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Each week in The Oracle, OWS team members will take on the key strategy questions from that week’s slate :: sharing their thoughts on how they plan to approach these critical elements from a roster-construction, game theory, and leverage perspective.
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A common approach that we take and will encourage our subscribers to use is moving away from the “popular” and highest total game(s) on a slate and finding a game that has slightly lower expectations but has significantly lower ownership, looking to leverage the field’s tendency to chase “certainty”. This week presents a unique situation where we have one game (BUF/KC) that clearly has the highest game total (55) and expectations and then three games that have lower totals that are all within a point of each other (47 to 48 points). Buffalo and Kansas City are also both coming off of dominant, ceiling performances from their offenses that may inflate expectations and lead the field to chase this game even more than they normally would.
Putting this all together, which of the three “lower total” games are you most likely to build around and what about it do you find most intriguing from a strategy standpoint?
First, I will just note that whenever there is a VERY clear “best game,” that presents a strategy decision: build around that game and try to be different elsewhere? Or bet that the “best game” disappoints (or, even if there are a lot of real points scored, that they are distributed in a fantasy-unfriendly way) and bet big elsewhere? Last week I suggested avoiding SF/DAL and that worked out, and I think it’s a viable approach this time, but these are two of the best offenses in the NFL and I’m personally going to be heavy on BUF/KC.
For the second best game, I think it’s CIN/TEN. Part of this is schedule-driven: at least as I write this on Friday, CIN/TEN is showing pretty modest ownership projections. Plus, with me wanting to “start” being heavy on BUF/KC, having a lot of CIN/TEN exposure lets me get a really strong sense of how I’m doing early on – it gives me more information to use to adjust.
Think of it this way: if you mostly avoid CIN/TEN and it disappoints, the fairly modest ownership on the game means that you haven’t “learned” much in terms of what to do with the rest of the slate. You’ll have learned a little bit – basically just “hurray, I’m a bit ahead!” if you completely faded the game – but I would prefer to use this as a high upside at modest ownership spot that also gives me an opportunity to learn a lot and decide what to do with the rest of the slate from there.
I’ve been interested in CIN/TEN all week but as ownership projection rolls out, I’m beginning to lean into the LAR/TB game. The ownership on Matt Stafford’s’s pass catchers is potentially exploitable. If we get Odell Beckham at <12% and Van Jefferson at <8%, I’ll be interested because that’s about as close to “contrarian with ceiling potential” as we’re going to get. I’ll feel much better about this if we get some positive reports about Tampa’s offensive line. The path to this game slowing down involves each defensive line outplaying the opposing offensive line…and that is certainly with the range of outcomes. If stacking the Rams, bringing it back with one of Brady’s pass catchers is crucial. I’ll be rotating them in and I’m not afraid to take a stab at a low-owned Giovanni Bernard or Scotty Miller. In large field stuff, we’re gonna need to hit on a high risk guy. I’m almost sure that Miller will get a long pass opportunity or two. We’ll see if they connect.
One of my greatest skill sets in fantasy football is being able to identify places of certainty that the field is likely to overlook, and while we can’t say any one game will go entirely overlooked on a four-game slate, LAR/TB fits the mold of a spot with a “higher likelihood chance than ownership will dictate” of absolutely blowing up. I hinted to as much in the write-up of this game, but these are two extremely fast-paced offenses that are each in relative pass-funnel matchups, meaning we get exposure to all the required ingredients of a blowup spot at lower ownership than the BUF/KC game. It’s also a “matchup be damned” spot due to the relative certainty of how each team will likely look to attack (through the air).
Cooper Kupp and Mike Evans are the obvious pieces, but I have no problems overstacking this game to capture the legitimate scenario of it becoming a separator.
Rams and Bucs. This is an easy one. A few weeks ago in my reflection piece Missed Opportunities, I pulled in one of my key lessons from this season being stacking teams going up against top rushing defenses. We were coming off the week when the Bengals blew up against the Ravens and as I dug into the data more, of the top ten teams against the run, five of those ten teams faced a top-ten pass-play rate. Metrics aren’t perfect (Bucs are currently 12th DVOA vs. the run, and Rams are 5th) but it’s safe to say we can expect heavy pass rates in this game. Coupled with the two QBs who can sling it, some decent pass catchers and I really like this game to hit the over. Similar to Jess below, I like the idea of a double-stack in this game, and feel Cooper Kupp is going to go underowned. I’m likely to lean on the Brady side here with Evans and Gronk, maybe Gio or Tyler Johnson as well, and the pass-catchers on the Rams (Kupp, OBJ, Higbee) with people overvaluing Cam Akers.
My favorite game of the three “non BUF/KC” games would have to be Bengals/Titans. Both teams have elite playmakers all over the field and, in my opinion, have the two defenses most likely to struggle. I have a lot of respect for the coaches and defenses in the LAR/TB game, while the SF/GB game has a lot of pace and offensive injury concerns for me. I think Cincinnati is going to have to be very aggressive through the air to have a chance to win this game, and we have seen how when they turn Burrow and Co. loose it can change an entire slate.
LAR/TB is where it’s at for me. Two high volume passing teams with terrific weapons to work with. This game sticks out as the best game environment in terms of the four DSR boxes in #TheWorkbook all being yellow or green, indicating these teams will be able to move the ball and score on one another. I prefer a stack centered around Stafford with any of the main cogs for the Bucs offense as a bring-back. Something like Stafford + Kupp + OBJ/Higbee/Akers (Akers as a pass-catcher) and bringing it back with Fournette (if indications are he’s full go, full workload anticipated) and Gronk or Evans. If Fournette is out, then I like Gio Bernard again this week.
Building off of the first question, BUF/KC is obviously a very appealing matchup that is hard to fade. Building around this game is not only viable, it has a good chance to be optimal and “hard to win without”. However, if you are taking this route and building around the most popular game on such a small slate you will have to find other ways to be unique. Are there certain roster construction strategies that you will prefer to use or are there low-owned players from other games you will use to separate yourself?
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