Thursday, Sep 5th
Monday, Sep 9th

The Scroll Week 18



    The DFS Slate

    (In One Central Space)

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    OWS Fam —

    It’s here!

    Everyone’s favorite (or not-so-favorite) week of the NFL season: Week 18(!).

    You don’t need a lengthy preamble. Some teams have nothing to play for this week because they’re out of the playoff picture. Other teams have nothing to play for this week because they’re locked into their spot in the playoffs. Other teams have their single-most important game of the season. Backup QBs will be under center in spots (nothing new for us this year!), other starters will be getting rest, the field will probably be flocking to fragile chalk, and there will probably be one or two players no one is thinking about who end up breaking the slate. With that, let’s get to what we always get to heading into this week of the season: a rundown of what each team has to play for, and what we might be able to expect.

    As always, this will be covered in the NFL Edge (duh), and will be touched on in OWS podcasts and late-week content — with updated information sure to flow our way as the week develops — but this should serve as a starting-point primer with regards to what we can expect in each game on the Main Slate.

    Week 18 Angles

    Bucs at Panthers

    The Bucs have everything to play for in this one, as they lock up the NFC South and a home playoff game with a win, and will need quite a bit of help to make the playoffs if they lose. Expect them to treat this as a do-or-die game.

    The Panthers, of course, have nothing to play for, but this has been the case for them for a while. Jonathan Mingo has been placed on I.R. (something we could see in a number of places this week where a team’s season is over and a player is banged up), but anyone who remains on the active roster for the Panthers should have their normal role as Carolina tries to finish on a high note and spoil the fun for their divisional rival.

    Browns at Bengals

    The Browns have already locked up the No. 5 seed in the AFC (they cannot move higher or lower), and have already announced that Jeff Driskel will start for them this week. Keep in mind, of course, that there are 53 players on an active roster, and 45 players have to be active on game day. In a typical game, 44 of those 45 players will have a role of some sort (with the backup QB being the exception) — reminding us that “starters resting” is not as all-encompassing as that statement makes it sound. Said differently: teams that are “resting starters” will still be playing plenty of starters — but in the case of the Browns, I would expect Amari Cooper, Myles Garrett, and anyone else who is key to this team and banged up at this point in the season to be among the team’s inactives. The Browns could also look to give lighter workloads to the starters who have to be active.

    As for the Bengals: they have nothing to play for and don’t even get to “potentially spoil things for a division rival.” The one angle at play for Cincy is their 8-8 record. A win equals a winning season (which would be quite a moral victory given Burrow’s calf issue at the start of the year and subsequent absence down the stretch). A loss equals a losing season. Players who are active on game day for the Bengals should have their normal role, though it won’t be surprising if Ja’Marr Chase (who played at less than 100% last week) and Tee Higgins (missed practice on Wednesday) are inactive on Sunday or placed on I.R. before we get to Sunday. Keep an eye out for news around this team, as it won’t be surprising if their skill positions feature different players than normal this week.

    Vikings at Lions

    The Vikings appear to be out of the playoffs, but they technically still have pathways into the dance with a win and a decent amount of help. Expect them to play this as a do-or-die game, with all able bodies playing their normal roles.

    The Lions essentially have nothing to play for (the officiating blunder on Saturday eliminated the possibility of the Lions earning the No. 1 seed, which means that they are locked into the No. 2 or No. 3 seed — and would need a win and a Cowboys loss to the Commanders in order to move up to the 2), but Dan Campbell isn’t the kind of coach who is likely to rest players. In a situation such as this, there is risk that the Lions play their starters but pull some of them as the game moves along — though it also won’t be surprising if Detroit treats this like any other game.

    Jets at Patriots

    The Jets and Patriots have both been out of contention for a while, though each team continues to play hard and try to win games (contrary to the evidence presented by each team’s offense). Expect more of the same here — with the Jets implied to score only 14.5 points, and with the Patriots implied to score 16.0.

    Falcons at Saints

    The Falcons almost certainly will not make the playoffs, but the door to the division title is still open if they win and get help from the Panthers. (Good luck.) Expect them to treat this as a do-or-die game, with all able bodies playing their normal roles.

    The Saints do not control their own destiny, but they can sneak into the playoffs if they take care of business and get some unlikely help in the late window from the red hot Bears AND the hot-and-cold Cardinals, or if they win and get some help in the early window from the doormats of their division in the Panthers. While the playoffs are a long-shot for this team, they are nevertheless a possibility, and the first thing the Saints need to do is take care of business here. Same as the team on the other side, expect all able bodies to be playing their normal roles.

    Jaguars at Titans

    The Jaguars need a win in order to lock up the AFC South — and while they can still make the playoffs with a loss, they will need help for that to happen (which is obviously a position they won’t want to be in). Expect all able bodies to be playing their normal roles.

    The Titans, of course, have nothing to play for, but Mike Vrabel will have his squad prepared to play the role of spoiler, and will almost certainly give the Jags a tough test. This isn’t a team we should expect to be “looking toward the future” with regards to personnel decisions. Instead, the Titans will be looking toward “how they can best win this game.”

    Seahawks at Cardinals

    The Seahawks have relinquished control over their playoff destiny, and now need a win and a Packers loss in order to sneak into the dance. Of course, the NFL knows what they are doing when it comes to scheduling, and the Seahawks will be playing in the same time slot as the Packers — giving us confidence that all able bodies will be playing their normal roles in a game the Seahawks will be treating as do-or-die.

    The Cardinals, of course, have nothing to play for (and they have draft spots they are losing with each win), but as they showed us last week against Philly: they will continue playing hard, and they would love to play the role of spoiler for the second consecutive week. Expect all able bodies to be playing their normal roles.

    Bears at Packers

    The Bears have been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, but they have also quietly put together a 2022-Lions-like run to close out the season, with a 5-2 record in their last seven games, a defense that is playing lights-out, and an offense that has been clicking of late. Last year, the Lions entered Week 18 with no shot at making the playoffs, but with a chance to knock the Packers out of the playoffs and enter the offseason on a high note. The Bears are in that same position this week, and will look to do the same thing the Lions did last year. Expect all able bodies to play their normal roles.

