Playoff Showdown Smackdown: Cowboys at Rams – Draftkings/Fanduel Single Game Advice

 We have Saturday Night Playoff Football! The Cowboys and Zeke head to LA to take on the Rams and Todd Gurley!

My name is Josh Thomas, and I write the Chalk Donkey article for NFL VIPs as well as focusing on the showdown/single game and the Monday-Thursday on both sites. In this article I’ll break down how those showdown/single game slates are scored, differences between the sites in terms of scoring and roster construction, and strategy for how to attack these games for GPP and Cash. I’ll also provide my anticipated exposure percentages for players that are mass multi entering.

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How Does Showdown/Single Game work?

Each site runs their contests a bit different but for the most part, they are very similar. You pick 6 players from the game (5 on Fanduel) and choose one to be your Captain (MVP on Fanduel) and that person scores 1.5x points than everyone else.

On Draftkings you can play QB, RB, WR, TE, K, and DEF while on Fanduel you can play QB, RB, WR, TE, K but no Defense.

Scoring is the same as normal NFL DFS contests. On DraftKings there is a full point for PPR and that makes pass catchers more valuable while you only get a half point on FanDuel.

You need at least one player from each team on your roster. So you can’t just load on say the Bengals tonight even though you might think they dominate, you need to run it back with at least one Ravens play. Optimally I like to build with 4 of one team and 2 of the other on DraftKings and 3 of one team and 2 of the other on Fanduel, though 4-1 seems to be pretty solid there as well.

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Slate Breakdown:

The Saturday night Divisional Playoff game is the main Showdown/Single Game on both sites and features the Dallas Cowboys heading west to take on the red hot Los Angeles Rams.

The game total of 49.5 is the second lowest on the weekend likely because of how slow of a pace the Cowboys play. While the Rams are one of the faster paced, the slow pace of the Cowboys should be able to grind this game out, especially given the amount of volume that they are giving Ezekiel Elliott every week.

The Rams are 6.5 point home favorites here and for good reason, they have been dominant this year outside of a two week let down late in the season, against the Bears and Eagles. The issue here is that both of those teams have fairly solid defenses and now they run into one of the best young defenses in the NFL.

Dallas has a top ten pass defense and is giving up the 10th least points per game to opposing QB’s, yet I think that Jared Goff is in a great spot here. While they have been stout stopping the pass, they have struggled against pass-catching backs and the assumption is that Todd Gurley will be back here in full and that the Rams will lean heavily on him, especially in the passing game. On a PPR site like Draftkings, even given the number of weapons around him, I think Gurley is clearly the top play on the board (even outside of this showdown slate, I’m talking full weekend), even better than Zeke and stacking him with Jared Goff makes a ton of sense in the showdown slate.

Goff has proven that he can get it done without Gurley, and now with him back it should open up quite a bit through the air as well. Robert Woods is the clear top dog here as he will likely be on the opposite side of the field as Byron Jones. Brandon Cooks will draw the coverage of Jones, and gets a big ding here but makes an interesting contrarian GPP play as most will flock to Woods. Josh Reynolds is extremely touchdown dependent but with his price on both sites he makes sense (though I think he sucks up some ownership, especially on DK with the $6200 price tag).

While I think Gurley is in a smash spot, there is some concern that he won’t be a full go and that C.J. Anderson will continue to be in the game plan(McVay says he plans on still using him). I’m not chasing that Red Herring but if you want to I can see the merit in it. Anderson is still expensive on both sites and it’s going to take a lot for him to hit value. Either way, the Cowboys, while tough at the beginning of the season, have been gashed by backs lately (Saquon Barkley had over 140 all-purpose yards in week 17) and this is a great spot for Gurley or Anderson

Maybe the most valuable player on the entire Rams roster this weekend though will be Greg Zuerlein. Greg the Leg has been fantastic again this weekend and its possible that the Cowboys hold the Rams to field goals if that’s the case Zuerlein could have a big day at a reasonable price.

