Thursday, Sep 5th
Monday, Sep 9th

The Scroll Divisional Round



    The DFS Slate

    (In One Central Space)

    Meet The Team

    Divisional Content

    OWS Fam,

    We decided to shape content around the 4-game slate this weekend. However, Fanduel has broken their contests into Saturday/Sunday slates. So, with that, you can find Fanduel ownership split into two different days while Drafttkings is for the 4-game slate.

    NFL Edge
    Late Swap
    The Oracle
    End Around
    Willing To Lose
    Showdown Notes
    Mike’s Player Grid
    DFS+ Interpretations
    “The Slate” (Live Friday 6pm ET on Discord)
    (Available Friday night on Inner Circle podcast stream)

    See you at the top of the leaderboards!


    End Around

    Hilow is a game theory expert (courses at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Northwestern) and tournament champion who focuses on mid/high-stakes single-entry/three-entry max


    We’re going to do things a bit differently in this section for this particular slate. I want to talk more about the psychological aspects in play as opposed to some of the top-level macro aspects.

    First off, we can expect the most combinatorial ownership to reside with the first game on the slate. There are many things that go into that assertion, but it shouldn’t take much convincing, considering it is simultaneously the first game to be played (humans don’t like waiting for things) and carries the highest game total on the slate (top-level analysis). That said, there are some interesting angles to take when attacking that game environment, which we will discuss further below.

    Next, expect a solid chunk of ownership to land on the top pass-catching options from the CIN-BUF game as that is the game the field is expecting to carry the second highest chances of shooting out. Every pass-catcher in that game not named Ja’Marr Chase, Stefon Diggs, or Gabe Davis is expected to garner relatively low ownership.

    From a macro perspective, the field appears intent on paying up at the running back position for the perceived certainty, leaving Miles Sanders, Joe Mixon (yuck), James Cook, Devin Singletary, and Tony Pollard out to dry. Tony Pollard, in particular, appears criminally under-owned.

    Finally, we have a primary decision point at tight end, with Travis Kelce and then everyone else. Evan Engram is in a “difficult matchup if he doesn’t see schemed usage,” Dalton Schultz is playing a defense with elite athleticism in the linebacker and safety units (standard tight end coverage from zone), and George Kittle has to contend with Deebo Samuel. Notice I left out Dallas Goedert and Dawson Knox (more on this below).


    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.

    Again, we’re going to do things a little differently in this section for this four-game slate. Look, the good on-paper plays are going to garner ownership – shocker. Based on how the slate is shaping up, I think it is more optimal to consider how to construct +EV rosters relative to how individual games could play out this weekend, which we will cover more below.


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    Mike’s Player Grid

    Mike Johnson (MJohnson86) has racked up nearly $500,000 in DFS profit as an NFL tournament player with success in all styles of contests

    Welcome back to my (Mjohnson86) Player Grid. The format will vary slightly from JM’s Player Grid, as we each see things slightly differently and play in slightly different contests, but should complement his thoughts and content very well for those looking to build their lineups for the week. The format of this article will likely evolve as the season progresses but should provide a lot of value. Enjoy!!

    The Core

    This is a list of players that stand out to me at each position from using my “Checking the Boxes” criteria outlined in my course you can find in our Marketplace. This list is a starting point, from which I build out lineups using game theory and roster construction concepts (which we will also touch on) with the mindset being to find the best plays with big ceilings. Low ownership is a bonus, but not a must. This section will focus primarily on three positions – running back, tight end, and defense – as the other two positions (quarterback and wide receiver) tend to have more dependent tendencies which I try to attack from other angles (which we will get into in the other sections). I like all of these plays on all sites unless otherwise noted:

    Running Back ::
    Christian McCaffery

    CMC is in line for an absolutely monster outing this week. The Cowboys present a beatable matchup and should score enough to keep CMC on the field deep into the game. CMC’s price is laughably low and he is the best running back option on the slate.

    Saquon Barkley

    Had a tremendous playoff debut last week despite a pass-heavy Giants game plan against the porous Vikings secondary. This week, the Eagles defensive weakness is on the ground and Barkley should be the focal point.

    Miles sanders

    Sanders had three games this season in which he scored more than 20 points. In all three of those games, he actually scored over 30 points. When Sanders hits, he hits in a big way.

