Welcome to The Oracle! :: The Greatest “Cheat Sheet” In DFS!
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 weekly staple of The Oracle :: In no more than two or three sentences, tell us what makes this slate particularly unique.
In my mind, it’s two things:
Firstly, it’s the large supply of attractive running backs this week, at pretty much all levels of the price ranges (something we really haven’t had all season, given the changing shape of the running back position across the NFL).
Secondly (and perhaps even more importantly), the story of this slate seems to be what we saw in the Angles email this week, where we divided the 22 teams into 10 tiers: there are a lot of offenses this week that have players who can have a case made for them, but there is also a very clear “top tier” of Bucs (Tier 1), Cowboys, Bills, Colts (Tier 2). With so many interesting pieces this week, there are a lot of ways to build (and it would behoove any DFS player to not get boxed into any one vein of thought too early in the roster-building process this week; better to explore lots of angles and weigh them against one another), but it also wouldn’t be a surprise if first-place rosters this week build almost exclusively around only those teams. I’ll be exploring everything this week; but I’ll also be comparing my alternate approaches against what I could be doing with those top-tier teams.
It’s backup running back SZN! These guys are going to be critical decision points on the slate, and I expect all of D’Ernest Johnson, Mark Ingram, James Conner, Devin Singletary (assuming Moss is out), and perhaps a Patriots RB (should one or both of Harris/Stevenson miss) to all be pretty popular. This creates some interesting approaches: you can either just embrace the cheap RB chalk, or you can consider ignoring it entirely and paying up for higher-tier RBs in good spots who will be lower-owned than usual because of the availability of the cheap guys.
There’s also a shortage of “stackable shootouts” this week, as most of the higher-total games have fairly wide spreads. I often see people fixate on this idea of “if team X blows out team Y, can they put up big scores if they don’t need to keep their foot on the gas?” While each team’s offensive approach is different, and there are indeed some teams that will slow things way down or even rest starters if they’re up big, we have years of data to tell us that, for the most part, “winning in a blowout” doesn’t actually reduce fantasy points scored by the winning team. When you include the tendency of DFS players to force bringbacks in their stacks, that means people often overlook the opportunity to just build onslaughts of the best offenses without using a bringback. The Bills, Bucs, Cowboys, and Colts all fall into this bucket for me this week, and while I think you can utilize bringbacks in all of those games, I don’t think you need to force it.
The amount of potential running back value makes this slate unique. For MME, choosing the right cheap RB piece and fading the others could be a path to launching a chunk of your rosters above the field. Stacking the expensive quarterbacks with their expensive counterparts is suddenly easy but these rosters will come with the risk of being cratered by a highly owned dud in the RB spot.
For the first time in a while, we have a nice mix of pay-up running backs and potential value backs (JD McKissic, Devin Singletary if Moss misses, D’Ernest Johnson if Chubb misses), creating situation where players actually have to make strategic decisions for once (kidding, kind of). We also have a slate with not any “smash spot games” when considering game environments, and our standard mix of under-the-radar game environments. What I expect to see is the field being drawn to the perceived safety of the higher-priced running backs (as we’ve discussed countless times this season around the Inner Circle areas of the site), which should lead to a congregation of ownership and rather obvious chalk build.
This slate is characterized by the RB position for me. There are a lot of attractive pay up RBS with my personal favorite being Najee Harris. The reason the RB position is so critical on this slate is because there are a lot of viable ways to build, especially if Kamara/Chubb both miss this week. That would leave two clear value plays in D’Ernest Johnson and Mark Ingram (to a lesser extent Devin Singletary if Moss sits, is in the same boat) available, but they would both also likely draw high ownership. Given the other good options at the top of the slate, I’ll be looking to differentiate from builds that play one of Johnson/Ingram, which I think will be the most common approach people take at RB this week. I’ll do that by avoiding both and playing them together. That isn’t to say that I won’t have builds with just one, but I’ll be keeping in mind those types of builds are likely to be extra popular, in a week where a lot of other viable options exist.
