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Fantasy Football Picks: Broncos vs. Browns DraftKings NFL DFS TNF Showdown Strategy

Garion Thorne preps you for Thursday’s 8:20 p.m. ET contest between the Broncos and the Browns with game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

Tonight’s game is between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns. Well, it’s between what’s left of the Broncos and the Browns. I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but this game is an absolute mess. Baker Mayfield (shoulder), Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf) have already been ruled out for Cleveland, while Odell Beckham Jr. ($6,800; shoulder) is questionable. On the other side, Teddy Bridgewater ($11,000; foot/quad) is also questionable. Oh, and just for good measure, there’s a chance that both Jerry Jeudy ($8,000; ankle) and Jarvis Landry ($6,600; knee) could be activated off short-term injured reserve in time to play.

Do you have a headache yet? Good. Me too. Let’s break it all down from a Showdown perspective.

Editor’s Note: Browns WR Jarvis Landry (knee) and WR Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) are active for tonight’s game. Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater (foot/quad) is also active.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL Showdown $2.25M Thursday Night Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] (DEN vs CLE)





SHOWDOWN STRATEGY

Captain’s Picks

Courtland Sutton ($15,000 CP) - Obviously, we’d all feel better about sticking Sutton in the Captain’s slot with the assurance that the aforementioned Bridgewater is healthy enough to throw passes on Thursday, but Sutton’s talented enough in a vacuum to overcome that obstacle. He’s also seeing enough volume. Dating back to Week 4, Sutton’s been targeted 33 times — the third-highest figure for a wideout within that stretch, trailing only Tyreek Hill and Cooper Kupp. That’s some pretty good company. Honestly, this appears to be a good matchup for Sutton regardless of who ends up under center for Denver. The Browns have been funnelling targets to wide receivers all season long, with 69% of opponent passes intended for the position, which is the NFL’s second-highest rate. It’s a big reason why Cleveland enters play on Thursday having conceded the fourth-most DKFP per contest to WRs. Tim Patrick ($7,600) should be able to thrive, too.

Case Keenum ($14,100 CP) - I guess there’s a chance that Keenum doesn’t look like such a great value if Drew Lock ($6,000) ends up starting for the Broncos, but as things stand, it’s always enticing to get a QB into your build for less than $10K. Keenum also happens to be one of the most decorated back-up pivots in the NFL, having started 38 games from 2017 to 2019, and having thrown 51 touchdowns to 27 interceptions within that span of time. It’s not exactly the stuff Pro Bowl appearances are made of, but Keenum’s at least proven himself to be somewhat useful in the not too distant past. Then there’s the matchup. While Denver came into 2021 optimistic about its defensive prowess, the unit has been torn to shreds in its past three contests. In fact, after starting the season with a cupcake schedule — Daniel Jones and two rookie pivots — the Broncos have surrendered a league-worst 10.0 yards per opponent pass attempt going back to Week 4. Kevin Stefanski should be able to help Keenum take advantage of that weakness.


Value FLEX Plays

D’Ernest Johnson ($4,600) - While it’s unclear how exactly Cleveland is intending to split up the snaps and touches between Johnson and Demetric Felton ($5,000), the backs both seem to have a salary lower than their implied role. More than likely, Johnson will be the early-down and goal line RB, with Felton covering third downs and being more involved as a pass-catching option. In a full-point PPR format, that gives the latter a higher floor, but Johnson obviously has the higher ceiling and the potential for 15-plus carries. Running behind an offensive line that’s created an AFC-best 5.04 adjusted line yards per rushing attempt, I’ll give Johnson the edge in viability. We’re all team #RunningBacksDontMatter on Thursday, guys.

Browns D/ST ($3,200) - The total for this game on the DraftKings Sportsbook is set at 41. That really says all you need to know about the viability of both defenses on this ugly slate. So, why side with the Browns? Well, first and foremost, with injuries to Cleveland’s three most-important offensive pieces, I think most people will have Broncos D/ST ($3,400) as their first choice. However, the Browns’ unit has a fantastic matchup, as well. Denver has turned the ball over six times in its past three games, while the team’s turned over the football on a robust 12.7% of its drives for the season as a whole. The Broncos could also be without tackle Garett Bolles on Thursday, as he’s questionable with a knee issue. That would be bad news considering Cleveland owns the AFC’s highest adjust sack rate (8.5%).


Fades

Melvin Gordon ($7,400) & Javonte Williams ($7,000) - What’s the point? There is a scenario where the Broncos lean into their rushing attack if Bridgewater isn’t at 100%, but this RB committee has proven to be about as even as they come in the NFL in 2021. Gordon’s logged 54.2% of the offensive snaps. Williams has logged 45.1%. Gordon has 83 touches. Williams has 79. Neither player’s run for more than 70 yards in a game since all the way back in Week 1, and Gordon only crossed that threshold thanks to a single 70-yard scamper. Needless to say, that big play ability is looking more and more like a mirage with each passing Sunday. The Browns have the league’s third-best rushing defense according to DVOA and they’ve also surrendered the third-fewest DKFP per contest to opposing backfields. This would be a poor matchup for a “bell cow” back, let alone two assets splitting the load.


THE OUTCOME

It’s impossible to handicap this game without knowing the status of Bridgewater (and several other people), yet even if the QB plays, I think I’m leaning towards the Browns. Not only is Cleveland at home, but the team’s stout defense is the lone unit I feel confident backing in this spot. I’d reconsider if we find out that Jedrick Wills, JC Tretter and Jack Conklin are all ruled out, though. Heck, even Jadeveon Clowney is questionable. Maybe just bet the under and watch some baseball instead.

Final Score: Cleveland 20, Denver 17

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL Showdown $2.25M Thursday Night Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] (DEN vs CLE)


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