Thursday Night Football (TNF) has provided its fair share of dud games to the NFL watching viewers, no matter how enticing the matchup looks on paper. Not only was last year’s New Orleans Saints-Atlanta Falcons matchup one the general viewing audience was looking forward to, but it was also supposed to be a fantasy shootout, providing fantasy footballers with nothing but touchdown fireworks after touchdown fireworks.
Alas, fantasy goodness did not come to fruition that day, and if you were relying on stud fantasy quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Drew Brees in your 2-QB league, they both disappointed you. A combined 19 standard scoring fantasy points were put on the board by Ryan and Brees. For the week, Ryan was QB27 and Brees was QB29 in standard scoring fantasy leagues. Here are just a few notable quarterbacks who outscored them that week: Charlie Batch, Jake Locker, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden.
What is it about TNF that ends in being a major letdown at times? Some have speculated that there’s a curse when it comes to playing on Thursday Night, akin to the Madden curse. I don’t think there’s any Papa Shango voodoo curse going on with TNF, so that’s probably not true. A more reasonable answer, as opined by Football.com‘s Charles Murphy, is that playing in a shortened week puts each team at a disadvantage.
Working on game planning, strategizing on how to stop the opponent, and not to mention the amount of travel that goes into a very short four day rest period, are just a few reasons why NFL teams might not put out their best effort on Thursday nights.
Of course, we’re not saying all fantasy players disappoint on Thursday night. There have been some really good fantasy performances put up on TNF, especially from the quarterback position. One example would be 2008’s week 13 TNF matchup between Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb, who combined to throw seven passing touchdowns. But there have also been plenty of forgettable ones, like JaMarcus Russell and Andrew Walter combining to score zero fantasy points during a Thursday Night matchup once in 2008.
Many fantasy football owners have taken to the strategy of sitting players on Thursday night if they’re stuck deciding between two similar players—with the edge going to the one who doesn’t play Thursday. That’s okay at the quarterback position when you play in a league that only requires one starting quarterback in the lineup. When that number doubles, and you’re playing in a 2-QB league, you tend to not have much of a choice, unless you have a dependable QB3 option on your bench.
Look what happened in this year’s first TNF game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. Most 2-QBers probably had Tom Brady in their lineup at the QB1 slot, and some might have even had Geno Smith as their QB2. What those owners had to show for their starting fantasy quarterbacks were two guys who didn’t even finish the week in the top 24 of fantasy scoring at the quarterback position. For the week, Brady-QB26, and Smith-QB32, ended outside the realm of start worthy fantasy quarterbacks in 2-QB leagues.
Whether you play in a 2-QB league the size of 10, 12 or even 14 teams, and you’re facing the dreaded decision of whether or not to start a quarterback that has a TNF matchup, you’re probably going to do it in the end.
Why the issue of TNF is relevant now in 2-QB leagues is because this week presents the first real TNF decision in 2-QB leagues, as we have the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs squaring off against each other. Michael Vick versus Alex Smith. Andy Reid‘s new team versus Andy Reid’s old team. The story lines are out in full force for this matchup.
I decided to go an adventure through the years, since the inception of TNF in 2006, to see just how fantasy quarterbacks fared when playing on a shortened week. Last year was the first full TNF schedule in which there was a Thursday night game every week. In year’s past we had a smaller amount of TNF games, and some TNF games were actually played on Saturday or Friday.
For this study, I looked at in-season TNF games, and excluded the following games:
- Friday/Saturday games.
- Traditional Thanksgiving Thursday day games.
- Week one Thursday night games kicking off the NFL season.
Below you’ll see two charts ranking fantasy quarterbacks in terms of how they finished that particular week at the fantasy quarterback position in standard scoring fantasy leagues. The order isn’t concrete, as you’ll see some quarterbacks with the same number. Like Cutler, McNabb, and Cassel as QB1 in 2008. What that means is that those three quarterbacks each finished the week their TNF game was played in as the QB1, or the highest scoring fantasy quarterback that week.
The focus is on weekly scoring finish, rather than fantasy points, to gauge how many 2-QB league start worthy fantasy quarterback performances occurred during TNF games each year. For 10-team 2-QB leagues, the cut off is QB20, and for 12-team 2-QB leagues, the cut off is QB24.
Thursday Night Football Fantasy QB Scoring History
Ben Roethlisberger QB5
*JaMarcus Russell/Andrew Walter
Thursday Night Football Fantasy QB Scoring History
*Chad Henne/Blaine Gabbert
If you take a look at the numbers, there were a total of 102 eligible quarterback performances. Of those 102 performances, 28 did not meet the QB2 cut off threshold, when looking at it from a 12-team 2-QB perspective. That means 72.5 percent of all TNF quarterbacks were able to put up fantasy numbers deemed start worthy in 12-team 2-QB leagues (QB24 finish or better). Those nearly 3 out of 4 odds are favorable when determining if a TNF quarterback should be started in 12-team 2-QB league line-ups.
In 10-team 2-QB leagues the number of non start worthy 2-QB performances (QB20 or worse) jumps to 42 out of 102, which equals around 41 percent. That difference is significant, as you go from a 72.5 percent chance of having your starting quarterback put up at least QB2 numbers to a 59 percent chance. It also makes sense, as the threshold cut-off goes from top-24 QB to top-20 QB. You’re still looking at better than 50-50 odds.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, for those of you in 1-QB leagues, assuming a league size of 12 teams as the baseline, 33 of the 102 quarterbacks put up QB1, or top-12 numbers, which equates to slightly over 32 percent. One out of 3 odds that your starting quarterback on TNF will put up QB1 numbers is not a flattering percentage to rely on in 1-QB leagues.
If you’re looking for a year by year rounded average breakdown, there’s this:
- 2013-QB29 (based on one game)
Take out the one TNF 2013 game that has been played so far this year, and TNF quarterbacks have an average finish of QB16. In 2-QB leagues, that’s high-end QB2 start worthy numbers.
The historical breakdown of the quarterback position in fantasy football in this article shouldn’t be the only factor that impacts your starting fantasy quarterback decision when faced with the daunting task to start a TNF quarterback or not, but hopefully it helps in some way when making fantasy quarterback decisions and setting your 2-QB line-up.
Stats used in this article from KFFL Stats Analyzer.
If you want to look at each TNF game in more detail, you can do so by viewing the yearly TNF schedule on NFL.com.