Thursday night delivers a Week 7 matchup featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars heading to the bayou to take on the New Orleans Saints. We might look at this matchup and scoff a little bit but in comparison to the 1:00pm ET games on the Sunday main slate, this game is like the Super Bowl. Trevor Lawrence is dealing with a bit of a knee injury. He’s been limited throughout the week in practice but he’s pushing to play. The Jaguars have done a great job getting to 4-2 on the season by utilizing every weapon at their disposal: Travis Etienne, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, Zay Jones, etc. They’ve won three straight games and look to keep the momentum rolling. The Saints have had their struggles over the last month. Every team can beat up on the New England Patriots nowadays, but that game marks their only win in their last four games. Take away that game and this team is struggling to put up 17 points. But with Alvin Kamara returning and resuming his heavy workload, we have some intriguing ways to approach lineup construction for Thursday night. Here are the top plays and strategies for Thursday’s action to kick off Week 7!
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Spread: New Orleans Saints (-1)
Over/Under: 40 points
Weather: This game will be played in a controlled environment.
- Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback – Questionable (Knee)
- Zay Jones, Wide Receiver – OUT (Knee)
- Brandon Scherff, Guard – Questionable (Ankle)
- Walker Little, Offensive Tackle – OUT (Knee)
- Tyson Campbell, Defensive Back – OUT (Hamstring)
- DaVon Hamilton, Defensive Tackle – OUT (Back)
- Derek Carr, Quarterback – Probable (Shoulder/Chest)
- Jamaal Williams, Running Back – Questionable (Hamstring)
- Chris Olave, Wide Receiver – Probable (Toe)
- Andrus Peat, Guard – Questionable (Groin)
- Juwan Johnson, Tight End – OUT (Calf)
- Cameron Jordan, Defensive End – Questionable (Back)
- Tyrann Mathieu, Safety – Questionable (Foot)
- Lonnie Johnson, Defensive Back – Questionable (Hamstring)
- Demario Davis, Linebacker – Questionable (Knee)
- Ryan Ramczyk, Offensive Tackle – OUT (Concussion)
- James Hurst, Guard – OUT (Ankle)
- Landon Young, Offensive Tackle – OUT (Hip)
- J.T. Gray, Defensive Back – OUT (Hamstring)
NFL DFS MVP/Captain
I know some of you will ask who my favorite Captain pick is tonight. And it’s awfully hard not to like Alvin Kamara in this spot. The Jaguars have been really solid at stopping the run. However, they’ve still allowed opposing running backs to be productive in the passing game. Just last week, Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor combined for 11 catches and 84 receiving yards after combining for just 40 rushing yards. The game script for their matchup against Buffalo was a little off because Jacksonville had already been over there for a week, while Buffalo had to fly out there. But James Cook and Latavius Murray finished with four catches combined. The Falcons saw Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier combine for six receptions against the Jaguars and the week before the Houston Texans saw Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary grab a handful of catches too. We know the Saints will get Kamara involved on the ground and through the air. He has 75 touches over his last three games with 23 receptions on 25 targets. That’s just insane usage in full-PPR formats. He’s put up at least 17 fantasy points in three straight games and he’s done that without a 100-yard bonus and just one touchdown so far. The volume alone will draw plenty of DFS players to plug him in at Captain and the price tag is not severely egregious.
Etienne’s usage has been absurd lately. He’s gone for 20+ fantasy points on DraftKings in back-to-back games and three times already this year. Clearly, there’s slate-breaking upside here. He already has three rushing touchdowns of at least 20 yards and he leads the NFL in missed tackles forced on runs (29) and has 352 yards after contact (second in the NFL). Obviously, this is a slightly more concerning matchup, especially on a short week. For the most part, the Saints defensive front does a great job of containing the ground game. Last week, the Houston Texans became the first team all year to rush for 100+ yards on New Orleans and they barely got over that mark with 103 yards on 26 carries. But New Orleans hasn’t allowed a touchdown on the ground to opposing running backs through six games. Fortunately, Etienne does see work in the passing game and is in line for 18+ touches. Despite the awful matchup, I’m not writing him off.
This is a great matchup for all of New Orleans’ pass catchers, but for Olave it’ll come down to the workload. He has four games this season with 10+ targets and in each of those games he’s gone for over 14 fantasy points in full-PPR formats. He only has one touchdown so far but that’s a stat that will correct itself over time. When he has at least one full step of separation between him and a defensive back he’s generating a 90% target rate. My concern with Olave isn’t so much with him but rather his quarterback, Derek Carr. Olave averaged over 10 targets per game to start the year through three games. Then Carr got hurt and he saw a total of three receptions in the next two games. He did bounce back last week catching seven of his 10 targets for 96 yards. Assuming all is right with Carr, Olave definitely has slate-breaking upside so long as he’s getting double-digit targets.
