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    By Majesstik

    Whether you’ve just completed your first Best Ball season or you’ve been playing for years, the concept of Playoff Best Ball will be a new challenge for many. It’s a game where we need to have enough players available in every round to advance, but we also have to balance the fact that the prizes don’t come until the SuperBowl, so having as many players in that game (or at least the top-scoring players in that game) will be essential if we’re playing for first place. Let’s walk through some of the basics of how the tourney works, then we’ll get into the strategy element. 

    Tournament Overview

    Each team drafts 10 players per roster broken out into five starters (1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR/TE, 1 FLEX – which is RB/WR/TE, no QBs) and five bench players. The players we draft accumulate points in each round they are still playing.

    The $25 Gauntlet has 4 Rounds, broken into groups of 6 for the Wild Card Games, 16 for the Divisional Playoffs, 15 for the Conference Championships, then 94 person groups for the Super Bowl.

    Advancement for The Gauntlet is the top one team for Round 1, the top three teams for Round 2, back to only the top one team for Round 3, then the remaining teams play for the prizes noted on the chart for the tournament when you look at the entry page.

    The $5 Mitten has 4 Rounds, broken into groups of 6 for the Wild Card Games, 8 for the Divisional Playoffs, 10 for the Conference Championships, then 94 person groups for the Super Bowl.

    Advancement for The Mitten is the top two teams for Round 1, the top one team for Round 2, the top one team for Round 3, then the remaining teams play for the prizes noted on the chart for the tournament when you look at the entry page. 

    As we can see, there are some differences between The Gauntlet and The Mitten. In the first round, The Mitten allows two teams to advance compared to The Gauntlet only advancing one team. But, The Gauntlet advances three teams in the second round where The Mitten only advances one. Round 3 is the same for both, just one team advances from their group.

    The Variables

    Even with the NFL Playoff brackets set, we’re dealing with a new variable in Best Ball in that we don’t know what the exact schedule is after that first week. This will require us to make our predictions on who will win in each round and make bets on those players. For volume players, it would be a good idea to draft for multiple scenarios and bet heavily on just a couple of teams to advance in each draft.

    For players only planning to draft a few rosters, I would say the approach should be similar but the teams we’re betting on here need to carry us the whole way. We need to think about what the field is drafting for. How many of them are going to draft for a Titans versus 49ers Super Bowl? Not many. Those bets will be made by the high-volume players who will likely make up a large percentage of entries. I wish I had data on how many people maxed out the regular season tourneys, but the numbers for The Gauntlet (45.1k field size) would require 300 people max entering to reduce the field size to 300 individuals. My guess is there will be roughly 100-150 individuals max entering this contest leaving around 23-30k entries to be consumed by the rest of the field. Low-volume players need to lay out a plan to beat the MME players that will have a lot of angles covered.

    Besides not knowing the schedule for the entire tournament, we have the variable of drafting against five other players with each entry. How many times do you think we’re going to be able to execute our plan? What will we do if someone else has our blueprint and we have to audible out of it? This can be the frustrating part for high and low-volume players alike, which allows for more unique rosters being piled into the tourney. More on this angle later.

    Another variable will come from rosters that were drafted before the 14 playoff teams were established, and are likely to make up a portion of the MME players’ rosters. These rosters may have players on them that will not be playing in the playoffs, thus reducing the available starters on those rosters to nine or fewer. This will give a slight edge to the drafters that waited until the playoff brackets were set before building their rosters. 

    The weather will be another variable we can consider. I wouldn’t weigh this too heavily but we might want to think about it when making stacks. If we’re betting on one cold or bad weather team, then maybe our secondary stacks need to be from a dome or more warm weather team.

    We’ll also need to consider injured players that are returning and try to determine if they will be healthy enough for their normal workload, while also wondering what COVID will do to rosters. Sharp Football Analysis has provided a team by team breakdown showing a risk map of each team/player that could be subject to going on the COVID list. I would recommend paying at least some attention to that for ADP tiebreakers or stacking plans.

    Brackets

    Before starting any drafts a helpful exercise we may want to complete is to fill out a few playoff brackets with different scenarios. This outline will help us map out which teams might have the toughest paths to get to the Super Bowl, while also illustrating to ourselves the different seeding combinations that could occur. By creating these different brackets, we’ll identify leverage spots that occur when there is an upset, and how the seeding changes the matchups in the following round(s). It will also show which teams may have better matchups in case brackets fall a certain way, which could allow us to target those teams and pair them with stacks from the other conference that could also have the softer matchups. Doing this simple exercise could give us an edge over most of the field. Why? Well, because a large portion of the field is going into drafts saying, “Bills stack no matter what” or generally not having a written plan to execute. We’ll be going into drafts with a blueprint for the scenarios we want to bet on, and that will lead us to which stacks we’re likely to get for that draft, while we let the rest of the room try to force things. 


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    STACKING

    Instead of forcing “no matter what” stacks, my strategy will be to reduce all the brackets I want down to the projected final four teams from those brackets. I’ll keep those “Final Fours” written down on a piece of paper or a spreadsheet and keep it in my sight for each draft I enter. This way, I’ll have the pivot plan in front of me when the draft board doesn’t allow the stack I was hoping to draft. If my first choice of stacks doesn’t work out, I’ll move on to the next preferred final four blueprint. This will allow me to draft with intent, as I’ll have the “audible” right in front of me – no guesswork.

