DFS Roundtable: Saturday 2-game Slate

Talking small slate strategy and discussing Saturdays games.

Saturday Football - We have a two game slate on both Saturday and Monday this week, but I want to focus only on the Saturday slate with Ind/Bal and Min/GB. How do you typically attack 2-game slates? Give me your top 2 non quarterback plays from this Saturday slate?

Phil Alexander: With the entire field's player pool shrunken down, ownership and unique roster construction are nearly the only things that matter on a two-game slate. I usually like to start my builds by choosing the lowest-owned of the four quarterbacks (and by extension the lowest-owned stack).  There is usually a much larger gap in ownership between the QB1 and QB4 than the top options at any other position, which isn't always justified given how many more opportunities quarterbacks get to score fantasy points than running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. 

Unfortunately, this plan isn't one-size fits all for every slate. Saturday's lowest-owned quarterback will be Jacoby Brissett, with Indianapolis traveling to Baltimore as two-touchdown underdogs. Playing Brissett -- or any Colts player outside of Jack Doyle -- seems much closer to poor decision making than contrarian game theory. With Aaron Rodgers shut down for the season, Case Keenum and Joe Flacco become options 1 and 1A at quarterback.

Of the two, I'd choose Flacco. He's exceeded a 3x multiple of his current salary (DraftKings) in each of the Ravens last three games and if you needed any further proof the Colts pass defense is abysmal, look no further than Brock Osweiler completing over 70% of his passes last Thursday night. With Jeremy Maclin (knee) expected to scratch this week, Mike Wallace is the obvious stacking partner for Flacco. He had 10 targets in last week's win over the Browns and his deep ball skills play well vs. Indianapolis. The Colts have allowed more pass plays of 20+ yards than any team in football.

Maclin's absence also opens the opportunity to super-stack Flacco and Wallace with an off-the-grid Baltimore pass catcher. Chris Moore was a short slate superstar in Week 14 against the Steelers (3-48-1) before leaving with a hip injury. He was second on the team behind Wallace last week in both snaps and routes run, making him the preferred dart throw over slot man Michael Campanaro.

Justin Howe: I seek to concentrate my lineup overwhelmingly on one of the two games; i.e., ideally, that's every lineup spot but one. I'd much rather diagnose one game script/usage set than two, so by focusing almost entirely on one game, I stand in great position to cash in if it goes the way I'd expected and likely won't have to sweat the other game.

In a broad DFS sense, I'm more interested in chasing quality than ownership, but on such a small slate I understand my team isn't winning anything of note with all 40%-owned players. So, I'm more likely to target the less Vegas-sexy game as a contrarian play. If we all flock to Patriots or Saints on a small slate, none of us are going to profit much; the real +EV comes from playing against the public. Generally, though, I don't do that when there's huge divergence between the two. If I'm choosing between two games, one that's projected to 51 points and -3 and another that's 43 and -9.5, I'm taking the sexier one and diversifying from within it. Such a wide gap of expectations is not to be ignored; there's simply not a lot of appeal to that 43-point matchup, DFS game theory notwithstanding.

Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs are my favorite GPP plays from the slate. Wallace has averaged a hair below 100 yards over the past 3 weeks; Joe Flacco is healthy and throwing with wild volume again, and Wallace is his clear partner in crime. Diggs is a contrarian play on the more productive (and worlds more popular) Adam Thielen, who will likely be so highly-owned he won't win you much cash in a vacuum. I'll be stacking them together and tentatively expecting Diggs to produce well. The Packers' biggest cornerback mismatches are on the outside, where Diggs will operate and can bring home tournament value with just a big downfield catch or two.

Justin Bonnema: I love playing short slates, but it is difficult to build rosters that are unique and profitable. Like Phil said, ownership will be clustered around a few key plays, with certain players reaching 60-to-80 percent exposure. You have to decide if you can afford to fade those players, or use them as damage control (essentially loss-leaders). It’s a tricky balance that changes each week. 

This particular slate is a tough one, because two of the four teams have nothing to play for (Colts and Packers). So it’s not a slate I recommend playing. That said, my two favorite non-quarterback plays are Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray

The Packers shutdown Aaron Rodgers for the season and are likely to get their doors blown off by the Vikings. So maybe this game sets up a little better for Murray than it does for McKinnon, but you could have said that last week too when they blew out the Bengals. McKinnon still played 57% of snaps (Murray played 52%) and logged 16 touches for 138 yards. Seven of those touches and 114 of those yards came via the pass. It just so happens that one of the Packers’ biggest weaknesses is defending pass-catching running backs. Only one team has allowed more receptions, and only four teams have allowed more receiving yards to the position. And the five touchdowns they’ve allowed in this category trails only the Broncos. 

