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

Aug 28, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-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’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 Week 1 Showdown slate analysis that you’ll find below:

  • A breakdown of methodology and the most similar historical matchup to Tampa Bay BuccaneersDallas Cowboys as an illustration of the matching process: 2019 Week 6 Kansas City ChiefsHouston Texans, featuring Patrick Mahomes as Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson playing the role of Dak Prescott.
  • 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 2018-2020 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 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
Patrick Mahomes QB KC Tom Brady QB TB
Damien Williams RB KC Leonard Fournette RB TB
Tyreek Hill WR KC Mike Evans WR TB
Travis Kelce TE KC Rob Gronkowski TE TB
Deshaun Watson QB HST Dak Prescott QB DAL
Carlos Hyde RB HST Ezekiel Elliott RB DAL
Will Fuller V WR HST Amari Cooper WR DAL
Jordan Akins TE HST Blake Jarwin TE DAL

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Buccaneers -8, 51.5 O/U versus this matchup at Chiefs -3.5, 54.5 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
Deshaun Watson HST QB CPT 29.4
Carlos Hyde HST RB FLEX 22.0
Patrick Mahomes KC QB FLEX 20.8
DeAndre Hopkins HST WR FLEX 14.5
Duke Johnson Jr. HST RB FLEX 13.4
Byron Pringle KC WR FLEX 4.4

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?

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