Expectations and Goals
Thank you for reading my article and I hope that you’re able to use it to assist you through your lineup building process. DFS is a very tough game to beat, so remember to set some realistic goals for yourself to accomplish this year rather than just single entering the Milly Maker every week. If you’re subscribing to NumberBall because of the success I’ve had, keep in mind that it didn’t happen for me overnight. I constantly worked for years at measuring my lineups, studying opponents, and improving my skills. This is not a “get rich quick” scheme and you are only going to go as far as the work you put in. If you just want to be handed a lineup or to scan an article for some player names, then this isn’t the site for you. That said, plenty of you are going to have a ton of success this year, and I hope to build on the incredible MLB season we had together and meet some more of you at the next live finals if that’s a realistic goal of yours! GL!
Weather is a bit overrated for NFL games. Don’t make any adjustments unless Vegas shifts the total, which they’ll only do in extreme cases like 20 MPH wind or temperatures below zero degrees.
Inactives are announced an hour or two before each game, so be sure to check those and make any necessary adjustments to your lineups. I’ll do my best to point out injury status assumptions that I’ve made when it’s impactful to a player that I’m recommending, but most of the time it will be pretty obvious. If I’m recommending a backup RB because the starter isn’t expected to play, then don’t play the guy if the starter is surprisingly active and available.
If you ran into me at one of the MLB live finals and asked me if I was excited about NFL coming up, I’m sure I raved about how Justin Freeman and James McCool are going to make me a DFS player since I get to bounce ideas off of them all season. With Justin the lead on our projections and James creating the logic behind our optimizer, I was able to lean on them for all of the mathematical heavy-lifting while I provided the strategic feedback. I’m very proud that it resulted in what I believe to be the best projection/optimizer combo in the industry. Most of you have them already, but if not you can add them here.
- DK: DraftKings
- FD: FanDuel
- FDR: FantasyDraft
- Y!: Yahoo
- H2H: head-to-head contest
- GPP: large field tournaments (stands for guaranteed prize pool)
- MM: Millionaire Maker (contest on DraftKings)
- MME: entering 20+ lineups into contests, often 100+ (stands for mass multi entry)
- Q: Qualifier for a Live Final
- Cash Games: contests where you need to beat ~50% of the field to win (like head-to-heads, double-ups, and 50/50s)
- Chalk: the most popular plays of the week. Typically we don’t factor in ownership for cash games, but will for tourneys
- Fade: Planning on not using a player in main GPP/single entry/3 Max lineups, but might have limited exposure in MME
- Full-Fade: Planning on removing a player from the player pool entirely. Zero exposure across tournaments.
- Naked: Using a QB without stacking
- +EV: Positive Expected Value
- aDOT: average depth of target — higher aDOT = bigger plays… lower aDOT = higher expected catch rate
- DVOA: Football Outsiders’ stat that stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. It’s a number that factors in previous matchups and other factors.
- DvP: Defense versus Position
- PFF: Pro Football Focus
- Updates will be provided in this section (Pacific Time)
- Check out the livestream at 6 PM and I’ll add more commentary here after that.
- 10:00 PM
- Good Chalk:
- Matt Ryan — too many trends in his favor
- Alvin Kamara — explosive runs plays vs the Panthers are what has killed them, which was why Hill didn’t make much sense last week and why Kamara does now.
- Nick Chubb — still getting similar work to what he was pre-Hunt
- Zach Ertz/Dallas Goedert — tough to fail since the injuries to their WR corps have opened up a lot of opportunity
- Chalk I’m
consideringfading in tournaments (updated):
- Miles Sanders — could lose valuable touches to Ajayi at the goal line and didn’t get the passing game boost we expected last week
- Julio Jones — I’ll end up playing him some, but probably not in lineups that aren’t stacking that game
- Odell Beckham — the pivot to Landry for cheaper at lower ownership is leading me to having zero Beckham
- Vance McDonald — pace and a run-heavy approach has me off Vance
- Bengals DST — maybe the worst chalk DST play all season. They shouldn’t even be considered at low ownership.