    The Packers, of course, are in the playoffs with a win, and are almost certainly out of the playoffs with a loss. (By the time this game kicks off, it may already be a true “do or die” — depending on what happens in the early games.) Obviously, expect all able bodies to play their normal roles, with no surprises expected.

    Chiefs at Chargers

    The Chiefs will be the Blaine Gabbert show on Sunday, with the No. 3 seed locked up and no room for any shuffling to occur. More news is likely to spill out throughout the week with regards to other players resting, and we should have eight of the Chiefs’ top players among the inactives on Sunday. Among active players, some starters will obviously have to play, though this is likely to look like a different Chiefs team than we are used to seeing.

    The Chargers have nothing to play for, and cannot spoil anything for the Chiefs. It seems unlikely that Keenan Allen or Josh Palmer are allowed to risk their health for a meaningless game, and Easton Stick will obviously still be under center as well. We’ll know more about this team’s plans as we move deeper into the week.

    Broncos at Raiders

    The Broncos have nothing to play for and will be starting Jarrett Stidham once again. With this game being meaningless for both teams, and with the Broncos’ roster likely to look different next year as Sean Payton continues to develop his vision for this organization, there isn’t much to be excited about from a “narrative” standpoint. I would expect banged-up players for the Broncos to be placed on I.R. throughout the week, though all players who are active in this one should have their normal roles.

    The Raiders also have nothing to play for, though Antonio Pierce is building a resume for a head coaching gig, and the players have bought into his energy/mindset — making them a tough team to play throughout the second half of the season. Expect all able bodies to play their normal roles.

    Eagles at Giants

    The Eagles technically still have plenty to play for. If they win and the Cowboys lose, they will lock up the NFC East crown and secure a home playoff game for the first round (with a shot at a home game in the second round). There is a chance we get news throughout the week to the contrary, but I would expect the Eagles to treat this like any other game…with the caveat that there is genuine risk of Dallas blowing out the Commanders, and of the Eagles resting starters by the fourth quarter if this is the case. This is a risk/reward spot, with clear opportunity for the Eagles to be a worthwhile DFS target, but also with clear opportunity for the Eagles to not play starters for the entirety of this game.

    The Giants, of course, have nothing to play for, but this has been the case for a while. Expect all able bodies to play their normal roles.

    Rams at 49ers

    Carson Wentz vs Sam Darnold. The Rams have already announced that Matthew Stafford, Kyren Williams, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald will be resting, and there could be more to come. The 49ers have already announced that Brock Purdy will be resting, and given that Christian McCaffrey picked up a calf strain last week and could benefit from multiple weeks of rest and recovery, it’s all but certain he will be out as well.

    As noted above: there are only so many starters who can be inactive on game day, and most active players will need to have some sort of role. With this in mind, the Rams’ defense could still be close to full strength, and the 49ers’ star-studded roster could still have plenty of firepower. Of course, there is also risk of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle starting but only playing a quarter or two, and there is risk of the Rams’ offense being dysfunctional with Carson Wentz at the helm. We’ll get more clarity on this spot as we move deeper into the week, but neither team has anything to play for (the Rams almost certainly have the No. 6 seed, and if they fall to the No. 7 seed it’s not a big deal; the 49ers have locked up the No. 1 seed), and each team will be more focused on getting healthy for the playoffs than on trying to win this game.

    Cowboys at Commanders

    The Cowboys need to take care of business here in order to lock up the NFC East and the No. 2 seed, and they should therefore be treating this like any other game on the schedule.

    The Commanders would obviously love to spoil things for their division rival — so while we could see banged-up players placed on I.R. before the end of the week, all able bodies should be expected to play their normal roles.

    That does it for this week’s Angles (and does it for Angles Emails on the season!).

    Keep an eye on OWS throughout the week, and keep an eye out for news, as there will be plenty more that develops between now and kickoff — but this gives us a good “starting-point” primer, and helps position us to make sharp decisions on Sunday.

    See you at the top of the leaderboards!

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    Around The Industry

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    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


    There are two primary aspects that make this slate unique. First, it’s a 14-game monster of a slate. As we’ve covered in the past, that means that there are more opportunities for outlier production to occur, which statistically and theoretically means we are likely to need a higher raw score to win GPPs this week. That said, the effective slate size is much smaller than that due to the innumerable resting teams and resting players. That shrinks the effective slate size down to what amounts to a 10-game or even a nine-game slate due to the actual number of players that are expected to see a full allotment of snaps, maybe even lower than that. So, while there is a large number of teams on this slate, the pool of players expected to see a full workload is akin to a smaller slate. That theoretically means 30+ DK point outputs are going to be harder to come by, effectively lowering the raw score required to ship GPPs. Second, this slate is riddled with uncertainty, with most of that coming in the form of uncertainty around playing time and the expected distribution of opportunities.

    That means it is imperative that we stay grounded in our approach this week. What I mean by that is this – we must be able to distinguish between the top on-paper plays, plays with elite upside, and plays that simply project well due to the expectation of an increased role. The final note for the Week 18 main slate is to keep in mind the “what if.” What if the Cowboys, Eagles, and Lions play their starters the entire game? What if Ronnie Rivers operates as a workhorse back for the Rams? What if the Cardinals push the Seahawks? What if the Raiders finish the season with a defensive masterclass in an emotionally charged year?


    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.


    RESTRICTIVE CHALK. The Cowboys must win to lock up two home playoff games with the two-seed. A loss and Lions win would drop them all the way from the two-seed to the five-seed, which is effectively the difference between the potential for two playoff home games and going on the road throughout the postseason. I’d say this team is going to operate as they normally would until the game is in hand, and if the game is in hand, it is highly likely that CeeDee Lamb has contributed to the Dallas production.