I’m leaning Kirk over Ridley at Captain for a couple reasons. For starters, he’s cheaper. I also think there’s more leverage with Kirk at Captain over Ridley. Kirk also has a 23% target share compared to Ridley at 22%. Kirk already has more catches and receiving yards than Ridley and if you look at the fantasy output in Weeks 2-6, Kirk is averaging nearly six more fantasy points per game than Ridley. He has five straight games with at least 13 fantasy points in full PPR formats. Sure, he may have a more consistent floor while Ridley might have the better ceiling. But they have a similar target share and this play saves some money. I’ll have shares of both at Captain but with a slight bias towards Kirk.
Mid-Tier & DFS Value Plays
I’m sure there will be plenty of people playing him at Captain. But he’s dealing with a knee injury he sustained in Sunday’s game. We’ve seen a consistent floor from Lawrence so far of 15-20 fantasy points. That’s good and very much worth having in the Flex. But there are players with higher ceilings. Through six games he’s only thrown seven touchdown passes and he’s not even averaging 250 yards per game. Not to mention he’s had six turnovers in as many games. Add in the knee injury and I’m less optimistic. The matchup is also pretty damn tough for Lawrence as the Saints have allowed just seven passing touchdowns in six games and only one quarterback has thrown for over 250 yards on them. It’s shaping up to be another modest night for Lawrence, but he’s a good Flex play if playing a Jaguars pass catcher at Captain.
Here’s another player I don’t think you need to force into your lineups at Captain. Carr has shown a horrifically lower floor than Lawrence and last week, despite going for over 20 fantasy points on DraftKings, he needed 50 pass attempts to get there. He’s hit the 300-yard bonus twice on DraftKings but mind you, he has just one game with multiple touchdown passes and he has three games already this year with less than 10 fantasy points. Plus, his offensive line is pretty beat up, but I’ll elaborate on them in the D/ST section. The Jags utilize a lot of Cover-3 and Carr has had his struggles against this defensive scheme, however it does lead him to check down to his running backs more which does play to Kamara’s strengths. Given his volatility I wouldn’t even say you must play him with a Saints pass catcher but if they connect for a touchdown then you’re double dipping with all those points.
Ridley has been very boom-or-bust so far this season. He has two performances with over 20+ fantasy points on DraftKings but he also he three games with under eight fantasy points. Hence, why I feel a little better about the consistency and safety net of Christian Kirk at Captain. Now despite Ridley having a poor game last week he still maintained a 43% air yards share. If we want to go off the game logs, Ridley has plenty of solid performances against the New Orleans Saints. He has at least 90 receiving yards in five of six career games against the Saints and in two of his last three career Thursday night games, he’s also hit that 90-receiving yard mark. Keep in mind he missed the 2022 season and appeared in just six games in 2021. But still a high variance play worthy of some shares at Captain.
If you want some hard-hitting analysis from Andrew Cooper on the Saints passing attack then you’ve come to the right place…
Thomas has at least six targets in every game so far this season with a minimum of eight targets in four games. He’s doing okay with the workload getting anywhere from 50-75 receiving yards per game. He just hasn’t found the end zone yet. However, I still like the play because despite the age and injury history, he’s still winning contested catches at an 87.5% rate. He’s arguably due for a touchdown at some point as he has the third-most targets in the league (37) among players without a touchdown. The next player we’ll discuss is actually fourth! Per Mike Clay of ESPN, the Jaguars have allowed five receivers to reach 19 fantasy points and all of them were perimeter receivers, and sure enough, Thomas plays 68% of his snaps from the perimeter. He’s due for a touchdown at some point and in this matchup he certainly has multiple-touchdown upside. I’ll briefly mention Taysom Hill because there are always questions about playing him after any game he gets usage. You play him at your own risk. I don’t really see anything that would encourage me to play him. But he ran a route on 63% of Carr’s drop backs last week and caught seven-of-eight targets. But time and time again, we’ve seen the Saints limit his usage the next game. But any Showdown slate gets a little spicier with Hill because he can run, throw, and catch the ball and play a variety of positions. I just don’t know if I want to pay $6,200 for a player who might be phased out and provide us nothing.
Earlier in this article we touched on the target shares of Christian Kirk (23%) and Calvin Ridley (22%). Evan Engram is not far behind them at 21% and he’s only $5,800. He’s one of the few tight ends in the league averaging over seven targets per game. He hasn’t found the end zone yet, but positive touchdown regression is likely in order for Engram. The Saints have been pretty strong against opposing tight ends through six games but they have allowed touchdowns to the position in two of their last three matchups. If you think he can find the end zone once (or hopefully multiple times) then he’s worth playing at Captain. Five straight games with at least seven targets is a nice workload for this position.
