Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
— access Xandamere’s “Mastering Showdowns” course here!
(highly recommended; the data work is stunning!)
The 2019 football season starts off with the Packers visiting the Bears in a game with a Vegas total of 46 points and the Bears installed as 3 point favorites at home. Before we dive into discussing the game, I want to note something broadly about early season NFL DFS: at no point in the season will we know less than we do in Week 1. We might think we know how teams are going to run their offenses, how usage will flow, and if different elements of a team (offensive line, pass defense, etc.) are projected to be good or bad, but we don’t really KNOW very much at all. What this means is that if you think you have an edge — and by that I mean something that is well-reasoned and supported by data — early in the season is the place to really push it. As the season goes on, we’ll know more about each team’s strengths and weaknesses and how they plan to utilize their players, so early in the season is the time to take some shots. Do you think Matt Nagy has some sneaky plans to get Cordarrelle Patterson highly involved in this offense? Great, now’s the time to make that bet, when nobody else is.
Next, I want to note that this game writeup is being written in late August, before the preseason is finished. I’m writing it with the best available information at hand, but, things can change — we may get new information about a player’s expected role that influences our thinking, or there’s always the risk of an injury forcing a change. If anything changes that meaningfully impacts this game, check back as this article will be updated.
Finally, in the “thoughts that aren’t explicitly about this game” section, I want to note that the big Showdown tournament on DraftKings for this game is absolutely massive: 294,000 entries and a million dollar top prize. That’s as many entries as the week 1 Milly Maker on the main slate. If that doesn’t tell you that Showdown is a huge deal, I don’t know how else to convince you…but what’s relevant here is that the sheer size of this tourney means it is highly likely for first place to be split if we get a “most likely to happen” outcome (or even a “fairly likely to happen” one). Building for what’s most likely to happen gives you the best chance to win, but building for what is unlikely to happen gives you the best chance at a solo win if your oddball scenario should come to pass. For example, in the Super Bowl showdown last year, a lineup with Edelman at captain and no QBs resulted in a solo win of a million dollars…so do you follow the data and use what is most likely to win, or go off the board in hopes of a bigger score if it does hit? That’s a personal choice based on what kind of player you are, but it bears some thinking about as you consider how to attack this Showdown.
All right, back to the game at hand. This is a super interesting game to me for a few reasons. First, both teams have gone through coaching changes. In Green Bay, Mike McCarthy has been replaced with Matt LaFleur, who will install a more creative Kyle Shanahan-esque offense to replace the boring, predictable McCarthy-era offense that relied purely on talent to succeed. In Chicago, defensive mastermind Vic Fangio is gone, but the Bears still have a supremely talented defense and a strong new defensive coordinator in Chuck Pagano. Overall, I expect little to no defensive dropoff from the Bears, and while the Packers offense is likely to be more creative, that is likely to result in more of an advantage against less disciplined defenses than Chicago’s.
Second, we have two very different teams playing. The Packers are on the road and with a lower team total, but the advantage here is that we know where the ball is going: Aaron Jones should be firmly installed as the bellcow back, while the receiver trio of Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Geronimo Allison are locked into massive, Rams-esque snap counts. Jimmy Graham looks washed and nobody else is likely to get much offensive usage, so going elsewhere means you’re just hoping for a broken play or fluke touchdown to a backup guy. The Bears have a higher team total and a better matchup, but they also spread the ball out a lot more, with two (possibly even three) viable running backs and a pile of receivers (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, maybe even Patterson or Adam Shaheen, who was seeing his snap count increase towards the end of the year). While it’s fairly safe to project the Bears to score more points, we know less about where those points will be coming from.
[ JM’s Note :: On FanDuel — where pricing is just hilariously more flexible, and where you don’t have to multiply salary in the Captain slot — the game is easier, which provides less of an edge. Pricing-related notes and strategies are therefore concentrated on DraftKings, where we recommend that you focus your Showdown play; though the game flow and general strategy elements apply directly to both sites. ]
Let’s start with game flow and what’s likely to happen, as that’s how I like to attack Showdowns. We have the Bears projected to win the game, and they’re going up against a Green Bay defense that is projected to be just about average across the board. When these teams met last year, the Bears lost due to a late Aaron Rodgers comeback in Week 1, and then won at home in Week 15 in a slower, grinding game in which Chicago ran the ball 29 times and passed 28. As I see it, there are two ways this can play out: the Bears take an early lead and go run heavy as they did in last year’s win, or, they remember what happened when they took their foot off the gas in Week 1 of last year and try to keep pushing harder, perhaps trying to build the confidence of Mitchell Trubisky early in a year in which they are expected to be serious Super Bowl contenders. You’ll have to decide for yourself which outcome you think is most likely here, but I’m personally leaning with #1 because that’s what we’ve seen before.