    EXPANSIVE CHALK. The field seems to be indicating a high level of confidence that Kyle Shanahan will rest or play Elijah Mitchell sparingly, which I don’t necessarily view as the likeliest outcome here. This could be a case where Mitchell operates as the lead back in the first half before giving way to Mason in the second, it could be a case where Mitchell is the lead back the entire game, and it could be a case where Mason operates as the lead back for most of the game – and everything in between.


    RESTRICTIVE CHALK. The Vikings need a win and help in three other spots to make the playoffs (losses by the Packers, Saints, and Seahawks). That said, the only thing they can control is to win their game against the Lions, the latter of whom will be playing for playoff seeding with the chance to jump to the two-seed. Justin Jefferson has seen double-digit targets in three consecutive games as the alpha in this offense and carries the best alignment of skills to mesh with quarterback Nick Mullens. That does not guarantee fantasy success here (as he’s proven in recent weeks), as he’s returned just one GPP-viable score since returning from injury (four weeks).


    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. I started this week by circling Tony Pollard in pencil as a player that could return viability at expected low ownership – and then I looked at ownership. Pop quiz! How many games this season has Tony Pollard returned GPP viability at his current $6,500 salary? If you guessed zero, you win!


    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. Another week, another expected massive Zamir White workload, this time coming against a Broncos team that has continued to struggle against the run this season. No problems here, although we must realize that White has a very small pass game role which requires him to surpass 100 yards on the ground and score multiple touchdowns for GPP ceiling.


    EXPANSIVE CHALK. I don’t necessarily understand this one, personally. Both Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt are likely to be active and play at least some of the game due to roster constraints. That still might only be the first few drives, but NFL teams average about four drives per half. That means Strong could see around five drives as the primary back. Is that enough to put up a GPP-viable score? I don’t know, but it probably isn’t the most likely outcome here.


    NEITHER RESTRICTIVE NOR EXPANSIVE CHALK. We keep waiting for Olave to truly erupt in this offense, and it keeps not happening. Another pop quiz! How many GPP-viable scores has Chris Olave mustered at his current salary? The answer is unfortunately also zero.


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    JM’s Player Grid

    JMToWin is a high-stakes tournament champion (Thunderdome, Luxury Box, Game Changer, Wildcat, King of the Hill/Beach, Spy, etc.) who focuses on the DraftKings Main Slate

    OWS Fam ::

    This is not a complete list of all the good plays on the slate

    This is, instead, a look at the player pool I’ll be fishing

    The Grid ::

    Bottom-Up Build

    :: covered in-depth in the Angles Pod (it’s highly recommended that you listen to the breakdown of the roster in order to see the thinking behind it, and in order to understand what we’re talking about when we look at a “bottom-up build”)

    Blue Chips

    :: my “Tier 1” plays: the plays I feel confident leaning into across different types of builds; these players have a high ceiling and a low likelihood of price-considered failure


    :: games, offenses, situations, or scenarios I’ll be looking to build around across my rosters

    Building Blocks

    :: unique player pairings that can be used as foundational building blocks for tournament rosters


    :: players who don’t fit into the categories above — either Upside pieces who don’t have the floor to be Blue Chips (and are not being focused on within my game-focused builds) or players who may not have a strong shot at ceiling, but are worth keeping in mind from a “role” perspective

    Sunday Morning Update

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    Bottom-Up Build

    Full breakdown (of what this is, and what the thinking is behind these players) can (and should) be found in the Angles Pod (on the One Week Season podcast feed).

    Bottom-Up Build
    DK Salary Remaining :: $6.0K

    Tyrod Taylor
    Jordan Mason
    Pierre Strong
    Christian Kirk
    CeeDee Lamb
    D.J. Moore
    Noah Gray
    Darren Waller

    Join The Bottom-Up Build Contest On DraftKings!




    Build with a salary cap of $44k or below!


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    Blue Chips

    CeeDee Lamb

    See Build-Arounds for deeper thoughts.

    “Light Blue” Chips

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    Building Blocks

    “Make It Less Popular”
    Mullens + Jefferson + ARSB + CeeDee

    “The players are obvious, and will all be generally popular…but how many people will play all of them together?”

    Why It Works:

    “Chalky Mullens” is scary, as Mullens is not particularly good…and what’s worse is that he doesn’t necessarily realize this, which often leads to him attempting to write checks that his arm isn’t capable of cashing. While Mullens’ aggressive nature can lead to mistakes, however, it can also lead to big plays, which gives him a wide range of outcomes, and makes him a guy we shouldn’t write off “just because he’s popular and can post a really bad game.” Instead, I want to also ask the question of, “What if he posts a really good game?” If he does so, it’s probably through Justin Jefferson, and will probably include ARSB having a big game in response. Wrapping these three together will separate your rosters a bit, but this will still be a fairly popular stack. How do we then separate it further? One way is to add one of the other most popular pieces on the slate! As counterintuitive as this might seem, the addition of CeeDee Lamb will actually dramatically lower the combinatorial ownership of this stack, as a lot of “Mullens + Jefferson + ARSB” rosters will fail to look for ways to find the salary for the most expensive player on the slate.

    How It Works:

    To be clear: I expect Mullens + Jefferson + ARSB to be the most popular three-player stack on the slate, and while the addition of Lamb will lower the combinatorial ownership, it probably won’t be “massively unique.” With that in mind, you’ll still want to do at least one or two more unique things on this build…and when you consider the fact that this build will require some salary-savers in order to make it all work, the key to separating this build is to “get different with salary savers.” Adding this stack to a unique “salary saver pairing” will be enough to set your roster apart and create a clear path to first place if things fall into place.


    The story plays out differently, and you don’t get first place — which is really all that matters.

    “Double Can Do It”

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    If Building For Single-Entry // Three-Entry Max

    This is my narrowest pool, which means it’s the pool likeliest to change a bit as I move deeper into builds. If it changes throughout Saturday night, I’ll add an update in this space.

