Thursday, Dec 8th
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The Scroll Thanksgiving

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    Meet The Team


    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 a special Thanksgiving Player Grid. I hope you all are having a fun and successful DFS season and look forward to keeping our roll going down the home stretch. Enjoy!!


    General Outlook/Thoughts

    • This slate is very different from a “normal” main slate, or even a “normal” short slate like the Sunday Afternoon Only slate, so I’m going to present things at the running back position slightly differently than usual. Given the nature of the slate, it is especially important to consider situations and how things play out in conjunction with each other. As such, I think evaluation of the RB position is critical and starting there helps you build the rest of your roster. I will list the RBs in consideration from each team and talk about their situation and benefits, followed by “how” I would look to use each of them – as none of the situations are really spots that I think you “have to stay away from”.
    • This slate is also very unique in the sense that there were two games on Sunday (DET @ NYG and DAL @ MIN) that featured teams who played this last week – which brings up several interesting things to consider when making decisions.
    Running Back ::
    Rhamondre Stevenson
    • I saw something on Twitter this week (sorry I don’t remember where or who said it) that said Rhamondre was basically “Rondale Moore plus 15 carries per game”, and that comparison really hit home. Looking at the stats, it checks out. He is averaging just under 7 targets per game and just over 15 carries per game over the last five games. Now he faces a Vikings defense on a short week that was shredded by the Dallas RBs to the tune of 236 total yards and 4 TDs. Adding to Rhamondre’s value is the fact that he is in the last game of the day, giving you some late swap flexibility if needed.
      • Damien Harris – Harris has clearly fallen behind Stevenson in terms of the pecking order and usage, but he finally looked healthy and explosive against the Jets and, as noted, is facing a Vikings defense that got torched by RBs last week. 

    How I’d play them:: Both RBs are viable for any lineup. If not playing either NE RB, you probably want to be using MIN D because the Pats offense has likely fallen flat on its face.

    Tony Pollard
    •  Pollard has had an incredible run of late, and a short-week matchup against the Giants shouldn’t necessarily be the spot we expect him to slow down. Pollard is the RB1 in points per game over the last month yet is priced as the RB3 on Draftkings, significantly lower than the top two. The “risk” here is that he is somewhat big play dependent and should be very popular. 
      • Ezekiel Elliott – As noted in the Patriots discussion, the Cowboys running game produced in a huge way against the Vikings last week. Elliott appears to be taking a complementary role to Pollard at this point, but he is still the preferred goal line back and will see a healthy dose of touches due to how much the Cowboys feature their RBs.

    How I’d play them:: Both RBs are viable for any lineup. If not playing either DAL RB, I’ll likely be building the lineup around the Dallas passing game and/or playing the DAL DEF.

    Devin Singletary
    • Singletary is the lead RB on a team with one of the highest implied team totals of the season, and will rightfully draw a lot of attention. Buffalo kicked SIX field goals in Week 11 against the Browns, as they struggled to finish off drives. This week against a Lions defense that ranks 26th in the NFL in red zone defense, I would expect the Bills to be much more successful. With that in mind, it seems like it will be hard to keep Singletary off any rosters that do not include Josh Allen – as a 4+ TD game from Buffalo seems highly likely, and if Allen isn’t having a 3+ TD game, then Singletary is likely getting in on the action.
      • James Cook – Cook might end up as the “sneaky play who ends up not so sneaky”. He has looked very good recently and saw a lot of work last week especially once Buffalo got ahead. Ironically, he makes sense on rosters that have other BUF pieces as well because if he is excelling then the Bills have probably built a really big lead.

    How I’d play them:: Kind of outlined it already:

    • Singletary or Allen – BUF won’t “fail”
    • Cook and Singletary (or Allen) – Cook likely needs BUF already smashing before he hits, so at that point, either Allen or Singletary is also likely having a very good game.
    Dalvin Cook
    • Cook has been acting as the clear lead RB and is playing at home on a favored team. Even in last week’s throttling by the Cowboys, Cook averaged nearly seven yards per carry; he was just game scripted out. The Patriots are beatable on the ground.

