Thursday Night Fantasy Preview

Cardinals David Johnson

Denver Broncos @ Arizona Cardinals

When I first looked at this Thursday matchup, I thought one word. Gross. A struggling quarterback who is reminding us of why he was previously a BACK UP facing an offensive coordinator who apparently just realized he has one of the best running backs in the league on his team. Yay. Luckily, I do have a lot of vodka.

However, my feelings were somewhat assuaged when I peeked at the defensive rankings of both teams. Could this finally be the night when David Johnson returns to his position of fantasy dominance? Well, if Mike McCoy has anything to say about it, probably not. But! But. He should have a much better fantasy game than we have seen yet in the 2018 season, in my opinion.

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On the other side of the ball we see the ever confusing running back trio of Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay, and Devontae Booker going up against the SECOND WORST rushing defense in the league. Great! Great, right? As a Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay owner, I should be thrilled. But, I am not. Why? Because of the annoying conundrum known as Devontae Booker who is becoming a “thing” when he needs to be on the bench. This is no offense to Booker, but Freeman is better. Booker is completely stomping on Freeman’s targets and even cutting into Lindsay’s which makes his presence irritating.

Ahem. So, let’s take a look at tonight’s players.

Broncos RBs: Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay, & Devontae Booker (ew).

First, let’s look at their Snap Counts Percentages and Targets per Pro Football Reference.

  1. Royce Freeman: 35.3% with 6 targets and 62 touches
  2. Phillip Lindsay: 33.6% with 19 targets and 75 touches.
  3. Devontae Booker: 31.9 % with…. 20 targets. 20! Two Zero. Why? Why??? But only 28 touches.

Okay, so what does this actually mean for respectable fantasy owners who have Freeman and Lindsay? Per usual, be annoyed that Booker is there as the third down receiving option. Definitely feel good about starting Phillip Lindsay and I think you can plug in Royce Freeman in this matchup as well. If there is going to be a game where he will bust out, it should be tonight, but Lindsay is still the preferred back. If you don’t have Lindsay and have a ton of RBs on a bye, you can plug Royce Freeman into your lineup. Just cross your fingers and pray. Maybe take some pepto, too.

Cardinals RBs: David Johnson.

That’s it. Just David Johnson. PLAY HIM.

The End.

Broncos WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, & Courtland Sutton

Snap Count Percentages, Targets, and Touches per Pro Football Reference.

  1. Emmanuel Sanders: 87.3% with 54 targets and 40 receptions
  2. Demaryius Thomas: 75.9% with 43 targets and 28 receptions
  3. Courtland Sutton: 69.%with 30 targets and 13 receptions

The Cardinals have kept passing offenses mostly in check. I had to do a wee double take at the numbers. According to ESPN, the Cardinals defense is ranked 9th best against the pass, but they have allowed 90 receptions to opposing WRs. That’s third most allowed receptions by a defense in 2018 behind the Eagles with 96 and the Jets allowing 95.

So, you’d think this would be a good matchup for the Broncos wide receivers, but you would be wrong. While they have allowed said 90 receptions, they have held those receivers to only 979 yards and have allowed only 2 receiving touchdowns to wide receivers.

I would feel comfortable starting Keenum’s security blanket known as Emmanuel Sanders, but I would still temper my expectations. Likewise with Demaryius Thomas. Thomas is startable if you need a wide receiver during the bye week but temper expectations. I would avoid starting Courtland Sutton against a surprisingly consistent pass defense in the Cardinals.

Cardinals WRs: Larry Fitzgerald (sigh) & Christian Kirk

Snap Count Percentages, Targets, and Touches per Pro Football Reference

  1. Larry Fitzgerald: 84.7% with 33 targets and 22 touches (zero TDs)
  2. Christian Kirk: 72.8% with 33 targets and 25 touches (with a TD)

(Sigh). Larry, oh Larry. Coming off an injury, on a short week, and with a rookie QB who is practically Kirk’s bestie. I like Kirk in this matchup and I would avoid Larry Fitzgerald. Ugh. It’s like the Upside Down on this offense.

All right, so I said I “like” Kirk in this matchup, but does that mean I want to start him? Yes. Although the Broncos defense is ranked 10th best against the pass, they have only allowed 73 receptions to wide receivers, they have given those 73 receptions a chance to rack up 951 yards and 6 passing TDs. So, yes. I would start Christian Kirk tonight especially if you need a fill in for the bye week.

Broncos TE: Jeff Heuerman

Don’t. Just don’t do it. Plus, Cardinals rank 8th best against the tight end position anyway.

Cardinals TE: Ricky Seals-Jones

After dropping a gigantic goose egg 2 weeks ago, Seals-Jones bounced back against Minnesota. The dumpster fire that is the tight end position this year could possibly make him a viable start in this matchup if you don’t have a better option at tight end. The Broncos rank 10th against the position, but have allowed 27 receptions for 422 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Now…. for the Quarterbacks

  1. Broncos: Case Keenum
  2. Cardinals: Josh Rosen

Okay, come on. Really? If anyone is struggling with starting either of these two players, A) I feel really sorry for you, and B) Go find someone else on the waiver wire for crying out loud.

If you have players starting tonight, good luck! I will be right there with you. I have Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Christian Kirk, David Johnson and Denver’s Defense scattered in three leagues. Big Thursday… I need a drink already.


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