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NFL Showdown can be a fickle beast. These contests do not rely on median projections so much as leverage and uniqueness. Fading the highest-rostered plays can be a risky proposition. Typically, your edge is going to come by identifying the best low-rostered plays and finding clever ways to pair them with the juggernauts of the slate.
This article will have a heavy DraftKings lean simply because the decision-making process is more interesting, given the salary premium attached to the Captain spot. FanDuel's pricing is the same for both MVP and Flex spots. You will usually need the slate's top scorer at MVP, so FanDuel strategy revolves around unique Flex builds.
Advice in this article will pertain predominantly to tournament lineups and strategy. For cash lineups, build around median projections. For head-to-head contests, continue to lean into the median projections, but if two options project closely, give the nod to the lowest rostered player.
It seems like ages since we've seen a Thursday game between two competitive, playoff-minded teams, and here we are. Both the Bengals and Ravens need this win, and between them they bring a bevy of DFS difference-makers to choose from.
Vegas isn't sure what to do with this game, with the spread currently sitting right near Baltimore's (theoretical) home-field advantage. The 43.5 total seems fairly mild, but we can't sleep on how good both these defenses are at their peaks. Scoring won't come particularly easy here. Thankfully, there's a lot of consistent volume to be found and a handful of strong GPP differentiators.
Bengals No. 2 wideout Tee Higgins will sit, as he did in Week 10, creating a handful of short-term contributors to sift through.
Joe Burrow (CPT or FLEX)
Slowed through the early season by a lingering calf issue, Prime Joe Burrow is here. Over his last five games, with his weapons bouncing in and out of the lineup, Burrow has completed 74% of his throws. Over that span, he's produced 27, 15, 28, 25, and 25 DraftKings points. He pushes the ball to all levels and throws near the goal line as often as just about anyone - only six passers have more attempts inside the 10. And the cherry on top? He'll likely be rostered less than Lamar Jackson across the field.
Joe Mixon (CPT or FLEX)
Mixon is the Cincinnati backfield; no other Bengals runner has touched the ball more than 15 times. The Captain upside comes from his touchdown potential as the lead (read: only notable) back in a potent, high-scoring offense. Mixon has already taken on 18 touches from inside the 10-yard line. This is almost surely his last year in Cincinnati, and Coach Taylor looks poised to ride him until the wheels come off.
There are few surprises with Chase at this point. One of the most versatile, explosive, and dominant receivers to pop up this half-decade, Chase has proven capable of being whatever is needed from snap to snap. Sometimes, he works horizontally, running screens and hitches near the line and in open space. Sometimes, he uses his world-class speed and adjustment ability to win deep ball after deep ball. One thing is for sure: Chase will be in virtually every lineup.
That, of course, makes us think about differentiation, and it makes plenty of sense to fade Chase in single lineups. He's limited by a back injury that left him happy to be "alive" just a week and a half ago. Chase drew a season-low snap share in Week 10, drawing just 6 targets, his lowest mark since Week 4 of last season. And he's only had three days to rest since. Make no mistake: he'll be a massive part of the gameplan regardless of his target count. But Burrow may be forced to spread the ball generously, and Showdown offers no decoy points.
Boyd has been one of the game's best possession men over the past several years, and he bounces back into relevance when Higgins can't go. Last week, Boyd carried extra water for a dinged-up Chase as well, turning in his biggest line (12 targets, 8 catches, 117 yards) since mid-2022. Boyd has his quarterback's trust, flypaper-like hands, and sneaky potential to lead the Bengals in targets tonight.
When Higgins sits, Boyd kicks outside, and the sure-handed Irwin (a 77% catch rate) takes over the slot. Irwin's specialty is settling into the soft spots of the zone, a la Hunter Renfrow or Demario Douglas. That makes him a valuable security blanket tonight. Irwin caught 8 balls for 60 yards back in Week 5; last Sunday, he put up 4 for 54 and a touchdown.
These two are pure dart throws, but not particularly cheap ones at $2,600 and $3,000, respectively. There are definitely higher-upside guys out there, but for the risk-averse, Hudson is the only realistic play. He's cheaper and drew seven targets in last week's short-handed game.
Under the Radar
Drew Sample (FLEX)
Simply put, $400 is far too cheap for a semi-starter who's led the team's tight ends in snaps over the last three weeks.
Lamar Jackson (CPT or FLEX)
Jackson may be the NFL's MVP at this point. And it's worth noting he was masterful when these teams faced in Week 2, showing an innate understanding of the Cincinnati defense.
That said, of the two quarterbacks, I'd rather Captain Burrow. For all his real-life exploits, Jackson has dipped noticeably in both air and ground production. He's averaged just 27 passes per game over his last five, with an uninspiring (for him) 9 rushes. Those are QB1 numbers for the season-long folk, but they don't help us much here. Sandwiched around that 38-point masterpiece against the Lions were performances of 18, 12, 12, and 15. Most importantly, the Ravens are 4-1 over that stretch, with the loss coming on a walk-off field goal. They know what works, and they'll pursue it.
The Bengals need Burrow to throw and to put up numbers. The Ravens hope Jackson doesn't have to. That makes this a relatively easy call.
Edwards isn't your typical lead back. A pure two-down plodder, he claims half the snaps but 60-70% of the carries. In other words, if you're playing him tonight, it's in the hopes he plunges into the end zone once or twice (or more). That's not a bad strategy, but there's an inherent risk, as it leaves you with only one realistic game type that projects well. Edwards has drawn all of eight targets on the year.
Mitchell appears on the verge of completely overtaking Hill as the No. 2. He'll be wildly popular tonight as the public chases recent exploits, but I'll be looking to diversify there. We have no reason to believe Mitchell is slated for more than the 10 and 4 touches he's taken these past two weeks. DraftKings has priced him squarely in the "Who knows?" zone at $5,600, and shrewd single-entry players will be looking at receivers instead.
Flowers snapped out of a two-game lull last week, leading the team with 6 targets, 5 receptions, and 73 yards. His connection with Jackson is strong, and he was trusted with several high-leverage looks last week. That said, if the great Mark Andrews has become dependent on game flow, so has Flowers. Over the prior two weeks, the gifted rookie had produced just 30 yards on 6 dink-and-dunk catches.
Bateman and Beckham rotate evenly enough that neither has produced a 60-yard game this season. They're only for differentiation in tonight's slot, playing against the heavy roster rates of Flowers and Andrews.
Mark Andrews (CPT or FLEX)
Andrews is no longer the volume-dominant, Kelce-adjacent fantasy stud of 2021. Baltimore remains committed to the run, and they've added several key pass-catchers since then. Still, Andrews is Jackson's first read quite often; when the Ravens have to throw, he will absolutely eat. When Jackson shredded the Lions in Week 7, Andrews caught 6 balls for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns. When they rolled the Seahawks two weeks later, Andrews hauled in 10 of Jackson's 21 completions.
Under the Radar
Nelson Agholor (FLEX)
This is a deep scrape, but Agholor has had his moments in Baltimore. He went 9-102-1 over Weeks 2 and 3, went 4-64 just 2 weeks later, then caught a red-zone touchdown in the Lions romp. He's barely produced of late, but he's drawn 53% of the offensive snaps on the year.
Kickers and Defenses
Both these lethal offenses can rack up yards and points, and neither has much trouble converting red-zone trips into touchdowns. That said, the Ravens sit third league-wide in holding opponents to short field goals. The Bengals should produce for most of the night, but Evan McPherson could provide a chunk of their points.
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