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Week 18 DraftKings Sunday Night Football Showdown: Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) takes the handoff from quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-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 Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders as an illustration of the matching process: 2016 Week 13 when the Atlanta Falcons faced the Kansas City Chiefs, with Matt Ryan as Justin Herbert and Alex Smith playing Derek Carr‘s role.
  • 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
Matt Ryan QB ATL Justin Herbert QB LAC
Devonta Freeman RB ATL Austin Ekeler RB LAC
Julio Jones WR ATL Keenan Allen WR LAC
Levine Toilolo TE ATL Jared Cook TE LAC
Alex Smith QB KC Derek Carr QB LV
Spencer Ware RB KC Josh Jacobs RB LV
Tyreek Hill WR KC Hunter Renfrow WR LV
Travis Kelce TE KC Darren Waller TE LV

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Falcons -5, 50 O/U versus this matchup at Chargers -3, 49 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
Devonta Freeman ATL RB CPT 26.5
Travis Kelce KC TE FLEX 25.0
Julio Jones ATL WR FLEX 21.3
Albert Wilson KC WR FLEX 20.3
Spencer Ware KC RB FLEX 20.2
Matt Ryan ATL QB FLEX 17.2

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

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