DFS Roundtable: Week 8

A peek behind the curtain at a staff discussion pertaining to this week's DFS topics

This week, we'll discuss the following topics:

The staffers we talked to this week are Andrew Garda, Dan Hindery, Alex Miglio, Chad Parsons, Jeff Pasquino, and Mark Wimer.

Chalky Weeks

Hester: Last week looked to be very "chalky" as soon as we got some mid-week injury news that we knew would open up some low-price options. On top of that, many elite players had "plus" matchups. When you see a week lining up as a chalky week, do you think that's an advantage to a more knowledgeable/experienced DFS player, or a disadvantage? How do you adjust your strategy and bankroll management in weeks like this?

Pasquino: I think that there is a lot more to this question than just whether or not the week is chalky. In a perfect world, chalky weeks favor the sharper players, as they are more on top of the news and know who the chalk should be – but more and more DFS players are learning quickly who should be in lineups each week. Last week presented a few issues that are becoming a bit more commonplace. First, two to three players who were priced (correctly) as backups wound up as starters, and that opened up value immensely. Those players became the new chalk for the week, and nearly everyone was on them. Having two inexpensive players in a lineup made a lot of higher-priced pieces suddenly fit into most rosters rather easily, which took the advantage away from those players who are better at lineup construction. The best DFS players are up on the news, know how to build a roster, and know how to find value. When value presents itself so obviously and the rosters are easy to build (less cap room problems), those advantages tend to go away, which lowers the advantage that normally tilts in favor of the more skilled players. David Dodds was noticing this last week and even pointed it out on his blog and in his articles for the week, and it played out just like he thought it might.

The other major factor last week is that not only did the chalky players that everyone was focused on hit (and exceed) value but so did all the higher-priced players everyone was also touting for the week. When everyone is rostering the same four or five players, the deciding factors turn towards the other 30-50% of the DFS lineup, which can be a highly volatile (high variance) situation. That is NOT a cash game situation you want to be in, so the safest way to manage your bankroll under these circumstances is to (A) play fewer cash games and (B) play more in tournaments. It just so happened that fading chalky players was not the right call in Week 7, and when all of (or most of) the chalk hits and exceeds value, scores are all elevated, and the rest of the roster decides if you win or lose.

The other way to play a week that screams “chalk” is to take a decidedly one-sided stance on that chalky player. If you think it is a bad play, then you can really capitalize if the chalk player does not do well and you avoid him in your lineups. That’s a tougher way to play unless you are rock solidly sure about your call, as you are going to be going against a lot of competitors who will be using that player. It can have huge benefits, but risking a large percentage of your bankroll is not advised. All that again points towards playing more GPP games instead of cash, as swimming against the current is what tournaments are all about.

Parsons: I switched up my contest diversity last week as I hit on a single lineup I really liked due to the chalk nature as outlined. Therefore, my composition included more head-to-heads than usual – creating money line expansion – and mixed in a few triple-up contests. Head-to-heads create a higher floor if your singular lineup does not hit, as you will still win against lesser lineups, while the typical double or triple-up contests have a similar money line across the board making your lineup a binary win or loss overall for the week.

Garda: I'm with Jeff, in that I think it favors tournaments. You know everyone who is getting played, and finding that one guy to get you into the money works better in that format. I initially thought cash games might be the call, but the rising tide lifts all boats; there were limited ways in which to differentiate yourself and find a share, and the margins were tight when you looked at it closely. "Swimming against the current" as Jeff put it will end up drowning you more than you'd think in cash games when there's so much chalk.

I'd still float some cash games if I found a lineup I really liked and believed it, but I'd definitely be in for less money than usual.

Wimer: The way I approached things last week was A) to play nothing but mid- and smaller-sized tournments and B) I dialed back the percentage of my bankroll in play to 20% of the total. The dial-back was in response to the high-variance el-cheapos I played last week on the margins of my rosters. The ones where I included Adam Humphries and Mohamed Sanu didn't do too well, while those with Gary Barnidge and the Philadelphia defense did quite well. I had an overall good week despite the 15% of my lineups with the Humphries/Sanu tandem.

Miglio: Jeff and Andrew nailed it on the head; chalk means opportunity in tournaments. While I agree that chalk is an advantage for sharp players due to being on top of news, the chalkier weeks tend to provide opportunity because people are drawn to the obvious. Devontae Booker is going to save a lot of contestants a lot of money this week, both in cash and tournaments. Pivoting away from him in GPPs will allow for lineup uniqueness, a theoretical advantage if you pivot to the right players.

Hindery: The chalkier the week, the fewer difficult decisions need to be made. That levels the playing field considerably and takes away much of the advantage that top players normally have. Similarly, a casual player would stand a better chance playing a few hands of poker against a professional than they would sitting down for hours at a table against a pro where eventually the better player will likely come out on top. Last week, the best plays were pretty obvious at a number of positions, and the main areas of differentiation (Defense, WR3, etc.) were few and, by their nature, fairly random. If you are a successful player, those are weeks to play a bit less of your bankroll.

As to whether or not you want to play more of your bankroll in tournaments, part of that decision should rest upon how strongly you feel about the chalk. Last week, guys like Spencer Ware, Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and DeMarco Murray were extremely popular in all formats. If you felt like one or more of them had the potential to really underperform and had pivots that you preferred, it would make sense to go heavy in tournaments. If you thought the chalk was strong and didn't have strong feelings about any of the lesser-owner pivot options, then it made sense to play less money in tournaments as well.

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Slate Selection

Hester: With six teams having a Week 8 bye and another London game to go along with the typical Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football games, the main slate is as short on games as it has ever been. How does a shorter slate impact DFS? And with just 10 games from which to choose, do you change your strategy at all?

Pasquino: It really depends on the contests. Some games do not matter much for DFS, and you are already going to fade them no matter what. Jacksonville vs. Tennessee offers me very little this week, for example, so I do not mind at all that it is the Thursday game. While I would like to have the Minnesota defense this week in the main slate, I am sure that I can find another option with 10 games. If I want one player from each game on the docket, there are still 10 to choose from, so I should be able to find what I need from those contests. Only when the slate gets under seven games do I start to get a little concerned, as more and more people will have overlapping rosters with fewer and fewer games. Ten games should be plenty to build solid rosters, and the reduced slate should add to the ability to break down the games with a little more time to focus on each one.

Parsons: I strongly prefer larger slates, giving the DFS player population more options to go against the grain. However, my process of player selection and lineup building remains the same for the typical Sunday slate. I agree with Jeff that some games are off my radar entirely for DFS plays depending on a number of factors, so my typical set of realistic options may only come from half the games anyway.

Rarely over the past few years have I played a small slate like Jeff mentioned such as a Primetime contest, for example. Shooting the needle on the exact combination becomes more and more necessary to cash, and luck increases to hit on specific game scripts on a higher percent of the slate's games.

Garda: I have had some fun on short roster contests (Thursday/Monday, primetime only) before, but by and large it's a pain in the butt. I echo what Jeff and Chad said, in that 10 games is plenty, even with some weak games in there.

Even though there are significantly fewer options to roster, there are still plenty of hidden gems among those that remain. You just have to be diligent in mining them and choosing which are more rare, and therefore, better plays.

Wimer: I don't mind the six-team bye week, but I will miss being able to include the Washington-Cincinnati game due to it being in London. Chris Thompson looks so set to blow up in that game. Like the other guys said, the entire offenses from some games are not in play from a DFS perspective each week, although I did select both the Minnesota and Philadelphia defenses a lot last week while not even considering any of the offensive players from those squads. I like shootouts or blowouts for DFS purposes! Green Bay at Atlanta, Oakland at Tampa Bay, and Jets players at Cleveland all fit the bill this week.

Hindery: As we noted in another roundtable question, six of the ten games on the Sunday 1:00pm slate have game totals of 47 or higher. There are certainly enough strong options to choose from to make lineup construction challenging and ensure that there will not be too much overlap. Running back is a perfect example. The 10-game slate is overflowing with intriguing running back options. Devontae Booker, still priced like a backup, will be a popular choice given the injury to C.J. Anderson. Devonta Freeman also has the Atlanta backfield to himself with Tevin Coleman out. Spencer Ware has been excellent in recent weeks and has an ideal matchup against the awful Colts run defense. Christine Michael also has an outstanding matchup against the Saints. David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott don’t have the most attractive matchups, but are in play every week regardless of opponent. And that’s just scratching the surface at one position. It should be a fun and challenging slate that provides plenty of different ways to go with roster construction.

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Stack it Up

Hester: Which stack do you see scoring the most raw points this week, independent of price? Which stack do you see as the best value for the price you'd have to pay to deploy it?

Pasquino: The Green Bay-Atlanta game looks like it will offer the best value, as the Packers are coming off of a long week after playing on Thursday night in Week 7, and Atlanta’s defense has not slowed anyone down this year. I'll gladly deploy Aaron Rodgers with a week and a half to get ready. The only question is which wide receiver you want to stack him with, as you have at least three from which to choose in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and last week’s darling, Davante Adams. Ty Montgomery (who is now a RB on FanDuel) could even be paired with Rodgers as he's likely to catch plenty of passes as well.

