Thursday Night Football, besides being an effective methadone delivery for football addicts whose pigskin-addled brains can’t take a six-day NFL layoff, is a curse on fantasy footballers everywhere.
Anyone who has had a fantasy stud deliver an unmitigated dud on Thursday night understands my hatred for the league’s early-week game. Aaron Rodgers posted a horrifying fantasy line in Week 2’s Thursday night showdown with Chicago, starting his owners’ fake football contests with 11 points. The following week, Cam Newton scored 12 points on a Thursday night.
Owners don’t have much choice but to start their studly quarterbacks like Newton and Rodgers, but fantasy owners who have danced with Lady Luck on Thursday nights have also been scorched by her unforgiving glare. In Week 3, Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell, one of the hottest waiver wire pickups of that week, caught precisely one ball for 27 yards on Thursday night against an atrocious Giants’ secondary.
Thursday nights, in other words, have been waking nightmares for fantasy ballers this year (and every year, really).
Here are three ways to avoid the three-day Thursday Night Football hangover that follows an ill-timed benching or risky early-week play.
The Seattle Seahawks visit San Francisco tonight.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks – Oh look, it’s that guy from preseason. You know, the little popgun quarterback who shredded second and third (and fourth) team defenses in August, making fake football pundits swoon with talk of Wilson as a Drew Brees-esque guy who, like a point guard always one step ahead of defenders, manipulated defenses and compensated for his physical shortcomings.
Wilson didn’t crack 160 yards passing in his first four games of the regular season. Through four games, he had four touchdown tosses and three interceptions, looking overwhelmed at times. You know, like a rookie. Wilson exploded last week against an increasingly awful New England secondary, piling up 293 yards and three touchdowns in the Seabeagles’ home victory. Wilson played quick, played smart, scrambled effectively, and avoided back-breaking turnovers. By doing this, of course, he surely won the hearts and minds of fantasy owners once obsessed with his preseason potential.
Well, here’s the thing: He’s not a top-20 quarterback option this week. The 49ers’ elite defense is allowing a microscopic 183 yards per game through the air, second in the league, trailing only Dallas. They’re allowing six yards per completion – the lowest in the NFL. Expect a run-heavy, ultra conservative approach against the 49ers tonight, a game plan that depends on Wilson not losing the game for Seattle.
Wilson might not eclipse 150 yards through the air against San Francisco. Stay away – far, far away. Don’t even look at Wilson’s name on your waiver wire. It could instantly deduct three points from your Week 7 score.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks – I’ve been asked a bunch of questions on Twitter this week about presumed Cowboys’ starter Felix Jones, including whether he should be started over Lynch in Week 7. The short answer, after much thought and extensive analysis: No.
The Niners’ run defense is no joke. At times, that front seven is downright evil. But they can be had, as shown last week, when Ahmad Bradshaw gouged the 49ers for 120 total yards and a touchdown. The Niners may have been preoccupied with stopping New York’s various passing game threats, but Bradshaw isn’t the first runner to get the best of the 49ers’ run defense, and he won’t be the last.
The Niners, to your great shock, are ranked ninth in run defense through six weeks, giving up 92 yards a game. Seattle’s offensive line, if you haven’t noticed, mauls opponents, and late last season, Lynch bulldozed the San Francisco defense for 107 yards and a score on just 21 carries on his impressive run to a shiny new contract.
Don’t get cute. Eat the Skittles. Start Lynch.
Seahawks defense and 49ers defense – This game will be an absolute brawl from start to finish. Barring half a dozen injuries to defensive starters on both sides, this will not devolve into a shootout. First one to a touchdown could be the victor.
The Seahawks’ defense is legit. I’m not entirely sure fantasy owners have come to grips with this. Their front seven is brutally physical, as are their giant cornerbacks. The Seabags, perhaps unlike any team in the league, can go toe to toe with the 49ers’ defensive ways. Seattle is allowing 70 yards a game on the ground. And don’t let Alex Smith’s few decent games scare you away from starting Seattle this week.
Avoid a Thursday night shower cry full of regret and use both defenses on Thursday night.