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The Scroll Divisional Round

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    MACRO SLATE VIEW::

    This slate carries an interesting dynamic in that the two Saturday games carry wide spreads, with each home favorite team favored by more than a touchdown. Mikey covered this dynamic well in the first Oracle question, and he nailed the fact that it creates such a unique aspect of this slate. Team and game stacks from those two games are likely to go largely overlooked, while most Packers players are going to garner minimal ownership.

    RESTRICTIVE CHALK VS EXPANSIVE CHALK::

    Quick explanation :: Restrictive chalk is an expected highly owned piece that restricts the maneuverability of the remainder of your roster while expansive chalk is an expected highly owned piece that allows for higher amounts of maneuverability on the remainder of your roster. Classifying various forms of chalk as either restrictive or expansive allows us to visualize what it means for roster construction on a given slate and how restrictive a certain player might be – meaning more of the field will look similar from a roster construction standpoint with that piece.

    We’re going to alter our definition of chalk to include players expected to garner 30 percent ownership or more for the four-game slate.

    CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY

    RESTRICTIVE CHALK. The top fantasy asset in the league this season on the team with the highest Vegas implied team total. Checks out. That said, there are some interesting ways to deploy McCaffrey that we will discuss below.

    JOSH REYNOLDS

    EXPANSIVE CHALK. The field seems certain that one of Josh Reynolds or Jameson Williams will return a GPP-viable score here, as the two have a combined 70 percent expected ownership. We’ll discuss some of the theoretical implications of this truth below.

    JAMESON WILLIAMS

    EXPANSIVE CHALK. The field seems certain that one of Josh Reynolds or Jameson Williams will return a GPP-viable score here, as the two have a combined 70 percent expected ownership. We’ll discuss some of the theoretical implications of this truth below.

    DEVIN SINGLETARY

    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. Singletary is about as face-up as can be this weekend, likely to see 22-25 running back opportunities if the game remains close and likely to fall to 15-17 running back opportunities in a blowout in either direction. In a vacuum, that would make his high ownership expectation a mistake with the Ravens favored by more than a touchdown. As in, there are better ways to deploy Singletary than a one-off from the first game of the weekend.

    ISIAH PACHECO

    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. Another interesting dynamic of this slate is the fact that McCaffrey is leagues above the salary of all other running backs, and then we get to a massive clump of backs priced between $6,700 and $6,100 – one of which is Pacheco. All of Pacheco, Rachaad White, James Cook, Aaron Jones, Jahmyr Gibbs, and David Montgomery fall into this tier, and while all will garner ownership on this slate, Pacheco is currently the fan favorite. Interesting.

    AMON-RA ST. BROWN

    RESTRICTIVE CHALK. The third Detroit wide receiver on the list. None of these guys are bad on-paper plays but there most certainly is something to be said that almost every roster in play on the main slate will have one of the Lions wide receivers.

    CHALK BUILD::

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    Mike’s Player Grid

    My “Player Grid” for the Divisional round of the playoffs will take the same format as what I did for many of the smaller holiday and Saturday slates this season which has the feel of my usual “Afternoon Only” article that I do every Sunday. A full-fledged Player Grid would involve too many players for a slate with such a limited player pool to begin with. Rather, this slate very closely resembles what we see most Sundays with only three to four games in the late window. The added caveat for these fun slates is that we get time between each game to learn from what has happened already and the ownerships that have flipped over.

    QB Strategy

    Quarterback is always an important position but that importance goes to another level on these small slates. There are two main reasons for this. First, on average quarterbacks score the most points of any position and we can only start one of them. Second, correlation is even more important as the slates get smaller and there are fewer scoring opportunities to go around. By choosing the right quarterback, you are also increasing the chances that you are right at two other positions. Again, the shorter slate condenses the scoring across all lineups, making each position more vital to separating and giving yourself a chance to win. This is why quarterback strategy has its own section:

