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Optimizer Groups: Optimal TNF NFL Daily DraftKings & FanDuel Picks | Jets vs Colts

Terry McBride

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Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard would not commit to Carson Wentz when speaking to reporters about his future following the Jaguars loss

Thursday Night Football brings an ugly-looking game to the table today, with the 2-5 Jets in Indianapolis to take on the 3-5 Colts. With both losing organizations going nowhere fast this season and a number of questions about the talent on both sides, this may not be the best real-life football game to watch. Fortunately, we have NFL DFS Showdown contests to keep things entertaining and, hopefully, profitable. The game has a meaty 10.5-point spread and a total of 45, putting most of the DFS world on the Colts’ skill players as their primary choices. This should create some opportunities to find the lower-owned quality plays to mix into lineups of all types, minimal leverage-based changes can have a major impact in Showdown format.

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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 9 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.

Monday night’s game has a 45-point total that gives us an 18-game historical sample when we look within a point in either direction. The results are somewhat balanced, though pass-catchers once again lead the way as the most frequent winning Captain play with eight victories in the 18 contests. One of those eight lineups did not include a quarterback, while three of the remaining seven lineups featured both passers. Generally, the quarterback who directly correlates with the pass-catcher in the Captain role is the one we want if forced to choose between the two. In the Captain role, quarterbacks came up as the winning play just four times in the 18 games, continuing our trend of seeing them as more valuable in flex positions. Of those four lineups, two included the opposing passer in a flex role.

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Running backs are somewhat of a smaller factor in the historical sample than one might expect when considering a lower total than typical primetime games. The position landed as the winning Captain play in just five contests in our 18-game sample, with just one of those lineups failing to include a quarterback in a flex role. The winning running back lineups feature decisions like playing the opposing defense against the Captain running back and playing two running backs from the same team in a lineup, two of them were built as 2-4 constructions, two were 3-3 builds and one was a 5-1 onslaught. Kickers and defenses were only viable flex plays twice in the winning running back lineups, they come up more frequently when other positions are victorious. In the 12 lineups that had either a passer or pass-catcher in the Captain role, three featured kickers in flex spots, and four featured a defense. The final Captain winner in the 18-game sample was a rare kicker Captain win, with Matt Prater taking the honors in a 4-2 lineup. Once again we see that the most frequently victorious constructions are the evenly built lineups. 3-3 constructions took the top spot in eight of the 18 contests, with 4-2 landing as the second-best option.

Ignoring the game total and looking at a sample of eight games that opened with a point spread between nine and 11 points, we come up with an odd list of winners. There were two defense Captain victories in the small sample, both of which were 5-1 onslaught lineups that leaned into the heavily favored team. Only one quarterback and two running backs were victors, while three pass catchers managed to win tournaments. All but one of the lineups included a quarterback, while five of the seven included both passers. 3-3 builds were the winning construction in half of the contests.

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)

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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 Jonathan Taylor in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Taylor in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group that includes both quarterbacks, leverage receiving options from both teams, the opposing running back, and a kicker.

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.

Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Carson Wentz & Mike White — 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 — Jets Behind and Passing

Key Player(s): Jets primary receivers – Captain Versions

Setting: At least four

Group: Mike White, Carson Wentz, Michael Pittman, Ashton Dulin, Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Mo Alie-Cox, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole, Elijah Moore

This group looks to capture the upside of the Jets being forced to pass to stay in the game. The requirement of using four players should push for 3-3 or 4-2 lineups that include one or both quarterbacks along with additional members of the Jets’ passing attack. Positively leveraged receivers from the Colts are included to correlate with Wentz, and the group also includes several plays for leverage from both teams, as well as the standard version of the Jets receiving corps.

Lineup Concept — Colts Onslaught

Key Player(s): Jonathan Taylor, Carson Wentz, Michael Pittman – Captain versions

Setting: At least 4

Group: Jonathan Taylor, Carson Wentz, Michael Pittman (Standard versions), Mike White, Zach Pascal, Nyheim Hines, Ashton Dulin, Mo Alie-Cox, Colts Defense, Michael Badgley

This group chases the highly favored Colts and looks to stack four or five of them into a single lineup, with a lone Jets player coming back the other way. The group uses the Colts’ three most highly projected players as the potential keys, landing in the Captain spot will trigger the creation of this group that includes all of the Colts main weapons, both quarterbacks, as well as the Colts’ defense and kicker. This group will have one open space for another Colts player or a Jets player. Adding additional Jets, or reducing the requirement to three can help to build more evenly constructed lineups that do not lean quite so heavily into the idea of a Colts’ blowout.


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We also have NFL single-game projections and NFL 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 DFS rankings, and daily fantasy football stacking. View our FanDuel DFS NFL rankings and our DraftKings NFL ownership rankings. Take a look at our NFL starting line-ups, inactives and NFL depth chart list.

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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