David Montgomery should lead this backfield, and while we don’t know if he’ll see bellcow usage, 14-16 touches seems like a decent floor. What we don’t know is pass game usage, as while Tarik Cohen isn’t really a threat to Montgomery’s receiving role (Cohen is used more as a mismatch piece than as a regular receiving back), newly signed Mike Davis was a receiving back in Seattle and could take this role in Chicago as well. Davis is likely to be involved, and if he’s the guy who gets into the end zone he could pay off in this Showdown at low ownership and a low price. Cohen will be involved as he always is, with a handful of touches designed to get him the ball in space and take advantage of his big play ability. He has slate-breaking upside, but $8,400 is a lot to pay for a back who gets very limited volume and has more guys to share with than he did last season (Montgomery and Davis as other running backs, plus Patterson as another mismatch guy/big play threat).
In the Bears’ receiving corps, Allen Robinson is the clear alpha with a muddied picture behind him. It’s worth noting that A-Rob led the team in targets both times these teams played last year (though without having much success). In an offense that really spreads it out, A-Rob is going to need either a broken play, a touchdown, or more of a shootout than Vegas thinks is likely in order to have a chance at a really big game, especially at his price. Of the Bears’ ancillary receivers, Anthony Miller really stands out to me. Miller played through a serious shoulder injury last year and still managed to score 7 touchdowns. Against a Packers defense that loves to dial up interesting blitzes, dump-offs to the slot receiver are a way for Trubisky to get away from that pressure. Taylor Gabriel is someone who seems to have a reputation of having a lot of big play ability, though this seems to be more perception than reality, as his yards per catch in 2018 was an uninspiring 10.2. He had one huge game last year and that drove his reputation (and his ownership) for the rest of the season, and while every full-time receiver is in consideration on a Showdown slate, I think he’s likely to go overowned here relative to expectations. Trey Burton is interesting as he saw 12 targets in these teams’ two meetups last year but he only caught five balls. Across the season, though, Burton averaged under four targets per game, which seems less than ideal for a guy priced at $6k. Chicago is also an interesting place to look for value, as we have Adam Shaheen at $400 and Cordarrelle Patterson at $1,000. Shaheen started seeing usage in Week 13 and saw increasing snap counts the rest of the season, though at this point we’re not sure if this was due to Miller’s injuries resulting in his declining playing time and Shaheen picking up the slack, or the Bears changing their offense around to use more 2-TE sets (as Burton’s snap counts did not decrease when Shaheen was getting more run). Finally, Patterson is a newly signed Bear, and Matt Nagy surely has some plans for him. He’s another guy that can be schemed into mismatches much like Tarik Cohen. We can expect him to get something like 3-6 touches per week, often on plays designed to get him the ball in space and let him try to make something big happen. It won’t be easy to predict when his big games will happen but he’ll probably put up meaningful scores a few times this season, and at just $1k he brings a lot of upside to the table. He’s my favorite of the value plays in this game.
This game scenario leaves the Packers playing catch-up against what might be the league’s best defense. Aaron Rodgers is elite and is certainly capable of keeping up with anyone, but on the road against this unit is about the worst matchup he can expect all season. The Green Bay run game is the least likely part of the offense to be successful, as while the Packers’ offensive line is projected to be above average, the Bears are an elite run D and I generally try to avoid investing in road underdog running backs with an uncertain pass game role. Jones did see more pass game work last year as the season went on, averaging 4.5 targets per game from Weeks 6 through 11, and I think most football fans would like to see him get bellcow usage as he’s incredibly talented, but as of right now we don’t really know how this is going to shake out. What we do know is that while the Bears are an elite defense, they actually allowed above average production to wide receivers last year, in large part because they saw the fourth-most wide receiver targets as their defense shut down every other position. Davante Adams stands out here as the WR1 who clearly has an amazing connection with Aaron Rodgers, but I’m also intrigued by Geronimo Allison, who has a matchup against Chicago’s new slot corner Buster Skrine. Skrine earned a well below average 57.3 player grade from PFF last season and allowed 75% of passes thrown into his coverage to be completed last season. He should be less of a defensive liability on the Bears than he was last year on the Jets, as Chicago can hide him better and provide support, but this is still an attackable matchup and one that should go somewhat overlooked (relatively speaking, since Showdown ownership is always concentrated).
