TNF Fantasy Preview: Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns

TNF Fantasy Preview: Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns

by October 21, 2021 0 comments

Tonight, Week 7 of the 2021 NFL season kicks off with a matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns. While everyone loves Thursday Night Football, fantasy owners struggle with which players they should put in their starting lineups. To help them decide which players they should start and which they should sit, let’s dive into this week’s Thursday Night Fantasy Preview.

All stats are base on four-point per passing touchdown and PPR scoring.

Denver Broncos

Quarterback – Teddy Bridgewater

Entering the game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Bridgewater had only one turnover this season. However, Bridgewater had four turnovers against the Raiders, matching his career-high in interceptions with three. Bridgewater had a season-high 334 passing yards, three touchdowns, and 18.3 fantasy points against the Raiders despite the four turnovers. While Bridgewater is dealing with a foot injury, he expects to play tonight. Meanwhile, the Browns have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season, giving up 23 fantasy points per game to the position. They have struggled over the past two weeks, giving up 627 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and 68.3 fantasy points to quarterbacks. While Bridgewater won’t score 34 fantasy points tonight, he will play well enough to finish the week as a low-end QB1.

Running Back – Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams

Even after the Broncos drafted Williams, Gordon remains the lead back in Denver. The veteran has played an average of 54.2 percent of the snaps per game this season. By comparison, the rookie has played an average of 45.1 percent. However, Gordon has only four more touches than Williams this season (83-79) despite playing nine percent more snaps. Furthermore, the running backs seem interchangeable, with both averaging roughly 4.6 yards per carry. While that is good for the Broncos, it is frustrating for fantasy owners. Since Week 1, the Denver running backs have finished every game within 6.2 fantasy points of each other.

Meanwhile, the Browns have held running backs to the second-fewest fantasy points per game this season. They have held running backs to only 16.9 fantasy points per game. However, over the past two weeks, running backs have averaged 107 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, and 26.1 fantasy points per game against the Browns. Furthermore, running backs have averaged five yards per carry during that span. With several injuries on the defense, the Browns have struggled to stop the run recently. Fantasy owners should expect the Broncos to take advantage of the Browns’ struggles, resulting in a low-end RB2 finish this week for both Gordon and Williams.

Wide Receiver – Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick

Second-year star receiver Jerry Jeudy hasn’t played since Week 1 because of a high-ankle sprain. Unfortunately, fantasy owners will have to wait at least another week as Jeudy won’t play tonight. Against the Raiders, both wide receivers had strong performances. Sutton finished with over 23 fantasy points for the season week in a row, while Patrick scored over 12.5 fantasy points for the fifth time in six games. As great as he has played this season, filling in for Jeudy and KJ Hamler, Patrick is clearly the WR2 behind Sutton. Patrick has averaged 5.7 targets per game this season, seeing over six targets in a game just once. Meanwhile, Sutton has averaged 8.8 targets per game, receiving 11 or more in three of his past five games.

With Jeudy on the sidelines again this week, Sutton and Patrick will carry the workload for the Broncos tonight. They have a great matchup against a struggling Cleveland secondary. The Browns have given up an average of 40.9 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season, the sixth-most in the NFL. Removing the game against the Chicago Bears in Justin Fields’ first career start, the Browns have allowed wide receivers to average 47.7 fantasy points per game this season. Furthermore, the Browns have allowed wide receivers to average 17 catches for 256 receiving yards, three touchdowns, and 61.1 fantasy points per game over the past two weeks. Fantasy owners should expect a low-end WR1 finish from Sutton this week, while Patrick finishes in the low-end WR2 range.

Tight End – Noah Fant

After a slow start in last week’s game, Fant erupted in the second half, finishing with 24.7 fantasy points, good for the TE1 on the week. He matched his career-high 11 targets last week while setting a career-high in catches with nine. More importantly, Fant has scored 12 or more fantasy points in every game this season with six or more targets, averaging 16.7 fantasy points per game in those contests. Over the past three weeks, Fant had double-digit targets in two of them. Fant averaged 7.5 catches for 71.5 receiving yards, one touchdown, and 20.7 fantasy points per game during that span. When Fant is a consistent part of the passing attack, he produces for his fantasy owners.

While the Browns defense has struggled this season, they have done well defending tight ends. They have held tight ends to only 9.1 fantasy points per game this season. However, they have faced several teams with limited tight ends. In their matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers, the Browns have given up an average of 22 fantasy points per game to tight ends. While Fant won’t is unlikely to score 22 fantasy points tonight, he should see enough targets to finish the week as a mid TE1 without having to get in the end zone.