    As far as how I will be stacking, I’m looking at doing 4-3-3 stacks using three of the final four teams, (or 4-3-2-1 if the 4-3-3 doesn’t work out). In theory, if we’re using a 4-3-3 (or 4-3-2-1) blueprint, we should be able to snag players from our top four rosters throughout the draft.

    This may seem like an unnecessary step but I found benefit from it. By writing out a bunch of brackets I was able to get an image stuck in my head of what teams to queue up and which ones to ignore while drafting. I have been trying my best to stick to just four teams with at least one primary stack and drafting from the other three teams that won’t face each other in the second round if the playoffs go the way the brackets/stacks were written.

    Chasing Upside / Playing for First Place

    There will be 14 NFL teams in this year’s playoffs with 12 of those teams playing in the first week. ADP for these players is going to be heavily biased around regular-season totals and we will see certain teams that will be very difficult to stack. A quick look at the current ADP indicates a Patrick Mahomes/Tyreek Hill/Travis Kelce stack is out of the question. However, all three of these guys have such a high ceiling and a high likelihood of playing in the Super Bowl we need to consider locking in that kind of upside right away, then focus on building stacks if we can. If we take one of those players with our first-round pick, it reduces the chance that someone else can draft the other two onto the same roster. 

    When it comes to stacking, we might want to take a DFS approach to it. If we see through ADP the way most people are stacking (or trying to stack), we may want to consider doing something different. For example, Stefon Diggs has an ADP that charts him in the 5th pick slot and Josh Allen slots into the 8th slot. If we are drafting the Diggs/Allen combo, then we need to figure out how we’re going to gain leverage against the thousands of other Allen/Diggs rosters that will be looking at the same available players as well for the rest of the draft. We can make choices like leaving Diggs out of the stack and start building our secondary stack with that first or second round pick and try to snag Gabe Davis, Cole Beasley, and/or Dawson Knox later. Or, we can go off the board a bit and start taking players that fit one of our blueprints a round early and leave the ADP tempting picks for the rest of the room, and force them into those decisions while we execute our written plan.

    Another thing to consider if you end up drafting multiple players from one of the #7 seeds (Eagles or Steelers) is to not draft players from the #1 seed in that conference (Packers or Titans) since they will play each other in round two. 

    Here is a look at ADP, as of January 11th, with some slight modifications based on what I’m seeing in drafts (ie. Derek Carr and Darren Waller are not going undrafted so I added them to Round 10, and Joe Burrow goes anywhere from Round 2 through Round 5). Use this to plan out stacks and to have a road map if you have to pivot to another stack.

    The Teams/Players

    The last thing we should do is write out our team opinions so we have something to refer back to once our draft starts and we need to pivot, or better yet, we get to stick to our plan. This will help us fill out our multiple scenario brackets and assist in providing our blueprint for the final four of each bracket. We’ll be able to have conviction in who we think goes to the Super Bowl from those alternative brackets or identify leverage spots along the way.

    Here are my general notes and I would suggest reading the Edge Matchups for each game as well. Then, list out the players for each team somewhere you’ll have handy for each draft, possibly in the same spot you have all your final four scenarios written down.

    AFC

    #1 Tennessee Titans 

    [Rd1 Bye]

    Low event team. They don’t score much and don’t allow much scoring against (sixth-fewest points against at 20.8, which goes down to 16.8 per game in Tennessee). The offense is driven by Derrick Henry, who could be a full go for the playoffs (status is uncertain right now). A.J. Brown is the other elite player from this team. The Titans offense is likely to be under-drafted due to the low scoring potential, but if they make the Super Bowl, people will be underweight making them a leverage stack. Their defense takes away the run and TEs, instead forcing teams to the air through Outside and Slot WRs.

    #2 Kansas City Chiefs

    [Rd1 Home vs PIT: 12.5 favorites with 29.5 team total (largest favorite and team total)]

    The obvious top three players are Mahomes, Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. Ancillary pieces are Byron Pringle and Mecole Hardman. They have an ambiguous backfield that is injured, providing a place to capitalize on uncertainty if we can pick the right RB (Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, or Jerick McKinnon). The defense typically takes away outside WRs and funnels targets into the middle of the field for RBs, TEs, and Slot WRs. 

    #7 Pittsburgh Steelers

    [Rd1 at KC: 12.5 dogs with 17 team total (largest dog and lowest team total)]

    Ben Roethlisberger will throw at high volume but for low YPA, and typically just for one or two TDs. Ben’s favorite target between the 20s is Diontae Johnson, and his favorite green zone targets are Dionte and Pat Freiermuth. Najee Harris plays most of the snaps at RB and sees 5.5 targets per game. The defense struggles at stopping the run, is strong vs TEs and RBs as receivers but weaker against Outside WRs.