- 11:00 PM
- Pass Ratio Trends
- CLE -11 vs MIA
- CLE 60% OVR | 54% up by 3+ | 53% up by 7+ | 49% up by 10+
- MIA 67% OVR | 71% down by 3+ | 74% down by 7+ | 76% down by 10+
- NO -10 vs CAR
- NO 61% OVR | 53% up by 3+ | 46% up by 7+ | 43% up by 10+
- CAR 62% OVR | 73% down by 3+ | 72% down by 7+ | 71% down by 10+
- PIT -6.5 @ CIN
- PIT 61% OVR | 45% up by 3+ | 42% up by 7+
- CIN 67% OVR | 69% down by 3+ | 67% down by 7+ ** they’ve gone more run-heavy since the QB change so there’s some noise here
- NE -6.5 vs DAL
- NE 61% OVR | 57% up by 3+ | 57% up by 7+
- DAL 57% OVR | 62% down by 3+ | 63% down by 7+
- CHI -6 vs NYG
- CHI 62% OVR | 53% up by 3+ | 53% up by 7+
- NYG 66% OVR | 71% down by 3+ | 73% down by 7+
- CLE -11 vs MIA
- Pass Ratio Difference (average vs. spread)
- CLE -11%
- MIA +9%
- NO -18%
- CAR +9%
- PIT -19%
- CIN 0%
- NE -4%
- DAL +6%
- CHI -9%
- NYG +7%
- 12:00 AM
- Pass Ratio Game Script Takeaways
- Along with the Steelers going super run-heavy with leads, they also have the biggest negative pace differential when leading. That’s very bad for the pass game, so I’m bailing on McDonald, Johnson and looking into Samuels/Snell. This game could be extremely low scoring considering the Bengals trending more towards the run with the QB change and they don’t pass more or play much faster when trailing, so a full avoid might be the best option.
- Not at the same level as PIT, but NO and CHI’s game script tendencies are concerning for their pass games (hurts A. Robinson, M. Thomas, A. Kamara)
- NE doesn’t get super conservative with leads and Dallas passes more/plays fast when behind, so they will have a lot of opportunities but it’s still a very tough matchup.
- When the game is within a field goal, teams pass against the Bucs more than any other team. The same is true for games within a touchdown.
- 4:00 AM
- Cash Game Core
- QB: M. Ryan
- RB: N. Chubb + Kamara
- WR: M. Evans
- TE: Ertz (FD), McDonald (DK)
- 8:00 AM
- Guys I’m coming around on: J. Winston, J. Matthews, S. Barkley, B. Snell, J. Samuels, J. Edelman
- Guys I’m losing interest in: D. Brees, M. Sanders, V. McDonald, Di. Johnson, O. Beckham
- GPP Approach
- I’ve got it down to Matt Ryan or Russell Wilson for my main team
- Value Plays
- QB: Driskel
- RB: R. Jones, B. Snell, B. Hill
- WR: J. Matthews, N. Harry, D. Amendola, R. Gage, A. Hurns
- TE: M. Gesicki, B. Watson
- D: Panthers
- Inactives/final thoughts
- After trending towards playing, Alshon Jeffery has been ruled out and that’s going to create more value on PHI with Howard and Agholor also ruled out.
- Big bumps: Z. Ertz, D. Goedert
- Cash consideration: Jordan Matthews (85% of snaps last week with Agholor in)
- GPP fliers: Arcega-Whiteside (25% snaps), Hollins (17%)
- Auden Tate is active which hurts Boyd a little bit though I still have some interest in tournaments
- Mentioned Kareem Hunt on the show but don’t think I covered him in the article here. He’s getting enough usage for me to use him in a tourney team or two.
- Alshon being ruled out does NOT increase our projection on Wentz, but it does make him easier to stack, so I might use him with the cheap weapons in a tourney (trying to build a team now and wanted to update)
Random MME Notes
- I won’t do MME this week but Justin suggested an interesting approach by locking a few RBs that seem certain to do well to try to get as many WR combos in there as you can
I’ll be running some private DraftKings contests for subscribers, you can join the league here. In order to play in these, please change your avatar to the NumberBall logo so that I know you’re a subscriber, or I’ll end up kicking you out. I’ll add more as they fill (please only join one so that others can get in). I’ll enter my main GPP team so that you can compare my lineups with yours and other subscribers. Good luck!
Here are the NumberBall logos:
Here’s what the chalk is projected to be this week…
QB: M. Ryan
RB: A. Kamara, N. Chubb, M. Sanders
WR: J. Jones, O. Beckham, M. Evans, C. Ridley
TE: Z. Ertz
DST: Steelers, Bengals
General Ownership Strategy
- You don’t have to always fade chalk, just look for the right opportunities to do it
- When a lot of guesswork is required on a player, use the uncertainty to your advantage by fading them when they are popular and using them when they aren’t
- Limited opportunities = volatile (often bad) chalk
Positional Ownership Strategy
- QB is typically not a position that we’re too worried about being contrarian at. The thinner range of outcomes makes it to where it doesn’t punish failing chalk enough.
- RB will always be a position that you can take a chance on fading the chalk even for the fact that it’s the position most likely to have an in-game injury that kills their day, and many guys are also game script dependent too.