Of course, football is played by actual guys on a field, so the most likely way for the game to go is not necessarily the way that it actually will go. Some other ways the game could play out include:
- The Packers get trucked and never really put much of a threat together. In this scenario, onslaught lineups with five Bears make a lot of sense.
- The Packers are able to get an early lead. This would both open up the Green Bay running game to more volume, as well as result in the Bears throwing more (Aaron Jones and Allen Robinson, especially, become more interesting in this scenario).
- Mitch Trubisky gets tripped up by Green Bay’s frequent blitzes (he’s a young QB who can be fooled by exotic blitzes, or, he could also exploit them to great success — there’s a lot of potential variance in outcomes here). This ties into the scenario above and I mention it purely to call out that it’s generally unwise to sleep on aggressive defenses that generate a lot of QB pressure.
- In general, we expect the Bears to score on the ground and the Packers to score in the air, so there’s some value in thinking about just inverting those two things to build lineups that avoid the bulk of the ownership.
This single game writeup is already over 2,000 words, which is ridiculous, so let’s wrap up with some thoughts on captains and some group rules for those of you who are multi-entering in tournaments. My captain exposures will differ depending on which game scenario I’m building for, but overall, my favorite captain choices in this one are Allison (for the matchup), Montgomery, and Miller. Davante Adams is, of course, an elite captain choice, but he’s also phenomenally expensive — if you can make it work while loving the rest of your lineup, have at it, but it’s awfully tough to use Adams in the captain and pair him with Rodgers (doing so only leaves you $4,675 left for the rest of the roster). Normally I like to pair a captain receiver with their QB, but given the prices, there is a scenario in which Adams has a big game but no other Green Bay receiver does, meaning Rodgers puts up only a middling score and isn’t needed in the optimal.
Some thoughts on groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
- Pair captain receivers with their QB (as discussed above, you could consider skipping this for Adams)
- At most 1 of Montgomery and Davis
- At most 1 of Cohen and Patterson (I expect they’ll be used in somewhat similar roles here)
Update Added 9/3 ::
It’s looking like Trey Burton may actually miss this game with a groin injury. He’s gotten in two limited practices so far this week, which makes it seem like odds are that he plays, but Nagy says he’s a game-time decision and there’s at least a chance he’s out. If Burton misses, Adam Shaheen becomes a very attractive value play as he should be stepping into a full-time snap count at just $400. Keep in mind, though, that Shaheen’s ownership will be through the roof if this is announced early.
Where this actually gets interesting is if Burton is active. In the first game of the year, it would be easy to see the Bears not giving him a full snap count, which would still make Shaheen an interesting play and also result in him being far, far lower owned. This would be a high risk play as we don’t know for sure if Burton would in fact be scaled back, but if you’re playing the massive GPP, it makes for an interesting contrarian play.
Update Added 9/5 ::
From JM :: Burton is inactive! Xandamere says play Shaheen in cash. If we’re looking big picture and trying to maximize our win rate on the year, this is the +EV play; no need to try to outsmart the field.
In tourneys, even a couple catches for 30 yards could be enough for him to be worth rostering in this game, at his price; though if you’re trying to win the Milly (for example), realize he’ll likely be massively owned, and he’ll need a fluky game to hit ceiling. There are plenty of alternate ways to build for tourneys! Playing Shaheen is the “safe” play, but if you’re looking to take down a tourney, the “safe” play is not always the best play.
(I expect to have 100% Shaheen in cash, 0% in tourneys, because: YOLO. Also because I think that would make the most money if we played this slate a hundred times. In the small sample size of one slate, that’s obviously a risk! But I’m comfortable with it myself. X, meanwhile, expects to have plenty of Shaheen even in tourneys. There are different ways to approach this one, for sure, so find what you feel most comfortable with for your tourney exposure.)
From OWS Collective ::
Jonathan Piech :: One big difference between FD and DK is that kickers are much more pricey on FD. In terms of point per dollar value, QB’s provide the most value (1.12 points/$1000) followed by K (.90), WR (.89), RB (.87), TE (.74). However, if you isolate the most expensive players at each position RB jumps to 1.12 points/$1000 and WR to 1.03.