If you told a new arrival to this planet that a football contest was taking place between the Football Team and the Cowboys, they would probably be wrong in expecting a major wipeout in favor of the football team, which is to say that it remains a stupid name for an NFL franchise. Bad branding notwithstanding, this one is looking like it will head in the opposite direction, Dallas is playing at home and favored by 8.5 in a game carrying a 46.5 total. For NFL DFS Showdown purposes there are numerous options to exploit for scoring potential, including a few that are under-owned or inexpensive, which helps in differentiating lineups in the one-game format.
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 16 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 hometown Cowboys are favored by 8.5 in the Sunday Night Football game, giving us a 15-lineup sample to review for contests in which the home team started the night as at least touchdown favorites while ignoring the point total. The list of games in this sample includes two winning lineups that rostered a Captain defense and two that utilized a quarterback in the multiplier spot. Running backs were the dominant Captain in winning lineups in four of the 15 entries in the sample, with three of those four lineups including a defense in a flex position. The predominant Captain play in this configuration is once again the pass-catchers, with seven victories in the 15 contests between wide receivers and tight ends. Every one of those lineups included a passer, with three including both quarterbacks.
We see the strong trend of quarterback flex value continuing in this sample, which is not at all surprising. Despite succeeding in the Captain spot only twice in the sample, quarterbacks were rostered in 14 of the 15 winning lineups, with four of those including two passers. The multiplier on salary continues to be an obstacle to quarterback Captain success on DraftKings, while it is a non-factor on FanDuel and Yahoo slates, which vaults quarterbacks to obvious status as go-to options for the Superstar or MVP spot.
In the full sample of 15 games, we see seven winning lineups that included a defense, including the two that rostered defenses as Captain plays. Those two lineups were constructed at 5-1 builds, while the remaining are a mix of 3-3, 4-2, and 2-4 builds. Interestingly, two of the seven utilized the defense from the visiting underdog team to great success. Only four winning lineups included a kicker in any role, the position continues to be the least frequently optimal in most of the samples we have reviewed throughout the season.
Ignoring the point spread and focusing on games within 1.5 points on either side of tonight’s projected 46.5 total reveals a sample including 27 winning lineups. This broad spectrum of plays includes just four winning quarterback Captain lineups while, at the same time, only three lineups failed to roster a passer at any position. 13 of the 27 lineups included two quarterbacks, with three of the four quarterback Captain winners included in that group.
13 of the winning lineups featured pass-catchers while only eight utilized a running back Captain, suggesting that between the point spread and total, there are compelling reasons to focus on the position in the multiplier spot with frequency. The list of eight running back winners is a mixed bag of constructions, with three 3-3 builds, a pair of 5-1 constructions, a single 4-2, and two 2-4s. By contrast, eight of the 13 pass-catcher Captain winners were either 3-3 or 4-2 builds, with 5-1 wipeout builds also picking up four wins.
11 of the 27 winning lineups included defense in a flex role, but no winning lineup in this game-total-based sample included a defense as Captain. The kickers claw back a bit of relevance in this sample, landing in eight of the 27 winning lineups and picking up a pair of Captain victories, both of which came in games that landed almost exactly at their Vegas total, but were both more competitive than the initial point spread would have indicated. Still, the primary focus should be squarely on skill players, with defense and kickers utilized to offset salary and ownership where possible and necessary.
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 Ezekiel Elliott in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Elliott 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.
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: Dak Prescott & Taylor Heinicke – 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 Lineup Build – Dallas Wipeout with Leverage Captain
Key Player(s): Amari Cooper – Captain version (note: this same group can be utilized with all of the primary Dallas pass-catchers in the Captain spot as well, but it is Cooper who provides the most upside and leverage in the role)
Setting: At least 4
Group: Dak Prescott, Taylor Heinicke, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, Cowboys, Greg Zuerlein, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Antonio Gibson, Cam Sims
This group seeks to take advantage of a strong discount on the pricing for Amari Cooper on the DraftKings slate. The receiver comes up as the most frequently optimal Captain play in the game in Awesemo’s simulated slates and he lands at positive leverage in the role, making him a fantastic play who should be utilized again and again in the spot. This group can be duplicated with other Dallas weapons in the Captain role instead of or in addition to Cooper, but he is the prime candidate to deliver given the relatively low cost in the multiplier spot. The group includes both quarterbacks, a host of other options from Dallas that include the kicker and defense, and two positively leveraged skill players from the Washington side. The group should result in lineups that are largely 5-1 or 4-2 constructions in favor of the Cowboys side, with positive leverage in the right spots.
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NFL DFS Concept – Ground-based Upset
Key Player(s): Antonio Gibson – Captain version
Setting: At least four
Group: Dak Prescott, Taylor Heinicke, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalton Schultz, Cowboys Defense, Greg Zuerlein, Football Team Defense, Joey Slye, Cam Sims, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup
This group forces just three players in lineups when running back Antonio Gibson is utilized as the Captain. The group includes both quarterbacks as well as both defenses and kickers while adding positively leveraged skill players from both sides. The group includes a number of popular players who would logically land in lineups anyway, but the addition of a few lower-owned wildcard plays should help keep things differentiated with two spots remaining to fill after the group requirements are met. This group should result in evenly-built constructions that would play well for a game that plays closer than Vegas expects.
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