    • Lamar Jackson may carry a lot of ownership but his receivers should all be modestly owned at reasonable salaries. People like to think of Lamar as a runner but he’s been terrific throwing the ball as well and “Lamar doubles” are a great way to attack this slate.
    • Brock Purdy can silence a lot of critics with a big game this week, and I think he will. I expect the 49ers offense to put up a big number and Purdy doubles are also very viable. I’ll have those with variations of all the different key 49ers offensive players mixed in.
    • Jared Goff’s best chance at a big game and high efficiency is if they are able to control the game rather than falling behind and letting Tampa tee off on him. For that reason, when playing Goff, I will be looking to fully stack the Lions with three of his teammates between LaPorta, the two RBs, and the three WRs. Basically, if Goff is posting a tournament winning score then I expect the Lions have scored 4 or 5 TDs with 450 yards of total offense. And since Goff doesn’t run at all that means there’s a TON of production coming from their skill group.
    • If someone told us about this weekend’s playoff matchups before the season, we would have expected the Chiefs and Bills to dominate ownership with Mahomes and Allen as the clear top QB options on the slate. They won’t go overlooked but it’s interesting to see both of them projecting for modest ownership and Mahomes priced around the second tier of QBs.
    Defense Strategy

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    Willing To Lose

    Welcome to the Divisional Round, where we get competent quarterbacks, solid defenses, and play-callers who actually adjust to opponents. While everyone loves to discuss the volatile (unpredictable) nature of the NFL, am I the only one who feels we’re right where we should be? It’s so easy to be trapped in one, two, or three game samples throughout the season and make declarations about players and coaches, label teams as good or bad, and move on. Then we get outcomes that bring our minds back in the other direction, and we’re “surprised” once again. The truth of each NFL season is this: over the short run, we know nothing, but in the long game, we know plenty. We should always strive to remain long-term in our thinking, it’s where we can be the most profitable. But, if nothing else, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride with me this season in trying to reign in this long-term mindset into short weeks. We’ve had some wins and some losses, but how does that popular saying go? The joy is in the journey, not the destination.

    The AFC is left with the best three healthy quarterbacks standing (Lamar, Mahomes, Allen) and possibly the fourth (Stroud). The NFC gives us two of the four preseason favorites (SF, DET) along with two teams playing their best football of the season (TB, GB). Writing these two sentences makes me feel incompetent for leaning into the Cowboys and Eagles last week. In hindsight, it was possible to see the coaching mismatches in the GB/DAL game, along with the sinking ship that was the Eagles, who were primed to lose to just about any team. In looking ahead to this weekend, I’m ready for four great games. Three of four of these happened already this season, and there are some outcomes we may be able to draw from this week. For instance, there were nine combined sacks in the Week 1 matchup between Houston and Baltimore. The Bucs blitzed Goff a bunch (22 of 44 times) back in Week 5 but only generated a 14.6% pressure rate. And speaking of under pressure, the Chiefs had Allen running all game back in Week 14 (38.8% pressure) despite losing the game. The Packers and 49ers didn’t meet this season, but we have the infamous NFC Championship game from two seasons ago featuring the same head coaches, where San Francisco ran the ball, then ran some more, and ran even more after that en route to a dominant win. These are just some of the thoughts coming into my mind as we settle in for some playoff football. This is all information we have and our competition has, use it to outsmart them in how you build winning lineups this weekend. 

    Brock Purdy + CMC + Brandon Aiyuk + Packers WR

    Sure, Larejo, let’s feature the QB of the team with the highest implied team total (30). I have no idea how ownership will shake out, nor will I let that deter me, but it’s likely CMC is the highest or second highest owned player on the slate. If that’s the case, I won’t sit here and make a case to fade the man, especially because the matchup still dictates (like it did two seasons ago) that SF should attack GB on the ground. Playing CMC accounts for Kyle Shanahan’s alpha-male tendencies, in case he comes out and tries the same exact approach of running the ball down the Packers throats. But . . . if he doesn’t, pairing Purdy with CMC is a great way to expose our rosters to “all the touchdowns” on the 49ers and also account for a different game plan, should Shanahan assume LaFleur and Joe Barry sell out to stop the run and “make Purdy beat them.” For the record, this is what I think they will try to do. And the positive news for the 49ers is that Purdy can beat them and likely will in this scenario.

