Thursday Night Football Preview
After getting the NFL season kicked off last week, Thursday Night Football welcomes an NFC East matchup between the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team. Both teams are 0-1 entering this week and will look to get their season back on track after a short turnaround.
Football Team at Giants
Football Team -3 | Over/Under: 40.5
New York will play host to Washington this week and is also the early favorite at a three-point advantage. This game is one of three in Week 2 with the smallest spread at three points, and it is easy to see why Vegas has this game pegged this way. In the last ten games these teams have played against each other, six of them were decided by one possession with the last two games being decided by less than three points. With the status of both teams’ offenses going into this game and Washington’s superior defense, this game will be close and a low-scoring affair. Take Washington and the points with the Under on Thursday Night.
Daniel Jones entered a make-or-break season in 2021 and delivered in Week 1; at least for some fantasy managers. He finished with 267 passing yards and one touchdown with a 59% completion percentage while adding a rushing touchdown, which landed him as the QB13 in Week 1. Jones looked solid in spurts but is still a long way from the bonafide franchise gunslinger New York fans are looking for. He will get another chance to prove himself on Thursday Night against Washington, a matchup that has eaten him up in the past. In three of his four previous games against them, Jones has averaged 183 passing yards and less than one passing touchdown per game (though he did have one of his best career games against Washington in Week 16 of 2019). Based on the way Washington’s defense looked in 2020 and how they performed against Los Angeles in Week 1, it looks as though Jones is in for a long night on Thursday Night. Treat him as a low-end stream option in Week 2.
One of the many injuries that altered games in Week 1 was when Ryan Fitzpatrick went down in the first half against the Chargers. Fitzpatrick suffered a hip subluxation and is headed to injured reserve, putting the quarterbacking duties in the hands of young Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke took over last week and finished as the QB27 but did his best to keep Washington in the game after coming off the bench. With a full week of preparation, Heinicke will be in a prime spot to improve on those numbers, especially against a weak Giants secondary, but is no better than a low-end streaming option on Thursday Night.
After having an extremely short and disastrous season in 2020, many fantasy managers had doubts about whether Saquon Barkley would return to form as an elite fantasy option at the running back position. For those that selected him in drafts and started him last week, those doubts surely linger. Barkley had 26 rushing yards on ten attempts with zero touchdowns along with one reception for one yard on three targets, making him a non-factor in the Giants Week 1 loss. Now, it is still far too early to say if Barkley will bounce back this season but this past performance is definitely a red flag. He will look to continue his progress on Thursday Night against a Washington defense that allowed 91 rushing yards and a touchdown to the Charger’s backfield last week. Last season the Football Team’s rushing defense was one of the best in the NFL (allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position depending on scoring format) and will surely be looking to keep Barkley a non-factor this week. Based on his status and where he was drafted in many leagues, his managers will likely continue to start him in Week 2 but they should not expect too much from Barkley on Thursday Night and should set their lineups accordingly this week.
Antonio Gibson continued to build on the momentum he had last season in Week 1, finishing with 90 rushing yards on 20 attempts along with three receptions for 18 yards on five targets. He continues to have lead-back status in Washington and will continue to be a workhorse for their offense going into Thursday Night. Gibson will face a Giants’ defense that allowed 146 rushing yards and one touchdown to running backs in Week 1, putting him in a prime spot to finish as a high-end RB2 in Week 2 on Thursday Night.
New York’s receiving corps had a great day in Week 1 with Sterling Shepard leading the way as the WR10 (in 0.5 PPR scoring formats) with seven receptions on nine targets for 113 yards and one touchdown. Darius Slayton and Kenny Golladay also posted over 64 yards each with Golladay showing he had some chemistry with his new quarterback. These guys will have another tough matchup on Thursday Night as they face a Washington secondary that was the second-best defense against the position group in 2020 but showed some vulnerabilities against Los Angeles in Week 1. With the state of the Giants’ running game in question, they will once again be forced to air it out and will be relying on Shepard, Golladay, and Slayton to keep their offense moving. Their upside is limited based on this matchup and Jones’ inconsistency, but all three players are WR2/Flex level plays on Thursday Night.
Once Fitzpatrick was ruled out for the remainder of Week 1, Heinicke did his best to keep the passing game alive but his wide receivers suffered. The only one to gain more than 20 yards was Terry McLaurin, who did what he could with his receptions but still finished as the WR56 (in 0.5 PPR scoring formats). This week he and his fellow Washington wideouts will have a great matchup against the Giants, who surrendered 166 yards and one touchdown to the position group in Week 1. Based on his talent and role in the offense, McLaurin is the only safe bet to start this week but his upside is capped due to Heinicke being the starter for Thursday Night. Expect a WR3 level performance from McLaurin this week.
Amongst the best stories in fantasy football last season was the emergence of Logan Thomas. The former Virginia Tech quarterback struggled to find a role in the NFL either behind center or elsewhere for years but finally stuck in 2020. He finished as the TE6 with 72 receptions on 110 targets for 670 yards and six touchdowns, more than doubling his career numbers in one season. Many fantasy managers wondered if he could keep this trend going in 2021, and so far he has delivered; finishing with 10.5 points (in 0.5 PPR scoring formats) in Week 1. He will have a great opportunity to keep things going against the Giants, who allowed the eighth-most points to the tight end position in Week 1. Thomas will be a great option in Week 2 and will post a TE1 performance on Thursday Night.
Evan Engram has been ruled out for Thursday Night and New York will continue to rely on Kyle Rudolph to hold down the fort until Engram’s calf injury heals up. Rudolph was a non-factor in Week 1, finishing with two receptions on five targets for eight yards. He will have a full week, albeit a short one, to prepare for Washington’s defense but Rudolph will not be a player who should be started in fantasy lineups this week.
Another big surprise that came out of D.C. in 2020 was from their D/ST, who jumped from finishing 25th overall in 2019 all the way to 6th last season. The Football Team had eight finishes inside the top ten last season, including six games in the top five. They finished last season near the top of the league in many important D/ST categories, such as sacks, interceptions, and fumble recovery touchdowns; and continued that trend in 2021 (finished Week 1 with one interception, two sacks, and a recovered fumble). Washington is an elite D/ST option this week and should be started in every league for Thursday Night. While the Giants’ D/ST has some upside with Fitzpatrick missing the game, their performance against Denver was less than impressive and should be left on your bench/waiver wire this week.
Washington will look to continue their quest in repeating as NFC East champion on Thursday Night and should have a leg up in this matchup in many ways. Their defense will be able to contain the Giants’ offense and will spend a majority of the game making Jones scramble and improvise due to pressure from Chase Young and others. While they are not at full strength and will miss Fitzpatrick’s veteran leadership under center, Heinicke will do enough to keep the Football Team in the lead early and often. I have this game going to D.C. by the score of 20-13.
Brandon Sysak is an staff writer for Gridiron Experts. I have been covering different aspects of the NFL, fantasy football and the NFL Draft since 2017. I am originally from Midland, MI but now reside in the Cincinnati, OH area. I began my career with Gridiron Experts covering the 2017 College Football National Championship.