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Fantasy Football Picks: Panthers vs. Texans DraftKings NFL DFS TNF Showdown Strategy

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

The magic (or curse) of Thursday Night Football is that we somehow always get the strangest possible version of a particular matchup. For Week 3, that means a contest between the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans where the latter’s third-string rookie QB will be making his first career start. Welcome to TNF, Davis Mills ($8,400). This was written in the stars.

Let’s break down everything you’ll need to know for Thursday’s game from a Showdown perspective.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL Showdown $2.5M Thursday Night Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] (CAR vs HOU)


Captain’s Picks

Christian McCaffrey ($20,100 CP) - Spending over 40% of your salary on a single asset doesn’t seem like a sound investment in a vacuum, but it’s difficult to ignore the potential volume of McCaffrey in this spot. The Panthers are huge road favorites on the DraftKings Sportsbook and the likelihood of a very positive game script is high. Carolina’s basically had that exact scenario play out over its first two games of 2021 and it’s resulted in McCaffrey leading all NFL players in scrimmage yards (324) and all running backs in receptions (14). I’d say it’s a formula that suits him well. Add in the fact that the Texans currently rank 29th in defending the run by DVOA — and that they ranked dead-last in opponent rushing yards per carry last season (5.2) — and I’d strongly recommend captaining McCaffery and making concessions elsewhere in your build.

Panthers D/ST ($9,300 CP) - Houston’s offensive line actually rates out pretty well through two weeks, with the Texans sitting second in adjusted sack rate (3.3%). However, I’d be a little skeptical of that figure, as I assume Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) and his mobility were a huge factor in Houston having only conceded two sacks so far this season. Thursday will be a different scenario, with a rookie pivot making his first-career NFL start behind an offensive line that has been underwhelming to say the least the past couple of years. Also, the Panthers’ front seven is no joke. Carolina comes into this contest ranking first in defensive adjusted sack rate (15.8%), having racked up a league-best 10 sacks already in 2021. Consistent pressure is all you’re looking for in a fantasy D/ST, as pressure leads to turnovers and turnovers lead to DKFP.

FLEX Plays

Davis Mills ($8,400) - While Brandin Cooks ($10,000) is likely the more sensible choice when looking to spend big on a Texans’ asset — Mills targeted Cooks on 50% of his 18 pass attempts in Week 2 — it’s just so rare to be able to get a starting QB at this cheap a price tag in Showdown. The matchup is far from ideal, as the Panthers have held opposing quarterbacks to an NFC-low 4.9 yards per pass attempt through two weeks, but color me unimpressed by the resume that facing Zach Wilson and a barren Saints WR corps affords a secondary. That’s not to suggest that Mills or Houston’s depth chart is any better, yet there’s a decent chance that we’re looking at roughly 35 drop backs from the Stanford product on Thursday evening. That’s more than enough opportunity to get my attention.

Chris Conley ($1,600) - Conley’s 2021 stats won’t jump off the page — he has four targets and three receptions through two contests — but he’s the type of inexpensive dart throw that you’ll need to pair with a Captain as costly as McCaffrey. Also, even if it doesn’t seem like it, Week 2’s loss to the Browns was a large step forward for the wideout. After basically splitting snaps right down the middle with Nico Collins (shoulder) in Week 1, Conley was the main beneficiary of the rookie’s injury on Sunday, as he logged 90.2% of the Texans’ offensive snaps after Collins exited the game. If Conley gets that sort of run again in what’s more than likely to be a pass-heavy script, he’s a candidate to finish at 7x or 8x value.


Mark Ingram II ($6,600) - Look, I completely understand how you can convince yourself that Ingram might actually be a steal at this price tag. The veteran comes into Week 3 not only sitting fifth in the NFL in rushing attempts (40), but somehow also sitting behind just the aforementioned McCaffrey and Jonathan Taylor in red zone rushing attempts (10). He’s clearly the No. 1 back on Houston’s crowded depth chart and, of course, volume is never a bad thing in DFS. Still, I think Ingram’s Week 2 performance is going to be far more predictive of his viability moving forward. Even in a contest that had a relatively neutral script, Ingram saw his snap share fall to 31.1% last Sunday after it was 46.2% in Week 1. He’s a non-factor in the passing attack and Carolina’s surrendering the fewest adjusted line yards per opponent carry through two games (2.41). It’s simply not going to happen for Ingram on Thursday. I’d prefer to roll with David Johnson ($5,400), though fading this backfield as a whole might be the more sound strategy.


Break up the Panthers? Carolina is riding high after back-to-back wins to open 2021 and I’m having a hard time seeing how it doesn’t move to 3-0 on Thursday evening. The Texans’ offense will certainly miss the presence of their veteran QB, while on the other side, Sam Darnold ($11,200) seems to be settling nicely in Joe Brady’s system. When push comes to shove, the Panthers are just clearly the superior team.

Final Score: Carolina 31, Houston 20

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL Showdown $2.5M Thursday Night Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] (CAR vs HOU)

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