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DraftKings Showdown: Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals Monday Night Football

Oct 11, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) warms up before his game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The changing DFS and fantasy football landscape is shifting toward single-game contests. At DraftKings, 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 a total of six players.

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The biggest wrinkle of the format is the ability to choose one captain, 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.

This season I’m going to 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 who are the best and worst values for an upcoming matchup.

There are five main components to each Showdown slate analysis that you’ll find below:

  • A breakdown of methodology and the most similar historical matchup to Dallas CowboysArizona Cardinals as an illustration of the matching process: 2014 Week 2 ChiefsTexans, featuring Andrew Luck as Kyler Murray and Nick Foles playing the role of Andy Dalton.
  • Optimal lineup allocations (CPT and total roster) for both teams based on the results of similar historical matchups.
  • Comparison of player ownership projections for FLEX and CPT produced by a model trained on 2018-2019 Showdown contest results to optimal allocations.
  • Recent CPT ownership trends illustrated for both starting lineups.
  • 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.

METHODOLOGY

To analyze this specific Showdown slate, I looked through thousands of NFL matchups from 2014-2020 and found the closest analogies to this matchup according to the following parameters: betting spread, over/under, average fantasy points scoring for the top-ranked positional players of both rosters (QB1, RB1, WR1, TE1).

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

Historical Current
Player Pos Team Player Pos Team
Andrew Luck QB IND Kyler Murray QB ARI
Trent Richardson RB IND Chase Edmonds RB ARI
T.Y. Hilton WR IND DeAndre Hopkins WR ARI
Coby Fleener TE IND Darrell Daniels TE ARI
Nick Foles QB PHI Andy Dalton QB DAL
LeSean McCoy RB PHI Ezekiel Elliott RB DAL
Riley Cooper WR PHI CeeDee Lamb WR DAL
Zach Ertz TE PHI Dalton Schultz TE DAL

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Colts -3, 53.5 O/U versus Cardinals -1, 55.5 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
Darren Sproles PHI RB CPT 33.8
Ahmad Bradshaw IND RB FLEX 26.6
Nick Foles PHI QB FLEX 21.4
LeSean McCoy PHI RB FLEX 20.2
Andrew Luck IND QB FLEX 19.9
Jeremy Maclin PHI WR FLEX 14.5

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.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CAPTAIN

The most unique part of the format, and therefore the biggest opportunity for 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 vs. WR?

I went through the millions of possible lineup combinations for the 100 most similar matchups and found who the CPT selections were on the top-five scoring lineups for each matchup. Here are the 500 CPT from those matchups by position rank according to salary.

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