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Welcome to The Oracle! :: 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.
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There are two games this weekend and both feature teams who not only played each other this season, but did so very recently – with the Bengals beating the Chiefs in Week 17 and the 49ers getting into the playoffs thanks to a huge 2nd half comeback against the Rams in Week 18. While this gives us very recent data and information about how these teams matchup, we talk often about how “if we played slate out 100 times, what would make you the most money?” From that standpoint, those past matchups are just one outcome that “if we played those games 100 times”, the outcome could be very different.
With that in mind, for each game do you expect a similar game script and outcome as what we saw in the last matchup or is there a different approach and outcome that you think is likely to take place? If you expect a different outcome, how/why do you think it will change?
Given the recent nature of the matchups and the fact that in those games all teams involved had a lot on the line, I think we can learn a lot from how they played out. My take on the games is that the start to the games can be predictive, but the response and how things played out in response could be very different.
Kansas City had effective offense early in the game against the Bengals, but then slowed down and cooled off while the Cincinnati passing offense took off behind the big plays from Burrow and Chase. The Chiefs success was through a spread attack to many receivers, with Kelce and Darrel Williams having big games against the relative strengths of the Bengals offense. In Kansas City, I think a similar game script could play out, but Chase is less likely to be allowed to go nuclear as he did in Week 17. I think this game should be high scoring but the Chiefs will be able to keep control as their pass rush is healthier and they will devote extra attention to Chase. Because of this, my take on how this game plays out is in a way that would benefit the KC RBs, Kelce, Mixon, and Higgins (with Mahomes and Burrow also obviously very likely to have solid to elite scores).
Much the same in the Rams-49ers game, I think the start to that last game was fairly reflective of how those teams matchup from a talent perspective but the 49ers found a way to win through some high variance things going their way and the Rams found a way to lose with some self-inflicted mistakes. The 49ers have beaten two very good teams in the Cowboys and Packers, but the Cowboys did a few head scratching things relative to their personnel and the Packers just played an all-around poor game (while also having some high variance things happen in the 49ers favor). The 49ers are a team that relies on their running game, defense, and playmakers after the catch….but I struggle to see a team who has had such below average QB play winning the Super Bowl or even making it there. At some point, the clock strikes midnight and I think that is this week. The Rams jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead in Week 18 and missed chances to put the game away and gave up a couple trick plays the 49ers in the 2nd half. I think this time the Rams jump out to a lead and keep it.
I don’t consider myself a football expert, but I think the 49ers are better than the Rams overall. Their run game is better (not so much their RBs, but their overall run scheme and run blocking – thanks Yuus and Kittle), they have 3 elite pass-catchers while the Rams have 1 ½, their defenses are both excellent, though the Rams have a (clear) edge at quarterback. So, this will be all about Jimmy Garoppolo. If he can play a solid game – not an elite game, but just decent and (relatively) mistake-free, I think the 49ers win. They will try to avoid putting the game in Jimmy’s hands unless necessary, and thus we should expect relatively modest passing volume from San Francisco unless we’re banking on a Rams victory (or at least the Rams playing from out in front for most of the game).
The Bengals are a really wonderful story. Joe Burrow has been amazing. But I think that train comes to an end here. The Chiefs are touchdown favorites, they’re at home, and they’ve really come together in the latter part of the season…their defense has played much, MUCH better in the second half of the season, and the early season “oh no Cover 2 schemes have made Mahomes obsolete” struggles appear to have been conquered. Sign me up for Chiefs/49ers in the Super Bowl.
CIN/KC is also pretty clearly the best game environment for fantasy production, but that’s pretty obvious…most of the field will be stacking this game. So we all have a strategy choice to make: stack the best game and try to pick the right pieces from SF/LAR, or bet on the less-likely but less-owned scenario in which CIN/KC disappoints (or, more likely, the game is “fine” but the fantasy production is dispersed such that there are only 1-3 strong scores to emerge) while SF/LAR ends up producing 5-6 strong scores.