On the Cowboys side of the ball it’s essentially Zeke or bust for me. I’ll have a ton of Zeke and its possible to pair Zeke/Gurley together and not feel awful about it. The Rams have been a middle of the pack rush defense and are giving up on average more than 100 yards per game on the ground. Zeke’s lowest output on the ground since the bye week has been 61 yards against the Titans in week 9 but he supplemented that with 4 catches for 51 yards, which was also his lowest reception total in that time frame. The increased work int he passing game has given Zeke a huge floor as he has had more than 25 DK points in 5 of his last 8 games. Load him up in all formats.

Dak Prescott has shown an improved ability to throw the ball over the last few weeks including a 387 yard output against the Giants in Week 17 (he didn’t have Zeke so was forced to throw) but will run into a Rams pass defense that has been impressive in last third of the season with the return of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. His number one target, Amari Cooper will be going against Talib who has been Pro Football Focus’s #20 ranked DB this season and has been held to only ONE reception in 5 games against Talib. Since Talib’s return in Week 13, the Rams have only given up two passing touchdowns. Not a great sign for the Cowboys pass game.

Still, it’s a showdown/single game slate and you’ll likely need to have some exposure to this passing attack. While I don’t love paying up for Dak they haven’t been afraid to give him the ball near the goal line, pumping in two TD’s over the last three weeks on the ground. I think you can pair him with Zeke as they don’t negatively affect the other, but the best way to build rosters with Dak is him at Captain/MVP with the assumption that the Rams sell out to stop Zeke and the passing attack eats. In that scenario, he provides the most bang for your buck.

After Dak, Cooper, Zeke it gets pretty thin. We have some value that will open if Blake Jarwin misses this week. He is dealing with a high ankle sprain and hasn’t practiced yet and is likely a true game-time decision. If he doesn’t go Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers are both in play at almost min price. The assumption would be that Schultz gets the majority of the work and is my likely target.

Michael Gallup draws a bit of an easier matchup on the outside against Marcus Peters this week but has struggled to connect with Dak Prescott. He is drawing a ton of volume in terms of targets but isn’t necessarily putting up big numbers. The hope would be that he continues to see that sort of volume and finally connects, especially on one of those long bombs. His ADOT of 14.5 is .3 better than Tyreek Hill. Dak continues to target him downfield and if he catches one and takes it to the house he could break the entire slate at low ownership. He’s one of my favorite players to run back heavy Rams stacks with.

Cole Beasley is also dealing with an ankle injury that limited him against Seattle. I can’t imagine he does much in this game, but should be able to still pull in 3-4 catches across the middle. You run the risk that he reaggravates his injury though and is out for good. If he is unable to go, Noah Brown or Tavon Austin are likely the biggest recipients of snaps (both should still get snaps given the loss of Allen Hurns so is worth a dart either way).

At kicker, Brett Maher has had a high volume year but hasn’t been very accurate making only 78% of his field goal attempts. Worth a play as the floor of 5-6 points is pretty safe.

Both defenses are also in play, with my preference being the high scoring Rams D who have 18 picks, 12 fumble recoveries, 41 sacks and 5 touchdowns on the season. They will be a core play for me this week, even in lineups with Zeke. Dak turns the ball over and this defense can make you pay. I like Aaron Donald to get 2-3 sacks here and at least one interception for the DB’s.

Final Prediction: Rams 27 – Cowboys 17 

Showdown/Single Game Roster Construction:

We are now 18 weeks into the 2018 NFL Season and have enough showdown/single game slates that we can take a look at the GPP winning rosters and see how those rosters were built and whether there is any sort of trend that we can see to help us build GPP winning rosters ourselves.

This year, I’ve broken down all the GPP winning lineups to that point on both FanDuel and Draftkings and I’ve updated that data for this week with all the games from week 17. As always we have to answer four questions when building our Single Game/Showdown rosters and this data can give us a huge edge when answering them. Those questions are:

  1. Who is going to be your captain?
  2. How many players from each team to do you want?
  3. What positions should you play from each team?
  4. Are you playing both, one, or no quarterback

Let’s take a look at each of these questions

Who is going to be your captain?

Previously, the thought was that you need to have the following positions your captain.