    #3 Buffalo Bills

    [Rd1 Home vs NE: 4.5 favorites with 24.0 team total]

    The Bills have a prolific passing attack led by Allen, Diggs, and (recently) Davis. Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie seemed to be sharing Slot WR reps toward the end of the season but Beasley could reclaim the primary slot role for the playoffs. Manny Sanders seems like the odd man out but he could eat away at some of Davis’ snaps if healthy. Knox averages 4.7 targets per game with a 12.6% TD rate. If green zone targets aren’t going to Diggs, Knox has the second-highest total, while Davis has a green zone role as well. Singletary has come on toward the end of the season as a bell cow RB with Josh Allen still running as well. The Bills defense allowed the fewest points per game this year at 17.0 and just 16.6 at home. They have been great at shutting down TEs and WRs but can get gashed by committed rushing attacks.

    #6 New England Patriots

    [Rd1 at BUF: 4.5 dogs with 19.5 team total]

    Run-heavy team centered around Damien Harris and the RBs, with Hunter Henry as a viable play at TE. Ancillary pieces are the WRs (Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor). The Patriots defense allowed the second-fewest points per game at 17.8 (just after Buffalo) and the fewest points while on the road (16.0). Their defense is designed to take away the pass, allow rushing yards between the 20s, then prevent TDs in the red zone. NE only allowed 9 rushing TDs for the year and no multiple rushing TD games. They are the toughest defense versus TEs. The best plays against them are athletic, pass-catching RBs.

    #4 Cincinnati Bengals

    [Rd1 Home vs LV: 6.5 favorites with 28.0 team total]

    Led by Burrow’s passing, the Bengals won the games they needed (against playoff-caliber opponents) to get into the playoffs. Burrow is among the highest ceiling QBs available if you’re projecting them to win the AFC. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are top stack-mates, with Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd not far behind. CJ Uzomah fits into the stack if you are not able to get top stack players or looking to differentiate among multiple CIN stacks. Their defense has been fairly balanced but sprung a leak versus the pass in the second half of the season. Best to target this defense with pass-catching RBs, Slot WRs, and TEs.

    #5 Las Vegas Raiders

    [Rd1 at CIN: 6.5 dogs with 21.5 team total]

    Coming off of a four-game win streak to get into the playoffs based on a “win (or tie) to get in” final game. They lost to the Bengals 32-13 at home during Week 11 with Foster Moreau catching their only TD. The offense is based around Josh Jacobs running, Hunter Renfrow as the possession guy, and Zay Jones becoming more involved in the second half of the season. TE Darren Waller has been an injury-riddled enigma but capable of ceiling games (including an 8/7/116/0 line vs this same Cincy team). The Raiders have been a deep-passing team, even without Henry Ruggs. There is potential for leverage with them as most will have Bengals stacks in the tourneys. Their defense has three good CBs making them harder to move the ball against with WRs. They have allowed their most fantasy points to RBs and TEs.

    NFC

    #1 Green Bay Packers

    [Rd1 Bye]

    An efficient and condensed offense with two of the best players at their positions: Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Their ambiguous backfield is split between Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Jones has the greater pass-catching role and scored 10 total TDs to Dillon’s seven while playing two fewer games. Allen Lazard entered Rodger’s circle of trust this year and appears to be the best bet for #2 WR duties. Randall Cobb looks likely to return for their first playoff game as the Slot WR leaving Marquez Valdes-Scantling left to pick up scraps. The TE position is rarely utilized since they lost Robert Tonyan due to injury in Week 8.  

    The Packers defense has been balanced at stopping most things but allowing a little bit of everything. Jaire Alexander coming back will give Outside WRs a tougher time. Run-heavy teams have had some success against them and TEs might be the best receiving threat to use against them.

    #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    [Rd1 Home vs PHI: 8.5 favorites with 28.75 team total]

    The Bucs come into the playoffs dealing with several key injuries on both sides of the ball. On offense, we can expect Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to be a top connection with Mike Evans the only outside receiving option in Brady’s circle of trust. Cyril Grayson looked to be on the cusp of getting into that circle but has been derailed by a hamstring and might miss the first-round game versus Philadelphia. That leaves Tyler Johnson (who Brady does not seem to have any rapport with), Breshad Perriman (who has deep threat ability), Scotty Miller, and Jaelon Darden (six catches on 12 targets this year) to pick up the scraps. Or, they could play more double-TE sets and get Cam Brate more involved. Playoff Lenny (Leonard Fournette) should be back at some point, possibly the first playoff game which would be a huge boost to the offense, both rushing and receiving. Brady was very comfortable throwing passes Fournette’s way. My player preference for TB: Brady, Fournette, Gronk, Evans, Grayson, and Brate.

    The Buccaneers defense may not have three-time All-Pro Lavonte David back until the second round of the playoffs and we’re also waiting to see if Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett will play. Those three being out could be a problem against a mobile QB (Hurts) and run-heavy Eagles offense. The Bucs have been very stingy against the run this year but will allow RBs to pick up fantasy points via receiving, and they have been heavily targeted by Outside WRs (some of which occurred during the stretch they were missing starting CBs). Tight ends have been a spot of weakness for the Bucs for years but that has been tightened up over the second half of this season and is more neutral than smash.

    #7 Philadelphia Eagles

    [Rd1 at TB: 8.5 dogs with 20.25 team total]

    The Eagles are a highly condensed offense with their strength going against the Bucs strength on defense – rushing. Hurts is the top pick from this squad with DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert as the top viable stacking partners. Miles Sanders is interesting but will have a tough first-round matchup against the Bucs, who had the fewest RB rushing points allowed. The Eagles have three very good corners and have been the toughest defense for WRs (Outside and Slot) to score fantasy points against. Their defense has been much softer in allowing targets and points to RBs and TEs.