Although these teams just played each other, there are a number of changes that are likely to affect how these games are played out.
For the Rams, Cam Akers played his first game back from a torn Achilles the last time these two teams played.
The Chiefs now have Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire back from injury, who both missed the Week 17 meeting with the Bengals, leaving Darrel Williams alone in a featured role. They have also tightened their wide receiver rotation after releasing Josh Gordon (signed back to their practice squad). Tyrann Mathieu is questionable after leaving the Divisional Round contest with a concussion.
The Bengals have tightened their wide receiver rotation in the postseason and have run far more 11-personnel.
The 49ers have tightened their running back rotation to include only Elijah Mitchell and Kyle Juszczyk in the postseason. Deebo Samuel and George Kittle both left the Divisional Round banged up and we have no clue how those injuries will hold up this week. Tight end Charlie Woerner has also been much more involved in the postseason.
The point here is that we shouldn’t be looking to previous matchups to dictate how we view the present, even if those matchups occurred only two or three weeks ago. We saw the Bengals start with a ground-heavy approach against the Chiefs the first go-round, who is to say they don’t come out slinging this time? The Chiefs scored only three second half points in that first meeting, is that likely to happen again?Ja’Marr Chase broke free for two touchdown receptions of 69 yards or longer, is that likely to happen again after he burned the Chiefs for 266 and three? Will Tyrann Mathieu play? The Niners didn’t score their first points until time was expiring in the first half, might they have a different approach here? You get the point. Don’t get too comfy looking to past outcomes in a quest to predict the future, particularly in a game with as many moving parts as the NFL.
I won’t pretend to know how these games will play out, but I know exactly how the field expects them to play out, so I will be MMEing my way into leverage situations.
I’m expecting a Chiefs/49ers Super Bowl, so go ahead and bet against that if you’re smart. But there’s a few reasons why. First, my brother-in-law is a coach on the Bengals (offensive line, don’t ask!) so I’m rooting for them but with their inexperience in the postseason, it’s very hard to see them competing with Kansas City. I know the Bengals beat the Chiefs in Week 17, but that game was more important at the time for the Bengals than it was for KC (at least that’s how KC played it) and the team with more urgency came out on top. In the AFC Championship game, I don’t think we’ll need to wake up the Chiefs. They should win this game, though I fully expect both teams to push 30 points. The amazing thing for the Bengals though (seems like they are playing this week with house money) is how small the delta feels between Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes. The next decade with Burrow is going to be nothing short of amazing. He’s the real deal. The delta between Zac Taylor and Andy Reid, however…that’s what this game should come down to. I expect the Chiefs to control the line of scrimmage when they are on offense in all phases, and the Bengals to do the same on their side, specifically with their passing attack. But the Chiefs success should outweigh what the Bengals are able to do. 34-24 KC.
SF-LAR is a mind game between these coaches. I keep coming back to the fact that the Rams are horrendous at playing with a lead, and somehow that bites them eventually. Stafford doesn’t match up well with this SF defense, who can get pressure without blitzing (29th in NFL) compared to Tampa Bay who sends extra men over 40% of the time (1st in the NFL). If Stafford struggles (I like SF defense as the best defense to play on this slate) then the Rams offense should be stalling out, as they aren’t likely to have success running the ball, either. Of course, we have a slow-paced SF offense on the other side here, so I don’t see them running away with this game either. I think both passing attacks shouldn’t thrive but SF’s is undervalued whereas LA’s is overvalued. SF has the better running game and therefore I’m going 23-17 SF.
The way the 49ers and Rams have played each other over the years has been physical and aggressive. McVay finally has talent at the QB position but the 49ers scheme, efficiency of their 4-man rush, and their timely blitz calls seem to always be ahead of McVay’s ability to adjust to the game. So I am expecting that game to follow the same script as any other 49ers/Rams game. The 49ers are going to come in and try to body-bag the defensive line and get huge chunks of yards on the ground. When the 49ers pass will be the time for the Rams defense to take advantage of some errant throws that Jimmy G is prone to making. Overall, it would seem both defenses can keep this game in check and a score in the mid 40-point range looks likely.