  1. WR1 for the Favorite
  2. WR1 for the Underdog
  3. TE1 for the Favorite
  4. TE2 for the Underdog

But after looking at the GPP winning rosters through 14 weeks on both sites what we found was this:

As you can see here that is not the case. On Fanduel its actually the opposite and we have another week of data that shows that QB or Running Back is clearly the play on Fanduel. All of the GPP winning running backs in that spot have been ELITE RB’s (Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley) so it’s worth noting that unless you have a situation like that, you might want to just stick with QB. Typically the QB will have the safest floor and even in situations like the Titans/Cowboys game where you have an ELITE player in Ezekiel Elliott in a smash spot against a weak defense and he underperforms and actually scores less than both QB’s.

We continue to expand our so we continue to expand the pool of players that are viable to be captains, at least on DK. During week 9 we had a WR 4 (Adam Humphries) be the optimal player in the captain spot. We have still not seen a Kicker in the captain spot yet this season.

There is a large spread on DK while its a little more tightly concentrated on FD. Typically you just want a RB/QB on FD while anything and everything besides Kicker is in play on DK.

The reason that Draftkings is more spread out is due to the 1.5x salary increase for the Captain position. There have been times when the highest scoring player on the slate wasn’t in the optimal captain slot because having another high scoring player there at a cheaper salary allowed the user to build a better lineup.

The average salary on Draftkings for the captain spot was $11,113 which is typically right around the 7th or 8th highest priced player. That lower priced player in the captain spot allowed those users to build better overall rosters. You obviously need to find the right lower priced player here, but it’s a strategy that should be utilized on Draftkings when possible.

Salary typically isn’t as big of a deal on Fanduel where you really just need the highest scoring player, regardless of salary. The only player that wasn’t in the top 4-5 of pricing that was in the optimal lineup as MVP was  Carlos Hyde, against the Jets.

Another interesting piece I found when looking at the rosters was how often the captain or MVP was on the winning team. Early on in the season, we saw that this chart was almost 50% of each, but lately, it’s been trending in the direction of about 2/3 of the MVP/Captain slot players were on the winning team. While we shouldn’t be afraid to roster someone who is a dog in the game in this spot, particularly QB’s who have to air it out in a comeback, it is important to note that as we get more data, its becoming clearer that playing a player who is likely to win in this spot is optimal.

Surprisingly, the captain’s spot containing the winner of the game was about equal on both sites at 70ish % of the time. As we saw above you want to pay down at the captain spot on DK, and for those cheaper WR’s to pay off they likely need to score a TD and be heavily involved. This number actually increased over the weekend, so when making decisions on the Captain spot on DK you may want to target a player from the team that is the favorite.

While the sample size is small, I think its very telling and should help us to build more optimal lineups, especially when doing MME. Given this information here is how I would break down my Captain/MVP exposure on both sites.

Draftkings: UPDATED 11/14/18 

WR: 30%

RB: 30% 

QB: 25% 

TE: 15%

DEF:  Rarely and only if the game total is very low or we have a QB prone to turnovers

Fanduel: UPDATED 11/14/18 

QB: 45% 

RB: 45% 

WR: 10% 

I’m not typically even going to mess with TE on Fanduel. You don’t need to save salary and its VERY rare that a TE is the highest scoring player in the game and I can only foresee one or two situations where this could even happen, though one is this week with Travis Kelce and the Chiefs.

How many players from each team do you want?

This was something that was really interesting to look at among the optimal lineups, at least on Draftkings where there are three options, but still good to know for Fanduel as well.

With only two options on Fanduel for how you want to construct your roster, a more balanced 3-2 roster was the optimal 70% of the time. The 4-1 rosters were games that were blowouts (For example, last week we had one 4-1 roster with the Saints/Eagles game a blowout.) and one game that had an insane comeback  So unless we have a game that looks to be a massive blowout, it appears that best way to approach roster construction on Fanduel would be a 3-2 split.

