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Week 7 DraftKings Thursday Night Football Showdown: Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos

Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson (30) runs with the ball as New York Giants cornerback Julian Love (20) defends during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-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 will 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 7 Showdown slate analysis that you’ll find below:

1. A breakdown of methodology and the most similar historical matchup to Cleveland BrownsDenver Broncos as an illustration of the matching process: 2014 Week 16 Jacksonville JaguarsTennessee Titans, featuring Blake Bortles as Case Keenum and Charlie Whitehurst playing the role of Teddy Bridgewater.

2. Optimal lineup allocations (CPT and total roster) for both teams based on the results of similar historical matchups.

3. Comparison of player ownership projections for FLEX and CPT produced by a model trained on 2018-2020 Showdown contest results to optimal allocations.

4. Recent CPT ownership trends illustrated for both starting lineups.

5. A table showing the most common players on optimal lineups for each player. This lets you see which other players are commonly found on the same optimal lineups as a player you’re interested in rostering.


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
Blake Bortles QB JAX Case Keenum QB CLE
Toby Gerhart RB JAX Demetric Felton RB CLE
Marqise Lee WR JAX Odell Beckham Jr. WR CLE
Marcedes Lewis TE JAX David Njoku TE CLE
Charlie Whitehurst QB TEN Teddy Bridgewater QB DEN
Bishop Sankey RB TEN Melvin Gordon III RB DEN
Nate Washington WR TEN Courtland Sutton WR DEN
Delanie Walker TE TEN Noah Fant TE DEN

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Jaguars -4.5 39 O/U versus this matchup at Browns -2, 41 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
Leon Washington TEN RB CPT 20.3
Charlie Whitehurst TEN QB FLEX 16.7
Jordan Todman JAX RB FLEX 13.7
Blake Bortles JAX QB FLEX 13.6
Toby Gerhart JAX RB FLEX 13.0
Kendall Wright TEN WR FLEX 11.3

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.


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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