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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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What makes this three-game slate(!) particularly unique?
I’ll dive deeper into this in my answer to Question 2, but there are just some very broad ranges of potential outcomes this week. As I explored in-depth in this week’s Tuesday Inner Circle Pod: when it comes to short slates, we want to swing even more deeply into the strategy elements we talk about all the time. One of those main strategy elements is our desire to exploit the field’s overconfidence in certain game scenarios playing out. In other words: “You all are so confident this game will play out this way. But what if it instead plays out this way?” This week, with a couple games carrying a broader range of outcomes, we can benefit a great deal (in terms of accumulating EV) by A) paying attention to the stories the field is likely to be telling with their rosters, and B) using your rosters to tell stories that will become true if the field’s stories fail.
That there just aren’t any strong plays. Like…there really aren’t. The best on-paper QBs are in tough matchups. Same with the pass catchers. The best running back on the slate is David Montgomery, for crying out loud. This makes it a terrifying slate for cash games, but a wonderful slate for tournaments!
Oh, also it’s the best late swap slate of the year. I love the Thanksgiving slate for this: you get to see how you’re doing in each game before making decisions of what to play in the next one.
My first impression whilst clicking buttons on DraftKings today was “wow, I can pretty much play whomever I want.” Salaries are not particularly restrictive at this point. This may change if we get green lights from Alvin Kamara and/or CeeDee Lamb, but even then, we should be able to tell whichever story we want. I find the tight end position to be the most intriguing. The decisions made with this position could prove to be the difference. The Ownership on Darren Waller and Dalton Shultz creates opportunity in massive-field MME. Beating their scores with the other players at that position won’t be easy but if successful will move you past that “school of fish” that JM spoke about in Tuesday’s (must-listen) pod. Playing TWO tight ends not named Waller will immediately differentiate you enough that you can allocate your other positions as you wish. This Double TE approach also has the additional upside of making Xandamere roll his eyes…something I live for.
Two approaches I will employ:
See this for the basis of this approach: https://oneweekseason.com/above-the-field-attack-of-the-clones/
I will be creating four or five template lineups for the sole purposes of building lineups as the day progresses. One example would be to make five clones of a lineup that utilizes 2-3 players from the early game. This works best when utilizing lower-owned players but this obviously increases the chances of a bunch of dead lineups before the cranberry sauce stops jiggling, so build according to your tolerance. Let’s say I go with a simple secondary stack of Goodwin/Hockensen. I’ll make one lineup that features these two players and clone it 5x. If they happen to have ceiling games, then I can create five individual lineups around this early success and utilize whichever chalk I want in telling the next chapter of my “story”. You can even keep a couple of clones heading into the evening game, giving you more options if you had success with you middle game additions. Bonus points should be awarded if you are able to immerse yourself into this approach without pissing off your family.
Set up the optimizer to bust out the top 10 optimal lineups. Don’t use any restrictions of ownership or salary yet. Just let the computer spit out the 10 lineups with the highest ceiling projection. Most of these will use all or most of the salary cap. Then simply replace one chalky player from each lineup with a cheaper and lesser-owned player. Go at least $700 cheaper and you’ll end up with a highly projected lineup with one important ownership pivot and you’ll be far enough under the cap to avoid potential duplications.
The easy answer here is the macro lack of certainty. With that understanding, and the understanding that the field is sure to assume certainty in particular places (chalk), it gives us a very unique opportunity to embrace a little additional variance in our approach this week. I mentioned in Discord that my process for this slate will resemble more of a Showdown approach than I normally would for a short slate (as in, I will be embracing more variance in a hunt for touchdowns as opposed to sticking to likeliest scenarios in each game). Expected ownership will also play a large role in this approach, as there are only two to three spots where I currently view as matching expected ranges of outcomes (the three running backs – David Montgomery, D’Andre Swift (lowish ownership), and Mark Ingram II – mentioned in the Edge writeup of this slate, and even Mark Ingram has a lot working against his range of outcomes considering the injuries to New Orleans and likely return of Star Lotulelei and Tremaine Edmunds, who are each a big part of the reason the Bills are so good against the run.
On a three game slate, anything can happen. All OWS subs should remember JM’s big Thanksgiving win last season, with his differentiators of a Kerryon Johnson and two tight ends (Logan Thomas and Dalton Schultz, I believe?) roster. That roster and win was a microcosm of what we are faced with on this Thanksgiving slate: consider ALL options, and realize 200 points can be had from just two or three games! (It’s not likely this happens, but 200 points should be our target for this slate).
The second aspect of this slate that jumps out to me are all the injuries. Not particularly unique in any given season, but we have the Bears (and possibly Lions) starting backup QBs, with the Bears also down their “WR1”. We have the Cowboys without WR1 and WR2. The Raiders lost their head coach and their best WR and their offense hasn’t been the same. And the Saints without QB1, QB2, RB1, WR1. That leaves the Bills as the only “healthy” team, although injuries to their O-line have stunted their ability to run the ball lately.
All of this to say, teams are hampered, and we should expect great performances from unlikely players. We need to tap into the illogical parts of our brains this week. With opportunity comes volume and volume brings fantasy relevance. It’s more likely Josh Allen and Dak Prescott lead the QBs on this slate, but it’s possible it’s Andy Dalton or Derek Carr. It’s likely David Montgomery, Ezekiel Elliott, and Mark Ingram lead the RBs, but it’s possible it’s Josh Jacobs, D’Andre Swift, Tony Pollard, or a Buffalo RB. And finally, it’s possible Stefon Diggs and Michael Gallup (the clear top two WRs on the slate) lead their position, but also possible we get someone else to pace the group. Keep an open mind and build for first place.
What felt unique to me while I was building a lineup was there are no “sure things” on this slate. David Montgomery feels like the closest thing to it, and perhaps the Bills offense but they have been hard to trust this year. The matchups are all very interesting and make it easy to poke holes in every play. This slate will take on different layers with the more lines you build.
The Bears have topped 22 points only twice this year (and have yet to top 27), while the Lions haven’t cracked even 20 points since all the way back in Week 1. The Raiders have peppered 30-pointers across their game logs, and the Cowboys have peppered several 40-pointers, and each defense can be had for big games against them. Each defense has also, however, shown sporadic slowdown-to-shutdown ability. In the last game of the day, we have two very good defenses (Bills/Saints), but also an offense (in the Bills) that can be among the best in the game, and an offense (in the Saints) orchestrated by one of the best offensive minds in the league, who is often able to coax scoring out of whatever players he has. This gives us a broad menu of potential “ways that games on this slate could combine to play out,” and while our first, obvious edge is the fact that WE know to build around specific game scenarios (when most of the field does not know to do this), our next edge just might be found in properly positioning ourselves for the game scenarios that might play out. Rather than highlighting “how you’re seeing things potentially playing out” in different games, let’s do this: highlight a specific way you might build around each specific game, to account for a particular way those games could play out.
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