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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.
I’ll echo what Xandamre said about Christmas (that’s always a big one!) — but since our sharpest competition (the competition we’re ultimately competing against for first place most weeks) will still dedicate their typical process here, I’ll say the biggest individual thing that stands out to me on this slate is all the late-season value available. Typically, at this point in the season, our rosters are forced to feature players we A) didn’t know existed a couple months ago, and B) won’t remember existed when next season kicks off. (If you’ve never gone back through some of your old rosters from this late in the season, it’s pretty fun to see the random names — especially the random chalk — that tends to develop around this point.) But with Covid and late-season injuries opening so much late-week value (that is to say :: with news breaking too late for pricing to be adjusted), we have a TON of genuinely non-awful value.
This week, one of my focuses will be sorting through this value to determine which pieces I might not be able to win without…and to determine which pieces have a greater chance of disappointing than the field will imagine. While there are plenty of strategy elements to keep in mind from there, simply knowing which value to focus on and which value to “consider, but not get married to” can go a long way this week.
A few things!
X and JM covered everything really well above. I’m fascinated about ownership this week. So far it feels like most of the running back chalk is valid. Anyone can fail on any given Sunday but the RBs appear to be far less fragile than the wide receivers this week.
DFS players on the east coast will have an advantage this week. Most of us will be unable to research or build lineups on Saturday so most of the work will get done on Sunday before lock. Lock comes early on the west coast so our dedication will be tested this week. Can Sonic emerge from a Christmas hangover in time to build 150 solid lineup? We shall see!
Yet again, we have another slate of information overload, particularly in the form of running back value, late week COVID list additions, and a relative thinning of skill-position players on a few of the top team totals on the slate. Furthermore, we have another slate where we continue to see Vegas game totals and Vegas implied team totals shrink (there are ZERO games on this slate with a game total of 50 points or more, and only ONE game with a game total that lands in the “magic range” of 47.0-47.5 points), meaning we’re likely to see rather spread out ownership (outside of the running back position), we’re likely to see more roster construction and basic DFS theory errors on rosters, and we’re liable to see both a lower cash line and GPP-winning scores.
It’s Christmas! And yet that won’t be the single biggest unique aspect of this slate. The obvious number two is COVID’s continued impact on all of the games. Every time I write a player’s name I am combing through the breaking news the next day and hoping they simply make it to gametime.
I think the third unique aspect is something Xandamere also touched on, we’re getting to the point where teams are truly willing to lose (and trying to). It makes zero sense, for instance for the Jaguars or Lions to make much of an effort on Sunday with their pole positions on the 2022 NFL Draft order. On the Lions side, without their starting QB, they are a complete stay away for me. The same can be said for the Jags, who yes are playing for an interim head coach who would love a win, but they’ve shown how good they are at losing over the last three seasons. The Jets, Texans, and Giants fall into this depressing category as well (one of the Jets or Jags needs to win as they play each other), and really the Chicago Bears have absolutely zero to play for with a coach who seems comfortable taking his Coach of the Year award from three seasons ago and being unemployed next season. In my opinion, this really narrows the options for game stacks. You can go to the Bears, Lions, or Jags/Jets, as many will but it’s a stretch with just three weeks to go (either from the talent on the field, motivation to win, or general fatigue of underperformance).
This is by far the most value we have had at the running back position all season, with the only week coming close being the D’Ernest/Ingram/Rhamondre week where they all got there. The intriguing thing about this week is also that the replacement RB’s are all from good game environments with good to great QB play – the Bucs, Chargers, and Vikings.
Another very unique thing about this slate is the fact that we have so many teams playing on short rest. Eight teams played on Monday or Tuesday, and six of those teams are now playing on the main slate – with four of those teams playing in games against another team on short rest (Rams/Vikings and Bears/Seahawks). Given the point of the season we are at and the varying objectives of teams, we should keep these dynamics in mind when building. Some teams may alter their usage to protect top players if they are already out of contention or if they are already locked into the playoffs and want to preserve their players for the postseason.
