Aug 24, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) looks to pass the ball during the first half against the St. Louis Rams at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Football Focus: Thursday Game Edition

Thursday Night Football

Baltimore Ravens vs Denver Broncos

7:30 p.m. CDT

NBC

Most fantasy leagues will allow you to lock in (or out) your players that play on Thursday night. As a fantasy owner, do not forget about, or ignore, these match-ups. Always check the injury reports early in the week for any key players who may miss the Thursday night game.

It is difficult to predict performances in week one. Predictions are made based on last year’s statistics, individually and team-wise, and a lot of the rosters are not the same as a year ago. In tonight’s game, future Hall-of Famers Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are gone, leaving a void in leadership. It is nearly impossible to predict how the players on the present roster will react and play. Make the best guesses you can in week one and hope for the best.

We will help out the best we can.

INJURIES

Denver:

Tight End Joel Dreessen is listed as Doubtful. Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme will probably split snaps.

Wes Welker and Ryan Clady are probable, bot of which should help the offense.

It is doubtful if veteran Champ Bailey will play.

Von Miller is out due to a suspension.

Baltimore:

Tight End Ed Dickson has been practicing the last few days which is a good indication he will play. With Dennis Pitta on the Reserved/Injury list, Dickson becomes the guy at tight end for the Ravens.

Wide receiver Deonte Thompson is listed as questionable, so bump Brandon Stokley up a notch on the wide out depth chart.

THURSDAY PLAY OR SIT

Aug 8, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There are some players you should just play every week regardless of their opponent. Peyton Manning is one of them. Except for his bye week, or if he is injured, he is on the play list. Ray Rice is probably on that list as well, as he is one of the top backs in the league, even though the Broncos defense was second in the NFL against the run in 2012.

For the Ravens, sit Joe Flacco. Hopefully, he isn’t your number one quarterback, but if he is, think twice before starting him on Thursday. Last season, the Broncos were 3rd in the league against the pass and 4th in points allowed. Now, with Von Miller suspended and Champ Bailey doubtful, the Denver defense may not be as stout right from the get go, but if you have a better option at quarterback, go for it.

Torrey Smith will probably be Flacco’s number one target, and if you start 3 wide receivers or a flex position, you could consider starting Smith. Flacco will complete some passes, and Smith should get his fair share of them.

Even with Reed and Lewis last year, the Ravens were in the middle third in most defensive rankings, while Denver’s offense was in the top 5 in passing yards, total yards, and fewest points allowed. Go with you back-up defense in week one. You want no part of Peyton Manning.

Denver’s defense, on the other hand, ranked in the top four in rushing yard allowed, passing yards allowed, total yards allowed, and fewest point allowed. They are a must start most weeks, especially against a middle of the road offense, as the Ravens were in 2012.

The Broncos have three wide receivers you can start in Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Eric Decker. Given the way Manning spreads the ball around, all three should produce some points for you.  Joel Dreessen is out, but his back-ups probably aren’t on your team anyway. If they are, you are probably already in trouble.

Until the situation sorts itself out more definitively, bench any Bronco running back you may have on your roster. Right now, Ronnie Hillman is listed as the starter but it is hard to predict how many he carries he will get in that offense, and if he will have to give up snaps to Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno. Go with better options, if you have them.

Be prepared for these Thursday night tilts. You don’t want to lose a week because you forgot to get someone in, or take someone out of your lineup.

Are you ready for some football?

Tags: Baltimore Ravens Denver Broncos Fantasy Football Joe Flacco Peyton Manning Ray Rice Torrey Smith

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