- WR has to grade out as the easiest position to fade since they don’t touch the ball often and even for them to have the ball in their hands it relies on the QB to get it to them. WRs with higher aDOTs will have more volatile results.
- TE is often a position where their value return depends on whether they score a touchdown or not on limited targets. There are usually good pivots near the same price as the chalk.
- DST will very rarely be a spot where I purposely roster the chalk. I recommend diversifying DST heavily in tournaments.
Optimal plays should be the focus of your cash lineups and usually will be the higher-owned players. They are optimal for a reason, so that doesn’t mean you always have to fade them in tournaments.
Tourney plays may be tough to use in cash games because of their low floor, but have the upside to vault you to the top of the leaderboard if things go their way
Contrarian plays are usually much less likely to work out than optimal and even standard tourney plays, but they create leverage that could result in making your whole season if they hit
*Do not limit yourself to only optimal plays in cash when it doesn’t make sense to do so
*Do not limit yourself to only the players listed in this article especially if building a bunch of lineups
*Diversify your lineups in tournaments. Avoid the “lock button”.
- Matt Ryan — The Falcons throw the ball more than anybody this season (68% of plays/41 attempts per game) and they are missing their top two RBs. Brian Hill (the current starting RB) largely disappointed in what was touted as a good run matchup last week. Tampa Bay is their opponent now and they are a team that has been elite at stopping the run and among the worst at defending the pass. If I’m going to poke a hole in this it’s to say that while it’s certainly impressive the schedule of RBs they’ve faced, they knew those teams wanted to run the ball. What changes will they make against a team that they know is going to want to be extremely pass-heavy? That’s a reasonable story that you can tell yourself if you want to fade, but other than that it’s really hard to find reasons not to play Ryan and his weapons. This is the first week that on Saturday I don’t even have another QB on my list for consideration in cash games.
- Baker Mayfield — Tough schedule for him this year and this would be a good game to try and let the passing attack loose.
- Russell Wilson — I’m pretty intrigued by the addition of Josh Gordon to go along with Lockett and D.K. Metcalf and most teams have had a tough time running against the Eagles.
- Jeff Driskel — Through two games he’s averaged the exact fantasy points per game as Stafford and this is one of the best matchups in the league for a QB.
- Drew Brees — Our projections hate Brees and I’ve spent a good hour or so arguing/discussing him in our Slack chat. I’ve got him on the list for now but I’m keeping an open mind and am willing to be convinced that he’s washed and shouldn’t be played.
I’m going to start including some examples of how you could build stacks with some QBs that I’ve recommended. These are not the only ways to stack and I myself might end up stacking differently, but I get a lot of questions about this type of stuff so I figure it will be a great starting point for a lot of subscribers. I usually prefer fewer players in my stack if a team/game isn’t projected for a lot of points. I’ll also list multiple stacking options from both the QB’s own team and his opponent. Those are done roughly in order of interest as of Saturday afternoon.
- Ryan/J. Jones/Gage/Evans
- ATL: Jones, Ridley, Gage
- TB: Evans, Godwin, Jones, + maybe Brate? Feels like we need to bail on Howard after he got benched
- NO: Kamara, Thomas, Cook + maybe one more try with Smith (risky)
- CAR: McCaffrey, Moore, Samuel, Olsen
- DET: Amendola, Golladay, Hockenson
- WAS: McLaurin
- Alvin Kamara — Looks like the plan with Kamara might be to lighten his load running the ball, but give him more opportunities through the air, which is great for our purposes.
- Nick Chubb — not seeing as high of projected ownership as I would have expected for a matchup against the Dolphins
- Miles Sanders — fine to use in cash games but I am probably going to fade him in tournaments. There’s a chance Ajayi gets more work than expected, or takes the carries near the goal line. We didn’t really see more passing game involvement last week (11% TMS / 9% season average) and still only 52% of the rushing with Howard out.
- Christian McCaffrey — Not much needs to be said about him. Concern would be the low team total but the guy is averaging over 32 DK points per game.
- Phillip Lindsay — basically took over as the lead back last week when it was split pretty evenly until then
- Brian Hill — Everyone is bailing on him and it’s a tough matchup but incredible leverage
- Josh Jacobs
- Ronald Jones
- Julio Jones — Clear target in cash but high not a must-play in tourneys. If you’re using Ryan then obviously consider using Jones in a stack with him, but I don’t mind the fade otherwise.
- Mike Evans — he moves around the formation a lot but plays most of the game on the outside which is where the Falcons get lit up. Godwin will play primarily in the slot and while Sheffield isn’t a great CB I think the Bucs will take advantage of Evans’ size out wide.