    #3 Dallas Cowboys

    [Rd1 Home vs SF: 3 point favorites (smallest favorite) with a 26.25 team total]

    The Cowboys were the #1 scoring offense during the regular season with their top finishing players by position in half-PPR being Dalton Schultz (TE4), Ezekiel Elliott (RB7), and Dak Prescott (QB11). The WRs had good seasons but with the way the ball gets distributed, it’s hard to predict which one will have the highest score on a given week, making all of them viable when stacking. Elliott is viable as a one-off RB if not stacking their passing game. The Cowboys defense has been stout against the run and against Slot WRs this year. Despite Trevon Diggs’s ball skills, Outside WRs have posted the best fantasy scores of the position groups we’re drafting. QB and TE matchups have been neutral. 

    #6 San Francisco 49ers

    [Rd1 at DAL: 3 point dogs (smallest dogs) with a 23.25 team total]

    Bully-ball offense based on running the ball and short passes (usually to the middle of the field) that get the receiver into run-after-catch situations. Their top players are Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell, and George Kittle. Ancillary pieces are Brandon Aiyuk and Jimmy Garoppolo, with Jauan Jennings or Kyle Juszczyk as last-round flyers, if betting on SF as a final four team. Their defense is among the best at shutting down TEs (except for Tyler Higbee) and stopping the run. Their pass-rush forces opponents into quick passes toward the middle of the field (often to Slot WRs).

    #4 Los Angeles Rams

    [Rd1 Home vs ARI: 4 point favorites with 27.0 team total]

    The Rams offense has sputtered down the stretch and will face off against a pass-funnel defense to begin the playoffs. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp offer a similar floor/ceiling combo as Rodgers/Adams. Odell Beckham has a decent enough role to add him as the third option in a passing stack or we can choose Tyler Higbee. Van Jefferson comes after those guys in the pecking order for targets. Cam Akers’ return is dubious for Sony Michel and the running back workload as a whole. They probably want to start Akers and have him take 60% of the work but a lot of that will depend on how healthy he is.

    The Rams defense is mostly neutral across the positions we’re drafting with slight dings to QB and RB rushing. Teams with quick passing games tend to have more success as they negate the pass rush and try to get Yards After the Catch (ARI ranks #8 in YAC). 

    #5 Arizona Cardinals

    [Rd1 at LARI: 4 point dogs with 23.0 team total]

    Overall, the Cardinals are a balanced offense that tilts a bit run-heavy due to Kyler Murray having the fourth most QB rush attempts (88) despite missing three games. James Conner tied Damien Harris with 15 rushing TDs, good for second-most. Chase Edmonds is used more as a pass-catcher than Conner, but Conner can handle those duties, too. The passing game without Hopkins (who is out for this game, at least) has been mostly Zach Ertz and Christian Kirk with small contributions from Antoine Wesley (mostly in the red zone) and A.J. Green. Their games against the Rams this year both went over 53 points, with each team winning once (Hopkins played in both games). James Conner ran in two TDs in both games.

    The Cardinals run defense allowed just 10 rushing TDs with only two multiple rushing TD games allowed. They allowed the 13th-most rushing yards. Their pass defense has taken away most opposing TEs and funneled targets and fantasy points to the Outside WRs.

    The Conclusion

    If we prepare for our drafts by doing the things we covered here, then we should gain an edge on our draft rooms by being (likely) the only one in the room with a written plan and being the only one that has the audibles already called because we’ll have a blueprint for every scenario sitting right in front of us. Good luck fam!


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    Underdog Best Ball Playoff Strategy

    Hello OWS family! I wasn’t planning on writing this article, but after completing around 75 UD best ball playoff drafts (my first year participating), and planning on doing another 25, I’ve developed a few strategies. I thought sharing my favorite would be a great way to say thank you to everyone for a great experience writing for you this season! Majesstik did a great piece on the overall UD Best Ball playoff strategy (I highly recommend reading), so I’m only going to cover one specific draft plan that I’ve been calling in my head “Shooting the Moon”. 

    What is Shooting the Moon? Hearts players know the phrase. Shooting the Moon is when instead of trying to avoid taking points (points are bad in Hearts), you try and take all the points! Why would you do that? Because in taking the maximum risk, if you’re successful, you get the biggest reward, automatically winning the round. So how can we “Shoot the Moon” in UD Best Ball? 

    UD playoff best ball is filled with uncertainty. Beyond the first round, we don’t know which teams will be left, or which teams will be playing. When we have that much randomness, a good place to start is by asking ourselves, what do we know? There is only one thing we can say with absolute certainty, If the Packers and Titans meet in the Superbowl, the maximum number of players any team will be able to have in the final round is five. That is certain because drafting more than five Titans/Packers would mean that your roster isn’t full for the first round. Many years (imagine if KC was the one seed) stacking the two tops seeds wouldn’t even be possible, but this year drafting combinations of Tannehill/Henry/Brown/Jones and Rodgers/Jones/Adams/Lazard/MVS is very attainable. Drafting five of these players guarantees that if your lineup makes it to the Superbowl, and the two number one seeds meet, you’ll have as good a shot as anyone to win the top prize. Sounds great! The rub? We must escape the first round with only five players and will be facing teams with ten. How do we accomplish that seemingly impossible task? Below is an example of a roster where I’m trying to “Shoot the Moon”. 