    If I were building for single-entry // three-entry Max, my tightened-up player pool would be:

    QB ::

    Double separators — “|| ||” — indicate a tier shift in the way I’m seeing things.

    Dak || Tyrod || || Fields || Love || Mullens || || Kyler || Geno (these last two are more for large-field play than for tighter builds, for me, but I wanted to include them in the list)

    RB ::

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    A Wrap ::

    I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend!


    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 Checking The Boxes course. 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 ::

    Obviously, keep an eye on the reports and inactives Saturday night into Sunday for these games, as things can change quickly if certain players are ruled out or significantly have their roles reduced. 

    Tier 1
    • Pierre Strong – I have always considered Strong a talented back and he has solid receiving ability as well. The Bengals have been a great matchup for opposing RBs this season and Strong should be the featured back for most of the game with Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt likely to be protected. Strong is min-priced on Draftkings and close to it on Fanduel.
    • Aaron Jones – The matchup isn’t perfect on the ground, as Chicago has a very good run defense, but Jones should easily see 20 touches this week with AJ Dillon out and the Bears have given up a lot of production to RBs in the receiving game. 
    • Zamir White – The Raiders are giving White a massive workload right now and the matchup doesn’t get much better on paper.
    tier 2
    • James Conner – The Cardinals have been willing to ride Conner and are playing extremely well right now. The Seahawks run defense has been getting destroyed lately and the matchup can’t be much better.
    • Austin Ekeler – Ekeler is likely leaving the Chargers after the season but he has been used as the feature back even these last two weeks while they’ve been eliminated. Now he faces a KC defense that is schematically easier to run on than throw and that should be resting some key pieces. Ekeler has a contract incentive for 110 total yards this week and I feel like there’s a good chance he gets there.
    • Rachaad White – Elite matchup in a must-win game for the Bucs. The Tampa Bay offense is relatively condensed between Godwin, Evans, and White and this week’s matchup gives White the clearest path to a big game. His salary is a little higher than I’d prefer, but considering all the value available on the slate, I’m willing to take that on as White is a good bet for 18+ Draftkings points this week. The biggest concern here would be if Tampa gets a big lead, they could preserve White for next week’s playoff game, but White would have probably put up a decent game already if they get to that point.
    • Bijan Robinson – Here we go again. Bijan had one of his best games of the year against the Saints earlier this season and playing in a dome with the season on the line. It wouldn’t be surprising for Bijan to finally live up to his preseason hype in this spot.

    Salary Savers

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    Papy’s Pieces

    Papy is a full-time DFS player, with a focus on high-stakes tourneys, and with hundreds of thousands in lifetime profit

    The Board
    • Week 18 is defined by individual team needs more than by game totals. Make sure to pay attention to each team’s motivation. 
    • There are seven games where one or both teams have a reason to play for the win. They are Atl // NO, TB // Car, Min // Det, Jax // Ten, Sea // Ari, Chi // GB, and Dal // Was. 
    • There is one game (Phi // NYG) where the Eagles have a lot to play for if the outcome of Dal//Was is in question, however, if Dallas is winning big early, there is a risk the Eagles will react by taking out key players.
    • There are five games that are meaningless to both teams: Cle // Cin, NYJ // NE, KC // LAC, Den // LV, and LAR // SF. 
    • Despite the size of the slate the overall totals are low with the highest total being 47.5 (Sea // Ari) and nine of the 13 totals coming in at 42 or below. 
    • The games with totals above 42 are Min // Det, Chi // GB, Dal // Was, and Sea // Ari. 
    Pawn – WR Christian Kirk ($3,000) 

    I waited as long as possible to write this piece to try and get clarity on whether Kirk will be back this week but it appears the decision will come down to the wire. I’m going to guess Kirk suits up since this is a must-win game and Kirk was able to practice in a limited fashion this week. The same can be said for Trevor Lawrence who I think will also end up playing, but even if he doesn’t, Kirk can succeed with C.J. Beathard. The main reason to play Kirk is that his price is comical. I don’t understand why he’s priced at the stone minimum. Sure, he’s coming off an injury, but this is a player who was regularly priced between $5,500 and $6,000, often presenting as a value at that cost. Ideally, Kirk plays, T-Law plays, and Zay Jones sits but no matter what happens with his teammates, if Kirk plays, he is grossly underpriced.  I’ll have a hard time not using Kirk on my tighter builds if he plays. If he misses, I’ll look at D.J. Chark ($3,700) to fill my cheap WR needs. Pay attention to the injury report, and if Kirk is expected to be full go, play him for free. 

    Knight – TE Jake Ferguson ($4,900) 

    It can be argued that Ferguson is the WR2 on the Cowboys offense behind only CeeDee Lamb. While some would claim that the role belongs to Brandin Cooks, target volume suggests otherwise. In Cooks last five games he’s seen 8 // 2 // 6 // 5 // 4 targets compared to 6 // 8 // 8 // 8 // 8 for Ferguson. Ferguson’s targets are incredibly consistent for a TE, and while his upside is touchdown dependent, he has a far higher floor than most of his counterparts. His upside hasn’t shown up much this year, since Ferguson only has five scores and is yet to register a multi-score game. If he had more touchdowns, he’d be priced around $6,000 among the other TEs who are first or second options in the passing game. We saw how touchdowns impact pricing when Ferguson saw his only meaningful price increase of the season ($3,600 – $4,600) after finding the end zone three weeks in a row between Weeks 8-10. He’s only scored once since that run, which has left his price lower than his opportunity. The Cowboys need to win and the Commanders defense is terrible. This could be the week Ferguson finds the end zone twice. 

    Bishop – QB Nick Mullens ($5,100)

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    Sonic’s MME Pool

    Sonic is a Milly Maker winner and large-field tournament mastermind who focuses on mass-multi-entry play

    All Hell

    When analyzing my play over the years, I can conclude that my hand-built lineups have outscored my optimizer-created ones by a wide margin. That makes sense to me. Hand building offers a level of control over such “lever-pulling” ventures as applying specific leverage, blending high upside dart throws with solid floor guys, or pairing certain low-owned plays with the chalk. 

