NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Dolphins vs. Saints DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups Tonight

Monday Night Football features an ugly real-world contest between the Dolphins and Saints. The game is carrying one of the lowest totals of the season for a featured Primetime contest, coming in at a ridiculous 38-point total on the board in Vegas, with the visiting Dolphins favored by 3.5. With Miami looking primed for a competitive game and New Orleans also taking the field, there are stronger options on one side of the ball than the other, making it a challenge to build lineups that are both unique and potentially slate-winning. Of course, Vegas has been known to get these games wrong from time to time, and with seemingly increasing frequency this season, there are potentially underappreciated options in all corners for NFL DFS Showdown lineups tonight.

The Awesemo Top Showdown Plays Tool is the best way to find low-owned value and leverage, when using the tool we want to focus on the probability of success but also the degree to which a player is owned when compared with that probability and can indicate if the field is over or underweight to a play. Using all of the Awesemo expert data and tools, let’s find the top NFL DFS optimizer picks for DraftKings and FanDuel Showdown lineups tonight.

NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Week 16 Monday Night Football

Small Sample Central — Trends and Notes

Several of the primary lineup construction notes from previous versions of the article will continue to be listed in this space, but each week we will attempt to find parallels based on Vegas data and the general game environment from historical contests in the pool of DraftKings Showdown research from 2019 through this week’s contests. It is important to not get too focused on results-based thinking in such a small sample. Quality lineup construction is always the focus, but historical results can help inform some basic decisions in a pricing and ownership vacuum. A quick summary of that previous content:

  • According to tracking data for DraftKings Showdown contests over 2019 and 2020, only 17 of 95 slates were won with a quarterback Captain.
  • Across the same sample, wide receivers and running backs split the outcomes evenly, with 33 tournament-winning events each.
  • Of the 38 times that a wide receiver or tight end was in the winning Captain position, only three of those builds did not include at least one quarterback in a Flex position.
  • Thirty-five of 95 winning lineups featured at least one defense, but only two of those featured both defenses.
  • Twenty-nine winning lineups featured at least one kicker, but only two of those included both.
  • Only eight winning lineups included at least one defense and one kicker, while one person won a tournament with two defenses and a kicker in 2019.

Our historical sampling contains just one game projected for this little scoring, a contest between the Steelers and Bills that was totaled at 37 and delivered an actual total of 27. That game from late in 2019 saw the Bills defense win out in the Captain spot in a 3-3 build that included Josh Allen, the Steelers running back at the time, James Conner, and secondary receiving options from both sides. Obviously, that is not a worthwhile sample from which to draw any conclusions, we will need to hunt for relevant data for this matchup.


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To reach even a 10-game sample of low-scoring affairs, we need to expand the pool to include games totaled below 42. Half of the winning lineups in these contests were created with running backs in the Captain position, which would track with the notion of a low-scoring game. Only one winning lineup utilized a pass-catcher in the Captain role in this still-small sample. Quarterbacks see some relevance in the Captain role in three of the winning lineups, only one of which approached even the low total for which the game was slated. The trend of utilizing at least one quarterback somewhere in a lineup continues even with reduced scoring potential, of the seven lineups that did not use the quarterback Captain option only one winner did not include a quarterback in a flex spot. Interestingly, all three of the quarterback Captain winners utilized both of the game’s passers, two were built as 4-2 lineups in favor of the Captain’s team, with the other going the opposite direction as a 2-4 that seems very likely to have won more money than the other two lineups as a unique victor. That lineup from 2019 reads as if we’re kidding; the Captain was Marcus Mariota and the flex players were Leonard Fournette, DJ Chark, Adam Humphries, Gardiner Minshew, and the Jaguars defense. That, dear readers, is how one differentiates a lineup for Showdown slates.

In addition to the Captained defense winner, six of the nine remaining lineups included one defense in a flex position, but no winning lineup utilized both defenses. This is to be expected in a game with a low total, but only that 2-4 build thought to roster the defense that opposed the Captain play. As has been covered on several recent Showdown slates, it is always worth considering plays like that, or non-traditional moves like rostering both running backs from the same team, that will help a lineup get different very quickly. Of course, as we saw in last night’s Cowboys wipeout, there can be value in rostering a defense on the same side as a stack of skill players as well.

It seems like a fool’s errand to attempt to ignore the game total in an effort to find relevance in the list of games that had a road favorite of between three and four points, but for the curious that board would yield a 12-lineup sample. This board is wildly different however, most of the games on the list are totaled at 47.5 or higher, and the most frequent winning Captain plays by far are pass-catchers. Running backs only take three of the 12 wins, while wide receivers and tight ends combine for twice that. Defenses are rendered less valuable in this sample, but the quarterback trend continues to roll along. The rest of the sample is not worth examination, these games were far too different from where tonight’s contest seems likely to be heading.

On a final note, the Saints are seemingly one bad step away from starting a lucky fan at quarterback tonight, with rookie Ian Book taking the helm. Book is priced at only $9,000, so much of the quarterback salary multiplier in the Captain role issue is at least muted by his value. It seems somewhat more likely that Book can produce a quality score in the Captain spot without damaging the upside of flex positions, the downstream impact of the positional salary is nullified at this price.

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DraftKings + FanDuel Stack Rules

QB with at least one RB/WR/TE from Opposing Team (this will happen naturally in most Showdown constructions, but including the rule will eliminate lineups that feature only an opposing kicker or quarterback)

QB with at least one WR/TE from Same Team (this will happen naturally in a large portion of lineups, but stacking quarterbacks with pass catchers is the easiest way to rack up NFL DFS points. It makes sense to include this rule to force the build, in most situations)

Limit Rules

Limit rules are slightly less important for Showdown slates as there are only two teams to choose from. They are still useful for preventing suboptimal constructions, however. Including the following will help prevent these less likely builds.