The Bengals/Chiefs game will likely be similar in regard to both teams’ strength comes from their passing games, so they will lean into that, especially as the game gets into the second half. I can see this game being a little tighter for the first two quarters and each team will try to run but at some point the Chiefs will take a two-score lead and the Bengals will have to fight back to get back to within a score forcing both teams to play aggressive for the final 20-30 minutes.
Last week we saw Gabriel Davis have a record setting game against the Chiefs. Davis entered the week playing almost every offensive snap for the Bills yet was still somewhat overlooked by the field. While this week is a 2-game slate, which means ownership for everyone will rise with fewer options to consider, there are still edges to be had. While we are unlikely to see anyone have a game that comes close to what Davis did last week, it is reasonable to expect that we will see a player that sees a significant amount of playing time but inconsistent fantasy production become a “must have” piece on the short slate.
Parameters of the question: Eliminate the highest priced player at each position from each team (ex: can’t pick Stafford, Akers, Kupp, or Higbee from LAR and the same holds true for the other teams). Among the remaining player pool, who is the player you think is most likely to be this weekend’s “Gabe Davis”, even if that is just a 6/80/1 game rather than his ridiculous 8/200/4.
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This is the simplest and hardest edition of WTL of the entire season. It’s the simplest from the standpoint of the small player pool and the ability to think through essentially every option and angle in play. And yet, at the same time, it’s the hardest to write because of how thin those overlooked plays may be. When we play to win a large DFS tournament, we play to roster players who can score two touchdowns, go over 100 yards rushing/receiving, or teams who can put up more than five touchdowns. We have all of those options this Championship Sunday, but since all of those players should pull decent ownership, the way we can differentiate (if playing for a solo ship, more on that in later and in The Oracle) is through roster construction. And yes, luckily this is where OWS thrives.
Before we start building lineups this weekend, I’m going to take you through the player pool exercise that I do each week in listing out all of the viable plays on this slate. With only two games, this becomes a quick and painless exercise (complicated slightly by players returning from injury: Darrell Henderson, Darrel Williams, and Mohamed Sanu). Below, I’ve listed all of the viable plays according to my pool, meaning players who should be seeing at least a 25% snap share and/or high value opportunities in these games. Here’s the list . . .
● Bengals: Burrow, Mixon, Chase, Higgins, Boyd, Uzomah
● Chiefs: Mahomes, McKinnon, CEH, Tyreek, Pringle, Hardman, Robinson, Kelce
● 49ers: Garoppolo, Mitchell, Juszczyk, Deebo, Aiyuk, Jennings, Kittle
● Rams: Stafford, Akers, Michel, Kupp, OBJ, Van, Higbee
* afternoon, 1/28/22
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Any of these players can score two touchdowns on Sunday. Say that out loud, and repeat it. Yes, even Kyle Juszczyk (look at his snap counts, and in a 49ers trailing game script who knows?). For me, step one is literally listing out the player pool as seen above. Step two in building rosters is actually envisioning the games, and how and where the touchdowns will come from. Take these games for a simulation run in your minds. There are only two, don’t be lazy. Does Cincinnati struggle early, then come roaring back? Does Kansas City start slow as we’ve seen many times before the Bengals spark them to life just like the Bills did? Can Garoppolo throw more than one touchdown in a pass-heavy game script for the Niners? Do the Rams ride Cam Akers to the Super Bowl like the 49ers did to the Packers with Raheem Mostert a few seasons ago?
Find your stories. Write them down and build accordingly. If we’re building for first place, we shouldn’t be scared to go where others won’t. Think about the narratives on each of these teams coming in, and be willing to lose.
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