    Obviously, if this more pass-heavy game plan plays out for SF, including CMC in lineups is safe in that his usage in the passing game is always robust. Beyond McCaffrey is where things get interesting. You could really lean into any of Deebo, Aiyuk, or Kittle as we play out this scenario. With all the strong offenses on this slate, having QB/RB/WR from one team may prove to be lower owned than it should as well. We do want to watch Packers CB Jaire Alexander’s availability but when differentiating between players, I am a sucker for going wherever the crowd isn’t. With how dominant the SF offense has been throughout the year, we could simply pull up ownership projections and pick the lowest 49er to plug in. But with Kittle’s volatility in a run-heavy game script, and Deebo’s need for YAC, Aiyuk is my guy this week. He may have had the quietest 1,300+ yard receiving season you’ve ever seen, but if Purdy is looking to exploit the Packers secondary, it could be Aiyuk being left one-on-one often (especially if the Packers stack the box) which would lead to a nice day for BA.  

    Lastly, in this scenario of the Niners planning for and winning through the air, we’d need the Packers to respond with points for Purdy to keep on throwing. Selecting a Packers pass-catcher or two (Aaron Jones included) is a difficult exercise that many will throw their hands in the air about. Don’t be one of those people. You can do this. When healthy, Watson and Reed are likely their two most talented WRs, while Doubs and Wicks can win in their own right and Bo Melton even can pop for 100 yards. The price point on DK selects Watson for us, as the cheaper of Doubs, Reeds, and even Wicks, while Reed is a player who Green Bay could easily scheme for after avoiding him last week with heavy 12-personnel sets. No matter where you go, go somewhere, and I wouldn’t fault you even to include Jones in this type of build as he can rack up points in many ways with or without AJ Dillon, as we saw last week.

    Isiah Pacheco + KC Defense

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    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.

    Divisional Round Topics

    1. Early Information

    2. Contest Selection

    3. Value Plays

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


    1. Early Information

    The Question ::

    This weekend’s slate has some interesting games on it for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the most interesting thing about the full weekend slate from a big picture perspective is the order in which the games will be played. We have two games with big favorites, as the Ravens and 49ers are each projected to win by 10 points. Those games are the first two games of the weekend, taking place on Saturday. We saw a lot of blowouts last weekend and we also saw how one game (GB/DAL) going nuts on the scoreboard can take over the entire slate and become key to everything.

    With all of that in mind, what is your approach to those early games and which of the four games do you think has the best chance of separating itself with tournament winners coming from both sides?

    The Answers ::
    Xandamere >>

    Agree with Hilow that TB/DET is the clear “best game” target, but when you take ownership and player salaries into account, GB/SF is the one I want to place my chips on – we have a lot of cheap Packers passing game options, which gets us off of fragile cheap chalk elsewhere, and we can lean into the 49ers passing game, which is relatively low-owned for a 4-game slate and carries just as much upside as any team in the NFL. 

    For HOU/BAL, my approach is going to largely be to either build game stacks around it or avoid it entirely. I’m ok with some amounts of 1-off ownership (primarily on Likely), but I want the bulk of my exposure to this game to be in game stacks – my idea here is that this is the lowest total game of the week, and if it goes under its already-modest total we likely aren’t getting any “must have” scores from it, but if it goes over (which I think it has a reasonable chance of doing – the HOU team total is flat-out disrespectful compared to what Stroud has actually done this year), we could get a smash game at tiny combined ownership.

    Hilow >>

    I see the game with the best chances of developing into something that wrecks the slate as the Buccaneers-Lions game, but Texans-Ravens and Packers-49ers both have some very strong cases to be made for that honor as well. I guess my answer is “pretty much every game except the Chiefs-Bills could fall into this category and I wouldn’t be shocked.” There are definitely some interesting dynamics to this slate with the large spreads in the Saturday games. I will be looking to take both extremes – stacking the hell out of those games and looking to go underweight on separate rosters, and everything in between.

    Mike >>

    Ironically, my answer is almost the inverse of Hilow’s LOL. It’s the playoffs, and a lot can happen. I agree that TB/DET sets up very well for a lot of reasons, and I won’t be surprised if that ends up as a very high scoring game. However, the 49ers and Ravens are teams who have shown they can easily score 40 at a moment’s notice when they have things rolling and it doesn’t really matter if the other side comes along for the ride. I also think if the 49ers do put up a huge game against Joe Barry’s defense (which should be no surprise to anyone if they do), the Packers are well equipped with so many young weapons to score 3 or 4 touchdowns in catch-up mode.


    2. Contest Selection

    The Question ::

    What slates and contests are you planning to play this weekend and what are some things that you are focusing on in your builds or strategies as you enter these contests?

    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!