FanDuel Week 11 Values & Top Plays
Exploiting recency bias worked well last week, with suggested plays Marshawn Lynch (40.8 FP), Brandon Marshall (21.2), and Julius Thomas (21.3) all hovering around 10 percent ownership and scoring 20-plus points.
Attempting to go contrarian also went smoothly in three out of four cases, with Michael Vick ($6,900) scoring 17.1, Steven Jackson ($6,300) taking a TD away from Matt Ryan and co. and scoring 16.5, and Calvin Johnson ($8,800) returning to form with a 20.8. This week, I want to discuss another situation that can be exploited on a weekly basis: Thursday games.
I frequently get questions on Twitter about Thursday games: Should I enter Thursday games? Does playing on Thursday affect player performance? How should I approach Thursday games? Should I enter them even if I am not going to play any players in the Thursday games?
Should I Enter Thursday Games?
Yes, you should, as long as you’re not throwing together lineups a few minutes before kickoff with no preparation. Also, players with any injury risk should be avoided, as there's nothing worse than having a player in your Thursday lineup who is inactive on Sunday. But, if you can get in reasonable preparation, say, reading this article and using our FanDuel Value Reports to come up with a lineup or lineups you’re comfortable with, you should have an advantage, and I’ll tell you why.
For whatever reason, there seems to be a percentage of entrants that want to “get some action” ASAP, which means entering Thursday contests and picking players in the actual Thursday game. This results in players being (sub-optimally) owned at a higher percentage than they otherwise would be on a Sunday slate.
For example, in last week’s ‘Thu 40K NFL Snap #2’ tournament, Andy Dalton’s ($8,200) ownership was at 6.9 percent, and Brian Hoyer’s ($6,300) ownership was at 2.9 percent. While these percentages may not seem substantial at first glance, consider that’s 10 percent of users who paid for QBs in price ranges when there were better value plays (regardless of what actually transpired on Sunday) in that same price range.
If Dalton were playing on Sunday, would it really make sense to pay $8,200 for him when you could have gotten Ben Roethlisberger for $8,300 or Matt Ryan for $7,800, both versus terrible pass defenses? Even 2.9 percent ownership was too high for Brian Hoyer, considering Josh McCown could be had at $5,700 and Mark Sanchez could be had at $6,600. Even though I frequently preach the value of a contrarian play, 10 percent of ownership split between these two picks is excessive, and can be exploited.
For another example, consider the case of A.J. Green ($8,500) owned at 9.1 percent and Mohamed Sanu ($7,800) owned at 17.8 percent in the aforementioned tournament, for a combined 26.9 percent ownership. That percentage was six percent higher than the combined ownership of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, despite the fact that Nelson/Cobb costed only 1.4 more percent of the cap. In a tournament, there’s no reason for a mediocre Bengals passing game to be owned more than the Packers passing game in a dream matchup. Sanu’s ownership percentage was more than double Dalton’s, and Green’s was higher, too, so it’s not like people were simply stacking the trio.
Does Playing on Thursday Affect Player Performance?
|Stat||Thursday||All Games||Thurs-All Games Difference|
Thursday nights seem to hurt the passing game the most, leading to a decrease of 19.06 passing yards and 0.18 passing TDs per game. Sacks increase by 0.23, so team defenses benefit. Interestingly, rushing yards stay constant but rushing TDs increase on Thursday nights by 0.23.
This study is by no means definitive, as I used 2012-14 only so I could throw out the lockout year but also capture as much of the essence of recent rule changes as possible. There were 86 Thursday games in the sample, and 1,318 total games, so it's very possible there is sampling error, and that better rushing teams and poorer passing teams played more on Thursday nights, especially since Thursday night games aren't usually made up of the same quality of teams that play on, say, Sunday nights.
I think the numbers do bear out some of what the general consensus is about Thursday games: they are "uglier", with less passing success.
Moving away from the numbers, Thursday games present a unique set of circumstances: players playing on short rest and coaching staffs preparing on a short week. Thus, it is very possible that player and team statistics otherwise comprised largely of Sunday and Monday games aren't as relevant when projecting Thursday performance. Some player's bodies may handle the three days rest better than others, and some coaching staffs may prepare their teams better than others on a short week. Because stat projections use some form of past statistics comprised largely on Sunday/Monday games, I believe we should feel less confident about a Thursday projection than a Sunday/Monday projection.
How Should I Approach Thursday Games? Should I Enter Them Even if I am Not Going to Play any Players in the Thursday Games?
Generally, the best way to approach Thursday games is to enter them but fade all the players in the Thursday games. This gives you a chance to fully benefit from the artificially increased ownership percentages of all players involved. In other words, use the same lineups you would use on Sunday, on Thursday.
Thursdays usually present an opportunity to benefit from contrarian plays, especially if a player figures to be highly owned. For example, Jeremy Hill ($6,900) was 66 percent owned in the aforementioned tournament last week, creating a very fragile situation for two thirds of entrants. Denard Robinson ($6,800), Frank Gore ($6,800), Justin Forsett ($6,500), Steven Jackson ($6,300), and Darren Sproles ($6,300) were all RBs priced lower than Hill in the $6,000’s that scored at least triple Hill’s score. Those players all saw more ownership on Sunday, when owners didn’t have Hill to choose from, so you could have gained an even bigger advantage playing them Thursday.
Of course, there is no "one-size-fits-all" rule in DFS, and in some cases, there will be a Thursday player worth playing. If there is an extremely cheap player with no other comparable value in his price range, I think it is OK to play that player in cash games. Jeremy Hill at $6,900 last week didn't quite apply because of all the aforementioned values in that price range, but if Hill were say, $5,200, he would have been a must-play in cash games (even though we know he didn't work out, we won't use hindsight bias) because there would have been no other comparable value in that price range. If this player is such a great value, it still makes sense to fade him in tournaments in favor a a contrarian play, which almost always gives you a greater chance of taking down the whole tournament rather than merely cashing.
Preferably, any Thursday skill position player you do play would be a RB because of the rushing TD advantage I mentioned above. We don't know for sure whether the Thursday rushing TD increase is signal or noise, so it's best to go the way the numbers lean.
Another solid Thursday play would be one of the team defense/special teams, because firstly, the numbers show an increase in sacks on Thursday, and secondly, it may be great way to add some volatility to your GPP lineups. If your D/ST does well, there's a greater chance that the opposing sub-optimally owned skill players don't do as well. Also, if a team D/ST scores a TD, that takes a possession and potential score away from that team's own, also highly-owned, skill players.
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Values & Top Plays
QB Peyton Manning @ STL $10,400
There are a lot of stud QBs in play this week, but Manning is my preferred play because the Rams are the weakest defensive opponent any of the studs face, ranking 27th in QB aFPA. Peyton may also be slightly overlooked because he comes at a slightly higher cost than the others and is not in a game with as much hype.
QB Shaun Hill vs. DEN $5,000
It's not often you get the opportunity for a true "punt" play on FanDuel, but Hill qualifies. He'd only need 10 points to hit cash game value and even if he is a complete disaster and goes below that by a few points, you can easily compensate with the added roster flexibility. He's one of the only non-kicker/defenses I'd feel comfortable playing in this salary range.