Larejo is a mid-stakes tournament mastermind who specializes in outmaneuvering 150-max players with a small number of entries
As we navigate throughout every NFL season, this is about the time when people start to throw their hands up in the air. Most survivor/eliminator pools have been completed. We’ve seen enough upsets across 11 weeks to make our heads spin. “The NFL makes no sense,” exclaimed your uncle at Thanksgiving this year. “It’s unpredictable! One week a team looks great, and the next they lay an egg.” They say we tend to remember our losses more than our wins, and this is exactly where these types of comments come from. When we project confidence on certain games and they play out completely differently than our expectations, there is only one logical conclusion: the games are unpredictable. However, when we look at a macro view of the NFL, I’m always a skeptic when we think the current season of any sport is more variant than prior ones. It’s a sort of recency bias just bubbling to the top of our minds, coupled with the inability to remember what we got right while we focus on what we got wrong and blame factors outside of our own control. To get predictions right, we need to maintain our processes. We need to see macro, not micro. We need to see things like the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals all contending again in the AFC, and the Buccaneers rounding into form in the NFC. We need to see why the Eagles and Vikings are setting the pace record-wise, and why the Cowboys are mostly thriving this season as well. Instead of focusing on the weekly outcomes, we also need to do our best to rise to the top of seeing the ever-changing seasonal outcomes.
The beauty of a season average for any player in any sport is the smoothed outcome of one number, as a result of a bumpy road of many numbers (the average, of course, being the added total of a statistic divided by the number of events). It’s a wonderful way to measure short and long-term data because it can provide a stable measure but we mostly fail to remember the ups and downs along the way. In the NFL, when looking at weekly data, by Week 12, we now have statistically significant averages we can point to and reasonably expect these numbers to hit at an average rate. I want to bring up this oft-used principle because we’re in the business of looking into outlier events (spiked weeks) and therefore we need to see trends in order to see these unusual outcomes coming. And while it’s difficult to nail when these performances that can win us DFS tournaments will take place, the beauty is in the journey of getting it right.
I played a lot of Mac Jones on the Thanksgiving slate. He was cooking, but Kirk Cousins ended up being the most valuable quarterback to own on the main slate (23 DK points). The same Cousins coming off a 3.2 DK point game the week prior against the Dallas Cowboys. Cousins had this production through Justin Jefferson, who also followed a 6.3 point game with a massive 33 DK point fantasy game against the #1 defense DVOA vs. the pass. In an earlier game on the slate this week, CeeDee Lamb put up nearly 21 DK points of his own, just four days after only hitting 9.5 DK points with relatively high ownership. Back in Week 11, we saw Tee Higgins get all the targets from Joe Burrow (13) and put up 27 DK points, after three consecutive ho-hum weeks between 13-14 points without Ja’Marr Chase on the field. And finally, the best example of the law of averages catching up with a player was the infamous Week 9 Joe Mixon game where he exploded for 58 points after he and the Bengals team showed a lot of ineptitude the week before on Monday Night Football.
The “TL;DR” here is sometimes we need to throw last week’s results out of the window. We know the field as a whole does not chase points as frequently as years ago but what the field still does overall (remember this includes you and me) is get jaded from owning players while they underperformed in their last games. But, as we’ve seen recently, these narratives are ripe to be exploited. It’s why process over results is a popular phrase, and why advanced analytics helps us more than our eyes. If you cared about what happened last week, you wouldn’t end up on Cousins and Jefferson. You wouldn’t end up on the Bengals when they broke out with Mixon and Burrow/Higgins, and you may instead be moving your rosters in the direction where you continue to swim upstream.