After last week's debacle, I don't even want to talk about this week. Seemingly half of our defense is out, and we're facing one of the best offenses in the league. Our offense is in shambles and faces a very good Cardinals defense, on the road, on a short week. Oh, and did I mention this is a prime-time game too? In fantasy football I have a general rule that I try to follow: fade Thursday Night games. And so, I'm going to fade Frigga Fantasy Football as well. My only advice to you is simply this: sit all your Vikings. No seriously, sit them all, even Adrian Peterson. I don't even care what the Fantasy Pros projections are this week, the game script will almost surely run exactly the same as last week, but with even more lopsided potential. The Cardinals offense is better than the Seattle offense, and their defense is almost as good. They should have no trouble stopping Peterson, and will put up a ton of points.
So instead of breaking down the Vikings this week (beyond what I just did) I thought I would give you some guidelines for Daily Fantasy Sports (or DFS). I've gotten a few questions in the various comments sections throughout the Daily Norseman wondering about the best strategies for playing on Fanduel and I've decided that this week would be the perfect week to devote Frigga to that topic. So the first thing to know is that there are two basic game formats in DFS: Guaranteed Prize Pool (or GPP) games and "Cash" games.
A GPP game is a large field game with a low percentage of winners. Typically the top 10-25% of scoring teams win these with the top team winning a massive payout. In GPP's the prize pool is concentrated at the top, meaning the odds of winning money is much, much lower. In Fanduel the following formats would be considered GPPs: Tournaments and Leagues. The "NFL Sunday Million" is the top featured GPP which has a $25 entry fee and the winner gets $175,000. DFS sites LOVE to promote these GPP tournaments, because they make the most money off of them, and they can attract the most users with these large prize pools. But generally speaking, it's best for beginners to avoid them.
Cash games have a different prize structure, where the top 45-50% of participants earns money. There are several types of cash games, but the most popular are "Head-to-head" and "50/50s." The payouts are much smaller in cash games, but the odds of winning are also much, much higher. For example, in a head-to-head matchup you square off against one other person, with the winner taking both entry fees (minus the rake). In a 50/50, there are typically 50-100 participants and the top half double their money (minus the rake). Fanduel also has massive "Double-ups" (and even Triple-ups) called Multipliers where there are over 10,000 entries and you do literally double or triple your money (with no rake), but only the top 35-45% of participants earn a payout (the rake is actually taken out of the percentage of winners). The double and triple-ups are kind of hybrid GPP/Cash game.
In any case, I prefer to play the "cash" games because the odds of winning money are much better and my bank roll is pretty small. Eventually if my bank roll increases substantially, then I'll commit more to GPP tournaments, but since the odds are so poor I feel like I'm just throwing my money away. I like to enter a few 50/50 tournaments and a handful of head-to-heads each week. So far this year, I've more than doubled my bank roll.
Once you've decided which format is right for you, then you can begin the task of selecting the players you want to use to build a team. DFS uses a salary cap format for roster construction where the best players are also the most expensive. Everyone that enters the tournament has the same amount of fake salary cap dollars to use to build a team and has access to the same players. So that means that some lineups could end up being identical. In any case, the following is my process for DFS.
The first thing I do is look at the Vegas lines for every game. I want to target the games that have the highest point totals, because higher point totals means better chances for scoring and fantasy points. Next, I take a look at every team's DVOA rating from Football Outsiders. Generally speaking, I want to try to identify the game that has the best "shoot-out" potential. So I'm looking for a game that has two highly rated passing offenses facing off against two poorly rated passing defenses. Not every week is going to feature a game like this, but if I can find one or two that are close, and that also have a high Vegas point line, then I'm going to try to get as many players from those games as possible.
Once I've identified the games I want to focus on, I start with finding a QB/WR stack that I like the most from those games. By "stack" I mean players on the same team. The reason I want to stack a QB and WR from the same team in a game I really like, is because when a QB does well, typically his #1 WR also does well. For example, one 20 yard touchdown pass may not seem like much, but if you happen to have both the QB and WR involved in the play it amounts to a ton of points. Last week, if you had Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown on the same fantasy team, the two of them combined for over 60 points in Fanduel...a huge total! When a QB/WR stack goes off like that, you are almost guaranteed to win.
Next, I look for my "value" plays. These are guys that are relatively cheap compared to their expected production. In Fanduel, there is a $60,000 salary cap total, and based on last year's data, your target scoring goal to "cash" is 120 fantasy points. So to meet that target, a player needs to score 1 fantasy point for every $500 you spend. In other words you want to basically "double" the salary you spend in terms of fantasy points earned. For example, if a player costs $9,000 in salary, you would need that player to score at least 18 fantasy points to pay off. A value play then is someone who is projected for a lot more points than their salary. Last week, Arizona RB David Johnson was a popular player in DFS, because his salary was only $5900. With injuries to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington he was in line to receive a massive workload in a very good offense. In order to pay off, Johnson only needed to score 11.8 points, and in a half-point PPR scoring format like Fanduel, this was almost a given. He ended up scoring 19 Fanduel points and more than paid off his price point last week. Patriots TE Scott Chandler was another popular DFS option last week too. At only $5300, he only needed 10.6 points to pay off as the Gronkowski fill-in. He ended up with 14.1 points and also paid off well.