    Graphical user interface, text, application

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    Graphical user interface, text, application

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    You can utilize this strategy from every draft spot, all leading to different Titans/Packers stacks, my favorite way to try and “Shoot the Moon” is from the first pick. Many people attempting a Packers stack would assume that you must select Adams, and while you certainly can, I prefer the above because of the juice it gives you in the Wildcard round. If the two top seeds meet in the Superbowl, my stack would be Tannehill/Henry/Julio/Jones/Lazard. Remember to make sure you’re picking five players that can all fit on the same lineup. Can this team get there? Let’s look at the five brave souls that need to carry me through the first round.  I’ll be playing Stafford/Mitchell/Kupp/Kittle/DJ. A quick glance at DFS salaries for the week says that team could win! That’s why I prefer this approach (I’ve used others, but this is my favorite) to “Shooting the Moon”. The ability to field a Kupp/Stafford stack gives you a lot of hope in the Wildcard round. Other players that I’ve found fit well on “Shoot the Moon” teams are Najee Harris, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Dallas Goedert, Devonte Smith, Hunter Renfrow, and Jalen Hurts. 

    Thank you all for a great season! Let’s finish it off with an OWS member taking down the Best Ball championship.  I’ll see you all at the top!  

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    Mini-Oracle :: Sat

    Welcome to 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.

    Saturday Wild Card Topics

    1. Last game of the year….can’t hold anything back?

    2. Getting weird

    3. Lock it up

    Bonus:: Preferred Slate


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    1. Last game of the year….can’t hold anything back?

    The Question ::

    Football is a grueling, physical, demanding sport. Every game takes a huge physical and mental toll and we just finished the longest regular season in NFL history. Due to these dynamics, coaches often play the “long game” in their decision making and game planning by rotating players, limiting touches/usage, and trying to stay within certain bounds of what they ask of their players. A lot of teams also take the approach of trying to keep things at least somewhat balanced for the purpose of not being too predictable for future opponents to game plan for. 

    We are now in the playoffs where every team is fighting for their lives. At this point in the season, teams can lay it all on the line knowing they are one bad week away from everyone being off for the next seven months. We don’t have to look far for an example of this mindset coming to fruition, as last week we saw the Chargers play the Raiders in a “must win” game that had two of these situations:

    1. The Raiders gave Josh Jacobs 28 touches, his highest touch count of the season.
    2. The Chargers, who were already a pass-heavy team, had Justin Herbert throw the ball 64 times!!! That was 17 more attempts than he had in any game all season, with his 47 attempts in Week 1 being a distant second place.

    With all of that in mind, are there any spots you are seeing on this slate where you think the coach/team takes a “last game of the year, can’t hold anything back” mindset and leans more heavily on a specific player than they have throughout the regular season? Likewise, is there a team on this slate that you think will tilt more heavily towards the run or pass than they did this year, with the need to “stay balanced” being drastically outweighed by the need for survival?

    The Answers ::
    Xandamere >>

    I expect the Bengals to lean very heavily on Joe Mixon here and wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get to 25+ touches. The Bengals pass game has been ridiculous lately, and so I expect ownership will congregate around them on the Saturday slate (especially because it’s hard to find good Bills/Patriots receiving options, which will cause ownership to flow to Cincinnati). But, the matchup here really tilts toward the run, as the Raiders have been effective against perimeter wideouts but vulnerable to the middle of the field and the run. 

    The Patriots seem likely to try to repeat their “only throw the ball 3 times, just run run run” strategy that led them to a victory over the Bills earlier in the season. The question is if the Bills offense will let that happen, or if they can jump out to a lead and force New England to get more aggressive.

    Hilow >>

    While there are some very clear “top answers” to this questions (the Bucs possibly leaning into the run game with an injury-riddled pass-catching corps, the Patriots leaning into the run game because, well, they’ve done as much against this same opponent, the Bengals leaning into the run game based on matchup), I want to focus on a couple that could be going under the radar.

    The first of which is the Kansas City run game against Pittsburgh, where CEH has been ruled out, the Steelers have been one of the most giving run defenses in the league over the second half of the season, and Tyreek Hill and Travi Kelce have battled through injuries over the previous three weeks. Darrel Williams could challenge Joe Mixon and Leonard Fournette for the most touches on the weekend at lower-than-should-be ownership.

    The second is the Philadelphia pass game. The field is privy to the fact that the Eagles are the league’s most run-heavy team this season, but we have no idea how they will handle a game against a top run defense, one that they should also trail throughout. The last game in which Jalen Hurts started and the Eagles played a team with a top run defense was back in Week 11 with a trip to New Orleans, which was also the last game Hurts had more than just eight rush attempts. He attempted 24 passes that game, but what if the Eagles are forced to the air more if Hurts gets bottled up on the ground with the elite linebacking corps of the Bucs. Just a thought.

