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Optimizer Groups: Optimal MNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Eagles vs. Cowboys

Terry McBride

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Monday wraps up Week 3 of NFL DFS with an NFC East clash between the Eagles and Cowboys. With a 51.5 game total and a tight point spread, we should see an excellent Monday Night Football contest between the two rivals. There are interesting skill players across a range of positions on this slate, as well as a number of solid value plays who are involved in the action and can create point-scoring upside. 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.

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NFL DFS Optimizer Groups & Picks: 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 contest looks a lot like last night, with a 51.5 total and just a point spread of just 3.5. In last night’s sampling, we learned that no kicker or defensive play at Captain won the main Showdown contest in games totaled between 50 and 55. If we extend that to games between 51.5 and 56.5, we see the trend continue, no defense or kicker is viable at Captain in a historical sampling of contests with this Vegas profile. Across all 20 contests, only two featured defenses in the Flex position, while five utilized kickers in Flex roles in winning lineups.

Only one of the 20 winning lineups did not feature a quarterback in any role, while eight of 20 included both passers. Only one of those eight featured one of the quarterbacks at Captain, however, and only one of the eight was a 5-1 construction. Interestingly, two of the eight lineups that featured both quarterbacks also featured a kicker. Pass-catchers lead running backs in Captain victories once again, though that combines wide receivers and tight ends. The latter position picks up three victories in contests with similar Vegas profiles to tonight’s game.

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If we ignore the game total and focus on the point spread, we see a 37-game sample of contests that opened within a point of tonight’s 3.5 spread in either direction (2.5 to 4.5). Again we see a total absence of kicker Captain victories, with defense managing to pull the trick off once. Quarterbacks were the winning Captain play nine times out of 37, but only three of 37 lineups featured no quarterback at all, and 10 featured both quarterbacks. Running backs gain viability from the lower totaled games and split winning Captain shares evenly with pass-catchers, making them the leading individual position in our small sample when ignoring the game total. Eight of 37 contests saw a five-man stack win the day, with just one of those coming as a 1-5 or a solo Captain with five players from the other team in Flex roles. 2-4 builds were more viable, but similarly, tend to underperform their more balanced or slanted counterparts. Among those lineups, 3-3 or 4-2 constructions won out 26 of 37 times that point spreads were between 2.5 and 4.5.

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 Tony Pollard in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Pollard in the Captain role to include at least two of the players listed in the group that includes both quarterbacks, Pollard’s kicker, and a mix of stars from one side and less popular players from both teams who fit into the anticipated narrative and pricing requirements.

NFL DFS Optimizer Picks DraftKings FanDuel optimal lineup Week 3 Monday Night Football Eagles vs Cowboys tonight Dak Prescott Jalen Hurts Ezekiel Elliott Top Stacks Amari Cooper CeeDee Lamb free expert projections rankings tournament strategy advice tips showdown

NFL DFS Optimizer Groups

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 Optimizer Picks DraftKings FanDuel optimal lineup Week 3 Monday Night Football Eagles vs Cowboys tonight Dak Prescott Jalen Hurts Ezekiel Elliott Top Stacks Amari Cooper CeeDee Lamb free expert projections rankings tournament strategy advice tips showdown

Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Jalen Hurts & Dak Prescott – Standard versions

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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.

Concept — Hurts as a Gamebreaker

Key Players: Jalen Hurts – Captain version

Setting: at least 4

Group: Jalen Reagor, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Dak Prescott, Tony Pollard, Greg Zuerlein, Jake Elliott, Dalton Schultz, Blake Jarwin, Cedric Wilson

This group attempts to capitalize on the upside created by the athletic ability of the Eagles young quarterback. While actually being a good passer is still the dominant skill required for winning quarterback Captain plays, there is a clear trend across the position that being able to rush the ball is helpful when playing a quarterback in the role. Hurts has targeted just three wide receivers on the season. The viability of the lower-end Eagles receivers on this slate is a question mark, while they are inexpensive and low-owned they simply may not see any looks in their already limited playing time, creating an awfully thin needle to be threaded. The tight ends are a key factor in the Eagles passing game, and they have worked in their running backs as well. This group will force several of Hurts correlated skill players as well as a mix of necessary value plays and stars from the opposing team. Hurts is both the most likely top scorer and the most optimal Captain play according to our Top Showdown Plays Tool.

Game Script — Pass Heavy

Key Players: CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper – Captain versions

Setting: At least three

Group: Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Cedric Wilson, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Noah Brown, Zach Ertz, Kenneth Gainwell

This group looks to the air with one of the two primary receiver weapons from the Cowboys as the key player in the Captain role. Use of one of the two in that spot will trigger the group which includes their quarterback and several of the lower cost or lower-owned options from among other Cowboys skill players, but not the corresponding standard version of either primary receiver. The group also included the bulk of the Eagles passing attack. This should force a construction that is both pass and value-play heavy, as the group will spend a lot of available cap, leaving value plays in the remaining Flex spots.

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Concept — Zeke

NFL DFS Optimizer Picks DraftKings FanDuel optimal lineup Week 3 Monday Night Football Eagles vs Cowboys tonight Dak Prescott Jalen Hurts Ezekiel Elliott Top Stacks Amari Cooper CeeDee Lamb free expert projections rankings tournament strategy advice tips showdown

Key Players: Ezekiel Elliott – Captain version

Setting: At least 4

Group: Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Kenneth Gainwell, Dalton Schultz, Greg Zuerlein, Jake Elliott, Cowboys Defense, Zach Ertz

With running backs winning a fair portion of closely contested games in our sample, we can slot Ezekiel Elliott as the Captain plan into the Key player role in this group. Adding Tony Pollard as Captain as a second potential key option would work similarly in this group, though Pollard comes up as the optimal Captain in our tools far less often. The more likely Cowboys running back would then create a group that includes both quarterbacks, and a mix of the Eagles passing and ground game, as well as the less high-flying options from the Cowboys offense, as well as both kickers and the Cowboys defense. This group creates numerous oddly shaped lineups that do not spend all of the available salaries with only one Flex spot left to fill outside of the group. The lineups created are an interesting mix that largely follows a specific game narrative, though with some of the lesser options in play it is important to pay attention to the overall build.


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

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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