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Optimizer Groups: Optimal SNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Chargers vs. Raiders

Terry McBride



NFL DFS Optimizer Groups DraftKings Showdown Lineup Picks Tonight Chargers Raiders Sunday Night Football

After the Colts shockingly choked away their chance to lock in a playoff spot, there are a number of teams now in play for the final spot during the backend of the Sunday slate, including the Raiders, who are three-point underdogs to the visiting Chargers, who are also in play for a playoff spot in the final Sunday Night Football contest of the regular season. The Jaguars win also opens the absurd possibility that both of these teams would make the playoffs and the Steelers would be left on the outside if they simply agree to take a knee on every snap and tie at zero-zero. Coaching has stated that they will not be playing into this scenario, which would be an absolute nightmare for the NFL, but it seems like a foolish risk to take when the rules allow for the opportunity. Smart organizations would capitalize and agree to the tie, so expect this game to play a hard-fought contest to the bitter end. The targetable game total and wealth of skill players on both sides offer interesting configurations for NFL DFS Showdown lineup constructions tonight.

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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 18 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.

The game is totaled at a respectable 48.5, one of the higher totals we have seen this week overall. Both teams are carrying better than a 60% passing volume expectation in Awesemo’s custom game-script adjusted volume projections and this will be a pace-up spot in general. The game total is one of the more favorable marks for comparison in our data. There are 12 points of comparison within a half-point of the 48.5 total. Of that group, five wins went to wide receiver Captain plays, while four were won by running backs. A familiar theme also arises, as regular readers will no doubt expect by now, the quarterback position is highly prevalent in the flex spot. Quarterbacks appear in all but one of the winning lineups, but only two of the Captain spots. Five of the 12 lineups rostered both quarterbacks, with only one of those coming in a quarterback-as-Captain lineup.


Seven of the 12 winning lineups were built as 3-3 configurations, while another four were 4-2 builds, evenly constructed lineups play well at this range of game total, particularly when the point spread and situation suggest a competitive environment. Defense took one Captain win but ultimately appears in just five of the 12 lineups, while kickers were not successful as Captain plays and were rostered in only three of 12 winning lineups as flex plays.

Extending the sample by another half-point takes us to a 23-game set. 11 of the 23 lineups were won with a pass-catcher as Captain, and every one of those lineups included a quarterback. Two quarterbacks were rostered in five of those 11 winning lineups, almost all of which were either 3-3 or 4-2 builds. Running backs take eight victories in the extended sample, again every lineup includes a quarterback. 4-2 was the most common build in running back wins, taking three of the eight, with 3-3 winning twice and a win each going to 2-4, 1-5, and 5-1. This is an extremely small sample from which to draw any real conclusions, but it seems the running back position in games with similar totals lends itself slightly more to alternate lineup constructions. Quarterbacks only pick up one additional victory, they win three of the 23 contests in the Captain role but every lineup that was added to the original sample included at least one quarterback, this extension still only includes one lineup that did not roster a quarterback.

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.

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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 Darren Waller in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Waller 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.

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: Justin Herbert & Derek Carr – 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 – Leverage Pass-Catcher Captains

Key Player(s): Mike Williams & DeSean Jackson – Captain versions

Setting: At least 3

Group: Justin Herbert, Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, Dustin Hopkins, Chargers Defense, Raiders Defense, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, DeSean Jackson, Mike Willams (Standard versions), Stephen Anderson, Jared Cook, Jalen Richard, Bryan Edwards

This group looks to capitalize as much as possible on positively leveraged plays from the Top Showdown Plays Tool whenever the two most positively leveraged Captain selections from the group of pass-catchers land in the Captain spot. Williams is clearly the more likely to succeed, he lands in the optimal lineup 10.9% of the time as the Captain, second overall on the DraftKings slate while leading the leverage category in the role. The group requires three players from a list that is entirely comprised of either positively leveraged flex players or players projected for less than 15% raw ownership.

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NFL DFS Gameflow – Play to Tie

Key Player(s): Primary running backs – Captain versions

Setting: At least four

Group: Justin Herbert, Derek Carr, Austin Ekeler, Josh Jacobs, Justin Jackson, Peyton Barber, Jalen Richard, Chargers Defense, Raiders Defense, Dustin Hopkins, Daniel Carlson

This group chases the notion of neither of these teams trying particularly hard to win. It is important to remember that they don’t formally need to agree to take a knee and tie at zero, they can simply grind the clock with the running game on both sides, exchange a few mutual field goals or even touchdowns, and land at a 17-17 score at the end of the day. While this may seem far-fetched and all of the standard metrics for this game point to a more pass-focused attack on both sides of what should be a competitive contest, this group is viable to capture an under-owned version of what could happen on the field tonight. It leans into the idea of a low-scoring close (or tied) game by including the running back corps, both quarterbacks, both defenses, and both kickers.

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