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DraftKings & FanDuel NFL DFS Lineup Optimizer Picks: Divisional Round Saturday Showdown & Main Slate

Terry McBride

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Saturday kicks off the divisional round of the NFL playoffs with a pair of interesting contests. This round should tighten things up and provide more entertaining contests than the wildcard round last weekend, and hopefully with that will come fascinating fantasy situations. The afternoon game features the Bengals visiting the Titans in a game with a 48-point total and a 3.5-point spread. That game will witness the return of superstar running back Derrick Henry, who has been out since Week 8. With two strong running backs, quality quarterbacks, and a deep set of pass-catchers on both sides, there are many weapons in the early game for NFL DFS lineup building. The later evening affair will see the 49ers visiting the frozen tundra to take on the Packers in a game with a 47-point total and the Packers favored by 5.5. By comparison, the earlier game offers more angles for lineups, but there are plenty of premium plays and several wildcards included in the evening contest as well.

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Groups below are for the individual Saturday main slate, as well as the pair of Showdown contests, in two separate sections, the same content will be available for the Sunday slate in a separate article tomorrow. Another piece later today will provide a look at groups for the combined slate Saturday-Sunday slate.

This article focuses on building lineups with a quality foundation by utilizing the powerful Groups and Rules/Limits tools within Fantasy Cruncher. All of the concepts and pairings included below can be applied to hand-building as well, the goal is to create lineups that have high scoring correlation and take advantage of combined outcomes within stacks while limiting the likelihood of building inefficient or negatively correlated entries for a full slate of NFL DFS lineups.

Fantasy Cruncher – New How-To Video

The uptick in questions related to the how-to aspects of Fantasy Cruncher along with several noteworthy new tools demanded a new how-to tutorial video. I put together the above review of all of Fantasy Cruncher’s advanced options with some basic how-to on the constructions, rules, limits, and groups that we use in this article. The tutorial also reviews all of Fantasy Cruncher’s new features and the important distinctions between the various sets of projections that are available.

DraftKings & FanDuel NFL DFS Lineup Optimizer Picks & Projections

Overview

The Week 1 article featured a deep dive into the general settings menu and various utilities within Fantasy Cruncher, it is still available for anyone who would like to refer back. We will maintain the list of rules and limits below throughout the season, with occasional tweaks, if needed. Each week sees yet another fresh crop of value plays as situations change and injuries create opportunities around the league. These changing roles and emergent value plays are accounted for in the process of creating these groups from week to week. After a large pool of lineups is created utilizing these groups, it is still of critical importance to filter them for factors including ceiling projections and leverage potential, as well as our optimal lineup rates and Boom/Bust potential. Getting to a strong mix of the most optimal positively leveraged plays will be a strong foundation for a large pool of tournament lineups.

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DraftKings + FanDuel Stack Rules – Saturday Two-Game Main Slate

This set of rules will force Fantasy Cruncher to build lineups with certain combinations. We are looking to always stack at least one skill player, ideally a pass-catcher, with his quarterback while also playing a skill player from the opposing team in the lineup. The theory behind this build is that a high-scoring stack will require some response from the opposing team to truly deliver a ceiling score in most situations, otherwise the team that is ahead will simply slow down and run out the clock. These rules are applied by completing the sentences with selections from the drop-down menu, they follow a very straightforward logic. Exceptions can be made for teams at the bottom of the rule creation window. After a rule is set, click the blue bar to add it, it will appear at the bottom of the screen as a completed rule.

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QB with at least one WR/TE from Same Team (note: It is fine to make this two or to utilize two of these, one with WR/TE and one with RB/WR/TE, but we can refine that and get it exactly how we want it for each team via Groups)

QB with at least one RB/WR/TE from Opposing Team

QB with at most zero DST from Same Team (this is more of a personal preference; high-scoring teams and quarterbacks tend to leave their defenses on the field exposing them to simple point-scoring negatives)

Limit Rules

Limit rules can be applied to restrict certain combinations from coming together. This is powerful for limiting multiple running backs from the same team or getting overweight to a certain stack within a lineup.

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Limit QB/ RB/WR/TE from Same Team to three

Limit RB/WR/TE from Same Team to one unless paired with QB from Same Team OR Opposing Team

Limit RB from Same Team to one (one can also do this with WR in a separate rule that adds an “unless paired with QB or opposing QB,” but it is a personal preference for NFL DFS)

Note: Allow one (or more if desired) offensive player against team defense in Advanced Settings as well, or Fantasy Cruncher will not have enough elbow room in lineup constructions.

