Sunday Night Football for Week 7 sees a showdown between the Colts and 49ers that is at best uninspiring on the board in Las Vegas. The second low-totaled game in a row in primetime brings just a 42-point total, with the hometown 49ers favored by 3.5. Fortunately, we have NFL DFS action that works in low scoring contests just as well as it does in highly totaled games, we simply need to adjust expectations for the most likely outcomes. Getting to a broad range of plays that cover many potential outcomes is a strong approach to this slate, with a particular eye toward things that trend toward a specific game script for what we see on the board. Taking different approaches to the obvious chalk is advisable as well, of course, finding a fine line between playing good chalk and rostering offbeat tournament winners is always a difficult exercise.
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 7 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.
If we look for a pool of contest-winning entries for games that opened with a total within 2 points in either direction of tonight’s 42-point total, we have a set of 24 games to explore. The strongest trend we have observed in this basic sampling exercise throughout the season holds firm in this instance once again, as 20 of the 24 winning lineups included at least one quarterback. Eight of those 20 lineups included both passers, with three of those lineups featuring a quarterback Captain with his opponent in a Flex role. Overall, quarterback Captains won five of the 24 contests of this nature.
A carryover from Thursday’s sampling, we see defense Captain plays pick up three wins in games of this shape, with all three coming in 5-1 constructions. None of those winning lineups included the opposing defense nor did they feature either kicker in the game. Overall, defenses were winning plays in the Flex spot 10 times but just one of those included both defenses. Only one winning lineup that featured a defense Flex play also included a kicker, that one featured a defense and both kickers with a running back in the Captain role. Overall, kickers remain the least viable play, with the position picking up no Captain wins in this sample, and only coming up as a winning Flex play in six of the 24 entries.
Six of the winning Captain plays were pass-catchers, with all of them playing the wide receiver spot, though that seems more like happenstance than a trend. Four of the winning lineups were 4-2 builds, the other two were 3-3. All of the winning lineups included at least one quarterback, with half of them adding the second passer as well. The remaining 10 contests in the sample were won by running back Captain plays. The position shows the most dominance in these low-total tightly contested games, as might make sense when one considers game flow. Only two of the winning lineups did not include a quarterback, while another two included both signal-callers. Five of the 10 winning lineups included a kicker, which also tracks logically and could be the formula for finding when kickers make the most sense to add to a lineup.
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. The example below shows a group that utilizes D’Ernest Johnson in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Johnson in the Captain role to include at least four of the players listed in the group that includes both quarterbacks, both defenses, both kickers, the rest of the running back corps, and the top two wide receivers in the game, leaving one space and significant salary on the table to roster anyone in the final position while creating lineups that play to the likely game script.
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.
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: Jimmy Garoppolo & Carson Wentz – 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.
Lineup Concept — Captain Leverage
Key Player(s): Deebo Samuel – Captain version
Setting: At least four
Group: Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz, Jonathan Taylor, Eli Mitchell, Nyheim Hines, Mo Alie-Cox, Michael Pittman, Ross Dwelley, Joey Slye, Michael Badgley
This group tasks advantage of the fact that the most likely top scorer and most frequently optimal Captain play on the slate is also the most positively leveraged play available in that role tonight. Samuel has significant upside, but the field is trailing the ownership mark they should be reaching, which creates opportunity. This group will force four players from a list that includes both quarterbacks, with the idea that they will both frequently find their way into lineups, as well as part of the running back corps, a few primary pass-catchers from the opposing offense, the tight end from Samuel’s team, and both kickers. This group will leave salary and a lineup position open for a premium play and strives to create unique entries for NFL DFS Showdown contests.
Game Script — Ground & Pound
Key Player(s): Eli Mitchell, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Kyle Juszczyk, JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon, Marlon Mack – Captain versions
Setting: At least four
Group: Jonathan Taylor, Eli Mitchell, Nyheim Hines, Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz, Colts defense, 49ers defense, Deebo Samuel, Michael Pittman, Mo Alie-Cox, Ross Dwelley, Joey Slye, Michael Badgley
This group chases the historical context where we have seen running back Captain plays win with relative frequency. The group includes additional running backs to build on a ground-based game script, while also adding the potential to roster both passers, both top wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and defenses in a group that will force four any time one of the running backs is utilized at Captain. This should create unique somewhat evenly built lineups that lean into a narrative of a low-scoring, tightly played game. Moving this to at least three and allowing for additional skill players to fill in and consume surplus salary is a fine approach to this group as well, though that may create more easily duplicated lineups.
Game Script — Indianapolis Passing
Key Player(s): Michael Pittman & Zach Pascal — Captain versions
Setting: At least three
Group: Carson Wentz, Michael Pittman (-25%), Zach Pascal (-25%) Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, Joey Slye, Michael Badgley, Mo Alie-Cox, Ross Dwelley, Jonathan Taylor, Eli Mitchell, Nyheim Hines
This group seeks to catch the off chance that the Colts’ passing game is a strong play, with Carson Wentz looking to one of his wide receivers more than the other. Utilizing both Pittman and Pascal in the Captain role allows us to apply a negative bump to each when the other lands in that spot. This will reduce, but not eliminate, the frequency with which we get to both of the prominent pass-catchers. Also included in the group are both quarterbacks as well as representatives from the skill group on both sides.
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