We know that Shaheed is a variance play, but when looking at a Showdown slate and building a player pool for Tournaments, you certainly want players with high ceilings. Carr will likely take one or two deep shots per game to Shaheed and he already has three games with at least six targets this season. But I found this tweet from LaQuan Jones (@RealDealFantasy) to be pretty telling of Shaheed’s impact as a deep threat…
Remember those “perimeter” statistics we looked at with Michael Thomas regarding the Jacksonville secondary? Well Shaheed lines up 59% of the time on the perimeter so this is a matchup that bodes well for him. He definitely needs to find the end zone to be optimal at Captain. If he and Carr connect on another deep pass, there’s a good chance of that happening.
For this game, I’m higher on D/ST’s than I normally am. However, the $5,400 price tag on New Orleans is not what I was expecting. I don’t know if DraftKings overpriced New Orleans because of the early news on Lawrence’s knee injury, but that might actually force exposure down. The Saints have a good defense. They only have 13 sacks in six games, but they have 10 takeaways and two touchdowns already. Part of their numbers are inflated from their game against the Patriots where they scored a shutout and scored a D/ST touchdown. Take away that game and this group is averaging seven fantasy points per game on DraftKings. And we’ve tracked these “priced up” D/ST’s and we know there’s a track record of DFS players biting at the upside and settling for roughly eight fantasy points. I truthfully don’t have an issue with New Orleans on paper, but they are probably $1,000 more than what they should be.
On the other side, I really like the Jacksonville Jaguars at just $3,800 on DraftKings. The implied game total is right around 40 points which is fairly low. We’ve seen plenty of Thursday night games get off to a slow and ugly start. The Jags can certainly give up yards and points, but they also have nine takeaways in their last three games. And remember when I mentioned the current state of the New Orleans offensive line? Well Bill Barnwell of ESPN published a fantastic article on Monday highlighting the biggest fantasy football injury implications from Week 6. At the very bottom of the piece he touches on the injuries to James Hurst and Ryan Ramczyk, the team’s starting offensive tackles who will be inactive for tonight’s matchup. When Hurst left last week’s game with an ankle injury, the Saints had three drives stall in the opponent’s red zone and they registered a total of just three points on those drives. 2022 first-round tackle, Trevor Penning, has been a liability for New Orleans in his young career. Not to mention there are other injuries to monitor as well. But with Hurst and Ramczyk out, we might actually see the Jaguars put more pressure on Derek Carr and it could be an offensive struggle for the Saints. I love this D/ST as a value play that has double-digit upside.
This is a bit of a high price tag on Blake Grupe of the New Orleans Saints, but he provides some consistency better than most kickers in the league. The Saints have done a good enough job of moving the ball between the 20’s but stalling in the red zone. You can blame that on Derek Carr’s low level of play or the fact that he’s playing a little beat up currently. Either way, there has been volume for Grupe so far. He has 13 made field goals through six games and he could have more after missing two kicks last week. It’s a very dependent position but he’s returned at least nine fantasy points in four games already this year. The $5,200 price tag is the only thing making it somewhat difficult to buy into him.
Brandon McManus isn’t much of a value off Grupe. If anything, he’s consistently inconsistent. He’s made one field goal on the even-numbered weeks and three during the odd-numbered weeks. If you’re more superstitious than I am then you’d probably assume he gets just one field goal tonight. Both McManus and Grupe have hit the double-digit fantasy point mark in half their games so far this year and Jacksonville should be able to move the ball on New Orleans regardless of Lawrence’s injury. Both are a little pricy but not entirely unplayable.
NFL DFS Dart Throw Bargains
With Juwan Johnson OUT, Jamaal Williams (likely OUT), and Zay Jones already confirmed OUT for this game, the dart throw options are somewhat limited. We know the Jags focus about 80% of their target share on four players, and the Saints could arguably do the same. So while we do need to live in this range for at least one player, the fantasy output is very difficult to gauge.
Moreau is $3,200 on DraftKings so even he isn’t saving us a ton of salary in this range. He’s caught all five of his targets the last two games and has returned at least seven fantasy points in both. Granted, in the game against the Patriots his lone catch was for a touchdown. But he did have four targets last week as the Saints strangely got their tight ends going in that matchup. Juwan Johnson being OUT does elevate his floor a little bit as it’ll allow him more opportunities to be on the field. I do wish he was $1,000 cheaper because you really need multiple catches at this price tag.
With Bigsby, you’re hoping that Etienne does all the work to help move the ball down the field and that the Jags take him out to give him a breather and then bring in Bigsby for the short yardage score. Neutral and positive game scripts don’t bode well for Bigsby. He’s really only touching the ball three times per game so you really need a big play or a score at this price tag.
Agnew is probably my preferred value play and he’s easy to afford at just $400. Zay Jones has already been ruled out for this matchup and that means Agnew probably works as the third wide receiver. Now for some context, he played this role last week and didn’t generate anything for us in fantasy. However, he was on the field for 20 offensive snaps. He’s only $400 so we just need a couple catches year to pay off the price tag.