- Jarvis Landry — Has been a better fantasy player than Beckham. You can use either, but Landry is cheaper, lower owned, and projects similarly if not better.
- Tyler Boyd — Complained that he wasn’t getting as many targets as he’d been getting earlier in the season. Would get a boost in targets and TD expectation if Tate sits.
- N’Keal Harry — Was on IR most of the year but could emerge as a value with the injuries on the Patriots
- Calvin Ridley
- Odell Beckham Jr. — He has upside but I might just end up playing Landry for reasons mentioned above.
- Allen Robinson — Vegas loves the Bears to put up points but the problem is that Trubisky and Montgomery both suck, so I can’t convince myself to go there. Robinson is actually good and has put up big numbers even with really bad QBs like Bortles and Trubisky. He’d be my favorite Bear to use.
- Josh Gordon — Played a couple weeks ago quickly after being claimed by waivers and now he’s had time to learn the playbook. He’s really cheap and I doubt people will play him.
- Diontae Johnson — With Juju Smith-Schuster out, Johnson is in line to basically play the whole game. The easiest assumption is that Vance McDonald gets targets, and for some reason everyone always seems to love James Washington, but it could just as easily be Johnson.
- Darren Waller — Clear #1 option in the Raiders passing game and plays almost 100% of the snaps every week.
- Vance McDonald — target boost with Juju out. Ran 48 routes last week (tied for most on this slate) which is a big increase on his 29/game this season.
- Zach Ertz — As you’d expect he’s getting peppered with targets as the Eagles battle through some injuries. Becomes almost a must-play if Alshon and Agholor are both out, but I’d assume at least one will be.
- Greg Olsen
- Jared Cook
- Cameron Brate — Really risky since I have no idea what Arians is going to do with Howard, but one of the two TEs would figure to be a good play.
- Mike Gesicki — 48 routes run last week on a big increase to 86% of the snaps. Also 6+ targets in three straight weeks now and with Preston Williams out he might be their best or 2nd-best offensive weapon.
- Ben Watson — Half of the Patriots’ offense is questionable, but assuming one or two of them actually miss you’d have to give a boost to Watson.
Here is a table that I use to help me target defenses. It factors in adjusted sack rates, line ratings, how often a team passes and calculates the % advantage for the defense. This is shown in the ADV column where 0% is average, positive (blue) numbers are good for the defense, and negative (red) numbers are bad.
Fade: If the Bengals are the chalk then that’s a pretty easy fade from me. Rudolph is bad and the Steelers’ offense is banged up, but I project the Bengals to create the fewest pressures on the slate.
- Giants — Had two weeks to prepare for Trubisky when most defenses could probably show up without any notice and destroy him
- Panthers — This defense is the 2nd best on the slate at creating pressure and they are extremely cheap on both sites with low projected ownership since a lot of people will want to play Saints.
- Raiders — I’ll always be interested in a contrarian defense facing Sam Darnold.
Unless I’m saying otherwise, always assume that the games/teams with the highest totals are good to stack in tournaments. I’ll list them in this section, but often there isn’t much analysis needed.
Games with highest Vegas totals:
- Tampa Bay at Atlanta (51.5)
- Seattle at Philadelphia (48)
- Carolina at New Orleans (47)
Teams with highest implied team totals:
- Falcons (28)
- Browns (28)
- Saints (27.5)
Tips for stacking
- Stack often.
- My most common stack is a QB + two pass catchers with one pass catcher from the other team
Example: QB + WR1 | TE1 / OPP WR1
- As a general rule that CAN be broken, you want more players stacked with your QB than his opponent
Example of what NOT to do: QB + WR1 / OPP TE1 | OPP WR1 | OPP WR2
Because why not just use the other QB at that point?
- Extreme stacking can work even though it shouldn’t be your most common approach
Example: QB + WR1 | WR2 | TE1 / OPP TE1 | OPP WR1
- You can stack a QB with an RB especially if they are great receivers like Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey
- You can include a running back, even if not a pass catcher, in cases where you think a team will put up a lot of points / at high value
Example: QB + RB1 | WR1 | WR2 / WR1
- You don’t HAVE TO bring your stack back with an opposing pass catcher
- If your QB’s value is primarily from their rushing (like Lamar Jackson) then you don’t HAVE TO stack with him at all
- Other common stacks: QB+1/0, QB+1/1
- The potency of the offense I’m stacking many times is correlated with how many players I use from that stack
High-powered offenses can mean multiple pass catchers, less powerful offenses maybe one pass catcher