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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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Both games on Saturday’s slate have competitive spreads and expectations and in that version of the Oracle we discussed teams that may have a “last game of the year, don’t hold anything back” attitude in regards to player usage and play calling in these “must win” spots. Sunday’s slate has some different dynamics with three games, two of which are games with very large point spreads. The Bucs are nine-point home favorites over the Eagles and the Chiefs are 12.5-point home favorites over the Steelers.
On the flip side of the Saturday question, are you worried about either or both of the Tampa Bay and Kansas City games getting completely out of hand in blowouts? If so, are there any players who you will be approaching with caution for fear that they will be managed and preserved if the games play out like that?
There are only a couple of spots where I have modest concern about rest in a noncompetitive game. The first of these is the Bucs: if Leonard Fournette plays, it’s possible that the Bucs view him as somewhat delicate (after all, he’s shaping up to be a game-time decision), and so I could see them taking it easy on him if the Eagles don’t put up a fight.
The second spot is Tyreek Hill, who has not played a lot in 2 of the past 3 Chiefs games as he recovered from Covid and then experienced a pregame heel injury. If the Chiefs look to be winning this one easily, I could definitely see them looking to the future and taking it a bit easy on Reek. Worth noting here that if Reek doesn’t play much, that opens a lot of extra opportunity for Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle, both of whom should in at extremely low ownership in tournaments.
I’m honestly not overly concerned with blowouts during the Wildcard Round because the general rule is that people are historically bad at predicting playoff outcomes. While it is hard to expect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to keep these games close, let alone win, we have to let go of the idea of control and embrace a bit of variance in the playoffs. Long answer short, I’m simply looking to expected and potential game environments and building from there. That said, there are a couple players that fall into this category that the field seems to be overlooking (and are good leverage/theory plays to begin with), namely Byron Pringle and Leonard Fournette (now Ke’Shawn Vaughn).
This question must have been asked with Tyreek Hill in mind 🙂 He’s the obvious answer here in the largest spread of the day. I am absolutely playing a Mahomes-Hill-Kelce stack in one of my three lineups in tournaments on Sunday, but overall will only have him on that one lineup. Based on what we have seen the last few weeks and if the Chiefs get up big, it’s simple to throw in Hardman and Pringle if you’re Andy Reid and keep Tyreek healthy enough for the following week. We could expand this question as well to Darrel Williams and Leonard Fournette, but with CEH out, Williams should be the primary RB for the Chiefs if he suits up. He’ll be spelled by McKinnon (20-30% of snaps?) and if game is out of hand they probably turn to Derrick Gore. But at his price, Williams should stay in there long enough to reach value in any game script. Fournette, if he plays, should be playing as much as he can handle and we know how high his floor is this week with projected receptions out of the backfield. Bruce Arians doesn’t typically lie to the media, and I guess he could have this time by saying Fournette will play as much as he can handle, but with RoJo out, his hands are really tied.
Tyreek is a definite concern and Fournette could easily be monitored even if the game doesn’t get out of hand. The offense seemed to function just fine whilst featuring Evans and Gronk with Lev Bell and Vaughn essentially in a “just do your job” mode. This creates quite the decision point though, huh? If given the workload we’re used to seeing from Brady’s most trusted member of the backfield, “Playoff Lenny” is the strongest play on this little slate.
Update: Oh boy, Lenny is out.
Players returning from injury or were limited during the week would be a concern for an early exit in the TB and KC games. Guys like Leonard Fournette, Darrel Williams, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce will require some faith the game will force them to play long enough to produce a solid return on their salaries. The Bucs are down Godwin and Grayson, so the healthy receivers remaining could play a lot of that game, including Mike Evans. That game is interesting because of the 3 point drop in Vegas total, seemingly due to the weather. With Fournette coming off injury and Ronald Jones out, it could be a committee backfield between Lenny, Vaughn, and Le’Veon. **UPDATE: Fournette was not activated and will not play. I now have interest in Gio, but it’s not at the level I had for Fournette.
The 49ers/Cowboys game has the highest total points for the week and the narrowest spread so I would think most people playing SE/3-Max will focus on that game and take calculated shots using pieces from the other game, making getting those guesses right the key to those contests.
Adding this after initial response…Now that I’ve built out some rosters and shifted my mind back from Best Ball to DFS, I’m thinking the contrarian approach would be to go slightly heavy on the first game but save salary to move around on a big piece from the last game (Hill/Kelce/Diontae/Najee). With Fournette ruled out, we can go down to Gio at minimum price and assume he gets at least 3 targets and some carries. He has three receiving TDs for the year, one came in a 10 target game versus the Rams. The Bucs are short handed on receivers Brady likes to throw to and his red-zone receiving role makes him quite interesting. I’m looking at stacking Hurts with Gronk and Gio, but now considering adding Evans (in a tough matchup) to the stack. Or go cheaper and use Brate instead of Gio, which will require a 2-TE stack from the same team. Not sure how I feel about that for the full 6 game slate, but maybe in Showdown and the Sunday only slate.
* morning, 1/15/22
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Saturday’s slate is a two-game slate and Sunday’s is a three-game slate. While this sounds like it is “only one more game”, the reality is that it presents a 50% increase in the player pool and far more ways the slate could play out, which will also affect how lineup construction should be addressed. This is a two-part question:
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