Once I have my QB/WR stack, and I've loaded up a few value plays I take a look at how much salary cap money I have left and look at my remaining options. Sometimes I will use a "DFS lineup generator" like the one they have at Fantasy Pros to help fill in the missing pieces, but usually I like to do this manually. I tend to go back to my DVOA and Vegas lines spreadsheets and look for strong matchup plays. I will also consult any fantasy site's Points Against rankings by position too (like ESPN or Yahoo!). If there are any stud players left with awesome matchups, I'll try to fit those players in around my QB/WR stack and value plays.
The last step is to pick a kicker and D/ST. Kickers are always a crapshoot, and I tend to pick the cheapest options whenever possible. I want a kicker in a high-scoring game, and one who has a history of doing well, but who is also cheap. If I can find one kicking indoors or in a warm weather outdoor game, I'll take them first. I don't think I've ever rostered Gostowski in DFS for whatever that's worth. For a D/ST I'm looking for a big home favorite in a low-scoring game. It would be even better if that defense is facing an inexperienced quarterback, or a bad offense. If I can make it work, I do like to stack my D/ST with a running back, as there is a positive correlation there. Generally when a RB is doing well, there's a good chance the team is ahead and milking the clock, which means the D/ST probably did well too.
Last week this process lead me to the following lineup:
RB: David Johnson
RB: "Buck" Allen
WR: Antonio Brown
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Michael Crabtree
TE: Scott Chandler
K: Robbie Gould
D/ST: Chicago Bears
I scored 174 Fanduel points and had a 100% win rate in all my cash games. You could say that I got lucky with Big Ben and Antonio Brown, but the DVOA metrics and Vegas predicted the Steelers offense to do very well against Indy, which is I chose that QB/WR stack. I actually thought it would be a little more of an even shoot-out, but instead the Steelers completely dominated the Colts 45 to 10. I went with three value plays in David Johnson, Buck Allen and Scott Chandler. I didn't really like Buck Allen that much, since he was on the road and their offense is questionable with Matt Schaub. But the opportunity was there with Justin Forsett out. I think I did get a little lucky there. But the value plays let me pay up for another stud WR in Julio Jones. His safe floor is perfect for cash games, and while his 13 Fanduel points was a little disappointing (and didn't meet his payoff goal), I still think it was a good play. I liked the Bears at home against San Fran and both Gould and their D/ST were dirt cheap allowing me to make a strong WR3 play in Michael Crabtree.
Keep in mind the above process is only for cash games. Since I don't tend to play GPP formats all that much, I don't have much to add. I will say though, the winning lineups in GPP tend to be "weird" lineups or what some guys call "contrarian" lineups. Perhaps I'll devote a future Frigga article to GPP strategy.
In any case, I've been playing traditional fantasy football since 2008 and wasn't sure if I would like DFS all that much. I tried it for the first time last year and liked it well enough, but didn't win much. I have done a lot more research this year and finally figured out a winning formula. It's a lot more fun when you win, that is for sure. It doesn't exactly feel like gambling to me, but I study the metrics and try to make educated plays as much as possible, and play the formats that have close to 50% odds to win. When you do that, the "gambling" part of it is minimized tremendously.
So, let's move onto my league-wide picks for this week. I like to highlight one player that I think will outscore their consensus projection by giving them the "Well Played" designation, and then also highlight one player I think will fall short of their projection by giving them the "Oops" designation. Here are my picks for this week:
Well Played of the Week
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs NO
It has been a fantasy wasteland for the tight end position this year. Only eight tight ends have averaged 7 or more points on the year, and three of them are varying levels of "questionable" as of Wednesday night. Seferian-Jenkins has missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, but finally returned to the field last week. During the first two weeks he saw 10 targets from Jameis Winston and turned that into 7 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Last week he saw 7 targets and caught three of them for 31 yards. He was clearly a bit rusty in his first game back last week, but Winston is playing well and their passing offense is pretty high volume. What I like about Seferian-Jenkins this week is that he gets the worst defense in the NFL, and the best possible matchup for a tight end in fantasy. With only three games under his belt, and plenty of other options around him in the passing game (Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson to name two) it's anyone's guess as to what his usage will be. But the Saints are giving up an average of 20 fantasy points per game to tight ends over their past four games! If you're in a bind at tight end and need an under-the-radar, high ceiling play, this is it. Fantasy Pros has him only projected for 5.5 points this week, but I think he'll beat that.
Oops of the Week
RB Adrian Peterson vs ARI
I've already made my case up above, but just to reiterate, this pick is based solely on expected game script. The Cardinals should have no problem jumping out to an early lead against our defense that will be without its starting NT, LB, FS and SS. With a short week to prepare, going on the road traveling West in a night-time game, I expect similar results as week 1 in San Francisco: a lethargic, young team playing nervous. And if the Cardinals get up early, the Vikings will have to abandon the run and their 31st ranked passing offense will not be up to the task of moving the chains. This is a dreadful spot for Peterson. The Cardinals allow an average of 14.9 points to opposing running backs, 6th best in the league. Fantasy Pros is still projecting Peterson for 14.2 fantasy points, but I think he'll fall short of that amount.
Last Week: 2-0, Season so Far: 17-9
Daily Norseman Fantasy League
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the fantasy playoffs! Last week, CrisCarter's Fallguys won a nailbiter of a game against MayTheNorseBeWithYou by less than 2 points to advance to the playoffs. That means your playoff bracket is as follows:
Good luck to everyone in the playoffs. Feel free to leave your sit/start questions in the comments below for myself and others to chime in.