    How I’d play him:: Viable as a solo play or used with MIN D or a NE bring back.

    Saquon Barkley
    • Barkley has the most secure workload and is likely the most talented back on the slate. However, due to loose pricing, he’s unlikely to have too low of ownership despite playing on the team with the lowest implied team total on the slate. This is an interesting case, as we saw Antonio Gibson basically break the slate a couple of years ago in a similar situation and the Cowboys run defense was being roasted by everyone less than a week ago.

    How I’d play him:: If Saquon is paying off his price tag and making it worth playing him over the cheaper RBs that are in good spots, he’s probably putting up the type of game that is forcing Dallas to open things up offensively. With that in mind, I will use Saquon in lineups that feature at least two Cowboys players.

    Jamaal Williams
    • You’re basically betting on TDs here, as Williams has only broken 100 rushing yards once all season and hasn’t been targeted in the passing game in over three weeks. That said, he leads the NFL in touchdowns with 12 in 10 games so it isn’t impossible to imagine him having a solid game – although he’s very unlikely to bury you for fading him.
      • D’Andre Swift – Swift makes a ton of sense if you think the Bills get out to a big lead and force the Lions to pass more. While his usage of late has been frustrating, it appears the Lions have settled into some “roles” and Williams’s lack of pass game work is very telling. Also, in the four games since Swift returned from injury the Lions are 3-1 with the only loss being against the Dolphins in a game the Lions led for the first three quarters – so we really haven’t seen a situation where the Lions are left with no choice but to throw. In the three Lions wins, they have had more rushes than pass attempts in every game – which seems unlikely to be possible this week.

    How I’d play them:: Swift with multiple BUF pieces. Williams probably won’t make the cut for me.

    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

    I refuse to speak in a detrimental manner about “the field” . . . because I am part of “the field.” So, if I start picking on the field, then I’m really just picking on myself. You are part of the field too. We all are. It’s what makes building tournament rosters in DFS such an exciting puzzle to solve. The field consists of the pool of entries in any event, but when we say the field will see this spot as this, and the field will see this spot as that, and then we talk about how we can exploit it, we’re actually just directing ourselves on how we should outsmart ourselves.

    It’s one of the great ironies of DFS, mainly in tournament play. We all have human thoughts and we all make human errors. Each one of us can’t fight our gut reactions to players, coaches, games, and more. But what we can do is train, train, train. And that’s what OWS is for. Repetition retrains the mind and body. When we build rosters and have a thought that feels likely to happen at first glance, most of the time, this is the same exact thought our opponents will have. Fighting urges and tendencies are how you win GPPs. Rosters should make some sense but they shouldn’t look perfect before kickoff. They should feel a bit uncomfortable. They should feel like someone else built them for you. Because they literally are that! The old you wants to stack up the WR1 with his QB in a matchup as 10-point favorites against the 31st-ranked DVOA against the pass. The new you realizes you can play the same QB with his RB1 because all the touchdowns could come on the ground, and the game script could lean toward fourth quarter carries in a 10-point spread. The old you sees a 42-point game total and thinks, eh, RBs and defenses only. The new you sees the condensity in the offense and sees low ownership on high volume players in the same matchup. You get the point.

    Thanksgiving Overview

    So, you changed the lens through which you are seeing these games play out. Keep thinking about how to defeat the old you in fighting the urge to bet all three favorites on this Thanksgiving Slate. It’s likely all three teams favored won’t win. It’s likely some games will go over and some under their totals. But the best part about DFS is no matter how you see these games, if you’re thinking for yourself, it’s going to be uniquely your thoughts. Don’t think of the field as lesser thinkers than yourself. The field is you, after all. 

    The best slates to build around are the ones we can digest, pun intended. A three-gamer on Thanksgiving falls right into that category. Let’s look for a little data, let it guide us with the masses, and then angle our rosters toward first place. Let’s go!

