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Optimizer Groups: Optimal MNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Bears vs Steelers

Terry McBride

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Let’s be honest with one another, this week’s Monday Night Football game is just ugly. With a 40-point total and a 7.5-point spread both the NFL DFS scoring and entertainment factors in this game appear to be lower than normal. Fortunately, even low-scoring games can be fascinating for lineup building, in fact, a low score can frequently contribute to lineups that are off the beaten path outperforming the chalk, which can be ideal for ascending to the top of the standings in Showdown format.

The Awesemo Top Showdown Plays Tool is the best way to find low-owned value and leverage, when using the tool we want to focus on the probability of success but also the degree to which a player is owned when compared with that probability and can indicate if the field is over or underweight to a play. Using all of the Awesemo expert data and tools, let’s find the top NFL DFS optimizer picks for Monday Night Football DraftKings and FanDuel Showdown lineups.

NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Week 9 Monday Night Football

Small Sample Central — Trends and Notes

Several of the primary lineup construction notes from previous versions of the 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.

There are very few games in the historical sample that mirror tonight’s 40-point total, and most of those have spreads closer than the 7.0 by which the Steelers are favored tonight. If we search for games with a total below 42 points we have just 10 games, extending the sample to games below a 42.5-point total yields a sample with 15 results. As one might expect with a low point total, this is an outlier sample in that pass-catchers are barely relevant in victorious Captain roles. Tight ends did not appear as the Captain play in any of the winning lineups, while wide receivers won as many times as defense Captain plays did, a total of three each.

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Despite the low point total, our strongest trend continues to hold steady, quarterbacks are highly valuable plays in flex positions in every sample we have taken this season. Only two of the 15 lineups failed to include a quarterback, while six of the remaining 13 included both passers. Three of those six featured one of the quarterbacks in the Captain role, a change from what we have seen in two-passer configurations in the past. The cost-prohibitive nature of making the combined play has less of an impact when we need fewer skill players overall, making it a more viable move. In general, it is always wise to include at least one quarterback in a flex role.

Five of the winning lineups featured running back Captain plays. Among those lineups, three included defenses in flex roles, and three included kickers. The lineup that included both featured a defense and both kickers, with no quarterback included. Five of the six winning constructions with running back Captain plays were built as 3-3 lineups. At both the high and low end of game totals, we have seen 3-3 builds win the majority of contests, getting to evenly built constructions has appeal, even with a point spread like we have tonight.

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)

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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 Ben Roethlisberger in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Roethlisberger in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group that includes the opposing quarterback, the correlated and positively leveraged members of the Steelers’ passing game, and positive leverage plays from other corners of the game.

NFL DFS Showdown optimizer optimal picks DraftKings FanDUel daily fantasy football free expert advice tips strategy tonight today Week 9 Monday Night Football Bears vs. Steelers Chase Claypool

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.

NFL DFS Showdown optimizer optimal picks DraftKings FanDUel daily fantasy football free expert advice tips strategy tonight today Week 9 Monday Night Football Bears vs. Steelers Chase Claypool

Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Ben Roethlisberger & Justin Fields — 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.

Game Script — The Expected

NFL DFS Showdown optimizer optimal picks DraftKings FanDUel daily fantasy football free expert advice tips strategy tonight today Week 9 Monday Night Football Bears vs. Steelers Chase Claypool

Key Player(s):  Najee Harris, David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert – Captain versions

Setting: At least four

Group: Ben Roethlisberger, Justin Fields, Chris Boswell, Cairo Santos, Steelers Defense, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Chase Claypool, Allen Robinson, Najee Harris, David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert

This group follows the logical script of a game with a very low total and some talent at the running back position, while also chasing the historical results that see a slight edge to the position in the Captain role. The group is triggered by any of the primary running backs landing in the Captain spot, it will force four players from a group that includes both quarterbacks and the majority of the positively leveraged plays on the board. These include the same pool of running backs as their standard versions, a wide receiver and tight end from each team, the kickers, and the Steelers defense. This group should create balanced lineups while leaving a place for a player from outside the group.

Game Script – The Unexpected

Key Player(s): Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney – Captain versions

Setting: At least four

Group: Ben Roethlisberger, Justin Fields, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Darnell Mooney, Allen Robinson, James Washington, Marquise Goodwin, Anthony Miller, Pat Freiermuth, Cole Kmet, Zach Gentry, Chris Bowell, Cairo Santos

This group plays to the exact opposite of what seems to be the expectation in Vegas. The trigger here will be the use of any of the four primary wide receivers across both teams. That will kick off the use of a group that forces four players from a list of exclusively pass-catchers, quarterbacks, and the two kickers. This group will leave a space that can be filled by running backs or anyone left out of the group, but the goal is to lock into evenly built constructions that focus on portions of the passing game. Switching this to a three-player requirement will yield additional lineups along this theme as well.


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We also have DraftKings showdown projections and NFL DFS single-game ownership projections. If you’re interested in other top NFL DFS plays today for multiple game slates, head over to NFL ownership projections, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, daily fantasy football rankings, and DFS NFL stacking. Take a look at our NFL inactives, depth charts for NFL games and NFL starting lineups. View our DraftKings NFL DFS rankings and our FanDuel 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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