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Optimizer Groups: Optimal TNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Broncos vs Browns

Terry McBride

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Thursday’s NFL DFS slate features DraftKings Showdown and FanDuel Single Game contests that will have to contend with a few other sports for attention on what is clearly looking like a low-scoring real-life football game. With a 40-point total and a home team that is favored by just a point, while starting a backup quarterback and their fourth-string running back no less, we can expect an ugly but potentially hard-fought game. While it might not be a font of NFL DFS point-scoring, there should at least be interesting ways to cover the field with unique entries, which plays well for Showdown NFL DFS strategy and tournament lineup construction. Let’s dig into some of the top NFL DFS optimizer picks and optimal lineup construction on DraftKings and FanDuel for the Week 7 Thursday Night Football game.

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 Thursday 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 low total is somewhat short on reference points over the past two-plus seasons. There are only five games that were totaled within a point in either direction, with 40 representing the low and four games totaled between that and 41. Only one game in the full sample was totaled lower, a 37-point affair between the Bills and Steelers in 2019. The tiny five-game sample saw two quarterback wins, two running back wins, and a wide receiver win, with a mixture of 3-3, 4-2, and 2-4 constructions that frequently included a defense, and three of the five included both quarterbacks.

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Searching for relevance, we can expand the sample to include a broader slate of what can still be considered low-totaled games. Expanding to include the 37-point fiasco as well as games ranging out to 43.5, we see a somewhat better sample that includes 20 games. In this set of winning lineups, we immediately notice that four of the five times a defense has won in the broader sample come within this subset. Three of those four winning constructions were with a 5-1 build favoring the side of the Captain defense, with the fourth coming as an evenly built 3-3. Only one of these defensively oriented lineups failed to include a quarterback, the quarterbacks who were included in Flex positions were always correlated with the winning Captain defense. None of the winning defense lineups included a kicker.

The other noteworthy aspect of this sample is that the viability of the pass-catcher as a Captain play falls off a cliff when we reach these low implied team totals. Only three of the 20 winning lineups featured a pass-catcher, with all three coming as 4-2 builds with wide receiver Captains. This is a significant turnaround from the frequency with which we see pass-catchers land as the winning Captain play throughout many other samples.

Quarterbacks also won the day in four of the 20 entries, with three of those including the opposing quarterback and at least one correlated receiver (interestingly Mitch Trubisky was the winner in two of these, Marcus Mariota won one, and Baker Mayfield took the other). Naturally, running back Captain plays have historically been the best approach to winning a Showdown contest when the game projects as this one does in Vegas. Nine of the 20 lineups in the sample of relatively similar totals were won by running back Captains. Seven of the nine winners were 3-3 builds, with a 4-2 and a 5-1 mixed in. Only two of the winning lineups included no quarterback, while just two included both. Five of the running back winners included defense in the Flex position. In every instance, those defenses were correlated with the running back Captain. Two winning lineups included a lone kicker and an additional two included both kickers. The 4-2 winner in this format interestingly was built with Dalvin Cook as the running back Captain, including his defense, both kickers, the opposing running back, and his teammate at the time, Stefon Diggs, but neither quarterback.

There is only a small sample of games that carry a one-point or pick ’em spread, regardless of game total, in our historical data. The game totals in those six contests range from 41.5 to 55.5, but in every instance, the contest was won by a running back Captain play. Only one of the winning lineups failed to roster a quarterback, while only one included both signal-callers. Half of the winners were 3-3 builds and half were built as 4-2s. Two lineups included defenses in Flex roles, while four lineups included kickers in Flex roles, there was no crossover between the two.

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The small sample conclusion of the day may seem obvious, running backs, defenses, and kickers are far more viable in a game with a tight point spread and a low game total. We can see that even constructions or slanting slightly toward the Captain role with a 4-2 build are the most likely constructions, the 3-3 relevance continues a strong trend that we have observed throughout the season regardless of game configuration. Defense is viable in the Captain role in this contest, but it has won more frequently in Flex roles, particularly when correlated with a running back Captain. Both the game total and point spread indicate the strength of running back Captain plays on this slate.

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.

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 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 picks DraftKings FanDuel lineups today tonight Week 7 Thursday Night FOotball Broncos vs. Browns daily fantasy football cheat sheet optimal rankings projections ownership top stacks tools betting lines odds player prop best bets parlays moneyline over/under predictions RB WR TE QB defense

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.

NFL DFS optimizer picks DraftKings FanDuel lineups today tonight Week 7 Thursday Night FOotball Broncos vs. Browns daily fantasy football cheat sheet optimal rankings projections ownership top stacks tools betting lines odds player prop best bets parlays moneyline over/under predictions RB WR TE QB defense

Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Teddy Bridgewater & Case Keenum – 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 — High Volume TE

NFL DFS optimizer picks DraftKings FanDuel lineups today tonight Week 7 Thursday Night FOotball Broncos vs. Browns daily fantasy football cheat sheet optimal rankings projections ownership top stacks tools betting lines odds player prop best bets parlays moneyline over/under predictions RB WR TE QB defense

Key Player(s): Noah Fant, Austin Hooper, David Njoku – Captain versions

Setting: At least three

Group: Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Browns Defense, Broncos Defense, Brandon McManus, Chase McLaughlin

This group seeks to defy historical sampling from earlier in this article by winning a large field tournament with a tight end Captain play in this game configuration. Tonight’s game is likely an outlier to any previous sampling, given the number of injuries on the Cleveland side of the ball. With a backup quarterback in place and two tight ends who are already relevant in the offense, there is reason to believe that either Cleveland option could come down with relevant yardage and a touchdown, while Noah Fant is one of the more heavily targeted options at the position across the league. Fant has two games of 10 targets or more with eight and six target games on the board as well over the season’s first six weeks. This group includes both quarterbacks, defenses, kickers, and the running back corps while leaving two spots and plenty of salary space to round out the lineup with pass-catchers or additional options from within the grouped players.

Game Script — Ground & Pound

Key Player(s): D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams – Captain versions

Setting: At least three

Group: Browns Defense, Broncos Defense, Brandon McManus, Chase McLaughlin, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, Courtland Sutton, Demetric Felton, Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams

This group seeks to capitalize on the historical sampling that so frequently sees running back winners with a variety of lower-scoring options from the rest of the team in Flex roles. The group utilizes any of the primary running backs when they land in the Captain role and forces the inclusion of three players from a group that features both quarterbacks, defenses, and kickers, as well as the rest of the running backs in their standard form and two positively leveraged pass-catchers from atop the board. The group will leave two spaces to fill out and should result in numerous evenly built lineups with an interesting angle into the slate’s likely outcomes.

Game Script — Denver Passing

Key Player(s): Teddy Bridgewater – Captain version

Setting: Between three and four

Group: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Kendall Hinton, John Brown, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Broncos Defense, Brandon McManus

This group, in addition to having a great band name, comes in looking to capitalize on a game in which Denver’s more capable passing game takes over. The game does not have to be extremely high scoring for Bridgewater and his pass catchers to see some relevance, it could simply trend toward those skill players while remaining ugly and closely contested. This could lead to a configuration where the running backs, defense, and kickers from Denver remain viable in forcing a 5-1 or 4-2 quarterback-oriented build.


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

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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