    Mac Jones + Rhamondre Stevenson + Jakobi Meyers + Patriots D

    The Vikings defense has given up at least 300 yards passing in four of their last five games. Mac Jones is gross, that was what you just thought. But, he could also be the lowest owned starting QB on the slate. And I’ll just say it, but it’s possible he has met his match in the Vikings defense. Bill Belichick is famously adaptable to an opponent-specific game plan, and while the Minnesota defense is average across the board, they have given up some extra large box scores specifically to opposing QBs and WRs over the course of this season. In Week 6, the Dolphins torched this secondary with Tua/Tyreek/Waddle for GPP-winning scores. DeAndre Hopkins hit them for 12/159/1 in Week 8. Stefon Diggs for 12/128/1 in Week 10. To say they are susceptible when describing their secondary is an understatement. And this should be the lowest owned passing game on this slate.

    So if you decide to go with the Patriots coming in with a pass-heavy game plan, the two logical players to pair with Mac are Meyers, who was on the field for 95% of the snaps last week, and Stevenson, who led the Patriots players in catches last week with six. Rhamondre would also play well in a positive game script for the Pats, so going to this unit is enough leverage in and of itself, we can simply play the best plays once we’re here. Lastly, we saw what the Cowboys defense did to Kirk Cousins last week. It’s important to note the ‘Boys D is first in pressure rate this season at 28.6%. The team that ranks second on that list? Patriots defense at 28.5%. I’m going to be interested in projected ownership on defenses but what a beautiful thing (not for Kirk).

    Bills + Lions Overstack

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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.

    Thanksgiving Topics

    1.  Contest Selection and Bankroll

    2. Late Swap and Adjustments

    3. Getting Unique

    4. Value Plays


    1. Contest Selection and Bankroll

    The Question ::

    NFL DFS on Thanksgiving can be a wild ride and extremely fun. Especially since the NFL moved a few years ago to having three games on the day, it’s pretty much a full day of football and fun. The tricky thing about this is that it is such a unique slate and many of us have a lot of other commitments on this day. It is easy to be tempted by an extra day of football at this point in the season, especially with the monster contests that the sites offer, but the nature of the slate is so unique that there is a tight line to balance of playing too much and overextending the bankroll.

    Considering the nature of the day, size of the contests, and small number of games – do you have a preferred approach from a contest selection (size, price, and format) and/or bankroll approach?

    The Answers ::
    Xandamere >>

    I personally always set aside time on Thanksgiving for DFS (sometimes to my wife’s dismay) – to Mike’s point, a lot of people are playing very casually on this slate, they might set a lineup but they won’t check in throughout the day and late swap, and so to me this is one of the largest edge slates of the season. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be profitable on it, of course, as sharp rosters flop all the time…but the +EV is there. 

    Normally on a short slate, I don’t enter as much volume as I would on a main slate, but Thanksgiving is the exception to me here. Personally, I treat it like a regular main slate and try to get around my normal full slate buy-ins, because I feel like the edge is great and I want to hammer it. That approach may not work for you, though! If you go this route, make sure you have the appropriate amount of time to dedicate to DFS, both in prep before the slate and then being able to watch the slate as it progresses – one of the biggest advantages of Thanksgiving DFS is how the games are spread out, which allows you to assess where you are and react by swapping, and if you aren’t able to utilize this edge, I would recommend either not playing or just playing a modest amount for fun.

    TL;DR – only enter as many rosters as you feel you can effectively watch and swap if needed.

    JM >>

    I LOVE this question; it’s one I would not have thought to ask, but it’s one I have consciously been making decisions around this week.

    Because my family is always traveling at Thanksgiving AND we have two “main slates” this week from a content perspective, I typically head into Wednesday evening thinking I won’t be playing this slate…and then, by Wednesday night, I find myself thinking, “Well, I’ve put in all this work on this slate; let’s see if I can find some rosters that give me an edge.”

    Of course, at this point, I’ve followed this pattern enough times (and had enough big days on the Thanksgiving slate), that I’m now aware of the fact that I am definitely playing this slate. With that said, I will allow “my feel for the slate” to dictate the volume I play.