    Having said that, I won’t be hand building much this week. There’s simply too much to manage. Too much information still left up in the air. To keep everything organized, I’ll be building copious groups and rules while keeping all my important decisions on my player allocations fluid. 

    Are we going to be surprised if we get a Sunday morning report that the Browns want to “keep the engine warm” by playing Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt into the third quarter? Or that the Chiefs value Noah Gray and don’t want to risk losing him in a meaningless game? How about this Jordan Mason situation? Are we getting zero Eli Mitchell or Tyrion Davis-Price?

    All hell could break loose this week, so I’ll have to curtail my self-clicking fun until about 90 minutes before lock. 

    Secondary Core-Relations

    We’re always hunting for those high-ceiling combinations to add to our existing game stacks. It’s better to aim at getting four things right instead of trying to hit a nine-way parlay. I’ll lean on a handful of core secondary stacks that will be finessed into lineups whenever feasible.

    DJ Chark/Mike Evans

    At risk of sounding like a looping TikTok, Mike Evans is someone of which we must take an overweight stance at low ownership, and that feeling is exaggerated on a slate with little certainty and some fragile perceived certainty. The Buccaneers need this win desperately and, regardless of matchup, they’ll be leaning heavily on their narrow pool of talent. I expect to roster plenty of Evans (4.6%), Rachaad White (10%), and Chris Godwin (9.2%). 

    DJ Chark has well-documented big play ability. Add that he has earned a 22.5% target share over the last two games and Jonathan Mingo’s Week 18 absence and Chark possesses some volume-based floor along with his considerable ceiling. 

    WHAT IF the Panthers find some offensive spark against the porous Buccaneers pass defense? This could force Baker Mayfield into big play mode where he often looks downfield in Mike Evans’ direction.

    I’ll ask Bink Machine to put Chark in 40% of my Evans rosters. 

    A screenshot of a computer

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    Austin Ekeler/Justyn Ross

    “What Should Have Been”

    This was supposed to be a big year for Ekeler but team injuries and inefficiency put a damper on his first-round draft status. Heading into free agency, Ekeler should be motivated and there’s no reason to think the Chargers will limit him in favor of these other JAGs they have on the roster. At 3.3%, I’m at least interested in some sprinkles.

    Ross was among the most highly touted prospects entering college but injuries and “character issues” have derailed his progress. In games like this, sometimes raw talent finds ways to reveal itself. I’ll take a few swings. Cheap upside at $3000 and 0.3% owned makes for a nice pivot off the potential Christian Kirk chalk. 

    Deandre Hopkins/Zay Jones

    Hopkins has a bunch of reachable incentives and is much revered amongst his teammates and coaching staff. Plenty of reason to believe he will get peppered with opportunities. 

    Christian Kirk is coming off an injury and is 30% owned at $3000. Potentially a free square play… BUT… Zay Jones is coming off an injury and is 1% owned at $3800. We’ll need news to break our way to commit to this play, but it looks like a GPP swing worthy of exploring on a few rosters.

    WHAT IF the Titans push to get Nuk his money and Zay is the cheap Jaguars receiver you needed?


    Running Back

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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

    In my opinion, every writer should ask themselves a simple question before putting together their thoughts: what would I want to consume? If you’re not asking yourself this question before writing anything, will your thoughts be interesting at all? It’s easy to digress and go off on tangents in any sort of cogent way in an article, blog, essay, or anything really, but as we go astray as writers, we should always try to come back to this central question. 

    So as I sat back and thought through what to write for Week 18, I realized one thing: enough about the incentives and motivations of these players and teams. I had COVID this week so I wasn’t tracking much information, but it seemed everywhere we turned we were bombarded with information regarding who will do this, and why they will do that, when in reality we just don’t know. We want to predict the present at all times, essentially saying we want to focus on the “knowns.” When we think logically and we trust what we see, we can try to better control the next outcome. We don’t know what the stock market will do tomorrow, but we do know it will show volatility. We don’t know exactly what the weather will bring tomorrow, but we do have forecasts to draw from that give us a level of confidence in what that weather will likely be. It’s easier to lean into knowns than unknowns. But the problem is the Week 18 slate as a whole, has very few “knowns.”

    In what follows here, these are just my own interpretations of some Week 18 knowns. The way I will build and the strategies behind those builds are why I write this article. After 18 weeks of Willing to Lose, I hope you all can understand how to interpret my writing. Never go all in or all out based on words I put on this page. Instead, my hope is you are able to read through my POV of different weeks and continue to hone in on your processes to make your lineups sharper each week. I include an introduction here to help establish principles and a framework to come back to. These principles, while important, don’t even lead to my own lineups winning every week (obviously). But what they should do (Level 3 Thinkers, Goldilocks Principle, Confidence + When to Be Greedy, etc.) is help guide you in any sport, in building any roster, and in winning tournaments through your own unique thinking.

    A HUGE thank you from me to you for coming to this space and supporting my writing this season. I am indebted to any of you who take the time to read and engage with my content here every week. I hope Week 18 is your best week yet! 

    Justin Fields + DJ Moore + Cole Kmet + Aaron Jones

    If there were ever a week for Fields to back it up and play the best game of his career, this is the one. The much-debated “franchise” QB of the Bears has never beaten the Green Bay Packers. The same Packers, who he lines up against this week, come into the same scenario they did last year in Week 18, needing a win for the playoffs. Last year, it was the Lions who played the role of spoiler, keeping Green Bay from postseason football. This season, it could be the Bears.

    The Packers defense looked great last week against the QB carousel of the Minnesota Vikings but this is still a unit that has been ripped on all season (27th DVOA vs. pass // 26th DVOA  vs. run). A loss here and the signs point to a justified Joe Barry firing next week. The Bears have been playing their best football lately and while the public knows you can run on the Packers defense, it’s their passing game that Fields knows he wants to showcase to keep his employer from drafting his replacement a few months from now. Since Week 10, DJ Moore and Cole Kmet have received a combined 52% of Fields’ targets, with Moore up to 34% during that stretch. DJM is undeniably in a tremendous spot here. As for Kmet, you know I have a penchant to play guys after they put up 0/0/0 with strong utilization, so that’s the case with Cole. His role is unchanged, so despite the lack of success last week, we should look for a bounce back from him in Week 18.