Defense/Special Teams

In the offseason, the Broncos made several moves to improve their defense. Unfortunately, injuries have killed the Broncos this season. They have lost three of their four starting linebackers, with Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson out for the season. Meanwhile, opposing D/STs have averaged only 2.7 fantasy points per game this season against the Browns. D/STs have scored four fantasy points or fewer in five of six games against the Browns this season. Furthermore, before last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, opposing D/STs have averaged only 0.4 fantasy points per game against the Browns. Even with all the injuries to the Cleveland offense, the Broncos D/ST are only a low-end D/ST1 this week.

Cleveland Browns

Quarterback – Case Keenum

After injuring his left shoulder for the second time this season against the Cardinals, Baker Mayfield will miss tonight’s game. Replacing him under center is Keenum, who hasn’t started a game since the 2019 season. Fortunately for him, the Broncos have struggled against the pass recently. Over the past three weeks, the Broncos have given up an average of 303.3 passing yards, 1.7 passing touchdowns, and 19 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. However, with all the injuries on offense, Keenum is only a low-end QB2 this week, even with six teams on a bye.

Running Back – D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton

Nick Chubb will miss his second game in a row tonight with a calf injury. Unfortunately, Kareem Hunt was placed on injured reserve earlier this week after suffering a calf injury against the Cardinals. With both star running backs out for tonight’s game, Johnson, Felton, and John Kelly will handle the workload against the Broncos. While Johnson and Felton have been popular waiver wire additions, fantasy owners need to start them at their own risk. None of them have much NFL experience, with Johnson leading the way with only 50 career touches. By comparison, Felton and Kelly have combined for 50 career touches.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have held running backs to only 17.1 fantasy points per game this season, the fourth-fewest in the league. They have held running backs to under 15 fantasy points in 67 percent of their games this season, giving up only 10.1 fantasy points per game in those contests. Furthermore, the Broncos have held running backs under 55 rushing yards in half of their games this season. Of the three, Johnson is the best option. However, he is a risky flex option, while Felton offers some appeal in deeper PPR leagues. Even with six teams on a bye this week, fantasy owners should avoid this backfield if possible.

Wide Receiver – Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones

Leading up to kickoff, fantasy players will need to keep an eye out for the pregame inactives list. Beckham is a game-time call while Landry might get activated off injured reserve before tonight’s game. Regardless of whether either wide receiver plays, they are risky to start tonight. Both receivers could be on a snap count if they play. Even if they aren’t, the Broncos have given up 37.2 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season. They have held wide receivers to under 28.5 fantasy points in a third of their games. Furthermore, with Keenum under center, both wide receivers will be disadvantaged because of no practice reps with Keenum. However, if Beckham and Landry both don’t play tonight, Peoples-Jones is a sneaky sleeper option.

Last week, Peoples-Jones had the best game of his career, finishing with four catches on five targets for 101 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Furthermore, the two touchdowns matched his career total entering the game. More importantly, Peoples-Jones has played the most snaps of any wide receiver on the team over the past two weeks, averaging 72.5 percent snaps played during that span. In the four games Landry has missed this season, Peoples-Jones has played an average of 67.5 percent of the snaps per game, averaging 11 fantasy points per game in those contests. If Beckham and Landry miss this game, Peoples-Jones is a mid WR3 with upside as he could see double-digit targets tonight.

Tight End – Austin Hooper, David Njoku

Even with all the injuries on offense, the tight ends haven’t turned into fantasy assets. Hooper has averaged only five fantasy points per game this season, scoring under 10 fantasy points in every game. Meanwhile, Njoku has averaged 9.5 fantasy points per game, thanks to a 27.9 fantasy point performance two weeks ago. In the other four matchups this season, Njoku has averaged only 4.9 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, the Broncos have held tight ends to the third-fewest fantasy points per game this season, giving up only 7.5 fantasy points per contest. They have held tight ends to eight or fewer fantasy points in 67 percent of their games. Even with six teams on a bye this week, fantasy owners shouldn’t roster, let alone start, Hooper or Njoku tonight.

Defense/Special Teams

Many had high hopes for the Browns defense this season after making several splashy moves in the offseason. However, injuries have derailed the Cleveland defense. Over the first four games, the Browns D/ST averaged eight fantasy points per game, scoring 18 fantasy points against the Bears in Week 3. However, the Browns D/ST has scored negative eight fantasy points over the past two weeks, giving up an average of 42 points per game during that span. Meanwhile, opposing D/STs have finished with four or fewer fantasy points in half of the games against the Broncos this season. With all the injuries on defense, the Browns D/ST won’t finish as a top-12 unit this week.

Recap

Bridgewater: Low-End QB1

Gordon: Low-End RB2

Williams: Low-End RB2

Sutton: Low-End WR1

Patrick: Low-End WR2

Fant: Mid TE1

Broncos D/ST: Low-End D/ST1

Keenum: Avoid

Johnson: Risky Flex Option

Felton: Avoid

Beckham: Risky WR3

Landry: Risky WR3

Peoples-Jones: Potential WR3 with Upside

Hooper: Avoid

Njoku: Avoid

Browns D/ST: Avoid


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