    In the past, I have focused on the $1500 single-entry Game Changer on the Thanksgiving slate, but as of Wednesday morning (like…1.30 AM to 5 AM, when I had been awoken by a sick child and could not fall back asleep, and therefore spent that time messing around with rosters), I was not finding a single-entry roster I really liked (primarily because I think that one of these cheap wideouts will end up being key this week, and there’s really no way for us to know which one will hit). On the flip side, my overall pool for this slate is relatively thin, so I don’t want to attack MME (especially as I’m fairly new to true mass-multi-entry, and while I’ve had years of conversations and understanding of how to profitably attack MME on the Main Slate, I’m not as confident I would be building in the most +EV manner on a three-game slate if putting 50 to 150 rosters in play). This will probably tilt me toward playing the 740-entry Power Sweep (the same Power Sweep I grabbed second place in on Sunday), which is a 3-max tourney with a $150 buy-in. In other words: three rosters instead of one; $450 in play instead of $1500; but still a sub-1k entry tourney, where I have plenty of practice building on these three-game Thanksgiving slates.

    What’s interesting to me here is that Xandamere’s answer is sort of the opposite: ‘I see a bigger edge here than normal, so I typically attack with my normal Main Slate allocation.’ Notice that Xandamere has TONS of experience on smaller slates, whereas I have very little experience on smaller slates (my only “nights with no work” during football season are Sunday night and Monday night, so I use those spaces to recharge, and rarely play Showdowns on those days, and don’t play the Monday-to-Thursday; then on Thursdays, I’m working on the NFL Edge from wakeup to bedtime, all of which leaves me thin on short-slate experience). In other words: Identify your strengths and play to them. I may end up finding an edge that leads to me pulling the trigger on the Game Changer, but for now I feel I’m likeliest to end up in three-max, with roughly 30% of my typical Thanksgiving allocation (and roughly 10% to 15% of my typical Main Slate allocation), because my experience and edges don’t show up as fully on a slate like this. Xandamere, on the other hand, might have his typical Main Slate allocation in play, because his edges line up perfectly with a slate like this. Get some action in play on your end (it’s a great slate to play!), but don’t feel like you “have to” attack it heavily. Remember: every bit of bankroll you put in play should be put in play intentionally, and you should never be giving up edges. If you aren’t seeing YOUR edge on this slate, pull back a bit. If you ARE seeing your edge on this slate, attack a bit more fully.

    Hilow >>

    First off, consider this – Thanksgiving weekend is the most viewed weekend of football outside of the Super Bowl. Now relate that to DFS – size of contests, skill of the average entry in contests, familial obligations, shortened week, time to prepare, etc. The edge is tangible this holiday weekend. That said, we should really be viewing this slate as another data point to amplify out expected value. As in, if you are a losing player, more volume simply means your money will bleed faster with an additional data point. But we here at OWS can use the additional data point to realize our equity sooner. All of that to say – nothing really changes for me outside of a few additional Milly Maker entries. Play your game and realize your equity faster!

    For me, one of my greatest edges is my ability to see beyond the projections (ownership and otherwise) to be able to identify what the field is likeliest to see out of a slate. That edge is amplified on a short slate (although I haven’t quite perfected how to harness it for showdown slates just yet), meaning I’ll be looking to attack this weekend with little remorse.

    Mike >>

    There is a ton of edge on this slate, but it can also be super hard to realize that edge in a huge way because of the likelihood of duplicate lineups and soft pricing. I like to play a few higher $ entries in smaller fields as those present more realistic paths to a big score, but also like to build a lot of different lineups in MME-style contests as there are a lot of fun, creative ways to give yourself a sweat going into the last game and the uniqueness of the ability to late swap and exploit variable change (explored in the next question) makes this slate one of a kind in a lot of ways. For this week, I’ll be playing less lineups but in a bit higher priced tournaments with smaller fields on Draftkings – while playing the $5 tournament on Fanduel from an MME approach.