    On the Packers side of the ball, give a read to the NFL Edge and DFS+ Interpretations here. The passing game can find success, as Love has been fairly hot lately, and assuming Jayden Reed plays (it’s also possible Christian Watson returns), Green Bay can be capable of producing some strong performances among its pass catchers. The problem is selecting which ones, as we saw an artist by the name of Bo Melton go over 100 yards receiving last week. Either way, the distribution should be widespread in the passing game, which is the opposite of what we should get with Aaron Jones. His 21 touches last week led the team, as AJ Dillon is still hampered by his injuries (update: Dillon has been ruled out) and now the Packers are working in Patrick Taylor. TLDR; play Jones. He’s the one lock for volume and touches, has a great matchup in the receiving game against the Bears defense which leads the NFL by a wide margin in receiving yards given up to RBs, and has the best TD equity among Packers skill guys.

    Kyler Murray + James Conner + Trey McBride + DK Metcalf

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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.

    Week 18 Topics

    1. Sorting Through The Chaos

    2. Desperate Times

    3. Off The Board

    4. Floating Plays

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

    1. Sorting Through The Chaos

    The Question ::

    There really is nothing like the final week of an NFL season and this year is no exception, with so many variables and situations to consider and question marks all over the place in terms of how teams will approach the week, motivations for individuals and teams, and difficulty to know where we can find “certainty”. There are even a lot of spots where the “motivations” for a particular team could be fluid and change as the game is being played. All of the “chaos” provides anxiety and stress as we search for “certainty”, but it also provides a golden opportunity for those willing to embrace it.

    What strategies do you see for your approach to this week in particular that may not work out every year but you believe, over time, give you the best chance to take advantage of the uncertainty that Week 18 provides? Also, do you have a particular type of contest that you prefer on this unique slate?

    The Answers ::
    JM >>

    First off, I think it’s critical to acknowledge that we can have a better feel than most of our competition for how teams will truly approach this week. It’s high-confidence and obvious that the following teams will be treating this as a do-or-die week: Tampa // Minnesota // Atlanta // New Orleans // Jacksonville // Seattle // Green Bay // Dallas. This is a very sturdy ledge to stand on. All of these teams have either a playoff spot or genuinely critical playoff seeding on the line. Given what we know about these teams and their coaching staffs, it’s also high-confidence to say that Detroit // Tennessee // Arizona // Chicago will attack their games without any personnel changes or curveballs in approach (Detroit because this is the personality of their team; the other three because they either already have or are building a winning team culture and have a chance to end their seasons with a win that knocks a division rival out of playoff contention). This gives us eight teams that have no question marks, and four additional teams whose approaches should be very straightforward. The Panthers, Jets, Patriots, Broncos, Raiders, Giants, and Commanders are in a bucket of teams A) unlikely to change their approach, B) carrying some potential of throwing us some sort of “usage curveball,” but C) carrying implied team totals of 20 or lower (in most cases, much lower), which means that any “usage curveballs” are unlikely to produce true tourney separators. That covers 19 of the 26 teams, leaving us with the Browns and Bengals (shell units on the Browns’ side; whoever is active for the Bengals will be playing and trying to help them finish with a winning record), the Chiefs and Chargers (shell units on both sides — the Chiefs because of playoff rest; the Chargers because of injuries and a season that died a long time ago; both teams implied to score 19.5 or below), the Rams and 49ers (shell units on both sides — both because of playoff rest; the Rams are implied to score only 18.5, but the 49ers carry a lot of question marks that could be cleared up on Saturday, or may not become clear until after the game kicks off, as there is a chance that San Francisco starts some of their superstars and we’ll be left guessing as to how early the backups will come in). The final team remaining is the Eagles, who are the one team that has “scoreboard watching” potential, and could rest players early in spite of technically having a shot at some valuable movement with regards to playoff seeding. This is a guessing game we could play, but since Philly has produced only four price-considered “separator” scores all season (one from Hurts, two from AJB, one from Goedert), I don’t mind playing the stay-away game altogether on tighter builds.

    Secondly, I think it’s critical to acknowledge that we’ve seen the field get stomped by “the backup trap” all season, and it’s critical to acknowledge that we often see chalk in “Week 18” (previously Week 17) around players that everyone supposes will have a big role, but who in fact do not. The reason it’s hard to avoid this chalk is because it’s typically priced low enough that if the field IS correct, that spot could produce a nice enough salary-multiplier that you’re behind by not having had it. But again, as we always talk about: we see high-end starters fail in good spots all the time; so with players like this, the field needs to get two things right before even getting started: they need to get their playing time and usage suppositions correct, and then they need to “be correct” in placing a bet on that (backup) player producing on his usage. Being willing to go underweight the field on a few of these spots typically proves to be really powerful.

    Thirdly, it’s important to realize (to set your intentions in building against this realization) that we are still playing a game of strategy, in which part of the game is figuring out how to maximize points in a way that will move you around the decisions of the masses if your angles prove correct. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this week is any different. It can be easy to get so caught up in the Week 18 narratives and hoopla that you forget we’re still often at our best when leveraging uncertainties, winning games of +EV risk/reward, and attacking the over-certainty of others.