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Construction

These groups are built by utilizing the quarterback as the KEY player (by clicking the key icon next to his name), with the thinking that the quarterback play is the driving factor in which stack is utilized in that lineup. Built to specification, each team will have two groups, a team group, and an opponent group, both of which utilize the same quarterback, so four groups per game. This is the best approach to truly capture the requirement of playing individual “run-back” plays from the opposing team. A more basic approach would be to include all of the skill players from a game in each quarterback’s group and rely on rules and limits to restrict any potential overflow. It is highly recommended to save the Week 1 groups as a foundation that will be updated for the rest of the season. The recommended groups will include skill players who have an active role in their offense and provide significant correlation with their quarterback’s scoring, quite often bell-cow running backs who do not specialize in the passing game will not be included in groups as they are projected highly and appear on their own in basically correct distributions, while also not always providing the strongest positive correlation plays. Stacking quarterbacks with pass-catchers and allowing running backs to fall into the lanes then crated by settings, available salary and randomness should create a well-distributed set of quality lineups. These groups are updated weekly to account for changes in utilization, schemes, injuries, target shares, and more.

Saturday Update

All of the groups and recommendations below are up to date as of very early Saturday morning. Boosts are included to help create a spread of players that will be viable for selecting upside lineups that have a chance of being differentiated from the field.


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NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Divisional Round Team Groups for DraftKings & FanDuel – Saturday Main Slate

The goal here is to create a large pool of well-built lineups that can be utilized in any large-field GPP contest. Crunch far more lineups than needed and utilize a sorting table in Excel to filter to the best set of lineups for entries. The lineups created in these crunches should provide a broad distribution that includes some of the lower-owned skill players from each stack. Applying boosts is critical in pushing and pulling ownership on individual players within their team’s stacked lineups.

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The groups below are designed so that each quarterback will have two groups to create, one with his skill players and another with the opposing team. A more basic approach would be to add them all to one large group with an “at least three” and let rules and limits set things, but there is a more granular level of control in creating them separately.

Utilizing two groups also allows us to place running backs into the “run-back” position in certain teams while not including them in the primary stack for their team. This is useful when there is a situation with an extremely highly projected running back who does not necessarily fit into his team’s passing game. These players are threaded throughout the following construction recommendations.

Cincinnati Bengals

Key Player: Joe Burrow

Setting: At least one

Group: Joe Mixon (-10%), Ja’Marr Chase (+15%), Tee Higgins (-10%), Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah (+15%)

Opposing Setting: At least one

Group: Derrick Henry (-10%), A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook (+15%), Anthony Firkser (+15%), Geoff Swaim (+35%)

Green Bay Packers

Key Player: Aaron Rodgers

Setting: At least one

Group: Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon (-20%), Allen Lazard (+15%), Randall Cobb (+15%), Josiah Deguaria (+25%)

Opposing Setting: At least one

Group: Deebo Samuel (+10%), George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings (+15%), Mohammed Sanu (+125%)

San Francisco 49ers

Key Player: Jimmy Garoppolo

Setting: At least one

Group: Deebo Samuel (+10%), George Kittle (-15%), Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings (+15%), Mohammed Sanu (+125%)

Opposing Setting: At least one

Group: Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon (-20%), Allen Lazard (+15%), Randall Cobb (+15%), Josiah Deguaria (+25%)

Tennessee Titans

Key Player: Ryan Tannehill

Setting: At least one

Group: Derrick Henry (-15%), A.J. Brown, Julio Jones (+15%), Nick Westbrook (+15%), Anthony Firkser (+25%), Geoff Swaim (+35%)

Opposing Setting: At least one

Group: Joe Mixon (-10%), Ja’Marr Chase (+15%), Tee Higgins (-10%), Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah (+15%)

NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Wildcard Week Team Groups for DraftKings & FanDuel – Saturday Showdown Slates

Small Sample Central — Trends and Notes

Several of the primary lineup construction notes from previous versions of the Showdown article will continue to be listed in this space, but each week we will attempt to find parallels based on Vegas data and the general game environment from historical contests in the pool of DraftKings Showdown research from 2019 through this week’s contests. It is important to not get too focused on results-based thinking in such a small sample. Quality lineup construction is always the focus, but historical results can help inform some basic decisions in a pricing and ownership vacuum. A quick summary of that previous content:

  • According to tracking data for DraftKings Showdown contests over 2019 and 2020, only 17 of 95 slates were won with a quarterback Captain.
  • Across the same sample, wide receivers and running backs split the outcomes evenly, with 33 tournament-winning events each.
  • Of the 38 times that a wide receiver or tight end was in the winning Captain position, only three of those builds did not include at least one quarterback in a Flex position.
  • Thirty-five of 95 winning lineups featured at least one defense, but only two of those featured both defenses.
  • Twenty-nine winning lineups featured at least one kicker, but only two of those included both.
  • Only eight winning lineups included at least one defense and one kicker, while one person won a tournament with two defenses and a kicker in 2019.

Saturday’s Showdown slates are carrying fairly similar game totals, the first game comes in at 48 and the evening contest is totaled at 47, giving us 25 sample games between 46.5 and 48.5. Only three of the 25 lineups failed to include a quarterback in any role, continuing the trend we have seen all season. Only three lineups included quarterbacks in the Captain role, however, they are typically far more advantageous in the flex spot. 9 of the 25 lineups included both quarterbacks, a passing-focused build is highly viable in this game format.

