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

Terry McBride

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NFL DFS Optimal Lineups DraftKIngs Showdown FanDuel Groups

Monday Night Football brings a far more appealing game for NFL DFS contests than what last night’s matchup looked like on paper prior to lock. Of course, as anyone might have predicted on an odd day in an odd year of football, the game with a 42.5-point total and 11.5-point spread turned into a 45-30 shootout. By sheer chaos-based logic, tonight’s 50.5-point total and -3 spread will undoubtedly turn into a field-goal kicking competition. In the event that the NFL gods decide to grant us a game that follows the anticipated script, this matchup seems ideal for NFL DFS Showdown formats. The game between the Rams and Cardinals features two premium quarterbacks and excellent skill players on both sides. There is a lot to like about the variability of lineup constructions on this slate for tournaments on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

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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 14 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 game is looking like a high-scoring shootout with a 50.5-point total in Vegas. The game should be highly competitive, the 8-4 Rams are well within striking distance of the 10-2 Cardinals if they pry this win away, if they let it slip they are chasing a wildcard spot. With the Rams leading the league in Awesemo’s neutral average pace metric and the Cardinals sitting second, there is a reasonable expectation of fireworks and both already fast-paced teams are projected to play at an even higher clip when they square off. This should create a bonanza of NFL DFS points on both sites.

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There are 14 lineups to examine in our previous contest files that come from games within a point of tonight’s 50.5 total. Every one of the 14 winning lineups included at least one quarterback, with five lineups rostering a pair of passers. Only two winning lineups rostered their quarterback in a Captain role, however, a trend we have spotted in similar samples throughout the season. Another point that should be familiar about games of this shape is that, historically, pass-catchers have been the most valuable Captain play. Nine of the 14 winning lineups featured either a wide receiver or tight end in the Captain role, while only three Captains were running backs. Five of the pass-catcher-focused winners were 3-3 builds and three were 4-2, the one oddball was a 2-4 lineup that rostered Mike Williams with Justin Herbert in a flex spot while including the opposing passer, two correlated skill players, and their kicker to fill out the flex positions. Only one of the nine lineups included a defense, but five of them included kickers.

In the full sample of 14 winning lineups for games within one point of tonight’s total, every skill player rostered in a Captain role would be considered a featured player from their team at the time, and likely the highest or second-highest priced option available. Examples from this list include Cooper Kupp (twice), Alvin Kamara, Travis Kelce, DK Metcalf, Ezekiel Elliott, and other similarly talented players. This is partly short-sample happenstance, if we extend to another point on either side of tonight’s total we do see a few “value” players emerge in the Captain role in winning lineups, but the propensity for star-caliber players to fall into that spot in high-scoring games should not be overlooked entirely.

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)

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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 Odell Beckham Jr. in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Beckham 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 skill players and the kickers from both sides.

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: Kyler Murray & Matthew Stafford – Captain 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 – Shootout

Key Player(s): Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson Jr., Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Zach Ertz, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, Kendall Blanton – Captain versions

Setting: At least 4

Group: Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson Jr., Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Zach Ertz, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, Kendall Blanton, Ben Skowronek, Matt Prater, Matt Gay

This group focuses squarely on the passing game on both sides. The use of any of the primary pass-catchers in a Captain role will trigger a group that forces four players from a list that includes the same receiving corps, as well as the quarterbacks and kickers from both teams. This will leave one spot open for the optimizer to fill out a lineup, so running backs will be included but on a limited basis, and the appearances of defenses should be minimized. This group anticipates the shootout game and should result in evenly-built well-correlated lineups.


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NFL DFS Concept – Chalk Captain with Leverage Flex

Key Player(s): Cooper Kupp – Captain version

Setting: At least three

Group: Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford, Rondale Moore, Sony Michel, Zach Ertz, James Conner, Kendall Blanton, Christian Kirk, A.J. Moore Ben Skowronek, Matt Prater, Matt Gay

This group focuses on an attempt to force some lineup differentiation options into groups that use the very popular Cooper Kupp in the Captain role. Kupp is the third-most frequently optimal Captain play in DraftKings Showdown models for NFL DFS this evening, narrowly trailing both Sony Michel and slate leader Rondale Moore (Moore is an extreme value play in the Captain spot and should be more popular than he is). The group forces three players from a list that includes both quarterbacks as well as the most positively leveraged flex plays and several players who are simply at low raw ownership projections.


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