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Week 15 DraftKings Sunday Night Football Showdown: New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-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 Showdown slate analysis that you’ll find below:

  • A breakdown of methodology and the most similar historical matchup to Tampa Bay BuccaneersNew Orleans Saints as an illustration of the matching process: 2016 Week 9 San Diego ChargersTennessee Titans, featuring Philip Rivers as Tom Brady and Marcus Mariota playing the role of Taysom Hill.
  • Optimal lineup allocations (CPT and total roster) for both teams are based on the results of similar historical matchups.
  • Comparison of player ownership projections for FLEX and CPT produced by a model trained on 2018-2021 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.

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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
Philip Rivers QB SD Tom Brady QB TB
Melvin Gordon III RB SD Leonard Fournette RB TB
Tyrell Williams WR SD Chris Godwin WR TB
Antonio Gates TE SD Rob Gronkowski TE TB
Marcus Mariota QB TEN Taysom Hill QB NO
DeMarco Murray RB TEN Alvin Kamara RB NO
Rishard Matthews WR TEN Tre'Quan Smith WR NO
Delanie Walker TE TEN Nick Vannett TE NO

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Chargers -3.5, 47.5 O/U versus this matchup at Buccaneers -11, 45.5 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
Melvin Gordon III SD RB CPT 39.1
Marcus Mariota TEN QB FLEX 31.9
Rishard Matthews TEN WR FLEX 24.3
DeMarco Murray TEN RB FLEX 21.0
Philip Rivers SD QB FLEX 18.7
Antonio Gates SD TE FLEX 18.5

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 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.

CPT

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