Of the 25 winning lineups, 12 of them included a pass-catcher in the Captain role, easily the leading option in the position. Running backs saw victory eight times, while defenses and kickers saw a single victory each. The most common winning lineup construction was a 3-3 even build, with 10 victories, while 4-2 saw another eight, so the clear trend is toward competitive situations on both sides. Kickers continue to be the least useful position, they were included in the winning lineup only seven times, while defenses surprisingly appear in 12 of the 25 winning lineups.

DraftKings + FanDuel Stack Rules

QB with at least one RB/WR/TE from Opposing Team (this will happen naturally in most Showdown constructions, but including the rule will eliminate lineups that feature only an opposing kicker or quarterback)

QB with at least one WR/TE from Same Team (this will happen naturally in a large portion of lineups, but stacking quarterbacks with pass catchers is the easiest way to rack up NFL DFS points. It makes sense to include this rule to force the build, in most situations)

Limit Rules

Limit rules are slightly less important for Showdown slates as there are only two teams to choose from. They are still useful for preventing suboptimal constructions, however. Including the following will help prevent these less likely builds.

Limit QB/RB/WR/TE/DST/K from Same Team to three unless paired with Captain

Limit RB from Same Team to one (this is a rule that can be toggled on and off over multiple crunches, but the preference for this slate would be to use it)

Limit K from Same Game to one

Limit DEF from Same Game to one

Construction Basics

We will utilize Fantasy Cruncher’s Groups utility to create specific builds. The Groups feature includes the ability to designate players as the key to the group, or the player whose use in a position will trigger the group requirements. For Showdown slates this can be utilized to force specific sets of players or positions along with each type of designated Captain. The example below shows a group that utilizes Joe Mixon in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Mixon in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group including both quarterbacks, the Cincinnati kicker and the positively leveraged Titans players. The group leaves open spaces to be filled out by the popular and negatively leveraged Cincinnati receivers.

NFL DFS Optimizer Groups & Picks

Unlike multi-game slates, when attacking individual potential game scripts, these groups are better deployed individually for separate crunches that can then be combined into a single pool of lineups. Running them all at once is likely to create conflicting scenarios that will either prevent or limit a full crunch.

Quarterback Inclusion

The first wrinkle in utilizing Groups to create specific constructions is that the tool differentiates between a wide receiver or running back and the same player in the Captain or MVP spot. This requires the creation of a group that adds the Captain version of any likely skill player as the key player, with a rule setting that any lineup featuring any of these players must include one of the quarterbacks in a Flex position. The alternate approach to this problem is to remove all but the skill players from potential inclusion at the Captain spot then create a rule that will simply stack the quarterback with the Captain spot, but that approach is likely more flawed. This group does not currently force quarterbacks when defense or a kicker is used at Captain.

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Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Joe Burrow & Ryan Tannehill – Standard versions

This group will result in getting one of the quarterbacks whenever any of the listed primary skill-players is utilized at Captain. To force the quarterback from the same team, multiple groups should be created for skill players from each team utilizing just the quarterback from that team. When quarterbacks appear in Flex positions, the rules and limit settings will kick in to force optimal constructions in the other Flex roles.

Note: Repeat this same concept for the quarterback inclusion group in the second game, grouping all relevant skill players in the Captain roles with the standard versions of quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Aaron Rodgers as the group with a setting of at least one.

NFL DFS Game Script – Derrick Henry Return & Heavy Volume – Cincinnati vs Tennessee

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Key Player(s): Derrick Henry – Captain version

Setting: At least 4

Group: Joe Burrow, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Mixon, Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah

This group looks to capitalize on the return of volume monster running back Derrick Henry, who is the second-most frequently optimal Captain play on DraftKings and is 25% likely to be the slate’s top raw fantasy point scorer. The group forces four players from a list that includes both quarterbacks, the defenses, the opposing featured running back, and a limited set of passing options while leaving enough salary and space to add another of the big aerial weapons.


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NFL DFS Gameflow – Pass Happy

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Key Player(s): Davante Adams, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb

Setting: At least four

Group: Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Davante Adams, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Jauan Jennings, Josiah Deguara

This group looks to capitalize on the likelihood of a passing-focused game with the 49ers having to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, as well as maybe a few other Packers receivers. The group forces four players from a list that includes both passers and the primary pass-catchers at both wide receiver and tight end when any of the primary pass-catchers are utilized in the Captain role.


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Take a look at our inactives, depth charts for NFL games and starting line-ups. We also have NFL DFS showdown projections and single-game ownership projections. If you’re interested in other DFS NFL picks for multiple game slates, head over to NFL DFS projected ownership, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, NFL rankings, and NFL DFS stacks. View our DraftKings NFL rankings and our FanDuel DFS NFL rankings.

Terry used to do other things, now he writes words on the internet. He hopes his more than 20 years’ experience in season-long and daily fantasy sports and his custom models for MLB, NBA, and NFL don't steer you too wrong when he writes columns and makes picks on Awesemo.com. A lifetime of experience keeping odd hours make Terry ideal to cover KBO baseball overnight until the world returns to normal. Most of those late night hours have been spent on the couch watching sports, T.V., and movies; just try to shut him up about any of the above. You can find his pop-culture ramblings and more on Sideaction.

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