Larejo is a mid-stakes tournament mastermind who specializes in outmaneuvering 150-max players with a small number of entries
“You can’t control variance, you can only hope to contain it.” – Dan Patrick, probably
The NFL season has seemed unusual in recent weeks. We had the Titans nearly shutting out the Chiefs, the Bengals losing to the Jets, then the Bills inexplicably losing to the Jaguars last week. We’ve had backup QBs, RBs, and receivers whom we don’t even know their first name scoring touchdowns recently, while million-dollar takedowns in DFS have come from rosters with little correlation, barely telling any kind of story, with otherwise low odds of building for first place. And yet, all those things have happened. Short-term me feels like these last few weeks have been outrageous, but long-term me sees this all as normal. And it is.
But how can we predict the next James Conner 40-point game? Two touchdowns from an artist known as Malik Turner? A 400-yard game from a backup QB on the Jets? The short answer? We can’t. So we have an option in front of us to either A) stop trying (change contest selection, buy-in levels, maybe play exclusively cash games), or B) lean into these low percentage outcomes. I can’t justify spending time researching and writing DFS content to lead you toward playing the Cowboys WR4 who could catch two touchdowns in garbage time, nor a goal-line running back in a timeshare who could go off if his fellow running back sprains his ankle on his first touch of the game. But, just as I described those two scenarios in a sentence in hindsight, you and I can write stories such as these before the games kick-off. Sure, it won’t happen 95 out of 100 times. But if it does, those other five, you’re in business.
So while we need to be willing to lose, we have to seek the balance of how to do that while also not immediately burning our money. That’s where I hope I can come in and help, and where our OWS content and analysis can drive us toward. Remember, no scenario is technically too thin, but in order to land on some of these irrational plays, you have to keep an open mind. It’s great if I can mention a bunch of underlying statistics to tell you why Conner is going to crush his next matchup, but if I can do that, others can too. So while we’re hunting for upside at low ownership, always keep in mind that all we may need is one reason why a play nobody is on can actually win you a tournament. That reason could be as simple as “we haven’t seen it lately,” “the game flow could tilt his way,” “he’s on the field a lot,” “his touches are high value,” or “his current narrative is so negative.” Whatever it is that points you toward a play, don’t look for seven reasons why. If you’re trying to win a tournament, think for yourself, find inspiration from others, and realize there is more than one way to tell a story.
One of the odd aspects of the Week 10 main slate is the lack of game totals in my Vegas range (47-50) for low-owned environments with upside. We have two games at the top, with Falcons/Cowboys and Vikings/Chargers over 53, and then three games that fall into this 47-50 point total. However, two of them carry spreads over ten points: Bills/Jets and Colts/Jaguars. While I can see the Bills and Jets getting into a 50 point plus game (I’d go there with 10/150 if MME’ing), I likely won’t be there myself. So that leaves me landing on this late Seahawks and Packers game as one of my primary targets this week.
If I have any regrets about my NFL DFS play over the first nine weeks, it’s that my game stacks have not been unique enough. I’ve done a decent job identifying where to place my chips, but I’ve been lazy in mostly stacking with the star players on each side, stubbornly assuming I’d be one of few rosters with a four or five player stack in a particular game, therefore why did I not have exposure to the WR3, TE, or RB2? So in an effort to simplify back to where I began in Week 1, let’s list out the viable skill position players in this game to ensure none go overlooked in a game stack:
As much as I know we don’t want to play Dillon, Lazard, Lewis, or Everett, it’s important to recognize they will be on the field. My only lock in going heavy on this game is Adams, whose three touchdowns on the season are bound to regress very soon. He will most likely be on every roster I build this week, along with Dalvin Cook, if I can fit them. It seems MVS is going to pick up some steam at his cheap price, and I personally prefer Lockett to Metcalf this week, but both are in great spots with Wilson finally back. Don’t ignore Carson (if he returns), Collins, or Jones, as I mentioned earlier this week, it’s lazy to stack with only the star players but it’s equally lazy to ignore the running backs completely and assume a true shootout style of mostly downfield passing.
This is not a cheap mini-stack, but a worthy one (and I must tell you why in only a few sentences, otherwise I’m confirmation biasing you all hard). Cook has only two touchdowns on the season (six games) while averaging 92 yards per game in a matchup with the Chargers 32nd ranked rush defense. He’ll be high-owned for good reason, but not with Big Mike. Williams, on the other hand, is finally back to his Week 3/4 price on DraftKings, he is assumed to be at full health after his knee injury a few weeks back, and his aDOT is increasing. We know how many targets a banged-up Keenan Allen takes to reach or exceed value. It feels like the lower-owned GPP play of Williams has the potential to return to his early-season form this week. After Keenan’s big game last week, and with his current ailments, Williams should go mostly overlooked given his role and expected game environment.
There were two wild games from the early part of the 2020 season which I remember vividly. Browns/Cowboys in Week 4 (49-38), and Cowboys/Falcons in Week 2 (40-39). Dallas pre-Dak injury last season played at such a torrid pace (they are mostly back to that this season), and their defense was unable to stop much at the time. I could dig into who did what in that game, but the important thing to note is the two quarterbacks are the same in Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott, which leads to some consistency in looking ahead to this week. The existence of this chaotic game from last season most likely serves as the primary accelerator in this week’s upcoming game total, as it’s the highest on the board as of Thursday night. Rightfully so. I feel strongly that this week’s slate really points heavily toward this game environment along with Vikings and Chargers, but while I like the odds of these games carrying tournament-winning lineups, we’ll need to get unique in our builds if we want a path to first place.
The Cowboys side of the ball is straightforward, with a few caveats. First, Michael Gallup is ready to return to complicate the target distribution, and second, Zeke Elliott burned a lot of people last week (around 30% owned, 12.6 DK points). I believe we will still see Zeke rostered a good bit this week, but it will be less than what he could have been as a nine-point home favorite if he had not disappointed at high ownership last week. I’m going right back to him in this spot. The return of Gallup should lead to less 12-personnel with two tight ends, but even so, Dalton Schultz should play more than 70% of the snaps and he is likely to also go overlooked on the Dallas side here (especially in a game where many will roster Kyle Pitts).
For Atlanta, we can hunt for value across the board as Cordarrelle Patterson is their only skill position player above $6K on DraftKings. And in Week 9, although it was Olamide Zaccheaus who had the big game production-wise, it was Russell Gage and Tajae Sharpe who played over 80% of the snaps. I may like Sharpe this week as underpriced for his role, in this game environment, along with the do-everything Patterson. We can lean into Ryan and two pass catchers and play an underowned player block (more underowned without Kyle Pitts than with him), along with a bring-back or two from the Dallas side given this high total.