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The Oracle 18.22

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 18 Topics

1. Uncertain Times

2. Above The Rest

3. The Future Is Now

4. Floating Plays, Week 18

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


1. Uncertain Times

The Question ::

There really is nothing like the final week of an NFL season and this year is no exception, with so many variables and situations to consider and question marks all over the place in terms of how teams will approach the week, motivations for individuals and teams, and difficulty to know where we can find “certainty”. There are even a lot of spots where the “motivations” for a particular team could be fluid and change as the game is being played. This lack of certainty provides anxiety and stress as we search for “certainty”, but it also provides a golden opportunity for those willing to embrace the chaos.

What strategies do you see for your approach to this week in particular that may not work out every year but you believe, over time, give you the best chance to take advantage of the uncertainty that Week 18 provides?

The Answers ::
JM >>

To be totally honest, my strategy for the final week of the regular season for the last three or four years has been, “Don’t play it.” Put simply: the aspects of NFL DFS that provide me with an edge are minimized on this weekend, and the aspects that don’t play to my strengths are maximized. One of the most challenging things for a lot of DFS players is finding that willingness to NOT play a slate, or to pull back on a slate; but if we think of everything in terms of “building up +EV sample sizes,” one of the easiest ways to maximize our profitability is to avoid adding negative samples to the bucket.

None of that should be read as a recommendation that you avoid this slate. Rather, it’s me saying, “I shouldn’t pretend like I’m the one who should be giving you a layered answer to this question; but if you are like me, I can at least let you know that it’s okay to pull back on this slate if you’re not seeing your personal edge.”

Xandamere >>

Simply put, be willing to embrace uncertainty in tournaments. Week 18 is one of the most uncertain weeks of the year (Week 1 is up there as well!), and yet, as always, we’ll see chalk form. We often see some extreme chalk in Week 18 as people flock to perceived safety, looking for teams that have clear high motivation and basically X’ing out the teams with less clear situations from their player pools. That has rarely worked historically – we almost always see a couple of guys see really significant role changes in Week 18 and put up big fantasy scores at extremely low ownership. If you’re playing small field stuff, you don’t necessarily need to chase that much variance, but if you’re playing larger field tournaments (which I would qualify as anything over maybe 1-2k entries), be willing to lean into that uncertainty and take risks on players who project extremely poorly, because projections are extremely fragile this week. 

Also from an ownership perspective, be aware that this is the week of the year in which ownership is the least likely to be accurate. We should always consider ownership when constructing rosters, but, I would suggest not prioritizing it as highly this week, because there are almost certainly going to be some significant misses in ownership projections.

Hilow >>

I like this question because there are multiple layers that we can unpack as we work our way through it. First off, the uncertainty surrounding this week has been “priced in” to projections, game totals, etc. As in, Vegas is so uncertain that basically every game opened with a game total between 39.0 and 43.0 points and has been bet either up or down from there. That should seem wild and foreign right off the rip.

Next, ownership projections and median projections are all over the place. There is no “certainty index” that these algorithms can plug in to return accurate projections, so the median projections you see this week are likely, and on average, lower than they would otherwise be due to the gross floors in the output – stemming from the reduced lower end in range of outcomes projections. Understanding the “why behind the how” of these projections systems gives us actionable information. As in, we have to be willing to place bets in situations, just as in any standard week. Only this week, the downside is much greater across the board. Basically, we’re likely to see the cash lines much lower but the score needed to ship GPPs stay relatively the same. That thought process should affect our decision-making matrix going into the week, and I think the standard answer from the field is going to be to hunt for “certainty.” The fact of the matter is we still need around the same score as a standard week to win anything on this slate. A payoff dominance strategy demands we build with a “what if I’m right” mindset, which generates natural leverage due to the general tendency from the field utilizing a risk dominance strategy (if you’re lost on what those mean, I explain them in depth in my Game Theory Bible course from this year). In layman’s terms, don’t be afraid to lose this week and instead build as if every assumption you make while building a lineup is 100% accurate and correct. 

Mike >>

Usually each NFL game is its own entity, with no correlation or connections to be made across them. This week, the interdependent nature of the games being played is so unique to Week 18 as there are situations where certain players may have different outlooks depending on how other games play out. Some examples::

  • The Chargers will only “need” to win this week if the Ravens beat the Bengals in the early window. This means that your roster can “tell a story” where the Ravens win (JK Dobbins? Gus Edwards? BAL D?) and then stack on to that story with a low-owned Keenan Allen or Austin Ekeler. On the flip side, if you stack the Bengals passing game then a Joshua Kelley or DeAndre Carter makes a ton of sense to use as the Chargers likely rest their key players….you could go a step further as well by playing one or two Broncos offensive players under the assumption if the Chargers rest players on both sides of the ball then Denver has more success.
  • The Eagles can effectively make this game meaningless for the Cowboys if they jump out to a big lead on the Giants (who we already know will be resting players). Assuming the Eagles don’t run Jalen Hurts as much as usual this week, you can play Miles Sanders and/or an Eagles pass catcher with Sam Howell plus a Washington pass catcher. The story there is that if the Eagles score a bunch of points early, the Cowboys may rest Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, and other key defenders which would give a cheap and low owned Washington passing game an overlooked ceiling.

Those are just a couple examples of ways we can use the unique nature of Week 18 to leverage correlated rosters that can pay off in a huge way.


2. Above The Rest

The Question ::

Which games or teams stand out to you above the rest this week as the best bets for “certainty” and where you think they will be “riding their horses” with a lot on the line?

The Answers ::

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Thanks for hanging out with us in The Oracle this week

We’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend!