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Optimizer Groups: Optimal SNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Browns vs. Ravens

Terry McBride

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NFL DFS Optimizer Groups Sunday Night Football DraftKings Showdown Strategy

Sunday Night Football brings an interesting tilt between the Browns and former Browns, with Cleveland in Baltimore to take on the Ravens. Ancient Modell-related grudges aside, the game is projected to be a tight contest, with just a home-field advantage spread giving the Ravens a three-point edge on the board in Vegas. The game is carrying a middling 46-point total that could swing in any number of directions and does not typically lend itself to one specific version of lineup constructions over another. Getting to a broad mix of plays, while focusing on the most frequently optimal and positively leveraged options in most roster spots, then getting intelligently different in one or two places, is the key to constructions on this DraftKings Showdown and FanDuel single-game NFL DFS slate.

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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 Thursday Night Football DraftKings and FanDuel Showdown lineups.

NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Week 12 Sunday 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 carries a three-point spread and a 46-point total in Las Vegas, the latter of which gives us a list of 18 games within a point in either direction to review in our small historical samples. The results are a mixed bag of constructions with pass-catchers leading the way with nine of the 18 victories. With the position taking half of the historical contests it seems to be of strong value but everything is relative to the talents at hand from game to game. In this contest, we may well see the game script favor the number of quality rushing options on the field more than the passing game, despite what history indicates.

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The running back position came in victorious in the Captain role in five of our 18 contests, while kickers and quarterback captain plays took two wins each. The continuing trend is that quarterbacks are more valuable as flex plays in DraftKings Showdown contests, while skill players belong in the Captain role more frequently, with an edge to pass-catchers. Only two of the winning lineups failed to roster a quarterback in any position, while eight of the 18 included both passers.

A version of this game was played last season in Week 14, with Baltimore traveling to Cleveland in a contest that had almost the exact same point spread at 45.5 and the same line, with the Ravens favored by three. Given that the rosters for both teams are somewhat – if not entirely – similar, particularly at the quarterback and primary skill positions, it is not entirely ridiculous to say that the winning construction can be informative. That lineup saw a 5-1 slant in favor of Cleveland, with running back Kareem Hunt in the Captain spot, along with his teammates Nick Chubb, Rashard Higgins, David Njoku, and their quarterback Baker Mayfield. The only Ravens player in the lineup was, of course, quarterback Lamar Jackson. Is that exact lineup going to win the day once again? It seems highly unlikely, but there is a lesson to be learned about creating unique roster constructions as this person chose to do by clearly favoring the home underdog in a 5-1 wipeout build, placing the secondary (but explosive) running back in the Captain role but including his backfield running mate, and adding three pieces of the same team’s passing game while grabbing the quarterback and easily the highest upside player from the other side. It must be noted at this point that the game in question exploded through the expected game total; what started with a 45.5 line ended with a massive 89-point total, with Baltimore winning a wild 47-42 shootout.

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 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 skill players 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: Daniel Jones & Tom Brady – 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.

Game Concept — Slanted Ground Game

Key Player(s): Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt – Captain versions

Setting: At least 4

Group: Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, David Njoku, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Austin Hooper, Justin Tucker, Chase McLaughlin

This group is looking to replicate something along the lines of the winning construction from Week 14 of last year, while allowing significant room for the obvious need to vary from that specific build. The theme is catching a Cleveland ground game victory while dragging along additional running back plays with a focus toward the Cleveland side. The group will be drawing four players from a pool that is primarily but not exclusively, comprised of Browns, while also including both quarterbacks and both kickers.


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Game Script – Another Shootout

Key Player(s): All primary pass catchers and Kareem Hunt – Captain versions

Setting: At least 4

Group: Repeat primary pass catchers and Kareem Hunt, add quarterbacks – standard versions

This group takes the notion that this game could turn into a shootout once again but looks at it from the pass-catching angle. Last year’s game reaching an 89-point total and still seeing a running back Captain win with that construction seems like an outlier, in almost every instance we have seen inflated totals favor the passing game, and primarily the pass-catching positions. Quarterback inclusion is critical with this group and this can be in tandem with the quarterback forcing group from above to ensure that at least one of the passers is included in every lineup.


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