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

Terry McBride



Monday Night Football brings an interesting divisional rivalry game to the table for NFL DFS Showdown contests tonight. The 6-7 Vikings will travel to Chicago to take on the 4-9 Bears in a game carrying a 46-point game total with the visiting team favored by a touchdown. Despite coming in under .500, both teams feature playable weapons on the offensive side of the football, and they should align for a fun night of NFL DFS action. With the assigned salaries and projections, roster configurations are interesting in DraftKings Showdown competitions for this slate, while the lack of a salary multiplier on other sites makes it more straightforward to mix and match highly projected options.

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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 15 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.

The matchup between the Vikings and Bears is carrying a 46-point total and a touchdown spread in favor of the road team, giving it an interesting shape. Our pool of winning lineups from previous contests includes 18 entries within a point on either side of the total, but only two of those featured a road team favorite, one of which was a -13 on the road Buccaneers, and the other was an exact match with a -7 for visiting Buffalo over New England last season. In that one specific contest, a flawed data point if we ever saw one, a wide receiver Captain won the day in a 5-1 configuration that rostered both quarterbacks and leaned heavily into the favored Bills.

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Half of the winning lineups from the full 18-game sample utilized a pass-catcher in the Captain spot. Interestingly, four of the winning lineups were 5-1 constructions. Three of the remaining lineups were 3-3, with a 4-2 and a 2-4 also on the board. Getting to either a wipeout construction in favor of the heavily favored visiting road team with several pass-catching options seems like an interesting approach to tonight’s slate based on this small sample data.

Only three winning lineups failed to roster a quarterback, but only two quarterback Captain plays took down tournaments in the sample. It is wort noting that both of those lineups included both quarterbacks from their respective games. Of the 15 lineups that did roster a quarterback, eight included both passers. Four of the 18 victories went to running back Captain constructions, with two of those built as 5-1 configurations. These lineups all included at least one quarterback and two of them included both. More than half of the 18 winning lineups rostered at least one running back in a Flex role, but the preferred constructions typically focus more on the passing game overall.

The sample includes two kicker Captain victories, both came in games that played tightly to their game total in closer than expected competitions. Outside of the Captain winners, kickers were rostered in Flex roles in winning lineups five times in the 18-game sample. One thing that stands out is that all three of the lineups that did not roster a quarterback in any role did include a kicker in a Flex position. This trend seems to continue through the full set of winning lineups as well, of the limited times that a quarterback was not included in a lineup at all, two-thirds of those winners rostered a kicker. Defenses were viable plays five times in Flex positions as well, they did not appear as a Captain play in a winning lineup in this sample.

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)

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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 Dalvin Cook in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Cook 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 from a range of salary tiers, both kickers, and the Vikings defense.

NFL DFS lineup optimizer picks projections DraftKings FanDuel free expert 2021 fantasy football advice Monday Night Football Vikings vs. Bears Week 15 stacks rankings ownership optimal lineup

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 lineup optimizer picks projections DraftKings FanDuel free expert 2021 fantasy football advice Monday Night Football Vikings vs. Bears Week 15 stacks rankings ownership optimal lineup

Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Kirk Cousins & Justin Fields – 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.

NFL DFS Gameflow – Favorite Overload

NFL DFS lineup optimizer picks projections DraftKings FanDuel free expert 2021 fantasy football advice Monday Night Football Vikings vs. Bears Week 15 stacks rankings ownership optimal lineup

Key Player(s): Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn, Tyle Conklin, Kene Nwangwu, Vikings Defense, Greg Joseph – Captain versions

Setting: At least 4

Group: Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins, Justin Fields, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn, Tyle Conklin, Kene Nwangwu, Vikings Defense, Greg Joseph

This group leans into the favored road team and attempts to force 5-1 or 4-2 constructions with the use of any of the primary Vikings options as a Captain. The group will be forced to include four players from a list that includes the opposing quarterback but none of his other teammates. This will create lineups that are required to include primarily Vikings, while allowing for either salary spend or relief as well as an additional opportunity to include a Bears skill player in the one non-grouped roster spot. Lineups that have a Vikings player in the Captain role that do not include Fields will roster a different individual Bears player in the open spot and will be forced to configure as a 5-1. The possibility of Fields still landing in a lineup that opts for four Vikings players from the group remains, he can occupy that final roster spot in several configurations of a 5-1 stack.

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NFL DFS Concept – Leverage and Value Captains

Key Player(s): Greg Joseph, Cairo Santos, Vikings Defense, Cole Kmet, Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, Kene Nwangwu

Setting: At least four

Group: Kirk Cousins (+10%), Justin Fields (+10%), Dalvin Cook (+15%), David Montgomery (+10%), Justin Jefferson (+10%), Adam Thielen (+10%), Darnell Mooney, KJ Osborn, Jakeem Grant, Damiere Byrd, Tyler Conklin, Cole Kmet

There are several viable Captain plays who come into the night with reasonable chances of being the most frequently optimal Captain. This list includes both kickers, a tight end, a defense, two wide receivers, and an extreme value running back, all of whom land at different prices and probabilities. The only two players in the list of key players who do not have at least a 6.1% probability of being the optimal Captain are Byrd and Nwangwu, who land at 2.7% and 1.5% respectively. The incredibly low-cost Nwangwu remains interesting for what he allows one to roster in the Flex positions, it becomes almost difficult to spend the full salary cap when putting him in the Captain role. The group listed seeks to exploit the Captain value plays by forcing a mix of at least four of the primary skill players from any position, including both quarterbacks. The list seems somewhat obvious, but it will help the optimizer avoid lineups that leave far too much salary on the table or do not fully take advantage of the savings provided in the salary multiplier spot.

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

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 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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