Here’s a breakdown of the Thursday Night Football one-game DFS slate featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) at the Tennessee Titans (6-6) that kicks at 8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network, FOX and Amazon Prime.
This is the type of matchup in which “bad game” is in the title of our betting guide and that Geoff Schwartz called “pooptastic” on Thursday’s episode of “I’ll Take That Bet” (which I’m not 100% sure survived final edits, but if not, you’re welcome for that behind-the-scenes exclusive). So this should be fun. (Read: it will not be fun at all.)
- In Weeks 10-12 with Leonard Fournette back, the Jaguars attempted 38.7 rushes and just 26.7 pass attempts per game, a trend that also continued in Cody Kessler’s first start last week despite Fournette being suspended (27 runs, 24 passes). Fournette was fed 26.7 touches per game in those three games, including nine of the team’s 11 carries and one of its three targets inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. The five touchdowns he punched in during Weeks 10-12 are still more than a quarter of Jacksonville’s offensive touchdowns this season.
- There weren’t many air yards to speak of in Kessler’s first start, but it’s worth noting that Dede Westbrook accounted for 59% of them.
- Any defense capable of shutting out Andrew Luck for 60 minutes is worthy of a mention, though it remains to be seen whether Jacksonville’s defense will finally travel: Its average DraftKings Plus/Minus on the road this season sits at an ugly -5.07 compared to +0.08 at home, according to our NFL Trends tool.
- Marcus Mariota is the only other player on the slate with a raw projection in Fournette’s neighborhood. Mariota managed just 100 passing yards on 18 attempts when these teams met in Week 3, but he did run for 51 yards on seven carries, which is about all you can hang your hat on unless the Jags defense has another one of its road meltdowns in store.
Roster Construction Notes
- Given Fournette’s ball-hogging tendencies, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the fantasy production of Jacksonville’s RB1 has been inversely correlated with the entire offense, including a strong negative relationships with the team’s QB (-0.66 correlation coefficient) and RB2 (-0.63).
- This could be moot with the Jags having switched quarterbacks (and being hell-bent on hiding them regardless), but it’s worth noting for guaranteed prize pool purposes that Jacksonville’s QB has had a stronger-than-average correlation with the team’s pass-catchers (WR1, 0.73; WR2, 0.72; TE1, 0.78).
- Tennessee’s RB1 and RB2 have been positively correlated (0.58), so you don’t necessarily need to avoid paring Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry.
- Most of the Titans have been positively correlated, with the only negative correlations to speak of involving Corey Davis, who has weak but discernible negative correlations with the team’s RB1 (-0.18), WR2 (-0.09) and TE1 (-0.14).
Cash Game Strategy
No combination of players in this game inspires enough confidence to not play Fournette in the Captain spot. Both quarterbacks have top-three raw projections, so they’re in as well.
That leaves you with a choice of Titans running backs. Though Lewis has the superior projection, it makes more sense to go with Henry because you’re more likely to capture a Lewis score via Kessler; both of Lewis’ opportunities inside the 10-yard line over the past two weeks have come through the air, while not just Henry, but also Luke Stocker, has more carries in that area over that span — though given the result, I wouldn’t expect Stocker to reprise his role anytime soon. (Read: ever again.)
A Fournette-Mariota-Kessler-Henry core leaves enough salary to fit in the home favorite kicker, Ryan Succop, and Keelan Cole, who has parlayed the absence of D.J. Chark (quad, out) over the past two games into a 67% snap rate after what amounted to a three-game benching. Succop and Cole own the top Projected Plus/Minuses on the slate.
On FanDuel, the top projected lineup with Fournette in the MVP slot contains Mariota, Kessler, Cole and Donte Moncrief, who is priced lower than several players he’s projected to outscore: Tajae Sharpe, Jonnu Smith, Josh Lambo, Yeldon, Taywan Taylor, Anthony Firkser and Carlos Hyde.
Fournette will be the chalk, and rightfully so. The only player to have more games of 20-plus points on the season than Fournette has in the last four weeks is Mariota. If you’re going away from Fournette, note that our Models actually like Mariota as the highest-ceiling play in this game.
After that it’s a toss-up. Kessler has the No. 3 ceiling on the slate but will likely be outscored by one of his pass-catchers on DraftKings if he hits, the likeliest of which is Moncrief, who has accounted for 31% of the team’s air yards and is the only member of the team with an average depth of target in the double digits. Davis could be followed by Jalen Ramsey but could also potentially rack up volume in the slot, where he’s played 31% of his snaps this season to Ramsey’s 7%, giving Davis some contrarian appeal. Henry won’t be contrarian per se, but he could be contrarian in the MVP slot and is also an option as the home favorite back most likely to get goal-line work.
There’s a large gap in projected ceiling after Mariota, Fournette, Kessler, Davis, Lewis and Henry.
- Fournette-Jaguars D-Titans pass-catcher: For if Jacksonville uses Fournette like it has in Weeks 10-12 and plays defense like last week.
- Fournette-Mariota: Plays on negative game script for the Titans but with Mariota still being productive enough to warrant rostering.
- Mariota-Henry-Lewis: Home favorite onslaught that leverages the positive correlation between all involved.
- Tight end and non-top-two wide receivers are the positions Jacksonville is most vulnerable to according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which given pricing sets up best for receiving specialist Anthony Firkser, who has been targeted 10 times over his last three games despite playing just 46 total snaps. Jonnu Smith and Taywan Taylor are also in that conversation.
- For the Jags, Cole is the top dart throw. As of this writing, he’s actually the only Jaguar with a positive projected Plus/Minus.
- James O’Shaughnessy will give you starter’s snaps, but the odds of meaningful production aren’t great against a Titans defense that has allowed the third-fewest yards to tight ends.
Henry would typically be considered the top leverage play on this kind of slate, but he’ll likely be among the highest-owned players anyway, and the Titans are home favorites, so him finding the end zone en route to a decent fantasy game wouldn’t exactly be a contrarian viewpoint. That leaves members of the Jags passing game, namely Kessler and Yeldon, who as you might recall, tend to have strong negative correlations with the team’s RB1.
With a total in the 30s, the kickers — and the defenses o DraftKings — provide decent leverage, especially if you use more than one in a lineup.
Let’s get this shmoney!
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Chris Raybon is a Senior Editor at the Action Network and a co-host of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+. He has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2010 — even the kneel downs. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRaybon and read about how he quit his accounting job and got paid to watch sports.
Pictured above: Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27)
Photo credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports