Sunday, Feb 11th — Late
Bye Week:

Recent Game Notes

Bills at Jets, Week 1

I don’t typically get to play Showdown, but I have a bit of space to play this week, and went ahead and leveraged the Bink Machine to put together 50 lineups.

I’m in Oregon, so playing on FanDuel (where the MVP/Captain does not cost more $), and my MVP spot is primarily occupied with Josh Allen and Garrett Wilson. That’s “what is likeliest to happen,” which isn’t always the best way to play DFS…but in this case, I’m willing to bet that it will be the best way to play.

I do also have a bit of Captain occupied by the Cook brothers, Rodgers, Diggs, Gabe Davis, and one “Whatever, let’s try it” with Conklin.

It won’t surprise me if Diggs, Gabe, Lazard, and Cobb all finish under 10 points as well, so I’m playing a lot of rosters that way.

Let’ go!

Seahawks at Falcons, Week 1

ATL // SEA Rules ::

(Roster construction rules for this game :: condensing my thoughts from the writeup.)

If playing Lockett, also play Russ and one offensive piece (preferably a WR, but RB could also work) from the Falcons. (Can include two pieces from the Falcons if desired.)

If playing Russ, also play at least one offensive piece (preferably a WR, but RB could also work) from the Falcons. (Can include two pieces from the Falcons if desired.) Russ can be played without a stacking partner on Seattle.

If playing Russ on multiple rosters, hedge with Carson on at least 50% as many rosters (i.e., if you have 2 Russ rosters, also build a separate roster with Carson; if you have 4 Russ rosters, build 2 separate Carson rosters, etc.)

Patriots at Eagles, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

These are two of the most opponent-specific teams in the NFL, and each has had extra time to prepare for this game. We know who the core pieces are on each team, but it will be interesting to dig in and see how these core pieces might be used. One thing to think about at the front end of the week: two of the biggest mismatches in this game belong to the pass-catching running backs — James White and Miles Sanders.

Bengals at Raiders, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

As we all know by now: the Raiders offense is built around the run — and moreover, it is built around the outside run, which is exactly where the Bengals can be hit the hardest. Cincinnati can’t stop much these days; but while volume is always a concern through the air against this team, volume is rarely a concern on the ground.

The Bengals, apparently, also want to run. They are the first team I can recall giving 30 carries to one running back (Mixon) in a face-shattering blowout loss. This team appears to be trying to do little more than survive at this point. Shame on whatever team eventually ends up gifting the Bengals their first win of the season.

Cardinals at 49ers, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

Cardinals are facing the 49ers defense on the road.

49ers spread the ball to multiple backs and a rotation of pass catchers in a run-heavy offense.

There is a legitimate chance that not a single “have to have it” score emerges from this game — though naturally, if one such score does emerge, it is likeliest to show up on the side of the 49ers. The health of George Kittle and Emmanuel Sanders will be key in this spot.

Jaguars at Colts, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

This game pairs two teams that are more interested in “finding a way to win” than they are in “trying to score points.” In other words: each team is more interested in reading the opponent and the game environment and adjusting toward a lead at the end of the game than they are in “maximizing scoring output.” Broken plays are required for a game like this to turn into a shootout, with the likeliest scenario having this game settle in as a lower-scoring, chess-like affair with only one or two notable stat lines emerging (at most).

Saints at Buccaneers, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

Heading into Week 10, Godwin, Evans, and Thomas all ranked top four in the NFL in receiving yards per game. Godwin is averaging 9.3 targets per game. Evans is averaging 9.9. Thomas is averaging an absurd 11.4. For all intents and purposes, these three comprise the passing attacks for their teams. The Saints should have no trouble moving the ball through the air against the Bucs; and especially if Marshon Lattimore misses, the Bucs should be able to find a way to get going in response. Last week marked just the second time since Week 1 that one of the Bucs receivers didn’t go for 100+ yards and a touchdown (and the only other time it happened, they combined for almost 250 receiving yards, with only the touchdowns missing). The Bucs filter opponents to the air and then attack in kind. The score was 24-31 the last time these teams played; and while the Saints have a strong defense, the Bucs have a seven game streak of at least 23 points per game.

Jets at Redskins, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

This is what Vegas thinks of your New York Jets: underdogs on the road against the Redskins.

We’ve talked all season about how solid the Jets run defense is (they showed it again last week vs Saquon), and Bill Callahan has made it clear he will lean on the run regardless of matchup — especially with Haskins under center. The question then becomes: what can the Jets do on offense? If the good Jets show up, they could take a lead and force some Haskins-to-McLaurin goodness. If the bad Jets show up, this entire game (with a pathetic Over/Under of 38.5) could turn into a dud.

Broncos at Vikings, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

Vegas is giving us a lot of the information we need for this game, as the Broncos are likely to have a difficult time moving the ball and scoring points, and as we all know by now: the Vikings want to lean on the run when they can. This will almost certainly prove to be one of the most straightforward writeups on the slate; and outside of a couple marquee names, it’s likely to be one of the least popular games on the slate as well.

Texans at Ravens, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

Watson vs Jackson will be appointment viewing; though we have an interesting setup here in DFS, in that a large chunk of Lamar’s value comes from his run game role, and this is one of the toughest run game matchups in the NFL. I’m not in the habit of betting against Lamar (I went almost 2.5x the field’s ownership in Best Ball this year, and he’s been a Tier 1 staple since Week 1 when the field was afraid to pull the trigger), but at his highest DK price of the year in a matchup that doesn’t play as well to his strengths (he hasn’t topped 275 passing yards since Week 1), we have a really interesting setup. There are a number of ways this game could play out; and while a chunk of those ways still have Lamar topping the 30 points he needs to hit in order to justify his salary, there are other ways that could have him falling short of those lofty expectations. This will be a fun game to explore.

Bills at Dolphins, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

For much of the season, we have been saying that “there are no bad matchups against the Dolphins; only potential for bad volume.” It may be time to change that sentiment, as this team (as explored last week) continues to improve at a rate much faster than most teams that boast actual NFL talent. We know the Dolphins will have a difficult time scoring points against the defense of the Bills. The key this week will be digging in to get a feel for whether or not the Bills are likely to have a difficult time scoring points as well.

Cowboys at Lions, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

From what I was hearing late last week, Stafford is going to miss at least a couple weeks. If that ends up being the case — even with this game in Detroit — things tilt nicely toward the Cowboys. Detroit can’t run, and they’re not a major threat through the air with Driskel. Meanwhile, the Lions are bad against the run (in spite of what they did to Montgomery last week behind the poor Bears line). Amari and Gallup can win in this matchup as well, but game flow has a chance to tilt toward Zeke.

Of course, if Stafford plays, the Lions’ vertical-minded attack can score vs anyone, and all bets will be on the table.

Falcons at Panthers, Week 11

Macro Thoughts ::

The Falcons are average to above-average against the run and poor against the pass (especially in the short areas of the field). Matchup doesn’t matter much for CMC (unless it’s the Bucs), but this spot sets up well for the Panthers passing attack.

Devonta Freeman is set to miss and Ito Smith is on IR. It will be Brian Hill, who outperformed Smith in training camp, in a great matchup against the Panthers.

Davante Adams ran wild on the Panthers with James Bradberry out. Julio has had his wins and losses against Bradberry, but the matchup improves if Bradberry misses (or returns at less than full health).

With Hooper set to miss, the target distribution is tightened up a bit for the Falcons.

Plenty to draw the eye in this game.

Titans at Browns, Week 1

OBJ does not belong in cash games for me, because A) high-priced running backs have higher floors than high-priced wide receivers, so from a salary allocation standpoint it makes so much more sense to use that salary at RB, and B) OBJ is even less floor-secure due to being on a new team in an offense that spread the ball around last year. Playing OBJ in cash embraces far more uncertainty than you need — and while it will likely work out, it’s just simply not the most +EV play. In tourneys, however, I’m coming around on OBJ as a really interesting guy to consider. The Titans should unleash strict man coverage on him at least 30% of plays (maybe more), and if Mayfield spots this (he likely will), they can exploit it every time. And I don’t think it’s outlandish to expect a statement game from the Browns even if they get out in front. The characteristics of this team are not “sit back and let the game come to them.” They want to have a predator mentality under Kitchens, and I could see them unloading on the scoreboard even if they grab an early lead. If things break their way, a 38-7 game (something like that) honestly wouldn’t be crazy. I haven’t worked through the percentages on that yet, but it’s realistic enough to be built around in tourneys.

Bills at Jets, Week 1

Working through my thoughts on this game ::

The more I think through this game, the more I think there are three clear ways it could play out.

1) The Bills score a lot of points, and the Jets don’t.

2) The Bills score a lot of points, and the Jets do as well.

3) Neither team scores a lot of points.

* addendum 5 minutes late :: “a lot of points” doesn’t mean an actual “lot of points.” We don’t need a lot of points; we just need three touchdowns with Josh Allen doing his thing. Anything over that is upside.

I don’t see a likely scenario in which the Jets truck the Bills, as the Bills can just get aggressive against this secondary if they fall behind. The only way we hit that outlier scenario is if A) the Jets just put up a big game against the Bills, and B) Allen shows up just totally off his game, like a pitcher without a feel for his pitches (and even if that happens, Allen would rack up rushing yards against prevent defenses in garbage time). The Jets overwhelm the Bills’ stout defense maybe 10% of the time in this spot, and then you’d need a horrible Allen game on top of that. With how overlooked this game will likely go anyway, it’s -EV to even worry about that scenario.

This leaves two main branches of this river in which the Bills are valuable. So…how likely is the other branch?

In this other branch of the river, the Jets…well, from everything whispered about out of training camp (and shown in brief glimpses in preseason), the Jets want to play fast. In fact, there is talk of no-huddle looks throughout the game. It’s as if Gase feels he was coaching a donkey before, and now he’s coaching a racehorse. Gase has built a different offense at every stop to account for his players: Manning in Denver (people act like Manning was in the coaches room all week with a pen and a legal pad drawing up plays; I mean, Gase knew what Manning wanted to do, but it was his offense, and he was giving Manning the looks to work with on the field), Cutler in Chicago, Tannehill // Cutler // Tannehill in Miami. He built offenses for Cutler and Tannehill that fit their skill sets. Everything points to him doing the same with Darnold, and he seems to really like Darnold. So maybe, generously, a 30% or even we could say 40% chance that Gase decides to play slow in this spot, against a good defense.

In that 30% to 40% of games, we’ll give the Bills a 50% shot at still hitting some big plays vs this aggressive defense with a bad secondary — so 15% to 20% chance that the Jets play slow and the Bills don’t click at all on offense. These games feed into this third branch of the river.

We also have some games in which the Jets play fast (60% to 70% chance), play into turnovers, and the Bills are able to just run the ball. Given Darnold’s history with turnovers going back to college, call this a possibility in 20% of these games. That would create about a 10% to 15% chance that the Bills defense is a really good play this week (with maybe Singletary a really good play in a little over half of those) — but more importantly here, it adds another 10% to 15% to the “bad game from the Bills” tributary.

Let’s say add another 5% for random other scenarios. That makes it a 30% to 40% chance that the Bills just don’t get it done. That they score two or fewer touchdowns and stay under 300 yards of offense. Just totally lean on the run or just totally stall out through the air, to where you would have at least one player in a three-man stack (more on this in a moment) who would look like a crater on your roster. (Oh — as to Vegas essentially saying this is more like a 60% chance: there’s a reason this game has gone up a point and a half. If we’re talking percentages, this game opened too low.) And even in that 30% // 40% scenario, this team has an incredibly narrow distribution of touches through the air. Let’s say we have a ton of these games in which Allen throws for only 210 and rushes for only 30. Two turnovers. Accounts for only one touchdown. You still get at least 150+ receiving yards from wide receivers, and most of those are likely Brown/Beasley (which doesn’t include the one or two WR carries we’ll likely see); so 10 for 100 — you get 30+ points on DK, 25+ on FD in a realistic “worst case” scenario that probably only happens 35% of the time. I don’t play on FD enough to comfortably speak to how that equates to what else you could do with that salary, but probably only half the field is topping 30+ with a different allocation of salary for a QB and two skill position players on DK (13.5k in salary). And almost none of them are exposing their roster to the potential to go 3x with that salary 70% of the time (or 3.5x 50% || 5x around 15%). Allen/Brown/Beasley is high-percentage as a tourney block, of course; but after breaking down the angles, I honestly think they’re respectable as a cash game option. Legitimately could be Tier 1 when viewed as a block. In cash :: floor is high enough that you’re not falling too far behind the field if you end up there (while gaining salary flexibility to reach home run players on the rest of your roster), and the ceiling potentially helps to make up for any duds on the rest of your roster.

Redskins at Eagles, Week 1

An interesting off-the-wall play that will likely make Tier 3 of the Player Grid…

The Eagles allowed the second most running back receptions last year, behind only the Falcons.

Philadelphia should truck Washington here. That’s a high-probability bet; it would take some fluky plays early or Philly just laying an egg in Week 1 for anything different to happen. So, high probability that Washington is playing from behind, and that Chris Thompson sees increased time on the field in the second half.

Lots of reports this summer that he appears to have his burst back. On DK in particular (with lower-priced scrubs and PPR scoring), Thompson could go 3x salary probably 50% of the time in this spot; but more importantly, he could go 5x salary a good 15% of the time. Salary multipliers are not the be-all/end-all; especially at the lower end of the price range, where it’s easier to go for a high multiplier. But the other thing you optimally want from your cheaper guys is slate-breaking upside. If Thompson’s burst is back, he has that as well.

If I MME in Week 1, I may put him on 10% of rosters to play those percentages when no one else is.

Rams at Panthers, Week 1

Rams scored 29+ in all but two regular season games last year :: at Broncos || At Bears.

Rams had the sixth LOWEST pass play rate in the red zone last year…and still had the fourth most red zone pass attempts. That’s how often they were in the red zone. (Naturally, they led the NFL in red zone rushing plays.)

Brandin Cooks caught 16 of 18 red zone targets last year and scored five red zone touchdowns.

Carolina had the sixth worst red zone touchdown rate allowed last year.
The Rams allowed 27 or more points in half their games last year.

Only four teams ran the ball more often than Carolina in the red zone last year.

49ers at Buccaneers, Week 1

Mike Evans topped 30 DK points four times last year. In each of those four games, the Bucs’ opponent put up 30+. Evans is strong this week regardless, but his clearest shot at tourney-winning upside is for SF to put up points.

*ADDED 9/6/19 ::*

This collective ( — user phi_eagles05 ) does a good job looking at alternate angles. It caught my eye for two reasons. Firstly, he nailed the way the Bears/Packers game ended up playing out. Secondly, he brought up some good points on the tight end matchup for OJ Howard, and the fact that San Francisco didn’t really play many high-quality tight ends last year. He followed that up with, “Curious what JM has to say here.” Which made me curious as well.

Tight end coverage is one of the knottiest elements to figure out in DFS. “Allowed” numbers are obviously flawed, as these are so matchup-dependent. And DVOA numbers are flawed as tight end coverage is so nuanced, given all the different types of tight ends. For example: calling Kyle Rudolph a tight end, and Travis Kelce a tight end, and George Kittle a tight end, and Evan Engram a tight end…it’s like we’re not even talking about the same position or players. Furthermore, teams use linebackers, corners, safeties || man coverage, zone coverage, hybrid coverage, etc. to account for tight ends, and each team’s approach will likely be different against each team they face.

The best way to get about 60% of the picture is to look at fairly large-sample-size “Allowed” numbers, as opponents always look to isolate and attack a good matchup. If a team is easy to attack with tight ends, tight end numbers against that team will spike. A great example is the 2018 Browns, who allowed the most tight end targets in the NFL (11.5% more than any other team!!!), and yet faced only two elite tight ends all season (Travis Kelce and O.J. Howard). In fact, their tight end schedule wasn’t too dissimilar from the 49ers (who faced the fourth fewest tight end targets). The Browns’ schedule included:

Bengals (twice)
Pre-Lamar Ravens
Panthers without Olsen

In 2018:

Kyle Rudolph had his fewest targets of the season vs SF

Travis Kelce went 5-72 against Reuben Foster and Malcolm Smith, neither of whom are on the 49ers anymore; he couldn’t get much going against the rest of this defense

Jimmy Graham hit a 54-yarder when Fred Warner got sucked up in play-action; Warner is typically a disciplined player, however; and this week — vs a Bucs team that isn’t much of a threat in the run game but is incredibly strong with the pass — Warner should be coached all week to pay attention to his keys and not get sucked up on play action

Evan Engram (who as a player may be the closest comp to Howard…with the possible exception of Kittle — more on him in a moment) went 2-40 vs Exum Jr., who shouldn’t be in coverage on Howard much now that Jaquiski Tartt is back

Of course, this introduces another layer, as Tartt is the main guy who will be assigned to Howard; and Tartt has played hurt (and missed about half his games) in most of his time under Saleh.

Tartt was extremely strong against tight ends early in 2017 (he held Ertz to one catch for 14 yards; Ertz went 4-34 in all in that game; Jordan Reed wasn’t targeted when Tartt was covering him; Greg Olsen went 2-18 vs the 49ers, and wasn’t targeted in Tartt’s coverage), but he struggled with injuries that year and then missed the second half of the season. Last year, he was in and out of the lineup with injuries and missed several games; so while he didn’t look as dominant individually, it’s fair to question the validity of that.

