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NFL Divisional Round DraftKings Saturday Night Football Showdown: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

Arlington, Texas, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (25) celebrates his touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys with teammates on the field during the first half of the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The changing DFS and fantasy football landscape is shifting toward single-game contests. At DraftKings Sportsbook, the biggest is their Showdown Captain Mode format. The format blends the ease of focusing on a single game with the ability to differentiate yourself from the competition by choosing six players.

The biggest wrinkle of the format is the ability to choose one captain (CPT), who costs and is scored at 1.5 times the standard values. The CPT designation opens up another layer of strategy while exponentially increasing the number of possible lineup combinations, which is important for reducing duplicate winners and split prizes. I wrote a primer on playing this format, with details on historical positional trends and salary usage.

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This season, I will analyze all of the NFL’s “island” games (TNF, SNF and MNF) and playoff matchups, utilizing PFF’s weekly projections, current betting lines, and millions of simulated historical combinations to identify the best and worst values for an upcoming matchup.

There are five main components to this divisional playoff round Showdown slate analysis that you’ll find below:

  1. A breakdown of methodology and the most similar historical matchup to Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers as an illustration of the matching process: 2015 Week 7 when the Arizona Cardinals faced the Baltimore Ravens, with Carson Palmer as Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco playing Jimmy Garoppolo‘s role.
  2. Optimal lineup allocations (CPT and total roster) for both teams are based on the results of similar historical matchups.
  3. Comparison of player ownership projections for FLEX and CPT produced by a model trained on 2018-2021 Showdown contest results to optimal allocations.
  4. Recent CPT ownership trends are illustrated for both starting lineups.
  5. A table showing the most common players on optimal lineups for each player. This allows you to see which other players are commonly found on the same optimal lineups as a player you’re interested in rostering.
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To analyze this specific Showdown slate, I looked through thousands of NFL matchups from 2014 to 2021 and found the closest analogies to this contest according to the following parameters: Betting spread, over/under and average fantasy points scoring for the top-ranked positional players of both rosters (QB1, RB1, WR1, TE1).

I won’t detail every matchup that falls into the top 100 for this game, but for illustration purposes, let’s look at the most similar matchup:

Historical Current
Player Pos Team Player Pos Team
Carson Palmer QB ARZ Aaron Rodgers QB GB
Chris Johnson RB ARZ Aaron Jones RB GB
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARZ Davante Adams WR GB
Jermaine Gresham TE ARZ Josiah Deguara TE GB
Joe Flacco QB BLT Jimmy Garoppolo QB SF
Justin Forsett RB BLT Eli Mitchell RB SF
Steve Smith WR BLT Deebo Samuel WR SF
Crockett Gillmore TE BLT George Kittle TE SF

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Cardinals -10, 49.5 O/U versus this matchup at Packers -5.5, 47.5 O/U). All the players aren’t perfect matches, but that’s why we use 100 similar matchups and not just the single most similar.

The optimal roster for that historical matchup, assuming positional salaries equaled what they are for this showdown slate, would have been:

Player Team Position Roster Position Fantasy Pts
Chris Johnson ARZ RB CPT 21.2
Carson Palmer ARZ QB FLEX 19.2
John Brown ARZ WR FLEX 16.5
Michael Floyd ARZ WR FLEX 14.9
Justin Forsett BLT RB FLEX 13.4
Joe Flacco BLT QB FLEX 13.1

For this game and 99 other similar matchups, I calculated every possible combination that fits with Showdown rules (one CPT, at least one offensive player from each team) and would fall under the $50K salary threshold, assuming the salaries for the historical similar matchups are the same as those for this contest.


The most unique part of the format, and therefore the biggest opportunity for a competitive advantage, is choosing your CPT. Should you always choose a QB who typically has the highest absolute fantasy scoring? Are defenses and kickers viable options? RB versus WR?


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