    2. Late Swap and Adjustments

    The Question ::

    One of the most +EV things that is available to us on any DFS slate is the ability to late swap. The fact of the matter is that extra information is available to us after each game completes and we can use the information from the game’s results as well as ownership to help us make the best decisions going forward. As a bonus, a very small percentage of our competition actually uses this option. While we don’t always have to make the swap, at least looking at it and considering it can help us in all types of contests. The extra unique thing about this slate is that there is usually 30 minutes to an hour between each game ending and the next one starting, giving us actual time to have the complete information and a bit of time to dissect how we want to use that information – this is very different from a usual Sunday NFL DFS slate where most games are still going on when the second wave of game kickoff.

    With all of that in mind, do you have any specific strategies you use prior to or during the Thanksgiving slate in regard to late swap?

     

    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 on Thanksgiving!

    Thanksgiving Strategy

    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.

    Every year the Thanksgiving slate provides us with a unique opportunity to leverage our understanding of both game theory and roster construction with the objective of reaching the summit of a GPP leaderboard. Luckily, for the OWS community, the same strategy and theory we utilize week in and week out is even easier to execute on a short slate. With that in mind, let’s highlight a few key concepts and misnomers:

    • On a small slate like this, 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) and building around that. It’s essential to realize that if you construct your entire roster with what is most likely to happen in all three games, you will be highly duped and won’t win much even if your lineup finishes first.
    • It’s also critical to remember that we are not building to maximize points, but instead are constructing each roster with how to maximize our chance to get first place. Wait, what? Are you saying I don’t want to try to score the most points??? While that seems counterintuitive, what I mean is we should approach each roster with a certain game script in mind, taking a similar approach to how we think and build for Showdown contests.  
    • Additionally, we need to evaluate what each lineup is betting on. For example, let’s look at the Bills vs Lions game since Vegas (and a majority of the field) thinks THE MOST LIKELY outcome is a high scoring affair. If Buffalo/Detroit plays out as a 35-28 game, where eight or nine offensive TDs are scored, it’s almost guaranteed that an Allen (or Goff) stack will be optimal. So, if you are making lineups without these two at QB, be mindful of what this game playing out differently would mean as you construct the rest of your roster. 
    • Finally, keep in mind that you don’t have to be different everywhere – some highly owned players will end up in the optimal. 
    Slate Overview

    What I like best about this year’s slate is that the most dynamic game is first. While this game will likely be the most owned game due to its perceived “fantasy goodness,” it has many tributaries on how it can play out on a one-game sample size. Players who are willing to embrace some uncertainty and leverage late swap will likely be at a competitive advantage.

    In previous years, JM has mentioned the top outputs from each of the six teams in terms of their points scored. Why is that important? Since there are only three games, capturing the players who put up 20+ point scores is going to be as critical as ever, as there may only be a few of them on the entire slate. As always, we are not just picking players we like, but are constructing a roster that works together. With that in mind, below are some key skill position players from each team, with their top scores thus far this season. This is a good measuring stick of who is capable of a had-to-have-it score. For reference on how important capturing a 20-point score is, there are only 11 skill position players (excluding QBs) across all six teams that have at least TWO games all season eclipsing the 20-point ceiling:

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    Thanksgiving Crunch

    Thanksgiving Crunch is an Inner Circle feature that can be found late on Wednesday night and non-IC members can receive a chunk of the content. Mike also adds updated thoughts to Discord on Thursday mornings for Inner Circle members.

    Click here to join Discord for free.

    Cream of the Crop

    TJ Hockenson is, by far, the most explosive tight end playing on Thursday. Bill Belichick is notorious for “taking away” the top opposing weapon (i.e. Justin Jefferson). In theory, this would filter more work towards Hockenson, who has already seen at least nine targets in all three games since joining the Vikings. The Patriots also play man coverage on almost half of their defensive snaps which ranks 2nd highest in the league. This means that Hockenson is very likely to see the most volume at his position, in single coverage against overmatched LBs and safeties, and has the ability to break big plays. Despite his heavy usage on the Vikings, Hockenson has yet to score a TD for them, which is something I think changes rather quickly.

    Changing Dynamics

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