It is also worth noting that almost all of Tartt’s coverage reps in practice come against Kittle — with Tartt having a chance each day to square off with him one-on-one. Kittle and Tartt work together to refine both of their techniques, and this should help Tartt in his matchup against Howard, as he has a sounding board that is on that same level.

And yet(!) — with all that said — Howard is going to split out wide; Howard is going to go in motion; heck, Howard may even start in the backfield one play and run a route from there. The Bucs have only three guys they really want to throw to (Perriman will get a couple shots, but things won’t center around him), and the Bucs want to throw. They’ll do what they can to get Howard involved, without a doubt; and he could easily break off a big play or two, or catch a couple of short scores (last year, they loved sprinting Howard into the flat near the end zone), or have any number of other things break his way.

If we’re talking “Optimal” builds, Engram (and Henry, and Kittle, and Kelce) are better plays than Howard this week. But if we’re talking guys who could smash anyway, “and who cares if they have a slightly lower floor,” I definitely agree that Howard — with all the moving parts in this matchup, and with his game-breaking talent — is very much in play in tourneys.

Falcons at Vikings, Week 1

Given last year’s tendencies, Xavier Rhodes should shadow Julio.
Julio vs Rhodes in 2017 ::
>> 2-24-0 on six targets

Rhodes had an average year last year, and Julio is a matchup-buster, so shootout paths remain. But if Rhodes shuts down Julio, this game environment almost certainly disappoints. ATL has to be playing from in front for the Vikings to really push down the pedal.

Chiefs at Jaguars, Week 1

Per-game stats for the 2018 Jags vs WRs ::
>> 10.6 catches per game
>> 131.4 yards per game
>> 0.44 touchdowns per game

Patrick Mahomes had a QB rating of 71.1 when under pressure in 2018.

Last year Hill was targeted only four times when in Ramsey’s coverage (which was most of the game), catching two for 46.

If Hill shuts down Ramsey, expect designs that aim to get Watkins on D.J. Hayden. Still not a good matchup, but the best available among WRs for KC. Worth targeting if MME, for a shot on Chiefs upside.

Packers at Bears, Week 1

I played zero Showdown slates last year, as I was so busy getting the site off the ground. After reading Xandamere’s Showdown courses (sidebar :: the Advanced, tourney-focused course is finished, and is predictably ridiculously good, but it is planned to be the first product in the advanced marketplace we’re building, and we ran into some issues with the delivery of that course that are being fixed right now; hopefully we’ll have that up before the end of Week 1!), all I wanted to do was dive into some Showdown play. Finally, it’s time.

Some thoughts ::
If we played this slate a hundred times…

The Bears win about 60. The Packers win about 40.

Number of times we would see a more-than-one-score win :: not many; maybe fifteen? twenty? — Rodgers historically plays close in losses, and he’s unlikely to blow out the Bears on the road

On the entire season in 2018, MVS and Geronimo combined to outscore Adams once. With MVS outscoring him by 0.1. Against Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots. Number of times a Packers pass catcher other than Adams would lead in scoring? Five or six. (I imagine MVS/Allison will hit the Captain slot on more than 5% or 6% of rosters. Positive leverage to lean toward Adams.)

Number of times Aaron Jones would outscore Adams? Given matchup and the fact that Rodgers is still calling the shots here to a large extent: fewer than 10. The uncertainty of the new offense could allow you to bump that up to 15. But it’s low.

Number of times Adams topped 20 points last year :: 10
# for Robinson :: 2*

*both of Robinson’s went for 30+**

**Adams also had two 30+ games (DK scoring)

Beat writers think Robinson is set to explode this year, another year off the ACL tear. But just because he looks good doesn’t mean the volume is jumping on the whole this year, with new pieces added. He improves somewhat in expectations this year simply because Trubisky will improve, but still probably 5:1 to outscore Adams in a neutral matchup. Call it 4:1 here, given Bears higher likelihood of scoring the most points.

This game plays out 100 times; # of times any individual player from the Bears outscores Adams? (the thought process gets a bit knotty here; but for me it comes out to) 55ish.

Number of times Robinson is highest-scoring skill player on Bears :: 25 to 30. The rest would be spread around — Montgomery // Cohen // Burton // Gabriel // Miller

Highest-scoring skill position players, game played a hundred times ::

40ish – Adams
15ish – Robinson
35ish – Bears other than Robinson
10ish – Packers other than Adams