The Thursday night Showdown and Single-game slates on DraftKings and FanDuel feature an ugly contest between NFC East rivals. The Giants will be in Washington to face the aptly named Football Team, in a game that is totaled at just 40.5 with Washington favored by 3.5. Both teams will be hampered by significant injuries, with Washington having already lost quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and all-around weapon Curtis Samuel, while the Giants are playing without tight end Evan Engram once again and expect a severely limited Saquon Barkley. With a low-scoring game on tap, NFL DFS gamers can take advantage of getting to a variety of roster constructions for Showdown and Single Game formats across the industry. Taking advantage of Awesemo’s Top Showdown Plays Tool helps cut through the noise of the slate and find positively leveraged plays that have a reasonable probability of success. With a lack of true star-caliber talent on the field, the board is wide open.
NFL DFS Picks & Optimizer Groups: 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 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.
There are only four data points of Showdown slates that featured a game with a total of 40.5 or lower in our 97-entry sample. Two of those are 4-2 constructions and two are 3-3 builds, they feature two quarterback Captain plays, one running back Captain play, and a defense Captain. If we extend the sample to capture a slightly more relevant pool by allowing for games totaled out to 43, an 18-entry pool is revealed. Within that group, we have a total of four Captain defenses, 80% of the total times a defense Captain has won in the full dataset. None of the lineups that won with a defense captain included the other defense. Three of the four games in that set went under their Vegas total and favorites won at the same rate. The Patriots (former) defense appears twice in the four instances, surprisingly having won in both Week 6 and Week 7 in 2019. It is logical that defense would make for a better play in a game with a low total, but it is surprising to find four instances in just 18 entries. In the small sample, that is the same number of times that a quarterback Captain play has won and one more time than a wide receiver has been the tournament winning Captain decision.
Wide receivers take a hit in a game of this nature. With a low total, at least one good defense on the field, and two relatively bad teams going at it, there is unlikely to be a massive standout play at the position. With only three wide receiver Captain wins in the previous sample, we can see the limitation trend begin to take shape, though true analysis would require far more data. If we extend the pool to games with a 45-point total, we add an additional five wide receiver wins to the list, but the sample grows from 18 to 32 in the process. Running backs lead the way in both samples, with 12 wins in the 32 contests totaled at or below 45 points. Interestingly, only one of the eight games that saw a wide receiver Captain play in the tournament-winning lineup ended up hitting the over in Vegas, while five of 12 running back wins were over their game total, with the favored team winning the majority of contests.
Only four of the 32 wins included no quarterback, while 10 included both. Five-man stacks were victorious in six of the 32 entries, while stacks that included just one player alongside a Captain from the same team won in just two contests. 24 of 32 slates were either evenly built 3-3 or featured four players including a Captain from one team, with two from the opponent.
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 Antonio Gibson in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Gibson in the Captain role to include at least two of the players listed in the group, which includes his correlated quarterback, the opposing quarterback and several of the opposing players who would be relevant in a lower-scoring defensively oriented game, in the hopes of catching a grind of an affair as the core build. This would also create value in the lineup where the tight ends are used.
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 Player: All primary skill-players as Captain
Setting: At least one
Group: Daniel Jones and Taylor Heinicke
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 — Defense
Defense is going to be a viable Captain play on this slate on both sides of the game. Washington has the better unit of the two teams, but the Giants made a few key additions and should be serviceable, particularly against lousy offenses in low-totaled games. With the idea that a defense Captain play is possibly more likely to win out with fewer opposing players and more correlated players, we can build separate groups with each team’s defense in the key role, and only players from the same team included to create lineups that will naturally stack to either 4-2 or 5-1 constructions.
Group 1 Key Player: Washington Defense — Captain
Setting: At least three
Group 1: Taylor Heinicke, Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, J.D. McKissic
Group 2 Key Player: New York Defense — Captain
Setting: At least three
Group 2: Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Kyle Rudolph, Devontae Booker, Kadarius Toney
Game Script — Daniel Jones Takeover
If there is an upside to be found in this game, it is arguably the Giants’ passing attack. Jones has the ability to throw the ball downfield when he remains upright and manages to not drop it. The surrounding receiving corps has demonstrable talent, and Jones has moderate ability to scramble and pick up additional NFL DFS points with his legs.
Key Players: Daniel Jones — Captain
Setting: At least two
Group: Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, Kadarius Toney (Saquon Barkley is a natural fit in this spot but seems unlikely to play enough — or at all — to be entirely relevant. The Giants are nursing him back to full action gradually after the running back missed the majority of last season)
Game Script — D.C. Dual RB
The notion that both running backs from Washington could be relevant tonight seems viable, if not likely. Both Gibson and McKissic are skilled players who can operate in the running and passing attacks, though their use is somewhat stratified with McKissic seeing the lion’s share of the receiving opportunities. He led the NFL at the position last season with 110 targets. Gibson seems more of the workload as the primary ball carrier on rushing downs. Getting to the pair creates dynamic scoring upside that is difficult to replicate in this game, as the two players are unlikely to completely cannibalize one another’s potential. With a backup quarterback in play as well, this seems like an even more necessary group to include in at least a few crunches.
Key Players: Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic — Captains
Setting: Exactly one
Group: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic
A second version of this group can be built with the same running backs as the key players to add additional logical players at the other FLEX spots. These could include Washington’s defense, kicker, quarterback and members of the Giants offense that would factor into a somewhat low-scoring ground-and-pound affair.
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