Thursday Night Football starts Week 6 off with a good one, as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers travel to Philadelphia to face young Jalen Hurts and his Eagles. The game is carrying a heavy total in Vegas, the Eagles are 7-point underdogs on their home field and will have to do a lot to hang with the high-powered Buccaneers. Both teams have weapons in the air and on the ground, we could be in for a night of NFL DFS point-scoring fireworks. Getting to the right blend of players in the Captain role with strong lineup construction, correlation, and an opportunity to be unique in a large-field tournament is challenging, but with the sheer number of quality options in this game, there are interesting directions to turn for DraftKings Showdown and FanDuel Single Game contests for Thursday Night Football. We’ll break down the best NFL DFS strategy to employ for this slate, and go over some of the best NFL DFS optimizer picks.
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 Monday Night Football DraftKings and FanDuel Showdown lineups.
NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Week 6 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 contest is carrying a total of 52.5 on the board in Las Vegas, giving us 19 analog games in our small sample research. Of those 19 Showdown contests over the past two seasons, only four were won by running back Captain plays, with the running back in each case being at least in theory a member of his team’s passing game. Quarterback captain plays won the day just four times as well, with two wins coming in a 3-3 build and two wins coming in an overloaded 5-1 correlation with the Captain quarterback. None of those lineups featured a second quarterback in a flex role. Not one of the 19 lineups in the full sample saw a defense or kicker Captain play victorious.
11 of the 19 lineups in the small sample featured a pass-catcher at Captain. Four of those were tight ends, each of which was what could easily be called a superstar player, with each of Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Darren Waller, and George Kittle managing the feat. Seven of the 11 winning lineups were constructed as 3-3 builds, three of those seven included both quarterbacks, while the winning lineup included the uncorrelated quarterback alone in a flex role on just one occasion. 3-3 builds were the winner in 11 of the full 19 contest sample, no other lineup configuration won more than four times.
As may seem intuitive to some, a high-scoring total does not bode well for defense plays, even in the flex position. Over the 19 contest sample, defenses were a winning play in the flex role just twice in games totaled within two points on either side of tonight’s 52.5. Kickers are more viable in this format, they were included in seven of the 19 winning lineups as flex plays, though no lineup with two kickers was a winner. In fact, lineups with both kickers have only won twice in more than 100 contests over the past two-plus seasons, both of those games were totaled in the very low 40s and both were running back Captain wins.
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 Mike Evans in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Evans in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group that includes both quarterbacks, skill players who correlate with the opposing quarterback, and a handful of lower-cost skill players from the Buccaneers. This group leaves two spots open for other premium plays, but salary availability is less likely, depending on the format.
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: Jalen Hurts & Tom Brady – 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.
Concept — The Obvious
Key Player: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown – Captain Versions
Setting: at least 3
Group: Jalen Hurts, Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette, DeVonta Smith, Miles Sanders, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Ryan Succop, Jake Elliot
This group attempts to capture some positive leverage and upside when one of the popular and obvious trio of Buccaneers receivers lands in the Captain role. The group includes both quarterbacks, most of the Eagles’ passing game, which will have to keep pace with any Tampa Bay scoring, as well as both kickers. A rule preventing both kickers from appearing in the same lineup may be advisable, though that will not happen frequently. This group will push some odd salary combinations and lean toward 3-3 and 4-2 or 2-4 builds, though there is a limited number of overall lineups that fit within the necessary construction.
Game Script — Ground Scoring
Key Players: Leonard Fournette, Miles Sanders, Gio Bernard, Kenneth Gainwell, Ronald Jones – Captain versions
Setting: At least four
Group: Jalen Hurts, Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette, Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Giovani Bernard, Ronald Jones, Cameron Brate, Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Antonio Brown, Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor
This group pursues the idea of a pass-heavy game in which the running backs are the ones who end up carrying the ball over the goal line. With running backs from both teams seeing reasonable volume in the passing game, there is upside for the Captain play, despite the less frequent wins in our historical sampling. The lower-cost running back Captains allow for interesting roster combinations throughout the flex positions as well. The group includes both quarterbacks, the standard version of the running backs, tight ends, and positively leveraged Flex receivers from both teams. Kickers can be added to this group easily. Leaving out the star receivers while allowing for a rotation between them at the one open position should help with lineup differentiation.
Concept – QB Captain with Leverage Receivers
Key Players: Tom Brady and Jalen Hurts – Captain Versions
Setting: at least 4
Group: Zach Ertz, Kenneth Gainwell, Jalen Hurts, Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Leonard Fournette, Ryan Succop, Jake Elliott
The quarterbacks are not only the most likely to be optimal in the Captain spot on our Top Showdown Plays board for tonight, they will both also be wildly popular on this slate. Getting to some positively leveraged flex plays along with the Captained quarterback is essentially mandatory. This group forces three players from a pool of those coming in with a higher probability of being an optimal flex play than the degree to which the public is including them in lineups. The kickers from each team are added as well. This group leaves additional room for primary receiver weapons but should result in less frequently built constructions that will play well for large field GPPs.
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