Thursday night football is ready to roll on the DraftKings Dream Stream with a nice three-game classic slate kicking off at 6 p.m. ET as the second half of the full six-game schedule throughout the day. The action on the featured slate begins with Matt Ryan ($6,600) and the Atlanta Falcons hosting their former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers. At 8:00 p.m. ET, the primetime game features the Houston Texans visiting the Minnesota Vikings, and we wrap things up for the day with a visit to virtual Raymond James Stadium where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be hosting their division rivals, the Carolina Panthers. This will be the sixth time the Bucs and Panthers have faced off in Madden 21, which gives us some specific sim history to break down.
As always, it’s important to note that each roster is not impacted by COVID-19 opt-outs, injuries, suspensions or illness in these sims and that the highest-rated options have been placed at the top of the depth charts. The roster for each team includes all player movement that occurred prior to Week 1 of this season and uses the Madden 21 ratings from Week 1 of this season.
For more details, you can find the game settings, depth charts, abilities and X-factors for each team in Madden 21 along with the upcoming schedule on the Madden Stream info page. There were a few tweaks to the X-factors and Superstars in the latest December update, so be sure to check the depth charts of each team.
Check out the daily DraftKings Madden Stream contests lobby with paid contests for real cash prizes now available alongside free contests. Each simulation will be played out computer vs. computer via an online Madden Stream using Madden 21. In this format, you can enjoy watching the game stream on the DraftKings YouTube channel, the DK Live app (download here) or right here in this post.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings, $8,000 — Watson’s rushing potential has made him one of the best QB plays throughout these Madden sims, and he has a good matchup on this slate against the Vikings. While he costs significantly more than any other QB on this slate, he’s averaging 24.0 DKFP per sim while no other QB is averaging more than 19 DKFP. Watson had 33.52 DKFP in his most recent sim, leading the Texans past the Patriots with 88 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 243 yards passing and a third score through the air. He has produced at least 20 DKFP in seven of his past eight contests, and his prolific rushing production makes him a low-risk play in any matchup since he can take off and pick up yards when under pressure. Watson has totaled 70 touchdowns in his 37 Madden 21 sims, and he’s worth spending up for if you can flex the rest of your salary cap around his $8K price tag.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers, $6,200 — Before their real-life run to the Super Bowl, Brady’s Bucs made a nice run through the NFC in the Madden Holiday Season before losing in the virtual NFC Championship. They won the real NFC Championship last week, and before their big game next week, they’ll get a sim matchup with the Panthers in the late game on this slate. Brady has gone 3-2 in his five previous contests with Carolina and averaged 19.9 DKFP per sim with over 21 DKFP in three of those matchups, highlighted by a big game with 29.96 DKFP. Overall, he has thrown 56 touchdowns in his 39 sims while averaging just under 250 yards per contest. He doesn’t give you anything on the ground, so his ceiling isn’t as high as Watson’s, but he has been solid enough to be the best pivot play from Watson, especially in this matchup where he has had success.
Other Options — Matt Ryan ($6,600), Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,900)
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings vs. Houston Texans, $8,900 — This slate is completely stacked at the RB spot, but Cook still clearly leads the way if you can find a way to work around his hefty salary. Cook has scored 46 touchdowns in his 36 Madden 21 sims and is the centerpiece of everything the Vikings do on offense. He has averaged 95.1 rushing yards and 3.7 catches for 31.3 receiving yards per sim to go with all those touchdowns and has produced 24.9 DKFP per sim as a result of his heavy workload. He ran all over the Texans in their earlier meeting in Madden 21, finishing with 140 rushing yards and three touchdowns on his way to 38.0 DKFP. He hasn’t had 30-plus DKFP in any of his four most recent sims, and he seems overdue for another monster game like that one. As a dual-threat RB, he can produce points multiple ways and should be able to find room against a Texans defense that has given up plenty of points to opposing RBs throughout Madden 21.
Other Options — Todd Gurley II ($7,500), Raheem Mostert ($6,700)
LeSean McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers, $4,500 — While paying up for two of the top RBs is definitely a strategy to consider, McCoy can be a very solid play under $5K if you decide to go with a cheaper play at one of your RB spots. As the Bucs’ third-down back, McCoy has at least three catches in four straight sims and over 9.0 DKFP in each of those contests. He also reached that threshold in four of his five previous matchups with the Panthers while averaging 10.72 DKFP. McCoy has six touchdowns in his 39 sims, but his main value comes from his PPR production since he has averaged 3.2 catches for 22.3 yards per contest as one of Brady’s favorite check down choices.