    The final spot is the San Francisco pass game. Not much else needs to be said about my love for that spot this week.

    AAAAAANNNNNNNDDDDD I just realized this is Saturday-only, cool cool cool. I’ll leave these up here because I’m stubborn, and tackle the question through the lens of Saturday now.

    –BREAK–

    Again, I’ll look to flip the narrative on its head. What if the Patriots lean into the pass game through Hunter Henry, Jakobi Meyers, and company, or what if the Raiders are able to once again lean on their run game and the Bengals attack through the air to keep Burrow cooking heading into the Divisional Round? The point here is that we can’t sit here and pretend we know how teams are going to attack these spots with any level of certainty. Leverage is paramount this weekend, and I’ll be looking to “challenge the narratives.”

    Larejo >>

    My strongest lean here is on Buffalo to “stay balanced”. Yes, they threw for over 300 yards in this same Week 16 matchup with New England in a game they won handily. But they’ve also rushed for more than 100 yards in their last five games. Many of the quotes from the coaching staff over the past month has been around the importance of establishing a running game and remaining balanced on offense. This makes sense, especially considering one of the reasons why the Buffalo Bills lost in last year’s AFC Championship game to Kansas City was due to an ineffective running game. I won’t think for a second that McDermott and Daboll didn’t reflect on that game and realize they don’t want their offense to be “all Josh Allen” in the playoffs this season. Game script could dictate that approach, but I’d rather trust the Bills to continue following the approach the Bills have laid out the last four weeks of running the ball with Singletary and working Allen in short-yardage situations, as this seems like an unpopular opinion.

    MJohnson >>

    I would not be shocked if the Patriots take another extreme approach with their running game, as they did in Week 13 against the Bills. They have the personnel and scheme to do this and it has worked before. With multiple running backs who have shown the ability to grind out yards against defenses while also having big play potential, the Patriots could easily run the ball at a 60% or higher rate if they are able to take a lead or keep the game within one score throughout.

    The Bengals have raised their pass rate so much down the stretch and had such great success in doing so when they needed it most that it would not surprise me to see them really cut Joe Burrow loose here. He is clearly full strength after being eased in to start this year in his return from his torn ACL and this team has built its weapons around him, an extremely aggressive approach would not be surprising at all to me

    Majesstik >>

    NOTE: I clearly missed the “Saturday” part in the header and had my answers typed out including the full slate. I will leave those for anyone playing the full 6 games (Sat-Mon.)

    With the injuries Tampa has at WR and then looking at the weaknesses of the Eagles defense it would make sense for them to lean heavily into Playoff Lenny and Brady’s most reliable receiver left – Gronk. The Eagles corners will be able to handle Evans and the outside WRs more easily than stopping Fourenette and Gronk.

    With the game expected to be cold in Buffalo, I can see both of those teams leaning into the run. We already expect it from the Patriots but Buffalo seems to have been trying to get Singletary ready for a heavy workload this post season by adding to his touches coming down the stretch. Singletary and Allen running the ball will play a big factor in whether or not they advance.

    Pittsburgh has been the most vulnerable on the ground of all the playoff teams, so Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, and Jerick McKinnon should all see plenty of touches there. Edward-Helaire hasn’t practiced yet this week, but he would obviously be involved if he’s able to go.

    Adding this for the Saturday only slate: My expectation in the Raiders/Bengals game is we see Cincy try to win by throwing but may not have the easiest time against the Raiders secondary. Ultimately, they will have to use Mixon a bit more in the run and passing game and then maybe the outside pieces will find success. For Vegas, I see them trying to win through the short passing game with Renfrow, Waller, and Jacobs all playing key roles.


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    2. Getting weird

    The Question ::

    This is a two-game slate that presents far fewer options than the main slates that most of us are used to playing after a long 18 week season. These small slates obviously prevent far fewer options of ways to attack and angles to see, which makes finding ways to “be unique” much more difficult without “being dumb”. With that in mind, what are some ways that you are seeing on this slate to differentiate your lineups from the herd? 

    Going a step further, do you do anything different with your contest selection on these smaller slates to account for how much more difficult it is to be unique?


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    Mini-Oracle :: Sun

    Welcome to 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.

    Sunday Wild Card Topics

    1. Blowout concerns?

    2. Late Swap/Short Slate Plays

    3. Build Arounds and Strategy


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    1. Blowout concerns?

    The Question ::

    Both games on Saturday’s slate have competitive spreads and expectations and in that version of the Oracle we discussed teams that may have a “last game of the year, don’t hold anything back” attitude in regards to player usage and play calling in these “must win” spots. Sunday’s slate has some different dynamics with three games, two of which are games with very large point spreads. The Bucs are nine-point home favorites over the Eagles and the Chiefs are 12.5-point home favorites over the Steelers. 

    On the flip side of the Saturday question, are you worried about either or both of the Tampa Bay and Kansas City games getting completely out of hand in blowouts? If so, are there any players who you will be approaching with caution for fear that they will be managed and preserved if the games play out like that?

    The Answers ::
    Xandamere >>

    There are only a couple of spots where I have modest concern about rest in a noncompetitive game. The first of these is the Bucs: if Leonard Fournette plays, it’s possible that the Bucs view him as somewhat delicate (after all, he’s shaping up to be a game-time decision), and so I could see them taking it easy on him if the Eagles don’t put up a fight. 