On Draftkings though, its a bit of a different story.  A 3-3 split or balanced lineup was dead even with 4-2. Both are viable in GPP and what I would tend to target the most. The 5-1 lineups were reserved for blowouts and interestingly enough they tend to roster Kickers which allows them to load up on studs elsewhere in their lineup. If you are expecting a blow out this looks to be a good strategy.

In the majority of game situations you are going to want to target a balanced lineup unless we see a blow out happening, and if that’s the case then looking at a kicker is an important piece to consider.

What positions/players should you play from each team?

What I found in my breakdown of all the winning gpp lineups was that no winner had the exact same roster construction in terms of position players. Obviously, we have a smaller sample size and at some point this year we may see a duplicate, but right now we haven’t had the exact same roster construction on either site.

Draftkings: 

Let’s look at the roster construction on Draftkings. Check out that QB number first…close to 100%. There was only one instance where a QB wasn’t used in the winning GPP lineup and that was in the very first game Thursday game of the year with the Falcons vs. Eagles. Other than that there has been at least one QB in a lineup if not two in every single game. QB’s are the easiest way to get points, but as we looked at earlier, for the most part, we want to roster them in the flex position as opposed the Captain spot. Its cost prohibitive to roster them there, but if you instill the strategy of using a lower priced player in that spot you can often roster two QB’s, or a QB and a high priced skill player.

Also, in every roster that had a QB there was a correlation play, with a WR, TE, or pass catching RB. Even when there were two QBs in a lineup there was at least one correlation play for each QB. No Naked QB strategy has worked to this point and while I don’t think we can say it never will, it’s a solid strategy to correlate your QB with a pass catcher just like in regular lineups.

RB1’s continue to be used at a high clip on Draftkings in the flex spot. They are typically priced below the WR’s unless you have a Todd Gurley or Ezekiel Elliott and they give you some roster flexibility. Of the running backs used in flex position on Draftkings they had some interesting splits. While one would think that majority of your RB’s taken are bell cows, but we see over 25% of the rosters containing an RB2 who is typically only a third down or change of pace back.

So what does that mean? The way I interpret it is that you shouldn’t be afraid to play a running back just because he isn’t necessarily a bell cow back, especially if he can catch passes. PPR is king on DraftKings and often those Non-Bellcow backs are ones that do catch passes and they are MUCH cheaper than their counterparts. That’s a prime situation to take advantage of. A non-bellcow back who catches 3-4 passes and is at a huge discount can make the rest of your lineup work by allowing you to target those higher priced players for the remaining spots. What we’ve really seen in the last two weeks is that these ‘non-bellcow’ backs are starting become featured either because of injury or game flow and are becoming viable captain plays based on the game script.

I was surprised to see that Defenses were used in these GPP winning lineups on Draftkings MUCH more than Kickers originally but now Kickers are starting to make a comeback and actually pulled ahead in Week 8. They are priced the same usually and while we consider the Kickers to have a bit safer floor, the defenses do have that GPP winning upside if they can get over 15ish points. Twice now a defense has been used in the Captain slot in a GPP winner. Don’t be afraid to play your defense against your captain though as that has been the GPP winner four times already this season (Most recently in Week 8 with the Saints against the Vikings). Defensive scoring is all about sacks and picks or defensive touchdown so a WR/TE scoring high doesn’t necessarily mean that a defense will score low. What I wouldn’t do is play a defense in a lineup with a QB as the Captain.

Fanduel:

As we move over to Fanduel we now have an entirely different strategy. What I found over there was that contrary to what we think might be the best play, double QB has only been in the winning lineup a few times.  This is mostly because it is cost prohibitive to do with often the two QB’s being the most expensive players on the board, but also because we don’t often see two Qb’s go off unless its a shootout.

QB’s when in winning lineups have had at least one correlation play as well on Fanduel similar to DK, and naked QB has not been in the winner yet.

Without the ability to play defenses on Fanduel we have seen kickers take a more prominent role in the roster construction and in fact they are now the highest played position in the flex spot. We haven’t had a double kicker GPP winner this past week. TE’s are priced down as well over here and we see them in the winning lineups at over 60% of the time.

