Thursday, Sep 21st

The Oracle 10.22

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.

Week 10 Topics

1. Thinking For Yourself

2. Running To Daylight

3. Value Plays

4. Floating Plays, Week 10

5. “That was so obvious, how did I not see it?”

1. Thinking For Yourself

The Question ::

As JM alluded to in the Angles email, this is a difficult and somewhat strange week. First of all, this is the smallest “main slate” we see all year (only 10 games). Also, there are only three teams (Bears, Dolphins, and Chiefs) implied to score 25 or more points. Finally, the other games on the slate all have some huge question marks and concerns regarding their scoring upside::

  • Broncos @ Titans – Broncos have obviously been a massive disappointment on offense and the Titans are a methodical running and ball control team facing a very good defense.
  • Vikings @ Bills – Uncertainty around Josh Allen’s elbow puts the scoring, pace, and game flow here all in question, while the Vikings offense has a very tough test against a top-notch Bills defense and struggled against a much less talented Washington defense last week.
  • Texans @ Giants – Both teams want to pound the ball with their running backs and neither team has scored over 27 points in a game this year.
  • Saints @ Steelers – The Saints are playing on a short week, coming off a bad offensive performance, and face a Steelers defense getting TJ Watt back. The Steelers offense ranks last in the league in yards per play.
  • Colts @ Raiders – The Colts have been the worst offense in the league the last two weeks, while the Raiders have become conservative and predictable and have a difficult matchup against a good Colts defense.
  • Cowboys @ Packers – The Packers offensive struggles are likely to continue against one of the top-3 defenses in the league and the Cowboys have a great matchup on the ground.
  • Cardinals @ Rams – Kliff/Kyler have struggled mightily against the Rams defense and the Rams offense, which has already been playing poorly, may be without Matthew Stafford.

We often discuss how “the best way to be contrarian is to think for yourself”, and this week certainly presents some opportunity to do just that. We can assume with a good deal of certainty that the brief summaries I provided will roughly reflect the thoughts that most of the field will have about these games. Considering all of those situations, are there any that you are seeing in a significantly different way from the brief summary I provided?

The Answers ::
Xandamere >>

Obviously any game can go wildly different from expectations (the CAR/ATL shootout in Week 8 comes to mind), but what Mike has laid out above is correct in terms of what is most likely. But what is less likely…

  • If Josh Allen misses and Case Keenum plays poorly, the Vikings could break through the Bills defense just based on volume and time of possession. They do, after all, have some elite weapons on offense.
  • With the Raiders down both Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow, and with a tough matchup on the ground, we could see a narrowly concentrated aerial attack with Davante Adams and very cheap Mack Hollins and Foster Moreau – cheap prices plus high concentration of volume can equal good things.
  • The Titans are a pass funnel defense and while the Broncos (specifically Russ) have been really bad on offense, they do have elite receiving talent and narrow concentration of volume.
JM >>

As Xandamere noted, we should keep in mind that any game can go dramatically different than we expect it to go, and we can/should always be thinking about ways in which these unattractive games might turn out differently than expected. While by no means “the only spots” that I can envision playing out differently, two spots that stand out to me are the Cowboys’ backfield and the Steelers’ offense.

With Zeke coming back from injury and talking about taking a ‘long view’ with his knee issue, it seems “more likely than not” that if Zeke is active (my hope), he ends up seeing less work than normal, while Pollard picks up the slack. This is not a “by the book” way to see that game playing out, and is one I’m interested in.

As to the Steelers’ offense, they threw Kenny Pickett into the fire in the middle of the season with limited first-team reps under his belt in a string of tough defenses and/or situations. He is now coming off a bye week that will have allowed both he and the coaching staff to get more comfortable with what they are doing here. The risk of failure for this offense is still high, but it’s a whole lot lower than the field is likely to assume.

Hilow >>

Oh yea, baby! While this seems like a “gross” slate to most, I am giddy as a school girl with this slate. There are so many easy and fun things you can do to generate immediate differentiation. If you don’t believe me, go watch the videocast with JM and Pete Overzet this week. How absolutely disgusted do you think most people watching them piece together that roster felt? Probably a solid 90-95%? Now snap back to reality, oh, there goes gravity – wait, sorry, I digress. There are so many cool things that can be done on this slate. Basically, embrace the variance this week! It’s another great MME week, even so much that I decided to dip my toes in the Battle Royale streets on UnderDog for the first time this week, and then decided after five or so drafts to max the damn thing. A case can be made that every single one of those games listed has viable alternate outcomes to what the general consensus of the field is, with most games this week carrier extremely wide ranges of potential outcomes.

