NFL week one is finally here. It is about to kick off on Thursday night with an island game matchup between the reigning champ Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. We’ve got million-dollar up-top single game showdown contests on both DraftKings and FanDuel on deck. I’m sure many of us will want to get in on the DFS action before NFL Sunday. Here is a DFS tournament analysis breaking down the game as a whole and strategies we can use to try to win these large-field GPPs.
Tampa Bay is a considerable favorite, eight points at the time of this writing. The Buccs have an implied team total approaching 30 at 29.75, with the Cowboys sitting at 21.75. The obvious and the most optimal angle for creating showdown lineups will be to focus on the Tampa Bay offense. Tampa Bay has one of the stingier defenses in the NFL, while Dallas has been quite attackable. We don’t know for sure what we’ll get with Dak Prescott in his return from serious injury. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are reigning Super Bowl champs and come back this year looking just as strong as they did for last year’s championship run.
This week one matchup will feature the return of Cowboys QB Dak Prescott from two ankle surgeries and a right shoulder sprain on his throwing arm attained during training camp. The elephant in the room will be the health of Prescott and any rust he might need to shake off after a lengthy layover. Especially considering the extreme nature of the ankle injury that had him sidelined.
His outlook will not be aided by the matchup against a stingy Tampa Bay defense. The Cowboys also have some health concerns on the offensive line.
Tampa Bay’s defense has been particularly stingy against the run, making it a bad matchup for Ezekiel Elliott. Backup running back Tony Pollard could be a great sleeper option in showdown DFS as he may get more work in the passing game than the run. TB’s defense has been more susceptible to giving up passing yardage to RBs than gains on the ground.
Since the Tampa Bay run defense is likely to stifle the Cowboys’ attempts on the ground, the passing game may be where most of the Dallas production comes. Amari Cooper is Amari Cooper and is always viable, as is Michael Gallup. CeeDee Lamb, however, draws the best matchup in the slot. Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz could be in for some target-share, considering Tampa Bay has been stingy against the long passing game. Still, they should split time about equally, making it difficult to count on either option.
Tampa Bay Offense
Tampa Bay’s offensive outlook for this game would appear to be brighter than that of the Cowboys. The Cowboys’ defense was among the worst in the league last year. It isn’t apparent that there have been significant positive improvements. The Tampa running game appears to be a three-headed monster, and it isn’t easy to trust any of their three running backs to get the majority of the work (Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, and Giovani Bernard).
Assuming all are healthy, the three primary receivers for TB look set to eat against what should be a weak Cowboys pass defense. You can take your pick between Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown with confidence. It looks to be a tight-end timeshare in Tampa Bay between Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard, so it’s hard to trust either. Scotty Miller could get minimal WR4 looks for a tournament flyer. Godwin and Brown have both picked up questionable designations mid-week. If either were to miss, Miller would become a better play.
Tournament Game Theory
If you are playing 50/50s, Double-Ups, and Head-To-Heads, or even to an extent, very small tournaments, just go with the most optimal lineup you can. On the other hand, say you are playing large-scale GPPs such as the Milly-Maker contests on DraftKings and FanDuel. You will need to get a little (or a lot!) crazy with your lineup construction to differentiate yourself from the field.
Standard constructions will include Brady and Prescott with multiple high upside receivers, perhaps throwing in a Giovani Bernard or the like for value. If you make a build that looks like everyone else’s, you are unlikely to win one of these large-scale tournaments. We’re going to need to find some ways to get different.
Playing a Dallas-heavy build with four or even five Cowboys on DraftKings or at least three on FanDuel will help create some differentiation. The field will gravitate heavily toward Buccs-centric lineups considering the betting line and reputation of both defenses.
Playing a Captain/MVP from the opposite team that you are stacking may be another great differentiator. For instance, playing four Buccs and two Cowboys but with a Cowboy in the Captain/MVP spot.
A very simple differentiator is not playing both QBs as much of the field will do by default. Playing only one of Dak and Brady, particularly on DraftKings, will automatically separate you from a good portion of the competition. Avoid one of the chalkier receivers and/or Elliott on top of it, and you are well on your way to a unique lineup.
As usual, for the showdown format leaving salary on the table is a great automatic differentiator. Especially on FanDuel, where it is even harder to differentiate your lineup due to the more narrow five-player format.
Kickers tend to go a bit under-owned in comparison to other value pieces. This even despite their often higher fantasy point floor.
Since both teams have tight end timeshares, there may be some equity in benefiting from the uncertainty of the field. Lack of clarity as to who will get the bulk of the work may drive tight end ownership down overall. Particularly on all tight ends not named Gronkowski due to his name recognition driving ownership.
With most of the field gravitating heavily toward Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard may be an excellent differentiating leverage piece likely to succeed in the instance that Elliott fails. As previously mentioned, the Cowboys run game may be more likely to succeed in the air than on the ground, which could benefit Pollard.
In the end, football season is here, and we’re about to have some fun playing DFS football once more. I think we are all excited to get in on the action a bit early with this Thursday night’s single-game slate. If you want to succeed in the massive million-dollar GPPs, just keep in mind that getting a little different with your lineup construction is the best and often only way to the top.