Thursday night contests use the same rules and scoring systems as Sunday-Monday contests but allow you to build rosters with players from every game on the weekly slate. Though they add only one game and a few players to your preparation, there are important reasons why Thursday contests require a different approach from Sunday-Monday contests:
Thursday contests test your discipline. Once football season is in full swing, three days without an NFL game can feel like an eternity. By the time Thursday rolls around, it’s natural to be craving a little action—and what better way to scratch the itch than watching your players in the Thursday night game? Here’s where you have to be careful with Thursday tournaments. If you allow the urge to get some skin in the game to cloud your judgment, you may make poor roster decisions and sink your lineups.
Thursday Night Football can be ugly football. Whether it’s because the schedule makers just have a knack for showcasing lousy or mismatched teams, the teams don't have enough time to prepare, or the players don't have long enough to recover from the previous game, Thursday Night Football can be dreadful. There is enough data to suggest that Thursday games are detrimental to fantasy performance, with those involved in the passing game at highest risk.
You're missing information. The contest begins on Thursday night, but breaking developments impact player values between Thursday and game time on Sunday. Should you chance using a player in a Thursday contest if you're unsure what his playing status, or opportunity will look like later in the week?
Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to avoid the traps of Thursday contests, capitalize on the mistakes of others, and consistently turn a profit:
The Thursday Night Fade
If you take only one lesson from this chapter, make it this one:
In large-field tournaments, it will almost always be correct to avoid players from the Thursday night game.
Novice and casual DFS users cannot resist watching their rostered players on national TV. Their thirst for action (and disregard for good process) will typically inflate the ownership percentages of Thursday players, regardless of whether or not the circumstances actually warrant it.
As you read in the earlier chapter on tournament play, there’s some value to owning unique players. For this reason alone, fading the Thursday night game will generally be the correct play in tournaments.
Perhaps more importantly, recent trends show fantasy scoring to be worse on Thursday night. This is particularly true for passing production. Unless the Thursday night game includes at least one elite passing offense, it makes sense to fade these players.
Since 2012, when the NFL expanded its Thursday night package from 8 to 13 games, fantasy production in the passing game is down about 5% on Thursday nights compared to other games.
A Positive Note on Thursday Running Backs
If you can't resist the urge to use a player from the Thursday game in your lineup, choose a running back. Over the last four years, fantasy production in the running game is about 8% higher in Thursday games than in Sunday games. Rushing touchdowns have been especially more frequent on Thursday nights. Across the five-year sample, there were 1.74 rushing touchdowns per game scored on Thursday versus 1.54 per game on Sunday – a 13% increase in rushing touchdowns (per game) on Thursdays.