    Xandamere >>

    Week 18 is a week to embrace risk and volatility. There are lots of projections around the industry that are essentially implying they KNOW what’s going to happen, who’s going to be in what role, etc. – an example here is Jordan Mason for the 49ers, who is projected around the industry as the best point-per-dollar running back of the day (and one of the highest raw point totals, as well). But do we KNOW it’ll be Mason? No, we don’t. It probably is – I’m not saying don’t play Mason – I’m just saying that every Week 18 there are things that surprise us when guys who the industry was SO certain would be in major roles…aren’t. Or guys on teams that have “nothing to play for” but they play their starters anyway. Unpredictability is the name of the game this week, and I recommend leaning into the volatility. Think about it like this: “if <insert really popular play> doesn’t actually have a significant role, who does that benefit?” My general rule of Week 18 year in and year out is I want to be underweight almost all the chalk – it’s the single most volatile week of the season, and I’m willing to lean way, way into that. 

    For me this is a great week for multi-entry, or if playing single or limited entry, doing so in very small field contests. Multi-entry gets you exposure to more of those “what if?” scenarios, while if you’re sticking with single or limited entry, playing very small field contests helps you avoid the random blowup games who are really hard to see coming that will likely be needed in big tourneys, and just trust that you can build a sharper roster of strong plays in strong spots than a field of, say, 100 competitors.

    Hilow >>

    While we’re lacking “certainty,” or the high confidence spots where we can build our roster cores around, there are multiple high-upside spots where we can place lopsided bets this weekend. In other words, places the field isn’t necessarily going that bring immense upside. The three primary spots I’ve identified for that level of upside are the Eagles, the Cowboys (not just CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard), and the Lions. All three of those offenses are top offenses but there are concerns surrounding the playing time for their primary skill position players. But what if those teams play their primary players the entire game? The only uncertainty here is the level of playing time, not the skill of the players or the matchup.

    In total, I’ll be looking for as many of these “leveraged bets” as possible this weekend instead of placing my hard-earned benjamins on lesser talent or fill-in players. Since there is so much uncertainty and variance associated with this slate, theoretically we should be embracing as much as possible and entering large field contests, which is what I will be primarily looking to do in Week 18.

    Mike >>

    There are three things about Week 18 that stand out to me in terms of approach and/or strategy::

    • Contest Selection – Week 18 is absolutely the nuts for those who prefer playing GPP tournaments. There are a lot of teams playing, which spreads out ownership for the most part, and we have a unique mix of uncertainty in many spots and overconfidence in others that makes the context of the week ideal for those who play tournaments the right way. You are more likely to have a losing week on the last week of the season, but also have a much clearer path to a huge score.
    • Youth Movement – Identifying young players whose teams may make it a priority to get them involved and/or see how they look in more featured roles.
    • Elevated Usage – The teams that are playing for their playoff lives will often take off any touch restrictions on their primary players which naturally changes the range of outcomes for those players.

    2. Desperate Times

    The Question ::

    Desperate times call for desperate measures.

    As we have discussed throughout the season, projection systems and “Sims” have taken hold across the DFS industry and are a huge part of the process of much of the field. These are certainly useful tools, but can also be misleading at times. These systems work primarily on range of outcomes and expected usage based on team and player trends along with expected game environments. The interesting thing about this for Week 18 is that for some teams, some of the factors that they use in making those usage decisions may be thrown out the window in these “win or go home” spots. 

    Are there any players standing out to you this week who fit the mold of players who may be fully unleashed with all the chips on the table?

    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!


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

    Week 18 Slate
    • Ladies and gentlemen, we made it!! The best Afternoon Only slate of the year every year is the last week of the season. Perhaps I’m biased because the biggest win of my career came on an “Afternoon Only” slate in the final week of the 2020 season (January of 2021). This week, however, allows us to naturally condense our player pool while still giving us plenty of options due to there being an incredible seven games in the late window.
    • Something to consider is using lineups made for the Afternoon Only slate and putting them in the Main slate. Depending on how things break, winning scores could easily be the same and by not using any players from the early slate you increase your chances of being unique.
    • Pricing should allow us to play nearly anyone we want, as there are only five flex (RB/WR/TE) players priced at $7,000 or higher who are slated to see their normal playing time:
      • CeeDee Lamb
      • AJ Brown
      • Davante Adams
      • DK Metcalf
      • DJ Moore
    • The fact that all of those players are wide receivers will result in rosters being somewhat similar across the board. Three ways to approach this:
      • Have to pick the right one from this group. It’s likely that CeeDee Lamb will be the most popular but he’s also almost certainly in the best spot.
      • Load up on value elsewhere and grab multiple players from this group. There are enough spots where you can go uber-cheap that playing two or even three players from that group is very viable.
      • Live a little dangerously and build a more balanced roster across the board. It’s less comfortable, but will be unique and if none of the above players gets over 30 points you would be sitting in a pretty good position. This approach would be far less viable on a normal “Afternoon Only” slate, but having seven games gives us plenty of mid-range options and there are roughly seven RBs in very good spots this week that are priced in the $6,000-$6,9000 range.
    QB Strategy for week 18

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    Late Swap

    StatATL has a math degree and a background as a financial analyst, and has blended an analytical, numbers-driven approach with an “OWS mindset” to rack up over $100,000 in lifetime DFS profit while maintaining low weekly buy-ins

    Late Swap Will Be live in The Scroll Sunday Afternoon

    Battle Royale

    Lex is a matchup researcher who focuses his play on Underdog’s Battle Royale contest

    Welcome to Week 18!

    If you are new to this contest or just want to get a bigger picture of the first two years of the contest, here is my review of the top Battle Royale rosters in 2021 and 2022.

    The goal of this article is to hit on some thoughts regarding the layout of the slate, present some overlooked players I’m interested in for the contest format, and update some trending stats of winning teams. Hopefully it makes you think about scrolling down a bit to look for the players that can help you build unique teams without sacrificing upside.

