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Optimal Thursday Night FanDuel and DraftKings Lineups - Cowboys at Bucs

Chris Lollis  |  September 9, 2021

With more than $8 million in total prizes available on the top Thursday Night contest at both FanDuel and DraftKings, fantasy owners are likely feeling the same opening-night jitters as the players on the field. Can't figure out who to fade tonight? Looking for a cheap outlet to fit both quarterbacks in your roster? We got you covered.

The trickiest part of this matchup is that both teams have three legitimate fantasy receivers. Combine that with the fact that Tampa Bay has three running backs and three tight ends and their league-best run defense could slow down Zeke, and we have a real situation.

Before sharing our optimal lineups, let's take a look at some overall thoughts towards roster construction for this Thursday night matchup.

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Who to Fade on Opening Night

If only we had 18 roster spots and could start all of the fantasy-relevant players from this game... Here are a handful of players that we threw out when building our optimal FanDuel and DraftKings lineups for tonight:

Ezekiel Elliott - Zeke would certainly make an appearance if we were building multiple lineups, but given this is our optimal lineup, he had to go. The first, and most obvious, reason for throwing Zeke out is the matchup. The Bucs game up a league-low 3.6 YPC and also gave up the fewest total rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season. Not only is this matchup brutal, but Zeke disappeared against good defenses at every opportunity last season. Can't trust him here.

Michael Gallup - One of the Cowboys receivers had to go off the top, and Gallup was the guy. Given he is the cheapest WR of the Cowboys trio, and also tends to rack up air yards, he will likely see decent ownership tonight. That being said, he also takes the majority of his snaps on the left side of the Cowboys offense, which means he draws the Bucs' top corner, Jamel Dean.

Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette - It feels like a coin flip as to which guy finds the end zone, and neither guy will get passing down work with Gio in town. The Cowboys run defense is certainly suspect, but we can't project either of these guys to reach value in the 10-12 touches they are likely to get tonight.

How We Built our FanDuel Lineup

The FanDuel single-game pricing was significantly friendlier than what DraftKings offered for tonight's matchup. That being said, we expect scoring to be way up in this contest and it likely comes down to who you put in that final slot.

Assuming you play both quarterbacks, you are likely to have four players rostered with 25% or greater ownership. Slim, Slim margins.

MVP - Dak Prescott ($15,500)

Given the strength of the Bucs run defense, it made sense to make Dak our MVP tonight. If the Cowboys keep pace with the Bucs, it will be because he plays great. If they trail early, the Cowboys will be forced to throw it a bunch.

Tom Brady ($16,000)

We almost always start both quarterbacks in the single-game slates, so of course, the GOAT made it as well. Brady has an endless amount of weapons around him, one of the best offensive lines in the league, and will square off with a Cowboys secondary that surrendered a 100.4 QB rating last season.

Chris Godwin ($12,500)

Godwin was banged up earlier this week, but was off of today's injury report and should see his usual 90%+ snap count tonight. Given how cheap AB is on both sites, we expect him to be the highest-owned Bucs receiver, followed by Mike Evans (high TD upside). We are going the other way and looking at Chris Godwin who will work against Jourdan Lewis in the slot. Lewis was terrible in 2020, earning a PFF coverage grade of 45.8 (107th of 121 CB's).

CeeDee Lamb ($10,000)

Given how hot his name has been all offseason, CeeDee could be 100% owned tonight, but we just can't fade him. Of the three Cowboys WR's, his matchup with Sean Murphy-Bunting is easily the most favorable. Murphy-Bunting allowed 78 receptions for 990 and 11 touchdowns last season. Yikes.

Blake Jarwin ($6,000)

As we mentioned earlier... tonight's contest is going to come down to one player. Of course we want that player to be Blake Jarwin. Between Schultz and Jarwin, not only is Jarwin is the better receiving tight end and listed as the starter, but he is $500 cheaper on FanDuel. If the Bucs corners are as sticky as advertised and Zeke gets bottled up in the run game, it could be the Blake Jarwin show. It is worth pointing out that Tampa surrendered nearly 14 fantasy PPG (24th in NFL) to opposing tight ends last season.

Thursday Night Lineups - Week 1

How We Built our DraftKings Lineup

The overall lineup is very similar to our FanDuel lineup, outside of that little surprise at the Captain spot. The majority of lineups for this contest will certainly have either Brady or Dak at the captain spot. The problem is the premium you pay to have a QB earn those 1.5x points is over 10% of your salary.

Rolling the dice and starting Giovanni Bernard there allows us to stack our five top players in the flex spots, and anything Gio gives us is gravy. That being said, we do expect him to be productive tonight. Bruce Arians is on record saying Bernard will have a big role in tonight's gameplan, and at minimum, he is going to get every third down, passing down, and 2-minute offense snap.

If Brady elects to use Bernard in a similar role to James White, he could also have a role in the red zone. White had 24 receiving touchdowns in just four seasons with Brady.

Good luck... Bet on Bernard and Blake!

Chris Lollis

Chris has over a decade of experience in DFS and sports betting. He covers the NFL, CFB, and sports betting legislation for EatWatchBet. Find him on Twitter: @_chris_lollis

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