Thursday night games are a weird dynamic for NFL teams, as they would prefer to have exactly six days in between every single game, thus allowing them to keep the same practice/travel schedule week in and week out.
While it is less than ideal for the teams with short weeks, it does provide them with what amounts to as almost a second bye the following week. The change in timing and preparation obviously impacts how a team game plans and performs, but what does it mean for your fantasy football roster?
We are dealing with a tiny sample size (only two weeks of data to judge), but I charted how the primary performers of the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets and New England Patriots played in the week following their Thursday night game. I’m not suggesting that these trends are set in stone to continue the rest of the season, and it doesn’t hurt that three of these quarterbacks have won Super Bowl titles, but the extended rest is clearly making an impact.
After playing on Thursday, quarterbacks have completed nearly two-thirds of their passes for an average of 268 yards and 1.75 touchdowns. Those are very respectable numbers that will rank in the top 12 most weeks, but the 10-day work week seems to be benefiting running backs and wide receivers a bit more.
The most productive fantasy running back for a team coming off of the Thursday night showcase has averaged 18.3 touches for 104.5 yards and 0.75 touchdowns. Numbers like that will land in a top-10 fantasy day, and these have been accumulated by very average NFL running backs in Knowshon Moreno, Bernard Pierce, Brandon Bolden and Bilal Powell.
This is one trend I’m buying into as the offense benefits from the extra time off and the coaching staff can watch their opponent live (and of course on film), thus giving them more opportunities to determine areas of weakness. As the season progresses and the weather worsens, teams tend to place an increased importance on establishing a run game, and I would expect well rested teams to do this even more so.
While the numbers from QBs after the week-and-a-half vacation haven’t been overwhelming, it’s been obvious that the coaching staff has spent their extra time finding a specific matchup in the opponent’s secondary that they are looking to exploit. The wide out has averaged six catches for 91.8 yards and 0.75 touchdowns over the two-week sample size, accounting for 34.2 percent of their quarterback’s total passing yards.
Once again, these are top-10 numbers for far less than elite talent (Eric Decker, Torrey Smith, Kenbrell Thompkins and Santonio Holmes). The trick here is obviously correctly predicting which wideout will be the featured man, but the fact remains that a WR is likely to produce a very strong outing as a result of the long week.
This week, the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles are the teams to watch after a 10-day break, and I would bump their skill position players a bit up your rankings as a result. The Chiefs play a defense in the New York Giants that is allowing opponents to complete 68.1 percent of their passes and has allowed seven touchdown tosses as compared to a mere two interceptions.
Up to this point, the Giants rank fifth in rush attempts against and have given up four ground scores. The Thursday night trend (and the Giants’ lack of consistency on defense) has resulted in Alex Smith ranking ahead of Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer this week, Dwayne Bowe moving ahead of Vincent Jackson and Andre Johnson, and Jamaal Charles being my top ranked RB for Week 4.
The Eagles hit the jackpot as they not only have a long week, but the Broncos are on a short week. No defense has been thrown on more than the Broncos, giving Mike Vick and DeSean Jackson license to take shots down the field with regularity. Denver’s run defense has been stout (league low 130 rush yards allowed on 2.3 yards per carry), but they’ve given up three ground scores and have yet to face a talent like LeSean McCoy.