To keep it simple this week, what really stands out to me is the lack of expected competitive (spread of less than five points) games in the range of 47-50 points. I’ve talked about that range as my personal “Vegas range” for lower owned game environments with upside, and in this second tier this week we really only have the Bills/Jets, Colts/Jags, Bucs/Washington and Seahawks/Packers. With the Bills, Colts, and Bucs all as heavy favorites, it really only leaves the Seahawks and Packers as an underowned game stack.
This wide gap between the two games at the top: Falcons/Cowboys and Vikings/Chargers, coupled with really just one anticipated competitive game in the second tier (SEA/GB), it drives me toward either A) overstacking the highest implied offenses on the board, B) leaning into either Bills/Jets, Colts/Jags, or Bucs/Washington to be more competitive than Vegas thinks, or C) go overweight on the two competitive games at the top (ATL/DAL and MIN/LAC) while also targeting the Seahawks and Packers, assuming the other three games in the second tier are indeed blowouts. It’s the most logical move, but my current inclination is to focus on option C.
I won’t dig too deep, as several of my peers have already touched on this, but the running back situation is very unique and interesting this week. Every active running back that is priced at $6,300 and above is in an above-average matchup with the exception of D’Andre Swift — who may have an even more valuable than normal workload if Jamaal Williams misses (he has yet to practice coming out of the Lions’ bye week). There are also going to potentially be three sub-$5k running backs stepping into full workloads due to injury. With so many options at the position, it will be important to take some stands and limit your player pool.
The other unique thing about this slate is the multiple premium offenses coming off of very poor performances that are now in great spots. The Cowboys and Bills both laid complete eggs last week but now play the 31st and 32nd ranked defenses in DVOA. These offenses have not had price decreases despite the stinkers they put up in Week 9 and there are some other very good spots on the slate, making it interesting how the field will treat these teams. The Bucs also fall in this category, although to a lesser extent, as they surprisingly were handled by Jameis Winston/Trevor Siemian and the Saints in Week 8 prior to their bye.
The first thing I noticed when going through the slate was the increase in good game environments compared to the past few slates. Follow that up with the most expensive player on the slate being only $8400 and I think we’re going to see a lot of diverse roster constructions this week. As JM noted, the RB position is solid from the top to bottom for salary with a ton of value opening up as injury reports are coming out. There are also a bunch of really great WR plays in the $6000s.
Game Environments, Week 10: A buddy of mine recently said to me that The Scroll feels like a fireside chat, where we’re all sharing our thoughts and angles on the slate. I agree with him; but what REALLY feels like a fireside chat to me is The Oracle.
To that point:
One of the things we’ve all sort of shared thoughts on this year is the pros and cons of worrying more about “game environments” than “teams.” Said differently: is it better to look for game environments with a close spread, or to look for teams that can individually be expected to post a big game, regardless of what their opponent does?
As with anything in DFS, of course, the true “answer” is, “It always depends on the unique nuances of each unique situation.” But in general, teams with a high scoring expectation can get you great fantasy scores “on the way up,” whereas teams with a slightly lower Vegas-implied total but a closer spread will often be less bankable than the really good offenses in a soft matchup…but will also have a higher likelihood of a “had to have it” game, as the game environment can lead to deeper aggression throughout.
Categorizing all of that even more simply: what we’re really looking for, in any/all of this, is teams that can score five or more touchdowns. THAT’S where the power of “building around a game” or “building around a team” really shows itself. And with that in mind, we should be thinking more about “which teams are likeliest to score five or more touchdowns” than anything else.
If we take that thought, then, and turn it to this week, there are five teams in expected “easy wins” with high totals (Cowboys, Bucs, Bills, Colts, Cardinals), and there are two teams with relatively high totals and a close spread between them (Vikings // Chargers). Do any of these teams stand out to you above the others, and are there any other teams away from this list that you might be looking to build around, in the hopes that you can get similar or even better production than is available here?
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