The Sunday Night Football Showdown slate should be a wild one this week. The high-flying Chiefs are headed into Baltimore to face the hard-nosed Ravens in a game between two AFC favorites. Vegas likes this to be a close contest, with the road team pulling into town as -3.5 favorite in a game currently totaled at 53. These two teams played a similar game in Week 3 last year, with interesting results that are featured below. The best way to locate low-owned high-upside individual plays to connect with the chalkier options on the night is with the Top Showdown Plays Tool.
NFL DFS Picks & Optimizer Groups: 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 our pool of DraftKings Showdown research from 2019 through this week’s Sunday night game. 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.
In 22 contests with totals between 50 and 55, a quarterback Captain play won five times, and a tight end won four. Running backs and wide receivers accounted for the remaining six and seven wins, respectively. No defense or kicker Captain has won a slate totaled above 48.5 in the two-plus year sample covering 98 Showdown slates. Wide receivers account for five of 11 Captain wins in games totaled between 53.5 and the sample’s highwater mark of 57. Two of the remaining wins go to quarterbacks with the balance landing at running back. In the full sample of games totaled over 50, 16 of them have a point spread between a pick-’em and -3.5; wide receiver Captain plays won six of those. Tight ends took two, while running backs and quarterbacks split four each. There is overlap between these examples, but the slight trend seems to follow the logic that receivers would stand out in games that have both a high point total and a close point spread. As always, these are extrapolations and assumptions based on small pools of data.
The prime-time Chiefs appear nine times in the Showdown sample. Patrick Mahomes as the Captain has won the main DraftKings Showdown slate two times, half as many as running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs had the winning Captain in seven of those nine games, with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill each getting one, and the Kansas City defense coming through for a surprising one. The Ravens have been in the Showdown game six times in the sample. Lamar Jackson has Captained his way to two victories, and he appears as a Flex play in two of the other tournament-winning lineups. Contrary to popular belief, Jackson was stacked with multiple receivers in most of those successful lineups.
These two teams played a Showdown slate in Week 3 of 2020. That game was also in Baltimore. It had a mostly comparable 55-point total, but the Ravens were the -3.5 favorite that night. The slate was won by an interesting lineup that featured Mahomes as the Captain play and stacked him with Kelce, Hill, Edwards-Helaire and Mecole Hardman, with Devin Duvernay as the lone Ravens player. That was one of just five times in 27 games totaled above 50 in our sample that a 5-1 stack won the day. Interestingly, 3-3 stacks have won 14 of the 27 contests in that sample of Showdown slates totaled above 50, regardless of spread or matchup.
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 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
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. Utilizing Groups with the quarterbacks as key players is important to push team stacks when they appear in the Flex positions as well. The example below shows a group that utilizes Hill in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Hill in the Captain role to include at least two of the players listed in the group that includes stars and lower owned options from both his team and the opposing team in the hopes of capturing both the high and low end of a shootout.
NFL DFS Team 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.
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: Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson (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 Script — The Under
Four hyper-obvious players are consuming 87% of the probability of being the top scorer in the Captain role in our rankings, with every other individual player falling below seven percent ownership in the role. This creates opportunity around a number of lower-owned skill players in terms of raw ownership shares, but the probability factor should not be ignored. A path to lower-owned potential could be found in pursuing a less-likely game narrative like a close game turning into a contest that lands under the Vegas point total. Of the 27 games with totals over 50 in our Showdown sample, 16 went under, with 14 of those falling short by a touchdown or more. Five of the nine times that Kansas City has played a Showdown slate in our sample are represented in this cross section.
Key Players: Ty’Son Williams, Latavius Murray, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Tucker, Harrison Butker, Chiefs Defense, Ravens Defense – Captain Versions
Setting: At least three
Group: Ty’Son Williams, Latavius Murray, Darrel Williams, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Justin Tucker, Harrison Butker, Chiefs Defense, Ravens Defense
This group will force selections that include kickers, running backs, defense, and quarterbacks, while still leaving room for necessary wide receivers. This is not the only approach to the under, our sample shows a relatively even range of success with wide receivers and running backs in games that go under the Vegas total. This lineup would be chasing a specifically low-scoring version of this contest in which kickers and running backs are primary scorers, a less likely but not impossible scenario.
Game Script — One or the Other, Mostly
Key Players: Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill – Captain versions
Setting: At least two
Group: Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill
This simple group can be deployed if you want to limit the degree to which you get both star pass catchers in lineups together, as that is the construction that anyone picking up DFS for the first time would likely land on. This utilizes the checkbox at the bottom of the screen to disable the “at least” requirement and, instead, tell the optimizer to apply the indicated negative boosts in the event that either player appears as a lineup Captain. This will still allow them to appear together but should serve to dramatically limit the frequency with which that lineup appears in larger crunches.
Game Script — Bombs Away
Key Players: Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson — Captains
Setting: At least two
Group: Demarcus Robinson, Devin Duvernay, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Devonta Freeman, Blake Bell, Patrick Ricard
Everyone wants to see this game shoot out. If it does, there are oddball receivers on both teams who could rapidly become relevant NFL DFS Showdown plays. This group will force two of the lower-owned but not entirely off-the-board players into lineups when either quarterback lands in the Captain role. Our rules will help force correlations either within the grouped players or in the other positions that will fill in with more highly projected chalk.
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