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Optimizer Groups: Optimal MNF Wildcard NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Cardinals vs. Rams

Terry McBride

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The first-ever Monday Night Football playoff game gets a good one, with the year’s third meeting between the Cardinals and Rams. The game is carrying a 48.5-point total and the hometown Rams are favored by just 3.5, an ideal scenario for NFL DFS Showdown tournaments. With primetime weapons on either side, this one could turn into a shootout and capitalizing on attacking the premium passing games seems like a strong approach across the industry.

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: Wildcard Week 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.

Tonight’s 48.5-point total has a fair number of analogs in our historical sampling, there are 23 games within a point on either side, a number of which went off at similar point spreads. The list of winning lineups includes 11 that utilized pass-catchers in the Captain role, with six of those lineups coming in with 3-3 constructions. Running backs won the day eight times, with a slight lean in favor of 4-2 constructions, while quarterback Captains won three times and defense took the day once.

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Only one of the winning lineups failed to roster a quarterback, while nine of them included both passers. That build plays directly into the theme of tonight’s game, which is chasing the passing attack on both sides. Rostering both quarterbacks where their heavy salaries won’t have an impact on lineup construction from the multiplier spot allows for a maximization of upside in the other roles.

Kickers were rostered in flex positions in seven winners out of the 23 lineups. The defense was in a winning lineup eight times, including the one Captain winner, but only three of these lineups crossed over to roster both a kicker and a defense. Typically picking one or the other when rostering the less-likely positions is the more optimal approach.

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 Cooper Kupp in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Kupp 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.

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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.

Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Matthew Stafford & Kyler Murray – 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 – Lower-owned receivers

Key Player(s): Matthew Stafford – Captain version

Setting: At least 3

Group: Kyler Murray, Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson Jr., Ben Skowronek, Tyler Higbee, Matt Gay, Antoine Wesley, A.J. Green, Zach Ertz

This simple group looks to force a few of the slightly less popular receiving options from both sides, as well as the Rams kicker and opposing quarterback Kyler Murray into a lineup when Matthew Stafford lands as the Captain play. This group is used to ensure that we are not entirely overwhelmed by shares of Cooper Kupp in every lineup in which Stafford appears. Another way to accomplish this would be adding a group with a downgrade, but that would be too extreme in the other direction.

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NFL DFS Gameflow – Low-Owned Low-Cost Captains

Key Player(s): A.J. Green, Tyler Higbee, Antonine Wesley, Rondale Moore, Chase Edmonds, Matt Gay, Cardinals Defense – Captain versions

Setting: At least three

Group: Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Sony Michel

This simple group flips the typical approach, looking to force in three of four listed players from a list of popular names. This is done to fill out a roster that begins with a lower-owned and low-cost Captain play, helping ensure that salary is properly spent and the lineup has a strong base of foundation, the four players included in the group are the top four by 2-6% probability in the boom/bust tool. While a wide range of lineups would include one or two of these players in a variety of builds, forcing multiple players can help to pad scoring and create an anti-optimizer build by forcing in lower-owned options in remaining spots.


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

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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