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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 weekly staple of The Oracle :: In no more than two or three sentences, tell us what makes this slate particularly unique.
There are actually several different directions I could go with this answer; but in keeping with the focus I’ve been harping on all week…
There are 11 games on the slate, and only FOUR of these games have an Over/Under north of 44.0. Furthermore, those “higher-total games” are comprised of the following:
Cowboys at Washington Football Team. We can certainly make a case for this game taking off…but we can also note that after a very tough start to the season, the Washington Football Team defense has allowed (starting in Week 7) 24 points to the Packers, 17 points to the Broncos, 19 points to Tampa, 21 points to Carolina, 15 points to Seattle, and 15 points to Las Vegas. After allowing 369 or more yards in each of their first six games (including 424+ in three of those six), Washington has not allowed more than 310 yards in any of these games (a pretty incredible stat). This game could take off. This game could also disappoint.
49ers at Bengals. The 49ers have been an up-and-down defense, but they have held Seattle (twice), Minnesota, Jacksonville, the Rams, Indy, Arizona, and Philly to 330 or fewer yards, while Philly, Arizona, and the Rams are solid offenses that have scored 17 or fewer points vs San Francisco. The Bengals have also been up-and-down on defense, but they have held the Steelers (twice), Raiders, Ravens, and Lions to 17 or fewer points. This game could take off. This game could also disappoint.
Raiders at Chiefs. Yeah. The Chiefs are implied to score 28.75. They scored 41 against the Raiders in Week 10. They have also scored 22 or fewer in five of their last six games; and if we take away that game against the Raiders, we have a five-game sample in which Mahomes has thrown two total touchdowns and four interceptions, with his team scoring 3 // 20 // 13 // 19 // 22. This game could take off. This game could also disappoint.
Bills at Bucs. This is pretty clearly the game with the lowest chance of completely disappointing, but we should also keep in mind that the Bills have allowed under 300 yards in eight of 12 games (including seven games of 262 or fewer yards allowed), while allowing the second fewest points per game in the league. If we take away games against Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor, the Bills have not allowed more than 23 points, while holding SEVEN teams to 17 or fewer points. And while the Bills have scored 30+ in seven games, they have also been held to 16 or fewer by the Steelers, Jags, and Colts (we’ll throw out the Monday night “wind game” vs the Patriots), with all three of those teams sitting back and forcing the Bills to work underneath. Only three teams face a shallower average depth of target than the Bucs. This game is the least likely of the bunch to disappoint, but there are certainly ways it could happen.
Last week, I said “Options” made the slate particularly unique. This week, it’s the opposite.
“Uncertainty” abounds on this slate — to a high enough degree that, to me, “uncertainty” is what makes this slate particularly unique.
Well, just want to reiterate JM’s point that there’s one “very clear” best game….though it still has paths to fail. And then a handful of “second tier” games, followed by a large pile of games predicted to be low-scoring.
There is a lot of uncertainty on this slate. There aren’t many plays I just feel really, really good about….and that makes the slate more interesting, to me, from a high-variance play perspective. What I mean by this is that most of my entry fees tend to be focused on smaller field tournaments, and in those tournaments I try to find the most certainty that I can. But on a week with very little certainty, it makes a lot of sense to just play the ownership game: look at where the field is feeling a lot of certainty (as expressed by ownership), and just look elsewhere. While ownership can sometimes be efficient in identifying plays with a lot of certainty (as we talked about last week), on a week like this, the plays that attract ownership are likely to be much more fragile than normal, which leads to a +EV approach of focusing more heavily on ownership this week vs. last week.
I’ll also say one other thing is there are a LOT of questionable tags this week. I don’t really keep track week to week, but as I’ve been digging in to research and working on my responses to the Oracle, it feels like there are more situations where something could change than we normally see. It’s going to be a week to be on your toes on Sunday morning and ready to react to surprise inactives!
My large field view of this slate revolves around injuries and the possible traps that ensue when the field automatically assumes value in the aftermath. It’s unique for me because I haven’t been hand-building this week due to all of the uncertainty. This will be a “run the optimizer through its paces and be ready to ultimately decide on my approach on Sunday.” I love this situation because of the tournament appeal created by the uncertainty, but dislike it because I simply enjoy hand building at least 50 lineups every week and won’t be doing that this time.
Hilow’s answer will be live around 8 PM PST
This slate has seven (!) teams with implied Vegas totals at 20 points or fewer. Out of 20. That’s insane. What is crazy to me is although my natural inclination is to look ‘beyond’ some of the obvious games, it’s really hard to get excited about any game environments to potentially come in very high scoring when we have guys like Taysom Hill, Mike Glennon/Jake Fromm, Zach Wilson, Davis Mills, the Jaguars, and Jared Goff in high altitude on this slate. The unique aspect could be targeting some of these teams (it’s interesting to me the Raiders and Ravens are also projecting under 20 points at the moment), and hoping for a Minnesota/Detroit Week 13-type finish (29-27 final score). But the unique aspect that jumps out to me in Week 14 is simply the lack of inspiring game environments.
I texted JM on Tuesday that I already had my answer to this question. Mike Leone tweeted some graphs with the pass rates over expectation (PROE) for all the teams in the league. What stood out to me, and what makes this slate unique to me, is the fact that the top six teams in PROE since Week 8 are all involved in games against each other:
There are obviously some things that make it more complicated than just “play these spots”; with Las Vegas missing Waller, the questions in the Chargers receiving corps, Jake Fromm starting for the Giants, and the BUF/TB game being made up mostly of expensive players….but with a lot of uncertainty on this slate I will certainly be keeping this statistic in mind as I make my builds and understanding how rare a slate with such a concentrated group of teams that throw a lot is, especially when it comes without huge game totals that typically draw all the ownership.
There are several wide spreads with low team and game totals. There are only two game environments I like enough to lean into (BUF/TB and DAL/WAS) and it seems like a week where we’re trying to make the best out of nothing. As I built out my player pool this week I was only able to identify three “elite” plays, and one of them has some questions I still need to solve. Josh Allen and Travis Kelce are the two I feel most comfortable with and Austin Ekeler could be the third but he could come out of the game early due to the Chargers having a commanding lead and coach Staley saying he’s got a lot of “bumps and bruises”. The WR pool has a lot of uncertainty at the top and not much depth to compensate for it. It just looks like an overall ugly slate. I’ll be looking to leverage what I believe to be true against what the field thinks they know.
Game Environments, Week 14: As we know by now, there are only four games with an Over/Under north of 44.0 this week, giving us a particularly narrow group of games to target if we want to begin from the same starting point as the field. While it feels like the field will use this as an opportunity to try to isolate one-offs across a roster (thus giving us an edge if we fully stack the top games, instead of trying to isolate one-offs), this is also the type of week in which finding “the right game everyone is overlooking” can be even more +EV than normal (step 1: fewer game stacks from the field would mean less competition if you’re right; step 2: greater uncertainty means even greater value gained if getting an overlooked game correct ). With that in mind, do you have a preferred approach this week, between “focusing on the top games or trying to find an overlooked game,” and/or do you have a game that is particularly standing out to you amongst the available options?
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