    Tony pollard

    I believe Pollard is the X-Factor the Cowboys must utilize to have a chance against the 49ers – if he splits time with Elliott, I don’t see them being competitive. From that vantage point, Pollard at low ownership and a low price tag (if we knew he would be the feature back, he would probably be $1,000 higher salary and twice the ownership) is a tremendous GPP play.

    • Side Notes/Thoughts::
      • Isaiah Pacheco // Jerick McKinnon – These two have combined to average two touchdowns per game over the last six weeks. That’s right, 12 touchdowns in six games. McKinnon has only nine carries and 12 targets over the past three weeks, which makes him feel like a bit of a risky play. Pacheco has not had a game where he reached even 3x his Draftkings salary for this week. Clyde Edwards-Helaire could also be active for this game. Long story short, there are a lot of factors that point to these two as potential “trap” plays this week but given the incredible rate of touchdowns they have had recently they do warrant some consideration.
    Tight End ::

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    Willing To Lose

    Larejo is a mid-stakes tournament mastermind who specializes in outmaneuvering 150-max players with a small number of entries

    Let’s time travel. It’s 2016. DFS is just a few years old and becoming more mainstream by the season. DFS has always been a game of outmaneuvering your opponents (aka scoring more points than everyone else) which means building for first place and first place only. But seven years ago, there were some sharper players who were ahead of the curve while the majority of the DFS “fish” would play DFS just exactly how you would think they would. By using the last game, or the last few games, as strong indicators for the next game. If the Raiders offense put up 35 points in Week 4, regardless of ownership, the field would flock to the Raiders the next week in the hopes of a doubling down. If a WR3 went for 100 yards in that same matchup, then why couldn’t they do the same thing yet again the following week. We would see something, and without some of the vast data we’re now exposed to, we’d expect it to happen again.

    Fast forward back to 2023, and for the past few years, the DFS community is very hesitant to chase points. We know which players have talent and solid roles, and we have data that supports it. So, therefore, we know which performances are fluky, and we don’t want to be the fish who chases last week’s points. This is all good and true, and for the most part, it’s a great progression from how this “sport” has evolved. It’s natural. And with all the data available to us, we should for the most part let this guide us. But at some point, DFS still comes back to one thing: beating our opponents in tournaments by scoring more points. If we think about a pendulum swinging back and forth, once it goes far right or far left, it starts to gradually come back the other way. This is how I feel about building rosters this weekend.

    We know predicting the future based on the past is a lazy approach. The past guides us, but it does not dictate what will actually happen. We just all need to collectively decide when we want to believe that the field overall is placing too much confidence in the past NOT indicating the future, in order to be slightly ahead of the field when the pendulum swings back. And in the playoffs, when teams are bringing their “A” games (except the Bucs, tbh), this is the guiding principle I’ll be using this weekend – letting last week’s games indicate this week’s outcomes. Based on current ownership projections, these seem to be a lens most won’t be looking through again this week.

    Cowboys & 49ers Stack

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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. Scoring Bonanza

    2. Upsets Brewing??

    3. 2023 Bold Calls

    4. Low Owned/Value

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

    1. Scoring Bonanza

    The Question ::

    Well, it’s about time. It feels like all season long the storyline has been about the lack of scoring and low game totals around the league. Then, in the first week of the playoffs we had SEVEN of the twelve teams score 30+ points. Crazy. Also, the Vegas lines on this weekend’s games predict another fun weekend of games, with all four games currently having totals of 46 or higher – and the game with the lowest total actually features two of the hottest offenses in football in the 49ers and Cowboys!!

    We are seeing scoring and offensive production increasing right now at the same time that the sites are making player pricing softer to cater to the greater number of casual players who participate in DFS during the playoffs. Said another way, the “salary multipliers”, especially relative to floor and ceiling, that we often discuss in making a player appealing or not appealing are going to be much easier for everyone to reach and therefore the bar that they need to reach to be a good or great play is that much higher.  Does this have any effect on how you approach contests and/or roster construction? 

    The Answers ::
    Xandamere >>

    So the toughest things about slates like this, to me, is being willing to NOT click the “best” plays, because salaries are so loose that you can do (almost) whatever you want. It’s super easy to build rosters with only studs, and while it’s possible that only studs will put up good scores this weekend, it’s highly likely that something unexpected will happen (one team will fail to show up, some dude who isn’t exactly a “stud” will score a touchdown or two). Recognize that on a super small slate, the clear “best” rosters on paper are likely to be duplicated, and while it’s hard to click on guys who aren’t the “best” plays when you have the salary to afford them, it’s also a really, really easy way to differentiate your roster (I’m not talking about playing a random WR4 here – I’m talking about playing guys who regularly see the field like Elijah Mitchell, Tony Pollard, Devonta Smith, Marvin Jones, and Michael Gallup – all of whom are projected for around 10% or less ownership currently). The smaller the slate, the more willing we need to be to make uncomfortable plays and rosters (as “full slates” get narrower in scope, they become almost more like Showdown than a regular “main slate”). 