But Murray is going to be busy too and is the obvious goal line back. He has logged at least 19 touches in three of his last four games. I like the idea of buying this entire backfield even though they’re on the road. The Murray/McKinnon stack is plenty affordable on both sites, it automatically gives you roster uniqueness, and they just so happen to be two of our highest projected running backs of the Saturday-only slate. The early line rightfully has the Vikings as near double-digit favorites. 
 
Chris Feery: The guys have already outlined some great ways to attack the short slates, and I’m on board with all of them. It really depends on the games and matchups at hand, as there’s no one size fits all that will work for each two-game slate. For a general rule of thumb, I’m starting with the quarterbacks to determine who will be the chalk and who will be the least owned. For this slate, I’m leaning towards Case Keenum as the most popular while Jacoby Brissett should attract the least interest of the four. 
 
From that point, I’ll build lineups around both of them to determine which one I like more. If I decide to roll with Keenum, I’ll zero in on a contrarian running back or wide receiver for some differentiation for my lineup. Since there’s such a limited player pool, it’s pretty tough to find someone that will fly completely under the radar, so I’ll try to zero in on a player with a good chance to score that won’t have an ownership percentage through the roof. Jordy Nelson and T.Y. Hilton are two options for some garbage time points after things get out of hand, while Danny Woodhead can provide some sneaky salary relief at running back. On the other hand, if I go with Brissett, I have the contrarian aspect taken care of. I'll also be able to pick and choose who I want elsewhere due to the salary savings afforded by Brissett, and that could lead to an intriguing lineup build. 
 
For another approach to consider, Justin’s point about focusing on one specific game is certainly worth echoing, but I’ll drill down even further to find the one team that I expect to score the most points. I’m leaning towards the Vikings being that team on Saturday, and a power stack led by Case Keenum looks awfully appealing. Pairing up Keenum with two of his top targets and the Vikings defense is one possible combo, and you can also swap out a target for a running back for full exposure to the game. If the Vikings pile on the points, you’re team can vault up several spots in a hurry with each successful drive. 
 

John Mamula: My colleagues nailed many key points to attacking short slates. Cash games are off limits for me with every two game slate. I concentrate on GPP tournaments and focus on the single entry and three-max options as large field multi-entry GPPs are extremely difficult to navigate. I don't mind rostering some chalk players if there isn't a viable alternative that can outperform them. I prefer to differentiate my GPP lineups in only 1-3 positions.

For Saturday, my top two non-quarterback plays are Alex Collins and Adam Thielen. Both the Ravens and Vikings are still battling for the playoffs while the Colts and Packers are playing out the remainder of the season. 

Collins has at least 17 touches in six of his past seven games. Prior to last week, Collins had been a touchdown machine with five touchdowns in his last four games. That amount of workload will produce a solid performance against the Colts fourth-worst rush defense. 

Thielen has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2017 season. He has emerged as a legitimate high-end WR1 with 130 targets thus far and 83 receptions, 1192 yards, and four touchdowns. Not many would have predicted that Thielen would have been in-line for a 100+ reception this season. The Packers pass defense has struggled most recently surrendering four touchdowns to Cam Newton. When Thielen last played the Packers back in Week 6, he finished with nine receptions for 97 yards. 

James Brimacombe: Short slates are some of my favorites as I have had more success at putting together the perfect lineup in the past. It is a lot less to have to predict so you can play the chalky players or not play them depending on how you want to break down the games. You can always find at least one good punt play that will be low owned and if they have a decent game, chances are you are going to have a nice cash. 

This week's Saturday games are not the most attractive games to choose from so I will most likely be looking to take a stance on a player or two to try to differenciate my lineup. At running back I am going back to Jamaal Williams after his 10 rushes for 30 rushing yards game last week. With Aaron Rodgers back on IR, it will be Hundley under center once again and Williams has seemed to have success in that scenario. Williams will be a popular play at the position but because of last week's performance and with the tough matchup against the Vikings I am hoping his ownership is somewhat discounted. At wide receiver I like T.Y. Hilton this week as a player that I am counting on to see big targets and to make big plays. The matchup is a tough one for Hilton as well but the way I see it is that the Colts are going to need some big splash plays in this game to even keep up with the Ravens and Hilton is pretty much the only player that can offer those plays. He has plenty of games where he only has a few catches for minimal yards but he also has 3 games on the year where he went for 7/153/1, 7/177/0, and 5/175/2. 


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