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 1 Topics
1. Week 1: A Tradition Unlike Any Other
2. An Inefficient Market
3. Value Plays
4. Ahead of the Curve
5. “That was so obvious, how did I not see it?”
1. What makes this particular slate particularly unique?
The Question ::
A weekly staple of The Oracle :: What makes this slate particularly unique?
The answer to this question this week is fairly obvious – it’s Week 1!!
- Pricing has been out for well over a month, leading to many situations where players have far different roles and/or team situations than their pricing from pre-training camp would have indicated.
- This is in addition to the already soft pricing the sites always have in Week 1 as they try to draw in new customers and give them a great experience.
- Players and coaches have changed locations, a new crop of rookies entered the league, and the veteran players are a year older and closer to the NFL woodshed. Teams have had months to rethink their approach as they all embark on a journey with a common goal – we have no idea where those internal discussions, plans, reactions to their own situation, and reactions to league trends will take each team. While we saw at least some action from starting units during the preseason, this is the first real game action since the Super Bowl…there are a lot of situations we have strong beliefs in right now that will look silly by Week 4.
With all of those things as common and clear factors about the “uniqueness” of Week 1 NFL DFS, we will change course from the “standard” tone of this question we have on a weekly basis and instead ask a more philosophical question: Are there any ways in which you approach Week 1 differently or have different expectations than that of a “typical” DFS week? Bankroll management, contest selection, player selection, etc.
The Answers ::
Personally, I have to recognize that my greatest edge in DFS is the way I am able to combine my understanding of DFS strategy/theory with my understanding of teams, players, and coaches across the NFL. There’s a balance between these two strengths that begins to really hit its stride around Week 3 or 4, and my best weeks of the season typically come in Week 6 and beyond. Obviously, there is a way to move closer to one point (the strategy/theory side), shifting the balance in that direction in the early going and gradually moving to my natural balance as we get deeper into the season, but I recognize that this is easier said than done.
I have actually not had a profitable Week 1 since OWS was started (in 2018!), which on the one hand is still a small sample size (five slates), but on the other hand…this results-based fact can be added into the bucket of knowledge regarding potential opportunities for shortcomings in my play early in the season to push me toward the conclusion that “this is not the week in which I’m likeliest to have my biggest edge.”
I want to pause there and zoom out for a moment to note that this is not to say that the edge is smaller in Week 1! I haven’t read answers from anyone else yet, beyond reading the very top of Xandamere’s answer where he said he tends to go heavier in Week 1. Xandamere’s strengths as a DFS player are different from mine, and the setup we have in Week 1 very much aligns with what he does best. It benefits each DFS player to identify and define what their own edge is — what their strengths are as a DFS player (or what the strengths are that they are developing) — as this allows for honest assessment of unique situations such as this.
With all that said, I also recognize A) that Week 1 used to be a banger of a week for me each year, and that B) my Week 1 prep has been hampered since OWS was launched by how busy August and early September are from a business/work standpoint. While others have MORE time to prepare for Week 1, I have had less time to prepare over the last five years.
This year, I carved out space to treat Week 1 the way I was able to from 2014 to 2017, and while I don’t know the teams, players, and coaches as well as I will in Week 6, for example, I know them far better — from a “Week 1” perspective — than I did the last few years, and I know them far better than most of my competition does. This has me A) moving a bit closer to my typical “balance of strengths” in my approach than I would have felt comfortable with the last few years, and B) playing my normal weekly buy-in amount.
While the majority of that exploration is specific to my own strengths and weaknesses as a DFS player, I think there is value in “watching someone else” work through their thoughts in an area such as this, as it can help you (the reader) to do the same thing. What is your edge as a DFS player? What are you good at? What are you still working to improve? This can guide you in your decisions with regards to “How I want to approach Week 1.”
I tend to go heavier in Week 1 because it’s a week where the edge is larger than normal. We have the most casual players (the players who will drain their bankrolls early in the year and then stop), we have a smattering of new DFS players in the ecosystem (even though DFS isn’t growing like it used to, there are still new players every year), and we have the most uncertainty around how teams will use their players and how good they will be (but the field sees perceived certainty in, say, games like MIA/LAC). All of that adds up to edge, and so I tend to go heavy in Week 1 to try and capture it.
I’m also more willing to embrace variance in Week 1. As the season goes on, chalk tends to become “better,” because we gain more knowledge about how teams operate. In Week 1, chalk tends to be more fragile because we’re operating off of a lot of assumptions, but assumptions are not the same as knowledge.
Bankroll – I do generally go a little higher in the amount I play Week 1 for a couple of reasons. First, I play more entries of the super large field stuff (Milly Makers on both sites and the large contest on Yahoo) this week than a normal week because overlay is likely, price points of those contests are lower, and such a large chunk of rosters are basically dead from being very inexperienced players and/or rosters made days/weeks in advance. Second, there is a ton of value in being early on players/teams and Week 1 provides the best chance to get paid off for having unique thoughts and seeing things for yourself – which I believe is a strength of mine.
Contest Selection – As noted above, I adjust slightly to leverage opportunities in the larger field contests.
Player Selection – I want to get in early on guys I think are going to pop and leverage teams who have different outlooks than the last time we saw them – as most people are in a “see it to believe it” mindsets even when they know situations are different.
From a theoretical perspective regarding game plan development, I typically align with Mikey as far as bankroll management goes in Week 1. The amount of variance present early in the season lends itself well to my style of play in GPPs so I typically go a bit harder through the first month of play. But everybody’s gameplan generation is going to be different so we need to be honest with ourselves before we can devise an optimal plan of attack.
As far as contest selection goes, no massive changes for me early in the season outside of some shots in the early season specialty contests like the $100 Milly.
When considering players in the first month of play, I’m typically keeping an extra eye on game environments over the individual players themselves. Because we know so little in the early goings, I want to be able to minimize the things I need to get right in order to succeed.
2. An Inefficient Market
The Question ::
“Vegas lines” are the basis for so many projections, predictions, and rankings in DFS. Every week, you can have a pretty good idea what the popular games/players are going to be and which games are most likely to score a lot of points by looking at the spreads and totals and doing a little digging. It is a critical part of the process in most weeks and those numbers can help you find value and a starting point for figuring out how games are likely to play out.
That being said, those lines are – by far – the least efficient they are ever going to be in Week 1 of the NFL season. Every team has personnel and scheme changes from one season to the next, some bigger than others, and players are changing as well – getting older, recovering from injuries, sustaining injuries, training/practicing to improve. There are just so many variables that are extremely hard to account for heading into the season, which is part of what makes it unpredictable and fun.
The interesting thing is that the field generally treats the lines in a very similar manner this week as they do for other weeks – with a great deal of certainty. Knowing those two things – 1) the lines are relatively inefficient and 2) the field will not treat them as such – leaves us with a huge opportunity. With that in mind, here are all the games with totals under 45 points (as of Wed. evening) this week – which one(s) stand out to you as potentially being very mispriced::
- CAR @ ATL (39.5)
- HOU @ BAL (43.5)
- TEN @ NO (41.5)
- SF @ PIT (41.5)
- ARI @ WAS (38)
- GB @ CHI (42)
- LVR @ DEN (44)
- PHI @ NE (44.5)
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!