Limit QB/RB/WR/TE/DST/K from Same Team to three unless paired with Captain

Limit RB from Same Team to one (this is a rule that can be toggled on and off over multiple crunches, but the preference for this slate would be to use it)

Limit K from Same Game to one

Limit DEF from Same Game to one

Construction Basics

We will utilize Fantasy Cruncher’s Groups utility to create specific builds. The Groups feature includes the ability to designate players as the key to the group, or the player whose use in a position will trigger the group requirements. For Showdown slates this can be utilized to force specific sets of players or positions along with each type of designated Captain. The example below shows a group that utilizes Alvin Kamara in the Captain role as the key player. It will then force all constructions featuring Kamara in the Captain role to include at least three of the players listed in the group including both quarterbacks as well as a mix of positively leveraged options from both sides and a few tournament dart throw plays at low ownership.

NFL DFS Optimizer Groups & Picks

Unlike multi-game slates, when attacking individual potential game scripts, these groups are better deployed individually for separate crunches that can then be combined into a single pool of lineups. Running them all at once is likely to create conflicting scenarios that will either prevent or limit a full crunch.

Quarterback Inclusion

The first wrinkle in utilizing Groups to create specific constructions is that the tool differentiates between a wide receiver or running back and the same player in the Captain or MVP spot. This requires the creation of a group that adds the Captain version of any likely skill player as the key player, with a rule setting that any lineup featuring any of these players must include one of the quarterbacks in a Flex position. The alternate approach to this problem is to remove all but the skill players from potential inclusion at the Captain spot then create a rule that will simply stack the quarterback with the Captain spot, but that approach is likely more flawed. This group does not currently force quarterbacks when defense or a kicker is used at Captain.

Key Players: All primary skill-players as Captain

Setting: At least one

Group: Tua Tagovailoa and Ian Book – Standard versions

This group will result in getting one of the quarterbacks whenever any of the listed primary skill-players is utilized at Captain. To force the quarterback from the same team, multiple groups should be created for skill players from each team utilizing just the quarterback from that team. When quarterbacks appear in Flex positions, the rules and limit settings will kick in to force optimal constructions in the other Flex roles.

NFL DFS Lineup Build – Inexpensive QB Captain

Key Player(s): Ian Book – Captain version

Setting: At least 4

Group: Tua Tagovailoa, Nick Vannett, Alvin Kamara, Myles Gaskin, Mark Ingram, Duke Johnson, DeVante Parker, Tre’Quan Smith, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Mike Gesicki, Saints, Dolphins

This group utilizes the low salary on Book to help roster several of the more expensive options in flex roles while still pushing a highly totaled lineup. The group forces four players, with the balance of the list filled out by all of the most positively leveraged players on the slate, including both defenses and a mix of skill players from both teams. Nick Vannett is carrying a massive leverage mark on the boom/bust tool, he looks like a fantastic play for the price. Both defenses are included, as are all four primary running backs from both teams, in the hopes of landing some lineups where the Dolphins defense is rostered against Book in the Captain spot, or lineups that include both running backs from one team.

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NFL DFS Concept – Dolphins Passing Game

Key Player(s): DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Jaylen Waddle – Captain versions

Setting: At least four

Group: Tua Tagovailoa, Ian Book, Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Nick Vannett, Saints Defense, Dolphins Defense, Tre’Quan Smith, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Jason Sanders, Myles Gaskin

This group focuses on the strong positive leverage on three of the Dolphins’ primary pass-catchers, in a hope to differentiate and capture some potential upside from underappreciated assets. While none of the options will be extremely low owned, not one of them will be owned to their potential either. The group forces four players from a list that includes both quarterbacks, the same list of receivers as flex plays, the correlated kicker from the Dolphins, both defenses, and a few positive leverages plays from further down the board for differentiation. This should help create lineups that have a better chance of being unique when any of these options lands in the Captain role, though it is worth noting that this configuration flies in the face of our small sample data for low game totals.

NFL DFS Gameflow – Ground and Pound

Key Player(s): Alvin Kamara – Captain version

Setting: At least four

Group: Tua Tagovailoa, Ian Book, Mark Ingram, Myles Gaskin, Duke Johnson, Saints Defense, Dolphins Defense, Jason Sanders, Mike Gesicki, Nick Vannett, Tre’Quan Smith, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, DeVante Parker

This group puts the focus back on the ground and leans into the small-sample trend that saw the value of running backs in the Captain role in games with low totals. Factor in Kamara’s individual talent level, projections, probability metrics, and the notion that there is a rookie quarterback on the field with him, there is value in using him in the role. The group forces four players from a list that includes both quarterbacks, the other three running backs, both defenses, and the same list of positively leveraged skill players and the Miami kicker.

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Take a look at our NFL line-ups, depth charts for NFL games and inactives list. If you’re interested in other NFL football DFS for multiple game slates, head over to NFL DFS projected ownership, Awesemo’s NFL Data Central, NFL rankings, and daily fantasy football stacking. We also have NFL DFS single-game projections and NFL DFS single-game ownership projections. View our FanDuel DFS NFL rankings and our DraftKings NFL rankings. NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Dolphins vs. Saints DraftKings & FanDuel Lineups Tonight

James Brien

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