The graph above shows how many points players scored relative to their salary for week 2 on Fanduel. What we find here is that paying down at the MVP spot rarely makes sense when there is no salary increase that comes with it like on DK.

A higher salary doesn’t always indicate that a player will score more points, but as you can see above it typically does mean that a player with a higher salary will outscore those lower than them, at least those significantly lower.

Another interesting thing from this graph was that while Andy Dalton, had a heck of a night in that game against Baltimore, he wasn’t in the optimal lineup at the Captain Slot because of AJ Green just barely squeaked by him. It should be noted though that AJ Green caught three touchdown passes to barely squeak by and had he not, Dalton would have been the clear MVP. Further solidifying my take that QB should be your main MVP play on Fanduel.

Are you going to play one, both, or no Qb’s?

As we saw above I think you should have a QB in every single lineup. On Draftkings a lineup without a QB has been the optimal only one time in 16 slates. On Fanduel its happened twice, but I still think there you are better off with one than without one. If you are making 150 lineups I think I would allocate about 5% of my lineups to having no QB but the odds are that the nuts will have a QB in it.

As far as both QB’s go, I think its site dependent. On Draftkings I’m ok with going double QB, as long as they are both in the flex spots and not in the MVP as we have shown that that is not optimal construction.

On Fanduel, because of the way the QB’s are priced, double QB has only been in the optimal lineup MUCH less than DK, and it happened in shootouts. If the Vegas total is over 50 then I’m going to be more apt to try to get double QB lineups in. Obviously, it’s an extreme case but the Chiefs/Rams game is a perfect example of a double QB game.

With the DS now set up for Single Game slates, what I would do is say I was making 100 lineups, I would make 60 lineups with a rule saying that the QB’s couldn’t be in the same lineup. I would then run 40 with both QB’s locked in. This gives you a good mix of lineups.

Summary:

Here are a couple key points that you should remember:

  1. For the Captain Slot of Draftkings don’t be afraid to pay down. WR on the favorite is my first play to look at, followed by RB and then a much lower percentage of QB.
  2. The exact opposite is true on Fanduel. I want the majority of my lineups to have QB in the MVP slot, followed by RB and then WR last.
  3. Always Correlate your QB with a pass catcher. Never Naked QB.
  4. Defense is a better punt on DK, Kickers on Fanduel
  5. TEs are great salary savings on FD and have been in the optimal lineup over 60% of the time.
  6. Pass catching RB’s even if they aren’t the bell cow back are great plays on DK when you can get them at a salary savings.
  7. The captain salary on Draftkings for GPP winners has been $11,113

Showdown Player Pool

In this section, I’ll show you my player pool and my anticipated exposure to each player. In some cases, I’ll provide short notes about why I like a player. I’ll break down who my captains are for DK and who my MVP’s are for Fanduel as they are different, and then the rest of the player pool I’ll be using.

Captain – Draftkings:

Todd Gurley – RB Rams: 20% 

Ezekiel Elliot – RB Cowboys: 20% 

Jared Goff – QB Rams: 15%

Robert Woods – WR Rams: 15% 

Michael Gallup – WR Cowboys 5% 

Brandin Cooks – WR Rams 10% 

Dak Prescott – QB Cowboys 10% 

Amari Cooper – WR Cowboys 5% 

If you wanted to throw 5% on Rams D or Greg the Leg I wouldn’t hate it but the scenarios of those two being in the optimal lineup are mighty low. Also, this exposure is fairly spread out which seems to be the best way to bink one of these GPP’s. If you want to go all in on a Zeke/Gurley go right ahead but if you miss you likely don’t win back enough to cover your entries.

Flex – Draftkings:

Josh Reynolds – WR Rams: Touchdown dependent, but still gets a decent amount of targets.

CJ Anderson – RB Rams: I’m personally not chasing this, I’ll be all in on Gurley, but it makes sense if you want to go down that road.

Rams D – Love them here

Cowboys D – Really relying on a touchdown from them.

Brett Maher – K Cowboys: Decent enough and if they struggle to move the ball he could be a great play. Pair with Rams D and you can load up everywhere else.