I also like the looks of a Russell Wilson-Jimmy Graham stack with Graham returning to New Orleans, but the cheapest stack I will likely target is Jameis Winston-Mike Evans against Oakland. Winston-Evans was a great duo against San Francisco last week, and Oakland continues to give up a ton of production to top-end receivers. One thing to keep in mind for this one, though, is that the Raiders are not flying back to California after their win against Jacksonville last week since the schedule makers put them in Florida for consecutive contests. Oakland requested this once they saw two road trips to the Sunshine state, and they are treating this week as another training camp opportunity. So if you were targeting this one as another “West Coast team headed to the East Coast” opportunity, that one is off the table this week.

Hindery: If ignoring price, the Matt Ryan-Julio Jones stack is the top choice. In his last two home games, Jones had 21 receptions for 474 yards, and a touchdown. That’s an average of 237 receiving yards per game. In the same two games, Matt Ryan threw for 780 yards and 5 touchdowns. Ryan and Jones should have another big game on the home turf this week. Green Bay has given up some monster games to opposing number one receivers this season, including 6-205-2 to Marvin Jones and 9-182-1 to Stefon Diggs.

For a lower-owned stack, Ryan Fitzpatrick-Brandon Marshall is intriguing due to the ideal matchup against the Browns defense. Cleveland has given up either 300 yards or three touchdowns to each of the past six quarterbacks they have faced. The Browns have also given up some monster games to opposing pass-catchers. A.J. Green had 8-169-1 last week on just eight targets. Kendall Wright had 8-133-1 in Week 6. Three separate New England pass catchers had big games in Week 5, with Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski each topping 100 yards and Martellus Bennett catching three touchdowns. Jordan Matthews (7-114-1), Jarvis Landry (7-120-1), Jordan Reed (9-73-2), and Dennis Pitta (9-102) are among the other pass-catchers who have torched the Browns this season.

Parsons: When stacking, I target a highly-predictable volume floor for the wide receiver or tight end selected. One combination which qualifies for the rest of the season when matchups dictate is the aforementioned Winston-Evans duo. This is a repeat of 2015 where the Tampa Bay passing game is running on fumes behind Evans. Yes, Cameron Brate will have a few decent games, but Evans will be absolutely peppered with targets – optimal or not. I project Evans to approach 200 targets on the season in terms of per-game pace. The Raiders are a defense to target as they travel to Tampa Bay this week. While Evans carries one of the top salaries of the week, Winston is moderately-priced. They are my preferred stack this week.

Another stack which intrigues me for Week 8 is Houston. Brock Osweiler has been a lagging performer, but the schedule begins to open up for the Houston pass game starting this week against Detroit. DeAndre Hopkins is far more expensive than Will Fuller, and I like Fuller's single-play upside more for stacking and multiple touchdowns. They are my sneaky stack of the week.

Garda: Dovetailing off Jeff's Green Bay option, I would lean towards Rodgers-Cobb or Rodgers-Montgomery. There is a certain amount of risk in Montgomery because Knile Davis could be ready to carry a significant load, which limits his impact. I would avoid Adams because, this past week notwithstanding, he's way too inconsistent and as likely to biff it as he is to blow it up. Keep in mind, as Bloom pointed out in his Upgrades/Downgrades piece this week, he was beating up on UDFA corner DeVante Bausby. A nice game? Yes, but not something I expect much of on a consistent basis.

I like the Oakland pairing of Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree. Crabtree has been consistent against shaky defenses, which Tampa Bay features. Add in the fact that teams want to focus on Amari Cooper and I think Carr-Crabtree (CarrTree?) is a nice stack that won't be overpriced.

Believe it or not, I also think there is something to be mined in the Jets offense. Cleveland is a bad offense, Fitzpatrick is angry (and whiny), and Marshall is always a target he loves. This is a great matchup, and with Marshall coming off two down games, it's a pairing I don't see getting owned much.

Wimer: As I noted in the slate selection question, the three games I am mainly targetting this week are Green Bay at Atlanta, Oakland at Tampa Bay, and New York Jets at Cleveland. I agree with Andrew that Fitzpatrick to Marshall should be very fruitful as Fitzpatrick wants to embarrass the people who embarrassed him with the Geno Smith start. Oh, and the Cleveland defense stinks! I see Packers-Falcons and Raiders-Buccaneers as high-probability shootouts, and I can see plausible paths for Jets-Browns to be either a blowout win by the Jets or a shootout with the Browns putting up a fight. I'm good with either eventuality with a Fitzpatrick-Marshall stack.

Jeff is right on with his comments on Packers at Falcons, and I agree with Dan on the Ryan-Julio stack being worth trying to build on for an acceptable "studs and duds" lineup for GPP play.