    The second spot is Tyreek Hill, who has not played a lot in 2 of the past 3 Chiefs games as he recovered from Covid and then experienced a pregame heel injury. If the Chiefs look to be winning this one easily, I could definitely see them looking to the future and taking it a bit easy on Reek. Worth noting here that if Reek doesn’t play much, that opens a lot of extra opportunity for Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle, both of whom should in at extremely low ownership in tournaments.

    Hilow >>

    I’m honestly not overly concerned with blowouts during the Wildcard Round because the general rule is that people are historically bad at predicting playoff outcomes. While it is hard to expect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to keep these games close, let alone win, we have to let go of the idea of control and embrace a bit of variance in the playoffs. Long answer short, I’m simply looking to expected and potential game environments and building from there. That said, there are a couple players that fall into this category that the field seems to be overlooking (and are good leverage/theory plays to begin with), namely Byron Pringle and Leonard Fournette (now Ke’Shawn Vaughn).

    Larejo >>

    This question must have been asked with Tyreek Hill in mind 🙂 He’s the obvious answer here in the largest spread of the day. I am absolutely playing a Mahomes-Hill-Kelce stack in one of my three lineups in tournaments on Sunday, but overall will only have him on that one lineup. Based on what we have seen the last few weeks and if the Chiefs get up big, it’s simple to throw in Hardman and Pringle if you’re Andy Reid and keep Tyreek healthy enough for the following week. We could expand this question as well to Darrel Williams and Leonard Fournette, but with CEH out, Williams should be the primary RB for the Chiefs if he suits up. He’ll be spelled by McKinnon (20-30% of snaps?) and if game is out of hand they probably turn to Derrick Gore. But at his price, Williams should stay in there long enough to reach value in any game script. Fournette, if he plays, should be playing as much as he can handle and we know how high his floor is this week with projected receptions out of the backfield. Bruce Arians doesn’t typically lie to the media, and I guess he could have this time by saying Fournette will play as much as he can handle, but with RoJo out, his hands are really tied.

    Sonic >>

    Tyreek is a definite concern and Fournette could easily be monitored even if the game doesn’t get out of hand. The offense seemed to function just fine whilst featuring Evans and Gronk with Lev Bell and Vaughn essentially in a “just do your job” mode. This creates quite the decision point though, huh? If given the workload we’re used to seeing from Brady’s most trusted member of the backfield, “Playoff Lenny” is the strongest play on this little slate. 
    Update: Oh boy, Lenny is out.

    Majesstik >>

    Players returning from injury or were limited during the week would be a concern for an early exit in the TB and KC games. Guys like Leonard Fournette, Darrel Williams, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce will require some faith the game will force them to play long enough to produce a solid return on their salaries. The Bucs are down Godwin and Grayson, so the healthy receivers remaining could play a lot of that game, including Mike Evans. That game is interesting because of the 3 point drop in Vegas total, seemingly due to the weather. With Fournette coming off injury and Ronald Jones out, it could be a committee backfield between Lenny, Vaughn, and Le’Veon. **UPDATE: Fournette was not activated and will not play. I now have interest in Gio, but it’s not at the level I had for Fournette.

    The 49ers/Cowboys game has the highest total points for the week and the narrowest spread so I would think most people playing SE/3-Max will focus on that game and take calculated shots using pieces from the other game, making getting those guesses right the key to those contests.

    Adding this after initial response…Now that I’ve built out some rosters and shifted my mind back from Best Ball to DFS, I’m thinking the contrarian approach would be to go slightly heavy on the first game but save salary to move around on a big piece from the last game (Hill/Kelce/Diontae/Najee). With Fournette ruled out, we can go down to Gio at minimum price and assume he gets at least 3 targets and some carries. He has three receiving TDs for the year, one came in a 10 target game versus the Rams. The Bucs are short handed on receivers Brady likes to throw to and his red-zone receiving role makes him quite interesting. I’m looking at stacking Hurts with Gronk and Gio, but now considering adding Evans (in a tough matchup) to the stack. Or go cheaper and use Brate instead of Gio, which will require a 2-TE stack from the same team. Not sure how I feel about that for the full 6 game slate, but maybe in Showdown and the Sunday only slate.


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    2. Late Swap/Short Slate Plays

    The Question ::

    Saturday’s slate is a two-game slate and Sunday’s is a three-game slate. While this sounds like it is “only one more game”, the reality is that it presents a 50% increase in the player pool and far more ways the slate could play out, which will also affect how lineup construction should be addressed. This is a two-part question:

    1. How do you approach slates like this in regards to lineup construction and late swap? Along those lines, do you have a preference to hold more spots for later games so you have more information?
    2. Is there any player or angle you are seeing on this slate that you would not use on a main slate but are willing to take a shot on when playing a smaller slate like this? Does your likelihood of chasing a play like that change (increase or decrease) depending on when their game is (early, middle, or late) on the slate?

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    Willing To Lose :: Sat

    The NFL Playoffs are here, welcome to Wild Card Weekend! Congrats to you for making it through (and hopefully profiting from) a long 18-week season. With time of the essence and the three-day playoff slate on tap for us, we’ll have two installments of WTL to give you some angles we can play to be different from the field.