    Hilow >>

    The short answer is “yes,” but the long answer requires a lot more nuanced discussion. I don’t mean to cut this question short, but I want to save most of my answer to this one for the End Around and The Slate podcast on Friday.

    Mike >>

    The biggest thing I see for this week in regards to the scoring and pricing elements is the need to resist the urge to “cover every base” when building a lineup. In building lineups early in the week it became clear just how hard it will be to build full game stacks rather than just a QB-WR-opp WR then one offs from all of the games because of how easy it is to fit in top players from other games and the FOMO associated with “fading” any of the games on the slate due to their relatively high totals. Said another way, we’ve had so many weeks where there are only one or two games out of 12 or 13 with totals over 45 that it feels very uncomfortable to fade any spot like that. This just once again highlights the edge we can find in roster construction as, regardless of individual player and team ownerships, rosters that only use players from two or three games will be extremely rare and therefore can provide us with a lot of value.

    2. Upsets Brewing??

    The Question ::

    The CIN // BUF and DAL // SF games have relatively low spreads and the “underdogs” have played at a very high level for the second half of the season (Cincinnati on a nine game winning streak and Dallas winning seven of their last nine games). In both of those games, any outcome would not really be a huge shock to the football world. However, the other two games featuring the #1 seeds, the Chiefs and Eagles, have pretty big spreads and are fully rested.

    Which one of the Jaguars or Giants do you think has the most legitimate chance to pull off a big upset this week and why?

    The Answers ::

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    Late Swap

    StatATL is an OWS Fam grad who had multiple tournament wins last season that included a large field showdown for MNF and a $50,000 SE win. This season Billy has been hammering short slates and utilizing late swap. In this article, he’ll help you take advantage of late swap.

    Need more late swap education? Read this free educational article on Late Swap

    Quick overall thoughts:

    Pricing again feels loose compared to many weeks of the regular season as the playoffs tend to draw many casual players to DFS.

    The best on paper play at RB is McCaffrey and he is priced down at $8,000, his lowest price of the season in a win-or-go-home game. Dallas has given up several big games when playing against dynamic dual-threat RBs this season – (125 total yards or more and a TD to Barkley, Aaron Jones, and Etienne).

    To Kelce or not to Kelce?? One of the main decision points appears to be around the KC TE. He’s in a great spot, as the Chiefs have the highest implied team total (at 31), however, Kelce’s DK salary is $2k more than the next TE (Kittle). The Chiefs lead the league in pass rate over expectation (PROE) and the Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the league against the TE. We all know who Mahomes’ favorite target is so this decision will likely shape your roster. Current projections have Kelce around 30% ownership.

    Let’s Dive in:

    What I like best about this weekend’s slate is that the highest-owned game is first. Why this is so advantageous is that we get a ton of information early on and can make adjustments based on how the KC/JAX game plays out. As we’ve spoken about on these short three and four game slates with staggered starts, such as Thanksgiving, one of the biggest edges is the fact that a vast majority of the field does not leverage late swap. The edge will be slightly mitigated this week as there is close to a full day break between the Saturday and Sunday games, which will allow most people to check their rosters, however, I think most people still won’t make any swaps unless they hit both Saturday games hard.

    On a small slate, like this upcoming four gamer, one of the biggest mistakes our competition will make in terms of roster construction will be thinking about certainty or safety (what’s likeliest to happen) first and building around that. It’s essential to remember that on a one-week sample size, things will likely play out differently, and embracing uncertainty is advantageous.

