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Week 1 DraftKings Sunday Night Football Showdown: Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Landover, Maryland, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) hands the ball off to Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) against the Washington Football Team at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

  • Identify Godwin replacements: Simulations and projections assume Chris Godwin will play at a somewhat limited capacity. If he can’t go, shift his optimal and rostered percentage numbers between the other Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers.
  • Pay up for Fournette: Leonard Fournette is projected to be the most rostered player in the CPT spot, but he provides value.
  • Target backup Bucs WRs: Secondary and tertiary Buccaneers receivers Julio Jones and Russell Gage project as values in the FLEX spots.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

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 the best and worst values for an upcoming matchup.

There are five main components to this showdown slate analysis that you’ll find below:

  • A breakdown of methodology and the most similar historical matchup to this game: 2014 Week 16: Dallas Cowboys vs. Indianapolis Colts, with Tony Romo as Tom Brady, Andrew Luck playing Dak Prescott‘s role, and DeMarco Murray as Leonard Fournette.
  • 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 2018-2022 Showdown contest results to optimal allocations.
  • Recent CPT ownership trends are 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.

THE OPTIMAL ROSTER

To analyze this specific Showdown slate, I looked through thousands of NFL matchups from 2014 to 2022 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
Tony Romo QB DAL Tom Brady QB TB
DeMarco Murray RB DAL Leonard Fournette RB TB
Dez Bryant WR DAL Mike Evans WR TB
Jason Witten TE DAL Cameron Brate TE TB
Andrew Luck QB IND Dak Prescott QB DAL
Dan Herron RB IND Ezekiel Elliott RB DAL
Donte Moncrief WR IND CeeDee Lamb WR DAL
Coby Fleener TE IND Dalton Schultz TE DAL

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Cowboys -3, 53.5.5 O/U versus this matchup at Buccaneers -2.5, 50.5 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
Tony Romo DAL QB CPT 27.5
Jason Witten DAL TE FLEX 22.0
Terrance Williams DAL WR FLEX 19.2
Dez Bryant DAL WR FLEX 18.3
Hakeem Nicks IND WR FLEX 16.2
Cowboys DAL DST FLEX 12.0

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 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?

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 choices from those matchups by position rank according to salary.

BREAKING DOWN TOTAL OPTIMAL ROSTERS

This graph illustrates the full range of allocations for the different positions to measure how many of the 500 optimal rosters had exactly zero, one or two of the given positions.

HISTORICAL OWNERSHIP

The boxplot above shows the ranges for CPT ownership for each starting player in contests since 2019.

Projected ownership versus optimal

This is where the analysis comes together and becomes actionable. What’s most important when viewing these numbers is to contrast them to the optimal numbers taken from the analysis above for different positions. Then, we see where the leverage may exist.

The two tables below compare the optimal allocations above, with adjustments for the personnel of this particular matchup, to our ownership projections for CPT and FLEX.

DRAFTKINGS SHOWDOWN CAPTAIN

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