    One viable strategy we can deploy in a two-game slate on Saturday is to treat each of these games as if they were showdown/one-game slates. I believe Hilow first mentioned this earlier this season, but it does ring true. On a two or three-game slate, it’s easy to resort to a traditional build, going after the floor and upside to find the guys who we feel comfortable with and who tell specific stories together on our rosters. There’s merit to this approach. However, what are we looking for in showdown slates? We’re looking for touchdowns. We want guys who will be on the field at least a little bit, and who have a possible shot at a touchdown. I want us to think in terms of touchdowns, and touchdowns only this weekend. Let’s go hunting…


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    Devin Singletary + Jakobi Meyers + Patriots Defense

    I can feel you cringing. A starting running back against an opposing defense?! You’re cringing because you’re used to a norm. You want correlation, you want comfort. I’m sorry friends, this space is for the opposite. We want to be where the field isn’t, for the right reasons, to zoom past the rosters of the herd when our low percentage outcomes hit.

    There’s an argument to be made that the Bills come out extremely pass-heavy in this game. They could not run the ball well in either matchup with New England this season (Singletary only averaged 37.5 rushing yards), and they let Allen carry them to a dominant win in the Week 16 matchup. If we look back to the playoffs a season ago, when Buffalo reached the AFC Championship Game, they deployed the same strategy. However, they did not reach the mountaintop last season (Super Bowl) which is important to note because it seems unlikely they would then choose to become the same team (a team with essentially a non-existent rushing game) in the playoffs this season. We can add in the fact they are currently riding a four-game winning streak, and they’ve had great balance to the offense during that stretch with Singletary averaging 21.5 touches. With the expected absence of DT Christian Barmore, there is no reason to stop riding the Singletary bus in this game.

    If you want some correlation with Singletary, we can predict Buffalo getting out to a lead and the Patriots having to ditch their preferred run-first approach. If this happens, and it takes New England completely out of their comfort zone, Jakobi Meyers, with his nine-target average over his past four games, comes in at a nice price with a floor and upside. In a poor weather game against a defense whose philosophy is to keep everything in front of them, Meyers is the Patriots pass-catcher in the best matchup.

    And finally, the New England defense. This is simply a play of finding a good defense (4th DVOA) in a matchup where the QB (Allen) can be turnover prone and should have higher ownership than this defense, at relatively low ownership. Playing the Patriots defense, should they get any defensive touchdowns, gives you the combination punches we look for, pulling your rosters up the standings while pushing Josh Allen and Buffalo defensive rosters down. I realize we can also say the same thing here about any Buffalo player, including Singletary, who does not correlate with the Pats D, but on a two-game slate playing a unique (Singletary + Pats) lineup is a strategy I am very interested in.

    Joe Burrow + Tyler Boyd

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    Willing To Lose :: Sun

    When we add one more game in a slate, from two to three, it’s fascinating how much it can change strategy. Leaving salary on the board in a two-game slate makes a lot of sense, but in a three-gamer, I don’t see that as viable. As the OWS team notes here, a 50% increase in the player pool, especially with these offenses and the talent at WR, we’re going to need those dollars. 

    Quick strategy notes for this three-gamer: one easy way to be contrarian is a three running back build. With pass-heavy and running back by committee teams on the slate, this build is actually hard to pull off. I won’t be going here with my three lineups but a build of Leonard Fournette, Darrel Williams, and Najee Harris, for instance, will be very unique. The second piece I will mention here is how loaded the middle game of SF and DAL is compared to the other two games. We’ll see a majority of the field coming in here, and for good reason with the tighter spread, but an over-stack on either Eagles/Bucs or Steelers/Chiefs is another contrarian kick-start. 

    But, where can we be a bit smarter about building our rare teams?


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    Stacking Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski with Tom Brady

    Start your lineups on Sunday with the clear top-two targets for the fourth or fifth-highest overall owned QB, on a pass-heavy team. And the icing on the cake here is the immediate leverage we get with exposure to Bucs touchdowns without rostering Leonard Fournette. This stack is more viable if the weather report looks good, and it’s equally viable if/when Fournette is actually ruled in and playing. If Playoff Lenny is ruled out, expect ownership on Brady to increase with the Bucs more expected to go extreme pass-heavy, but more importantly, we lose most of the leverage here on herd rosters (looks like ½ of rosters expected to play Lenny) with this Bucs stack. When it gets to the playoffs, at times, we can get caught up in the narrative of the moment, which right now is ‘the Bucs don’t look right.’ But in any other game this season, if the Bucs were down both Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, think of how high the ownership would be on Evans and Gronk. I know there’s the fact the Eagles have allowed the second-fewest points to WRs this season, and Evans has a Darius Slay matchup on tap Sunday, but he’s still a beast in the red zone and should be used in a high priority role. Gronk has his chemistry with Tom, reliance in the red zone, and an ability to burn Eagles linebackers, which are one of the clear weaknesses in their defense for years. Again, check the weather and Fournette’s status but this is an easy one.

    Jalen Hurts (that’s it, that’s the header)

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    Process|Review

    In this weekly video, Xandamere reviews his roster-builds & process.


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    Week 18 Review