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Week 2 Thursday Night Football Showdown: Ravens vs. Bengals NFL DFS Picks

After a so-so first week with my daily fantasy baseball picks, week two is here. I had some hits last week, but also had a few duds. I’ll aim to correct that with my week two NFL DFS picks later this week, but on Thursday we do get one football game when the Baltimore Ravens visit the Cincinnati Bengals.

This is a tense AFC North battle, as the Ravens and Bengals both enter at 1-0. The winner takes over the top of the division and gets bragging rights for the immediate future.

While there are sure to be some solid options in this game, this is not the game you want to target for fantasy upside in full week contests.

The Ravens allowed three points against the Bills last week, while both of these teams are known for balance and defense. In fact, the last meeting was the only time in the last eight meetings where either team topped 30 points.

That game was actually a shootout, but these matchups typically tend to be fairly ugly. The data backs that up, too, as the Ravens ranked 2nd against fantasy quarterbacks in 2017 and 4th against wide receivers. They actually didn’t fare so well against fantasy running backs, though, and weren’t exactly elite against tight ends.

On the other side, the Bengals were #2 against fantasy receivers in 2017. Take all of this as you will. Not only are both of these teams better on paper than they were a year ago, but last year’s numbers can only be leaned on for so long.

I’m going into this game fresh, simply trying to maximize value and upside, while trying to be contrarian in a spot or two so I don’t get a duplicate entry. Here’s what I have for Thursday’s showdown game at FanDuel:

MVP (x1.5 points): Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals ($15.5k)

You can consider A.J. Green, Alex Collins or one of the quarterbacks here, but I’m thinking the MVP slot will be divided by those options. Hopefully Green gets more ownership there and slightly underwhelms against a very good Ravens defense.

I like what I saw out of Mixon in week one. He had a huge role, touching the ball a whopping 22 times and putting up 149 total yards and a touchdown. Baltimore’s defense wasn’t great at stopping fantasy backs in 2017, while Mixon himself put up 96 rushing yards on them the last time he saw them.

The matchup isn’t great, which is one reason why Mixon could go somewhat under-owned and also not be used for the MVP slot. I see his role, talent and upside, however, and I’ll aim high here. He has the ability to put up 150 total yards and 1-2 scores. Green is pretty much the only other guy who can do that in this game, too.

If you’re playing the Thur-Mon slate, I don’t see Mixon as a top priority. He’s a bit too expensive there given the matchup and so many other viable options.

FLEX: Maxx Williams, TE, Baltimore Ravens ($6.5k)

I am taking a very unique approach to Thursday’s showdown game.

I really am interested in the idea of rostering two tight ends, seeing as Baltimore runs so many two-tight end sets. They don’t really have one go-to tight end right now, either, so both Williams and teammate Nick Boyle are going to split up the targets.

Williams did see 50% of the snaps last week and hauled in three catches, while he does have the size and ball skills to be a factor in the red-zone. Joe Flacco looked good last week and has a slew of wide receivers to turn to, but keep in mind two things; the Bengals were good against WRs last year and when under duress, Flacco can check down a lot.

That could lead to a lot of safer throws to running back and/or tight ends.

FLEX: Nick Boyle, TE, Baltimore Ravens ($6k)

That’s why I’m just pairing these guys together. Given the defensive ability of both sides, I really don’t know if we can expect some crazy shootout like we got last year. I want A.J. Green and I’m siding with the home team here, but the Ravens may end up having to throw a bit.

With Flacco possibly not being able to connect with his receivers like he did in week one, he could feature his tight ends prominently. It’s also worth noting that the last time these two teams met, Flacco went to tight ends 13 times (9 catches, 85 yards).

Flacco also looked to the tight end position a ton in week one, totaling 13 targets and 9 catches across three different tight ends.

None of this guarantees a thing, but I think this is a logical stance and surely an extremely contrarian one.

Michael Crabtree, Tyler Eifert, John Ross, John Brown, Tyler Boyd and Willie Snead are all on the table here, but could also all easily bottom out given their matchups and the short week.

To be clear, this two-tight end strategy is just for the showdown game. If you’re playing in Thur-Mon contests this week, I’d faded both of these tight ends.

FLEX: Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals ($13.5k)

I’ll take a quarterback from this game and I like Dalton way more than Flacco. Playing on the road on a short week is a lot to ask out of anyone and Flacco just never excites me. He does look better in 2018 and he’s got some solid weapons, but I’m not expecting him to light the world afire on Thursday night.

Dalton might not go crazy, either, but he hung three touchdowns on this defense late last year and has an even better arsenal around him. He can pick and choose who he targets deep or in the red-zone and I think he’ll make out okay. I’m not demanding an elite outing, but 225 yards and two scores is doable in this spot.

Again, if you’re playing the big slate that includes Thursday and MNF games, stay away from the quarterbacks. This is more out of necessity for this specific one-game slate.

FLEX: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals ($17.5k)

Green is the most expensive player on the board, but he should still be absurdly high-owned. He’s the best overall talent and is the most dangerous guy on the field, while he can rack up points based on catches, yardage and/or touchdowns.

He’s an easy call, but I’m hoping the contrarian play is not using him at the MVP slot.

I need Green here, but I actually can see an argument for fading him. If you do that, going balanced and paying up over Maxx and Boyle could be one option. I just don’t know if it will differentiate enough and/or get you the points you need to place high.

If you’re considering Green for the full Thur-Mon slate, I won’t stop you. He’s the main guy I’d actually be interested in rostering for that slate.

Summary

You need to do three things to win or place high in NFL DFS GPPs; get the top plays right, eat the right chalk and avoid having the same lineup as everyone else.

This team is using two tight ends and keeping $1k on the board. You can decide to go against my daily fantasy football strategy, though. Maybe just start with the trio of Dalton/Green/Mixon and figure out a different way to build out your showdown squad.

I just think both Williams and Boyle are going to be on the field a ton. They’re both going to get targets, they both have a shot at scoring in the red-zone and if this game goes the way I think it will, they could be better plays than you probably think. They’re also going to be super contrarian and in turn, so will my roster as a whole.

Does that mean this team will win all of the money? I can’t be sure.

The thing about GPPs is one lineup may not always do the trick, no matter how crafty you think it is or how much upside is associated with it. Entering multiple teams in GPPs is really the way to go, which allows you to try different combinations and use your top options with different contrarian picks.

All that being said, I like this team. Whether you use this exact squad or not, I wish you luck in the TNF DFS contests at FanDuel. Good luck and be on the lookout for our week two NFL DFS picks for the main slate!

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