    Late Swap / Roster Construction Theory:
    • Last week, all six game environments met or exceeded their Vegas totals. That one-week sample size truly was an anomaly. My advice would be to focus on two games on each roster. I think a common mistake is trying to get skill position players from each game on every roster, and while it is viable, I believe the percentage of rosters built that way far exceeds the likelihood of that construction being optimal and is such a tough needle to thread in that you will identify who the hard to have it piece is from each game.
    • The Jacksonville Jaguars are currently within 1 point of the lowest Vegas implied team total on the slate. However, their 4 primarily skill position players are far and away the highest owned of any team’s skill position players. If you completely fade the Jags on a roster and they put up a completely dud game at Arrowhead, around 80%-90% of the field will likely be dead for first place.
    • Most people will not build a full game stack, however, a QB, RB, WR (or two WR) from one team with a bring-back (or two) is generally an underplayed strategy on short slates. I especially like this strategy if building Joe Burrow or Jalen Hurts stacks.
    • Remember that once the slate progresses, salary matters less and less, and decisions should be made based on current standing – If you’re ahead block popular plays, if behind swap to lower-owned plays to try and make up ground. If possible, I’d recommend having at least two skill position players from the final game to allow for late swap.
    • From a 10,000 foot view, a majority of rosters will follow the same construction:
      • A pay-up QB (60% of rosters will likely begin with Allen, Hurts, or Mahomes at $7,600-$8,000)
      • A pay-up RB option (60% will likely have one of CMC or Barkley at $7,900/$8,000)
      • A pay-up WR (Half the field will have one of Diggs or Chase at $7,700/$7,800)
      • A mid-range Jags WR (Zay Jones and Christian Kirk are currently projected at 50% ownership combined)
      • Pay up TE, aka, Travis Kelce
      • Mid-range Defense. Bills Def currently projected for 25% ownership at $2,900

    Historically, on short slates, DST ownership tends to congregate even more so than usual. As most readers know, DST scoring can be difficult to predict. Personally, I am a fan of avoiding the highest-owned defense, especially a short slate. Based on early sentiments, the Bills project to be the highest owned by a wide margin. With this in mind, I will spread out my ownership on the other DSTs in hopes that one outscores Buffalo, giving me a leg up on a large portion of the field. For example, the Chiefs DST currently projects for around 1/3 the ownership of the Bills and will be at home as two-score favorites against a Trevor Lawrence-led JAX team making his first ever road playoff start. If you want to lay me 3 to 1 odds that the Bills outscore the Chiefs this weekend, feel free to send me a DM on the discord.

    I hope to see you and your OWS avatar at the top of a leaderboard come Sunday evening!