Finally, while we have been dealing with COVID issues since the start of 2020, this is the first week since the league instituted their new protocols that allow for quicker return to play. This week I think we will get a LOT of late news that alters the slate, specifically with players that most people were expecting to be out surprisingly being allowed to play. That combined with the fact that it is a holiday weekend makes it likely to me that those who are paying attention and prepared can have a huge edge.
This being the Sunday after Christmas may put some of the field into a bind if they’re traveling or tied up with family affairs. That could create an edge for players that are able to take advantage of inactive lists and late swap opportunities. We’re also at the mercy of what Covid is doing to rosters on a daily basis. The amount of high-end WRs on this slate is better than the past few while the top of the RB position has issues.
As we often talk about :: “Five or more offensive touchdowns” is what we are truly looking for in terms of “team stacks” or “game stacks” that can carry us to first place. A bunch of yards from a team is nice, and four touchdowns from a team is nice, but the games that tend to truly vault a roster to the top of the leaderboards are those in which a team scores five or more touchdowns, in large part because such games are pretty rare, especially this deep into the season (when defenses have plenty of tape on opponents, and when offenses are often dealing with fatigue and injury). In Week 14, the Broncos (vs the Lions), the Chiefs (vs the Raiders), and the Packers (vs the Bears) got there. In Week 12, the Bucs (vs the Colts) got there. In Week 11, the Chargers (vs the Steelers) got there, and the Colts (vs the Bills) got there. Those are the only teams that have gotten there in the last five weeks. (As an interesting side note :: of the 30 touchdowns scored by those teams, 16 came on the ground, which speaks to the reason you so often see sharp DFS players include a running back in their 3/1 stack.)
But in addition to the fact that only six teams have scored 5+ offensive touchdowns in the last five weeks, we have this: only 26 teams have scored 4 offensive touchdowns, giving us 32 instances in the last five weeks in which a team has scored four or more offensive touchdowns. Among those 32 instances, we can pull the following information ::
The Bears have allowed two teams to score 4+ touchdowns :: the Cardinals and Packers.
The Seahawks have, somewhat surprisingly, scored 4+ offensive touchdowns twice in the last five weeks, vs the Texans and 49ers. (The Seahawks play the Bears this week.)
The Vikings and Steelers have each allowed THREE teams to go for 4+ touchdowns against them over the last five weeks.
The Steelers play the Chiefs this week — who have scored 4+ offensive touchdowns in two of their last five games.
The Vikings play the Rams — who have scored 4+ offensive touchdowns only once in their last five games (vs the Jags), but who rank fifth in the NFL in points per game.
The Bills have allowed a pair of teams to go for 4+ touchdowns, with the Colts (five touchdowns) and Bucs (four touchdowns) notching six of their scores on the ground.
The Bills play the Patriots this week — who are one of the run-heaviest teams inside the 10-yard-line this year.
The Texans have allowed a pair of teams to score 4+ touchdowns against them in the last five weeks.
This week, the Texans play the Chargers — who are the only team that has scored 4+ offensive touchdowns in four of the last five weeks.
The Packers (not on the Main Slate), Colts (not on the Main Slate), and Bucs have scored 4+ offensive touchdowns in three of the last five weeks.
The Bills, 49ers (not on the Main Slate), Vikings, and Steelers are the remaining teams to have scored 4+ offensive touchdowns twice in the last five weeks.
Putting all this together, the Chargers vs the Texans looks like the highest-probability spot on the slate for offensive scoring, with the Chiefs and Rams not too far behind them. The Steelers and Vikings are viable in their games (respectively) against the Chiefs and Rams; the beat-up Bucs could still easily put up four touchdowns vs the Panthers; the Seahawks have sneaky potential against the Bears; and the Patriots backfield has sneaky potential against the Bills.
And even with all that, we could dive into cases to be made for the Bengals vs the Ravens (and even the Ravens vs the Bengals) and the Eagles vs the Giants, while teams like the Jags and Jets against one another and the Lions and Falcons against one another cannot be completely overlooked.
This is a longer setup to this question than normal, but it’s some fun background before asking :: are there any teams // games that you feel have a better shot at 4+ offensive touchdowns (and enough upside for 5+ offensive touchdowns) than others, such that you find them standing out to you above the other options available at this point in the week?
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