Miglio: I'm with Dan here; the Ryan-Jones stack seems to be the likeliest to produce the most points. Cost might be an issue there, but it should be easy enough to save money elsewhere. It might be the best cash game stack of the week.

I do like Mark's idea of a Fitzpatrick-Marshall stack. Fitzpatrick has targeted Marshall plenty, and it's a great matchup on paper. The trouble is Joe Haden; is he 100 percent? Is he back to form?

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Shootout Sunday?

Hester: Six main slate games opened with over/unders at 47 or higher, and none of those games opened with a point spread higher than four (New England at Buffalo has since jumped up to north of six). This suggests that a number of games will be high-scoring and close, which would lead to plenty of "fantasy goodness."

Pick one or two games that you'll exploit with your DFS lineups this week.

Pasquino: The first game I would consider for game stacking is not the game with the highest projected total (Atlanta-Green Bay) but, instead, Tampa Bay-Oakland. The Buccaneers got their offense rolling last week against San Francisco, and now they head home to face another weak passing defense in the Raiders. Jameis Winston and Mike Evans were a big duo last week along with Jacquizz Rodgers, and I would not be afraid to game stack all three of those against either Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper in this one.

The other game I am also going to take a harder look at is San Diego-Denver. At first glance, it would seem like a game to avoid with the Broncos defense being involved, but San Diego just played them two weeks ago on a Thursday night and won 21-13. The Broncos have a short week, but they know that they have to get up and after the Chargers in a tough AFC West. With two strong running backs to go against that weak run defense of San Diego, I could see this game putting up a lot more points than most would expect.

Parsons: I agree with Jeff on the underrated Oakland-Tampa Bay matchup for points. Neither defense is very good, and as mentioned in the last topic, Winston-Evans is one of my favorite stacks for Week 8.

The Saints at home are commonly a breeding ground for shootouts. The Vegas total is 48. Seattle is one of the better pass defenses in the NFL, but Brees' home-road splits are strong indicators over the long haul. When in doubt, bank on him in the home dome. New Orleans' defense should allow plenty of action on the other side of the ball, and even if the game script turns sour for the Saints, Brees is one of the best deficit accumulators when down in the second half.

Garda: Count me as number three on the Oakland-Tampa Bay bandwagon and as Chad said, it echoes what I liked in the last topic, the Carr-Crabtree stack. That game looks like it has a lot of fantasy potential.

I actually think Detroit-Houston could be fertile ground for this as well. Sure, Brock Osweiler can look like a dumpster fire against good defenses, but Detroit doesn't qualify. Meanwhile, the Texans haven't been a dominating defense since J.J. Watt went down and Matthew Stafford is on fire. There's not a ton of defense to be had on either side, so it's worth a look.

Wimer: I definitely plan to build out some rosters based on that Green Bay-Atlanta matchup; they'll be for GPP play, but that's good with me. As noted in other topics, I like the Oakland-Tampa Bay game as well, but Winston to Evans is likely to be very highly owned, in my opinion. Carr-Crabtree could be very fruitful.

Miglio: We are up to seven games above 47 points with the lines moving. Everyone seems to be on Oakland and Tampa Bay or Green Bay and Atlanta, which suggests a lot of chalk in those games. So how about something a little different: Seattle at New Orleans.

It seems odd the over-under in that game would sit at 48 considering the Seahawks defense is involved, but that unit has been far better at home than on the road in recent years. Also, Drew Brees is on fire, and he is particularly good at home.

Meanwhile, DFS contestants might be off Russell Wilson and Co. after the stink bomb that offense produced last week. The Saints defense is awful; Seahawks players could provide a huge GPP opportunity.

Hindery: The top options in the Atlanta-Green Bay game will be highly-owned, but as we’ve seen in recent weeks, the obvious plays are often the right ones. This matchup has a 53 point game total, and there are a number of factors pointing towards a pass-heavy shootout. The last time these two teams faced each other, they combined for 80 points in a 43-37 shootout. Matt Ryan threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns with Julio Jones putting up a ridiculous 11-259-1 line. On the other side, Aaron Rodgers threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns, with his top target, Jordy Nelson, also having a monster game (8-146-2).

The recent direction of the Green Bay offense since Eddie Lacy went down with an injury also bodes well for fantasy goodness. The Packers top two rushers were receivers Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb. With both players, you get an added bonus in terms of rushing attempts and plenty of receiving targets. The lack of a true running back also led to Aaron Rodgers dropping back and throwing 56 times. Aside from a relatively low scoring matchup against Denver, every Atlanta game has seen 50+ points scored this season. Expect more of the same this weekend.

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Andrew Garda

Dan Hindery

Alex Miglio

Chad Parsons

Jeff Pasquino

Mark Wimer

Ryan Hester - Moderator