    Showdown Notes

    Jags @ Chiefs
    • Expecting the highest owned captains to be Mahomes and Kelce (McKinnon probably up there too). Interesting opportunity to hedge your full slate exposure, whichever way you lean it, by going the opposite in Showdown (i.e. if you’re heavy Jags on the full slate, build a lot of KC onslaughts in the Showdown, if you’re mostly avoiding Jags on the full slate, go overweight on the main Jacksonville skill position players in Showdown).
    • The best skill position value option per some aggregated projections I make is Evan Engram, who at $5,800 is really not priced for his ceiling. Zay Jones is also a great value, but Kirk may go a bit overlooked at a somewhat awkward price point.
    • Kadarius Toney’s mean outcome is modest, but his ceiling is strong.
    • Juju is going to be pretty low owned for a WR1!
    • Justin Watson is on the field for the bulk of the snaps and won’t garner much ownership.
    • Skyy Moore is likely to be the popular punt option, but he hasn’t played much this year, he’s just back from injury, and he hasn’t been good when active. He feels like a pretty shaky option to me at significant ownership.
    • I would max 2 of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney, Justin Watson, and Skyy Moore.
    • I would not play JaMycal Hasty in Etienne-captained lineups.
    • This is applicable to all of these games: there isn’t much in the way of value plays, which is likely to lead to a lot of extra kicker ownership beyond what we normally see. I would personally want to continue to land around the same 16-18% exposure to each kicker that I always target rather than overweight what are likely to be extremely chalky kickers.
    Giants @ Eagles
    • A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith are going to be underowned relative to their ceilings
    • On the flip side, the Giants wide receivers are all quite cheap and will garner enormous ownership. Hodgins has the highest ceiling of the group and is the one I would personally most want to be overweight on.
    • Don’t forget about Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott – they will mix in regardless, but especially if Philly stomps, they’ll get some run.
    • This slate has very little value, with Quez Watkins, Gainwell, and Matt Breida as the only real viable skill position players priced below the kickers. Lawrence Cager and Zach Pascal can be included in that bucket as well though they are more desperation punt plays, in my opinion. This will lead people to try and captain studs like Hurts and Saquon and find some punt play, but more mid-range lineups (or lineups captained by guys like Hodgins or Goedert) feel like smart pivots from the stars-and-scrubs constructions.
      • The lack of value is going to contribute to Brown and Smith being underowned – it’s hard to jam them in without a dubious value play. Try to find ways to do so.
    • I would max 1 of Scott and Gainwell, or if you’re willing to embrace more variance, max 2 of Sanders, Scott, and Gainwell
    • Max 1 of Bellinger and Cager
    • Max 1 of Watkins and Pascal
    • No Breida in Saquon-captained lineups
    • This is applicable to all of these games: there isn’t much in the way of value plays, which is likely to lead to a lot of extra kicker ownership beyond what we normally see. I would personally want to continue to land around the same 16-18% exposure to each kicker that I always target rather than overweight what are likely to be extremely chalky kickers.
    Bengals @ Bills
    • The big questions on this one are around the usage between Devin Singletary and James Cook, and the split between Isaiah McKenzie, Cole Beasley, and Khalil Shakir. I feel pretty good that Cook is on the (slightly) larger end of an RB timeshare, but I really have no idea how the WR situation shakes out other than it’s probably McKenzie or Beasley as the main WR3, not Shakir (unless one of the perimeter WRs happens to get hurt, in which case Shakir is the most logical fill-in with John Brown sent down to the practice squad).
    • Gabe Davis is way too cheap for his ceiling. But, his floor is shaky, and he’ll be very popular.
    • James Cook is going to be super popular at his price. Devin Singletary is likely to be quite low owned as a result. What if Singletary is the one to find the end zone?
    • Once again we don’t have much in the way of value outside of thin plays like Beasley and Shakir, who come with highly uncertain playing time. This will drive ownership to mid-range plays like Hayden Hurst, Tyler Boyd, Dawson Knox, Davis, and Cook. Davis is the best of those (at massive ownership), Cook is next (at likely also high ownership). Boyd feels like he’s going to go a bit overlooked here.
    • Chase > Diggs. At least overall. But in a one game sample, who the hell knows.
    • It feels gross but don’t ignore the Bengals D as a value play. Josh Allen can get careless with the ball, and a random blocked punt or whatever other type of turnover can be all they need to be the best value play on the slate at just $3,200.
    • Singletary and Cook are cheap enough to be played together, but I would not play all 3 of Allen, Singletary, and Cook unless building 5-1 Bills onslaughts.
    • Same rule for Burrow, Mixon, and Perine
    • Max 1 of McKenzie, Beasley, and Shakir
    • This is applicable to all of these games: there isn’t much in the way of value plays, which is likely to lead to a lot of extra kicker ownership beyond what we normally see. I would personally want to continue to land around the same 16-18% exposure to each kicker that I always target rather than overweight what are likely to be extremely chalky kickers.
    Cowboys @ 49ers
    • CMC’s a badass. Duh. He’s going to be massively owned. Consider Lamb as a slightly lower owned pivot at the high end.
    • Kittle is likely to be low owned here at his price but man his usage when the 49ers are fully healthy (especially when Deebo is active) is just awful. He’s a super high-variance tourney option.
    • Elijah Mitchell is a great value option all around, but especially so in lineups build around the 49ers winning by a lot (and as such he correlates well with the SF defense).
    • Ezekiel Elliott is $6,200 but still projects poorly and is likely to be quite low owned. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
    • Tony Pollard, on the other hand, has one of the highest ceilings on the slate and is a great tourney play (but I kind of think he’s better on the full slate where he’s going to be even less owned).
    • Dalton Schultz looks likely to be an extremely popular midrange play, but I can’t really poke any holes in the case for him beyond “football is weird sometimes.” He’s a really strong play.
    • Michael Gallup has a surprisingly big red zone role this season and at $5,000, if he gets a touchdown he’s probably in the optimal lineup.
    • T.Y. Hilton appears to be really eating into Noah Brown’s role. At similar prices, I think I’d actually prefer Hilton here, at what I expect will be a bit lower ownership.
    • Jake Ferguson tends to play more when Dallas is facing teams with strong pass rushes. The 49ers have a strong pass rush. Ferguson is thin but he’s a non-crazy punt option. 
    • Max 2 of Dak, Pollard, and Zeke
    • Max 1 of Hilton and Brown
    • This is applicable to all of these games: there isn’t much in the way of value plays, which is likely to lead to a lot of extra kicker ownership beyond what we normally see. I would personally want to continue to land around the same 16-18% exposure to each kicker that I always target rather than overweight what are likely to be extremely chalky kickers.