Tonight’s game between the Browns and Steelers rounds out the Monday Night Football season with an AFC North brawl that has all the makings of an ugly-but-fun matchup. The game is totaled at just 43 points, but unlike last night’s lopsided Vegas board, tonight there is just a 2.5-point home favorite. With a competitive game in mind, there are a number of viable approaches to lineup construction, and different requirements from site to site. As always, we want to ensure a broad base of positively leveraged players in all situations, with a particular focus on how salary is spent in the Captain spot on sites like DraftKings, where it is multiplied. Taking an angle toward the most likely players to contribute the top overall score of the night on sites that do not multiply the Captain salary is perfectly sound, but on DraftKings, the optimal lineup rates are far more revealing about the nature of lineup constructions with each tier of salary. Focusing on a mix of skill players with high optimal lineup rates and rostering over-owned expensive options in Flex positions instead is frequently a winning approach in Showdown slates.
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 DraftKings and FanDuel Showdown lineups tonight.
NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Week 17 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.
Last night’s slate featured a relatively similar game total but a much larger point spread, with tonight’s game projected to be highly competitive, there is a good cause to look into games with similar spreads. The database we have reviewed this season includes 33 entries of games with a spread between 1.5 and 3.5. Within that sample, 15 of the winning lineups were built with pass catchers as Captain plays, while nine lineups featured running back Captains. Eight of the winning lineups featured quarterback Captain plays, which is a standout in the samples we have reviewed this season. Only two of those lineups included the game’s other passer.
30 of the 33 winning lineups included at least one quarterback, so most of the quarterback usage still came in Flex positions, but there does seem to be a supportable small sample trend for the position finding value at the multiplier spot in tight games. The sample largely favors even construction, in line with the expectation of both sides producing fantasy-relevant numbers. 13 of the winning lineups were built as 3-3 constructions and another 10 were 4-2 lineups. The lopsided 5-1 construction took six victories, with 2-4 and 1-5 combining for the remaining four wins.
Based on the small sample, there is good reason to get to evenly built lineups focused on the passing game for constructions in a contest of this nature. Looking at differentiation options to go with the chalky passing game choices, defenses appeared twice as frequently as kickers in the sample, landing in 12 of the 33 winning lineups, while kickers only found relevance in six of them. No winning lineup included two kickers and only two lineups successfully included two defenses. The combination of kickers and defense is also rarely successful, only three winning lineups included both positions.
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 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
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 Nick Chubb in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Chubb in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group including both quarterbacks as well as a mix of positively leveraged options from both sides. That list includes several skill players, as well as the defense and kicker from the Steelers side of the game.
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.
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.
Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain
Setting: At least one
Group: Baker Mayfield and Ben Roethlisberger – 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.
NFL DFS Concept – Positively Leveraged Grouping
Key Player(s): Jarvis Landry, Ray-Ray McCloud, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Pat Freiermuth – Captain versions
Setting: At least 4
Group: Baker Mayfield, Ben Roethlisberger, Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Ray-Ray McCloud, Pat Freiermuth, Nick Chubb, Chase Claypool, Steelers defense, Chris Boswell, Najee Harris, David Njoku, Rashad Higgins
This group looks to force positively leveraged skill players along with Captain plays who are both frequently optimal and carrying strong positive leverage. Each of the Captain options is included again as a Flex play, along with both quarterbacks and all of the positively leveraged skill players, along with the Steelers defense and kickers.
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NFL DFS Gameflow – Pass-Focus
Key Player(s): Diontae Johnson, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb – Captain version
Setting: At least four
Group: Baker Mayfield, Ben Roethlisberger, Diontae Johnson, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Chase Claypool, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Ray-Ray McCloud, Rashard Higgins, James Washington, Pat Freiermuth, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Steelers Defense, Chris Boswell
This group looks to push a heavily passing game-focused requirement of four players from a pool of pass catchers, quarterbacks, and the two special teams options from the Steelers that land at positive leverage. This group should result in a fair number of evenly built constructions. If more Steelers-leaning lineups appear it can help to add player boosts in the group for any Browns players who trail behind the usage curve.
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View our DraftKings NFL rankings and our FanDuel NFL DFS rankings. If you’re interested in other NFL DFS advice for multiple game slates, head over to NFL ownership projections, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, DFS NFL rankings, and NFL DFS stacks. We also have DraftKings showdown projections and showdown ownership projections. Take a look at our NFL depth charts, NFL inactives and starting line-ups.
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