Other Option — Duke Johnson ($4,300)
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings vs. Houston Texans, $5,600 — With so many elite RBs on the board, it’s a good thing that solid WRs are available on the lower end of the salary spectrum to help balance out your roster. Thielen is relatively affordable for a WR1 who works out of the slot and usually gets a lot of catches. He does have to deal with the inconsistencies of Kirk Cousins ($5,600), resulting in some down games, but I don’t think that will hold him back too much in this matchup against the Texans’ struggling secondary. Thielen has double-digit DKFP in seven of his past eight games and just posted 21.1 DKFP against the Jets in his most recent sim. He had seven catches in that game and has averaged 5.1 catches per sim over that successful recent run. In his 36 Madden sims, he has produced an average of 51.9 receiving yards on 4.6 catches per game. He has only hit the 100-yard bonus one time in Madden 21 but usually gets enough catches to still be a solid play under $6K. He’s relatively low-risk and has a high ceiling, especially in this matchup.
Other Options — Julio Jones ($7,000), Chris Godwin ($6,200)
Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons, $4,300 — Bourne is the WR2 for the 49ers on their depth chart used for these sims, and he has been regularly involved in the passing attack for virtual Kyle Shanahan. Bourne has averaged 3.5 catches for 50.0 yards per sim and scored eight touchdowns. He had four catches for 40 yards and five catches for 58 yards in his two recent sims against the Falcons, who have a secondary that has been very beatable in these contests. Bourne has multiple catches in 34 of the 49ers’ 37 sims (92%), making him a reliable option at just over $4K with good potential to return value.
Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers, $3,400 — The Buccaneers don’t have Antonio Brown on their roster in these sims, which opens playing time for Miller. Miller has a great 94 speed rating and the ability to create big plays when he gets involved. He has made those big plays on a regular basis against the Panthers, scoring three touchdowns in his five contests against them and putting up over 13 DKFP three times, highlighted by a 10-catch, 29.8-DKFP explosion against them early in these sims. Miller is a little risky since his involvement fluctuates from sim to sim, but when he does get catches, he has a high ceiling and has shown he can go off against this Panthers secondary.
Other Options — Deebo Samuel ($5,400), Will Fuller V ($4,800), Tajae Sharpe ($4,000), Russell Gage ($3,200)
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons, $6,000 — Kittle was surprisingly held catchless in the first of his two recent sims against the Falcons, but he bounced back with an eight-catch, 21.8-DKFP outing against them in their most recent meeting. He can be a little boom-or-bust depending on the play of Jimmy G at QB, but he has a high ceiling as one of the highest-rated TEs in Madden. He has averaged 4.8 catches for 56.0 yards per sim in his 37 contests and has scored eight touchdowns. Three of those scores have come in his four most recent games, including one against the Falcons. He isn’t as consistent a producer as some of the elite TEs not on this slate, but he does have by far the highest ceiling of the options available.
Other Option — Hayden Hurst ($4,300)
Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $3,200 — Thomas is a very affordable option at TE but does come with nice upside and a good history against Tampa Bay. He had nine catches for 91 yards in their most recent meeting and has at least three catches in all five of their matchups while averaging 10.24 DKFP. Thomas only has five touchdowns in his 34 sims but has averaged 3.5 catches for 39.4 yards per contest, so his PPR production is actually pretty solid for a player priced barely over $3K.
Other Option — Darren Fells ($4,100)
Falcons DST vs. San Francisco 49ers, $3,100 — The Falcons’ defense has been up and down in these sims but has double-digit DKFP in two of its previous three matchups with the 49ers. The Falcons have scored three defensive touchdowns in their 40 sims while forcing 23 turnovers and picking up 79 sacks. If they can get pressure on Garoppolo, we have seen him turn the ball over at times in these sims.
Panthers DST at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $2,700 — The Panthers have also reached double-digit DKFP twice against their opponent on this slate, and have averaged 7.0 DKFP per contest in which they have taken on Tom Brady and the Bucs. Brady’s lack of mobility does lead to sacks, and the Panthers’ DST also gets a boost from having Christian McCaffrey ($7,300) returning punts and kicks with his 99 overall rating. He has helped the DST produce five touchdowns in 35 sims to go with 64 sacks and 18 takeaways.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.