meyers, Mac Jones and the Cowboys defense. Thankfully, we have a doozy for a second straight Thursday Night Football matchup.
Last week, the Eagles held on despite a late surge by the Patriots to win 25-20 with Devonta Smith leading the DK scoring (17.70). On the other side, Minnesota is coming off an embarrassing loss vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who were expected to be chasing a top 3 pick heading into the season. Justin Jefferson (27.00) and Kirk Cousins (22.46) led the way for the Vikings but it wasn't enough.
Below we will take a look at the DraftKings Showdown slate for this Thursday Night Football matchup and identify what the best plays are based on projections, ownership and leverage. We will look at the Captain slot (1.5x points) first followed by the Flex spots (1x points). Be sure to follow me on X at @MiLBman for updated ownership projections leading to kickoff.
Captain Picks (1.5x points)
Chalky Plays: Jalen Hurts ($17.1k), Kirk Cousins ($13.8k), Justin Jefferson ($18.6k)
Best of the Chalk: Without James Bradberry, Nakobe Dean and Reed Blankenship tonight, there is little hope of containing Justin Jefferson ($18.6k). On 12 targets in Week 1, Jefferson reeled in 9 catches for 150 yards and had 27 DraftKings points despite not reaching the end zone. I expect him to come in third in ownership based on his gigantic price tag but there are plenty of cheap plays to fill the gaps.
Best Contrarian Picks: Despite leading the team with 17.70 DraftKings points last week, Devonta Smith ($13.5k) should be in the middle of the pack for captain ownership tonight. Matching AJ Brown with 7 catches on 10 targets, Smith was the one who caught a touchdown to help push him over the hump. I expect AJ Brown at a discounted rate to be 4th or 5th in captain ownership tonight and allow for you to find some leverage with Smith.
The other Eagle I like is D'Andre Swift. Swift ($6k) only got one carry for 3 yards last week after being traded for a 4th round pick in the offseason. Kenneth Gainwell led the backfield in New England last week, receiving 18 opportunities (14 rushing, 4 targets). With Gainwell being ruled out for TNF, Swift and Rashaad Penny will step in. At $6,000 in the Captain slot for a lead back for the team favored at home, seems like a worthy risk.
For the Vikings, two names seem viable for an altertive option in the Captain slot. Alexander Mattison and TJ Hockenson. Mattison ($11.4k) is finally the bell cow in the Vikings running back room after spending most of his career as a solid backup for Dalvin Cook. In Week 1, Mattison was a bit inefficient with his opportunities, only garnering 44 yards on his 11 carries and 4 targets but salvaged his fantasy night with a touchdown reception. The Patriots running backs (Elliott and Stevenson) received plenty of work against the Eagles last week with 19 carries and 13 targets combined. Although his price tag and ownership projection could be kinder, I still see value in trying to catch some lightning in a bottle with Mattison.
Hockenson ($10.2k) continues to truck along as a solid 2nd or 3rd option for Kirk Cousins in this Vikings offense. He wasn't able to break anything open or find his way to the end zone last week, but he had a very clean 8 catches on 9 targets and is one TD away from creating a lot of value for your lineup. Look for Hockenson to take advantage of a beat-up secondary in Philly.
Flex Picks (1x points)
Chalky Plays: Hurts ($11.4k), Jefferson ($12.4k), AJ Brown ($10.6k), Cousins ($9.2k), Alexander Mattison ($7.6k), Devonta Smith ($9k), TJ Hockenson ($6.8k)
Best of the Chalk: Unless you decide on a cheaper Captain (Mattison, Swift, AJ Brown, Hockenson), you are going to need to find immediate savings even on your mid-tier Flex plays. Among the chalk, Mattison and Hockenson are pretty safe bets as mentioned above and I really like AJ Brown ($10.6k) even if you have Devonta Smith in the Captain slot. You will unlikely be able to play Hurts or Jefferson if you have the other in the Captain spot, but they are obviously in play if you went with anyone else.
Best Contrarian Picks: I was in on him in Week 1 but was left disappointed after he only caught 3 balls (on 6 targets) for 31 yards and was outshined by a rookie. KJ Osborn, $5,000, is in a great spot to bounce back at likely 20 percent or less ownership. Despite being outscored on DraftKings 16.10 to 6.10, KJ Osborn out-snapped rookie Jordan Addison 91 percent to 56 percent. Addison projects to be higher owned and is $1400 more, giving you a perfect opportunity to pivot to Osborn.
Dallas Goedert ($5.8k) had an abysmal Week 1, seeing only 1 target for a big 0 burger despite being on the field for 92 percent of the snaps. Those who watched the game could see his frustration, waving his hands wide open on a number of plays vs. the Patriots. My gut tells me that Jalen Hurts will look to remedy his mistakes in Week 1 and find Goedert when he gets the opportunity to this week.
Two other Eagles come to mind for salary cap relief. I don't love that Quez Watkins is $3000, but he certainly has a chokehold on the WR3 responsibilities. He was on the field for 79 percent of the snaps in Week 1 and had 2 receptions for 17 yards. Should this game reach its potential of the O/U 49, it is viable to think Watkins at least chips in. Especially after Week 1, it is not a certainty that D'Andre Swift all of a sudden becomes a 20-carry back for the Eagles with Kenneth Gainwell sidelined. Rashaad Penny ($1600) provides a super cheap alternative for a talented back who has been plagued by injuries. He was a healthy scratch in Week 1, but weirder things have happened in fantasy football than Penny picking up a touchdown or two.
The Vikings offense is so funneled to 2-3 guys that it is hard to find alternative options in the 'bargain bin'. If you need the puntiest punt of all time, CJ Ham ($400) saw 3 targets last week, played on 1/3rd of the snaps and has seen goal line action before.
I really have no interest in either defense tonight. The Eagles took advantage of a clearly flustered Patriots team early in the first quarter with a defensive touchdown but only got to the quarterback twice. They also have a number of injuries tonight against a very potent offense. The Vikings are notoriously one of the worst defenses in the league and couldn't even slow down Baker Mayfield last week scoring only 2 DraftKings points. Take a flyer on the Eagles' defense if you want, but you won't catch me playing a defense tonight.
With two high-scoring offenses, both kickers should get a number of opportunities tonight and fit well if you are in that 3-5k range left on your salary. Greg Joseph ($3.8k) had 2 XPs and 1 FG last week in a 20-17 loss and Jake Elliott ($4.2k) put on a show with 4 field goals and went 1/2 on XPs. It is obviously an uneventful decision when you play a kicker in a 6-person lineup, but it's also hard to give up free points.