  • Broncos @ Titans – The path of least resistance for the Titans to attack this game aligns with how they would like to attack, regardless of who is under center for them this week. That should provide a rather tight range of potential outcomes as far as the expected game environment goes – when the Titans can control the game on the ground, you better believe they have a high likelihood of controlling the game environment. 
  • Vikings @ Bills – EMBRACE THE VARIANCE! These are two top offenses, with one top defense. When you see a strength on strength matchup, it typically leads to a wide range of potential outcomes. For my baseball DFS players – what happens when a top pitcher meets a top offense? Typically the mantra is “top pitching beats top offense,” but then you get that top offense at extremely low ownership and can leverage the associated variance of a team sport. Same-same in NFL (another highly variant sport). Also, the Bills are not likely to suddenly turn into a run-first team in the absence of Josh Allen (should he miss), meaning Bills pass-catchers still carry immense upside here. Oh yea, and Allen could just still play… keep an open mind about this one until 90 minutes prior to first kick. 
  • Texans @ Giants – Both defenses present a nice matchup for the opposition’s preferred method of attack (ground game). Both Saquon Barkley and Dameon Pierce have the explosiveness to rip this game wide open. Nobody will be on Daniel Jones, who is a mobile quarterback with rushing upside (how many games has he ripped 100/1 on the ground in his career?).
  • Saints @ Steelers – Yes, Pitt gets TJ Watt back, but TJ Watt cannot play 11 positions all at once. This Steelers defense has looked #bad this season, and while Watt is able to generate organic pressure upfront, he cannot cover Alvin Kamara out of the backfield nor double-team Chris Olave – not to mention the usage we expect Taysom Hill to get. The Steelers are a high pass volume offense that is suddenly expected to be highly concentrated. The Saints have averaged 26.83 points per game across Dalton’s six starts. The Saints have allowed 25.2 points per game this season, fourth most in the league. This is also rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s first start against a non-elite defense (his appearances have come against the Jets, Bills, Buccaneers – left early, Dolphins, and Eagles – quite the list, eh?). There is legitimate upside here.
  • Colts @ Raiders – Each offense is expected to EXTREMELY concentrated – a massive percent of the expected production is likely to flow through Jonathan Taylor in Indy while the Raiders are basically down to Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams (yea, I’ll gladly let others chase Mack Hollins). 
  • Cowboys @ Packers – Yea, I got nothing with this one. This is probably one of the more narrow ranges of outcomes games on the slate, to be completely honest. 
  • Cardinals @ Rams – Yea, I got nothing with this one. This is probably one of the more narrow ranges of outcomes games on the slate, to be completely honest. 
Mike >>

There are three spots from this mix that I find particularly interesting in ways that the field may not be acknowledging. Coincidentally, all of them involve teams coming off their bye week::

  • Cowboys – The Cowboys offense went absolutely nuts against the Bears in Week 8 and are finding their rhythm with Dak Prescott healthy and his receiving corps rounding out and getting healthy as well. The Packers run defense is obviously awful, but when a team is that bad in one area and plays a team with a strength to exploit it they will often sell out to try to keep things in check. It wouldn’t be a surprise for the Cowboys passing game to end up being the source of the points in this one.
  • Broncos – The Broncos have elite talent in their passing game (sorry, despite the to-date results and how frustrating it has been, it’s still true). The Titans are a clear “pass funnel” defense with the #1 rush defense DVOA and a beatable secondary. Coming off their bye, it’s possible they ride the momentum they built in their win over Jacksonville in Week 8.

Steelers – Others on the site have touched on this, but this is the first game for the Steelers without Chase Claypool and they are also playing with the benefit of an extra week to take a breath and re-group for their second half of the season. Kenny Pickett will likely make a jump at some point down the stretch this year, and at home, off the bye, against a defense that is beat up playing on a short week sounds like a decent recipe for just that.

2. Running To Daylight

The Question ::

A major question on the table this week is about the running back position. We have had a recent run of main slates where most of the popular RBs were popular for a reason, as they were in very good spots and were reasonably priced. As we enter Week 10, however, the lay of the land at the running back position is very different. Almost all of the running backs who are clearly the “lead” back in their offense and involved in both the run and pass game are priced at $7,100 or higher. The only two RBs below that threshold who are clearly the lead runner for their team’s backfield duties are James Conner (injury prone and in a tough matchup) and Dameon Pierce (2nd lowest implied team total on the slate). 

While a lot has changed in DFS over the last few years, one thing that seems to hold true is people chasing “macro trends” from week to week and thinking that the way recent weeks played out is just “the way things are now”. Because of this, it seems safe to assume that there will be several running backs who become popular and due to the roles those players have there is a good chance they will be on the expensive side or in questionable situations (Conner and Pierce). Adding to that dilemma is the fact that, as alluded to in question #1, there are so few good game environments available so in order to access those potent passing games you will likely have to sacrifice “safety” at the RB position.

Putting this all together, is there a specific strategy or viewpoint you are approaching the RB position with?

The Answers ::

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