    Looking at Week 18

    The final week of the season is here! With that comes resting players, questionable motivations, an offseason on the horizon, incentives being chased, and guys wanting to end the season on an emotional high. Any playoff team that has incentive to rest their guys has me completely off the starters; so that means SF, LAR, BAL, KC, and CLE for sure, and teams like PHI and DET come with questions of their own if they start scoreboard watching. In terms of games in which both sides are playoff-motivated, 2 of the 3 are primetime games off the slate, leaving us with just ATL @ NOR. This doesn’t mean this is the only game with players “motivated,” just that it’s the only game in which both collective teams can actually gain from winning. With all that in mind, my starting point is to look at the players from the very motivated/incentivized teams before anybody else; so on this slate that means DAL, GB, SEA, TB, NOR, ATL, and JAC. This definitely does not mean to ignore guys like Justin Jefferson, but it’s just how I prefer to first observe this drafting slate in which cheap Week 18 DraftKings values are not quite serving the same purpose.

    Playoff-incentivized QBs:

    Dak Prescott @ WAS (QB2, 10.0 ADP):

    • Assuming the weather is clear, Dak is in a great spot here against a terrible defense with a chance to secure the 2 seed. Dak has 6 games of 24+ fantasy points this season, including 32 in the first WAS matchup (albeit at home in a dome), and WAS has allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to QBs.

    Jordan Love vs CHI (QB4, 25.9 ADP)

    • While CHI’s defense has certainly improved from the start of the year, some of it is also QB competition faced, as this defense has still allowed strong games to Joe Flacco and Kyler Murray in the last 3 weeks. Love has 8 games of 20+ fantasy points, and just 3 below 16 points all year. GB is in the playoffs with a win, giving Love the chance to do what Rodgers couldn’t last year, secure a playoff spot in the final game of the year. I actually prefer the spot for Fields on the other side of this game, as this game is very interesting in general, but so does the field as he’s taken 15 spots higher in drafts.

    Geno Smith @ ARI (QB6, 34.3 ADP)

    • While another case in which the opposing rushing QB is more appealing to draft, Smith himself gets a dome matchup against this weak Cardinals defense with a chance to keep playoff hopes alive. Given how Pete Carroll has always kept this offense held in check unless the game requires more passing, Smith should likely only be played in builds around this game, especially with how weak the Cardinals run defense has been. If ARI can push SEA to pass, Geno has proved capable of providing a winning score behind 300 yards and multiple TDs. 12 QBs have scored multiple TDs vs ARI this year.

    Trevor Lawrence @ TEN (QB9, 35.2 ADP)

    • Lawrence is still questionable to play with injuries, but a win here secures a home playoff game in round 1 and a loss would likely knock them out of the playoffs entirely. While Lawrence’s best score of the season came against TEN thanks to two rushing TDs, JAC moved the ball successfully on TEN all day that week, and may even get Christian Kirk back for Week 18. While not the best fantasy season from Lawrence, and not the best matchup against TEN, he was coming off a 4 week stretch of 26 points/game before running into the CLE and BAL defenses with injuries to his receivers and himself. He’s going completely undrafted right now but comes with surefire motivation and a high ceiling.

    Most-Assured Volume at RB:

    Travis Etienne (RB4, 17.7 ADP):

    • Not a great matchup, but a much easier matchup than the beginning of the season for TEN’s run defense. Etienne has been one of the highest volume backs all season, and with a chance to lock up the division, he has one of the most guaranteed workloads on the slate. Mostert and Singletary have eaten up this defense on the ground of late, and Etienne has 5 games of 20+ fantasy points this year.

    Aaron Jones vs CHI (RB5, 20.4 ADP):

    • While not the best matchup on the ground, CHI has been weak through the air vs RBs, something Jones has excelled at throughout his career. Jones has seen 20+ touches in back to back games and GB is playing to secure a playoff spot. Jones opened the year up with 127 yards and 2 TDs in less than 3 quarters vs CHI, and is finally healthy again.

    The other RBs who fit this are also all going super high, as the field has identified the workloads here, as Rachaad White @ CAR is going 1st round, James Conner vs SEA going 2nd round, and Breece Hall @ NE going 3rd round. I much prefer the first two to Hall against the NE defense, but anyone with big volume potential on this slate is in play at RB.

    Late-Round Upside WRs:

    Ja’Marr Chase vs CLE (WR11, 25.3 ADP):

    • While eliminated from the playoffs, Chase has missed a lot of time this year along with his QB, so this is a chance to go out strong against a team resting starters. Higgins is out, and Chase isn’t being drafted until the 5th round, which seems worth the risk given his 1st round upside. CLE is far from a good matchup, but Chase is an elite talent and CLE has no incentive to risk their best players’ health here.

    Calvin Ridley @ TEN (WR12, 26.5 ADP):

    • JAC can lock up the division with a win, and Ridley gets a matchup he dominated earlier this year. Christian Kirk potentially returning may take some targets away, but should make life easier on the offense as a whole. Most of Ridley’s best games this year all came with Kirk in the lineup anyway, including the TEN game. TEN isn’t a bad defense, but their weakness is to receivers, and like Chase, Ridley isn’t even drafted until the 5th round behind guys like Puka Nacua who may not even play much.

    Notable Stats

    These are some notable stats from rosters appearing in the top 5 of the contest so far this season.

    1st place performance:

    • 38 of the 53 teams had at least one flex player score 30+ half-PPR fantasy points
    • 23 of the 53 teams had all flex players score at least 20+ half-PPR fantasy points
    • 49 of the 53 teams had all flex players score at least 15+ half-PPR fantasy points

    Stacking and Correlation:

    • 31 of 53 had a QB paired with just one teammate
      • WR (22), TE (5), RB (3)
    • 8 of 53 had a QB stacked with two teammates
      • WR-RB (4), WR-WR (2), WR-TE (2)
    • 5 of those 39 QB stacks had a runback (Opposing player)
    • 52 of 53 had at least one game correlation
    • 15 of 53 had two different game correlations

    FLEX usage:

    • 174 of 265 top-5 rosters have had two RBs, meaning they chose RB at FLEX over WR and TE.
    • 90 of the other top 5 rosters all used WR at FLEX, meaning there’s only been one instance of double-TE to ever finish top-5 (2023 W7: Kelce/Andrews). 

    Hope this helps you get started with the contest and ship that first place! Good luck everyone!