Greg Zuerlein – K Rams: Love him here and I think in the playoffs we see a bit more conservative Sean McVay who takes the points when he gets down in the Cowboys territory which is good news for Greg the Leg.

Blake Jarwin – TE Cowboys: Injured, but if he goes he gets a nice matchup against a soft middle of the Rams D.

Gerald Everett – TE Rams: Dallas has been mediocre against TE’s and prior to the final game of the season where he only had one target, was heavily involved in this offense. Should be a good low owned differentiator to stack with Goff.

Noah Brown/Tavon Austin – WR Cowboys: With Hurns out and Beasley questionable, one or both of these guys will get a big uptick in usage. I lean Austin and I like the revenge narrative.

Dalton Schultz/Rico Gathers – TE Cowboys: Similar situation to Brown/Austin. We need to wait and see what happens with Blake Jarwin. If he’s out I think we see Schultz, but both are in play.

MVP – Fanduel 

I like to keep my MVP core really tight over here and typically we look at about 45% of QB’s and 45% RB’s in this spot for the optimal lineup.

Todd Gurley – RB Rams: 35% 

Ezekiel Elliot – RB Cowboys: 35% 

Jared Goff – QB Rams: 25% 

Dak Prescott – QB Cowboys: 5% 

Flex – Fanduel

Robert Woods – WR Rams: My top WR for the Rams.

Michael Gallup – WR Cowboys: Love the differentiation play with Gallup over a chalky Cooper

Brandin Cooks – WR Rams

Amari Cooper – WR Cowboys: Been an absolute stud since they brought him over from Oakland but I’m gambling that he gets shutdown this week.

Josh Reynolds – WR Rams: Touchdown dependent, but still gets a decent amount of targets.

CJ Anderson – RB Rams: I’m personally not chasing this, I’ll be all in on Gurley, but it makes sense if you want to go down that road.

Brett Maher – K Cowboys: Decent enough and if they struggle to move the ball he could be a great play. Pair with Rams D and you can load up everywhere else.

Greg Zuerlein – K Rams: Love him here and I think in the playoffs we see a bit more conservative Sean McVay who takes the points when he gets down in the Cowboys territory which is good news for Greg the Leg.

Blake Jarwin – TE Cowboys: Injured, but if he goes he gets a nice matchup against a soft middle of the Rams D.

Gerald Everett – TE Rams: Dallas has been mediocre against TE’s and prior to the final game of the season where he only had one target, was heavily involved in this offense. Should be a good low owned differentiator to stack with Goff.

Noah Brown/Tavon Austin – WR Cowboys: With Hurns out and Beasley questionable, one or both of these guys will get a big uptick in usage. I lean Austin and I like the revenge narrative.

Dalton Schultz/Rico Gathers – TE Cowboys: Similar situation to Brown/Austin. We need to wait and see what happens with Blake Jarwin. If he’s out I think we see Schultz, but both are in play.

Showdown Cash Game Strategy: 

In cash games, you want the safest floor possible. I think its really easy to build cash game lineups on DK for this game and not so much on FD. You don’t need to crush, you just need to cross that cash line. For me, that means sometimes rostering both QB’s and both defenses if it’s going to be low scoring. On DK I think that we don’t get cute and just play Gurley/Zeke in Captain, and make sure you roster the other in flex. Kickers and Rams D are in play and if you can fit in Goff/Dak or some skill player you should have a nice floor. On Fanduel,  same situation with Gurley/Zeke and then Kickers are in play here and fill in the rest.

Final Thoughts:

This was a lot to take in with all the info I provided. Take some time, let it digest and then build some lineups based on the strategy we have found to be successful in GPPs so far this year for each site. If you have questions make sure you message me in my channel #dfsupnorth-nfl-pga and tag me with any thoughts or questions as that’s the easiest way to get ahold of me!

Let’s have a great Saturday Night! I can’t wait to see those helmets crushing at the top of the leaderboard!

Also, give me a follow on twitter @dfsupnorth as I’ll be posting updates there as well as useful retweets leading up to the games tonight!

 

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