NFL Showdown is not about who you play as much as how you play them. Median projections are a tool in the toolbox, but they are to be trusted far less than they would be on the main slate. This is because of the ramifications associated with a single player underproducing or overproducing relative to their projection.
If a wide receiver who was projected for nine points instead earns 22 points, then there is a strong likelihood that his performance came at the detriment of a teammate, or even a member of the opposing team. His running back likely received less opportunity, while the opposing team’s running back may have seen a boost. In this scenario, his quarterback may have also produced well.
The game theory is much more intricate than this one example, but it gets you down the path of thinking of showdown as an if/then rather than a raw projection.
There may be times when Cooper Kupp finishes as the best play of the slate without Matthew Stafford, and other times Jonathan Taylor may rush for 200 yards while Matt Ryan and Michael Pittman still make the optimal lineup. Showdown is non-binary, but over time sound lineup construction will reign supreme.
Most important of all:
The likeliest outcome is only one of infinite outcomes. When rostership dictates that the field has the game figured out, lean into builds around a different scenario. The term “any given Sunday” should be the mantra for successfully building Showdown lineups.
The New Orleans Saints are heading to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers as 3.5-point underdogs. The total is set at 40.5.
Juwan Johnson – Ankle – Out
New Orleans Saints Offense
Andy Dalton: $9,000
The Saints are passing right around league average. Over the past three games, Andy Dalton has had no touchdowns, one touchdown, and three touchdowns. He’s unpredictable in the scoring category and unlikely to hit the 300-yard bonus, but he is as cheap as a starting quarterback gets. He was the optimal Captain in Week 7 when he threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns which started my trend of playing underutilized underdog quarterbacks. I’ll be continuing the trend by pairing Dalton in the flex with at least one Saints pass catcher.
Alvin Kamara: $10,000
Alvin Kamara carries the highest projection of all Saints. He’s playing nearly 70% of the snaps and handling nearly 11 carries a game to go along with roughly six targets over the last five games. Since the Buccaneers are favorites and have multiple options in this range, we can expect Kamara to go slightly overlooked.
Mark Ingram: $4,400
Mark Ingram plays roughly 30% of the snaps when healthy, but his involvement is unpredictable. At $4,400 he likely needs a touchdown to land in the optimal lineup.
Chris Olave: $8,400
Chris Olave has one of the highest target shares in the NFL, yet he is consistently underpriced by DraftKings. His quality of target leaves something to be desired but his reward far outweighs the risk. He’s an every-week threat for the 100-yard bonus. With the Saints lacking depth at receiver, Olave should soak up most of the passing volume while the Saints play catch-up.
Taysom Hill: $6,400
Taysom Hill is difficult to project. From a game-theory perspective, we’d like to play him when he’s cheaper and carries a lower roster percentage. At $6,400 he needs to hit close to his ceiling and score to truly pay off. It’s easier to just avoid him rather than trying to capture his ceiling week unless playing in multiple entry large field tournaments.
Jarvis Landry: $5,200
Jarvis Landry spent a portion of the year injured, but we’ve now got a three-game sample size to look at since his return. He’s playing over 50% of the snaps and averaging five targets per game. He’s getting just enough work to be viable at cost and is a unique pairing option with Dalton.
Rashid Shaheed: $1,400
Rashid Shaheed had a two-week run of ridiculous touchdowns before settling into his modest role. Tre’Quan Smith may be considered the third receiving option based on the depth chart but Shaheed has averaged 50% of the snaps over the last two weeks. Shaheed is the most viable punt play on the slate.
Adam Trautman: $1,200
Adam Trautman is serving as the top tight end with Juwan Johnson sidelined, but we’ve been down this road before. Trautman has struggled to find success in the receiving game his whole career. The hope is that Trautman pulls some ownership away from Shaheed, who is the preferred option in this price range.
Chris Olave / Andy Dalton / Mike Evans / Rachaad White
Chris Olave has everything we can ask from a top wide receiver. The Saints are expected to pass at a higher rate to keep this game close. Dalton has demonstrated the ability to land in the optimal lineup multiple times this season and can do so again this week. Mike Evans has been my favorite play of every Buccaneers slate this season because of his lower exposure, and the field is not likely to know what to do at running back between White and Fournette. I’m leaning toward White due to his projected pass-catching role.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense
Tom Brady: $10,400
Tom Brady is passing at the third-highest rate in the league and supports a plethora of viable receiving options. We know we’re going to want to stack Brady, so this is where we’re going to be unique. If playing Brady at Captain, pair him with at least three pass catchers.
Leonard Fournette: $7,400
Leonard Fournette missed Week 12 but is expected to be a full go this week. Before the injury, he was on the better side of a 60/40 split with Rachaad White. White played well as the top option in Fournette’s absence and has muddied the waters. There are indicators as to how this backfield will shake out going forward but appears to be heading toward an Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard-type split.
Rachaad White: $7,000
White would be Pollard in this situation, likely playing fewer snaps than Fournette but handling similar carries and catching a few more passes. No one has a feel for this backfield, and there isn’t much of an edge to be had considering they’ll both be similarly involved. I’m leaning toward White this week with the better odds at catching a touchdown pass in Brady stacks.
Chris Godwin: $10,600
Chris Godwin has been Brady’s favorite target all season, but it took him until Week 12 to finally blow up. Godwin would have already been the highest rostered Tampa Bay receiver but having just gone off for 110 yards and a touchdown I am expecting Godwin to be above 70%. Godwin is the safest play to stack with Brady, but Evans has a similar upside with a discount in roster percentage and price.
Mike Evans: $9,600
Mike Evans has had a rough few weeks but his target share is still strong. He’s averaging over eight targets per game and is playing on every down. He’s consistently underutilized because Fournette and Godwin are always in a similar price range. This week is no different with Fournette’s price being so low and Godwin’s usage being so high, which makes Evans a great pivot option.
Julio Jones: $5,400
Julio Jones played his highest snap share of the season last week at 62% but Russell Gage was inactive. I do not anticipate Jones’s usage ramping up any higher, and prefer to go with Gage at an $800 discount.
Russell Gage: $4,600
With playoffs in mind for the Buccaneers even with their losing record, it seems far more likely that Gage eats into Jones’s snaps. In his last four healthy games, Gage averaged nearly five targets per game. He is one of the better pairing options with Brady as he will come at one of the lowest roster rates.
Cameron Brate: $3,000
Cameron Brate has played roughly 50% of the snaps since returning from injury in week 10. With Cade Otton’s emergence, there isn’t much reason to pay the extra $1,200 for Brate.
Cade Otton: $1,800
Cade Otton is playing a similar snap share to Brate but comes at a $1,200 discount.
Tom Brady / Mike Evans / Cade Otton / Chris Olave
Tom Brady will be one of the most utilized captain options with Tampa Bay passing at such a high rate. To combat his exposure, we will stack him with more than two receivers, and choose some of his lesser-rostered options. Evans regularly goes overlooked because he falls between the running backs and Chris Godwin. Otton is playing over 50% of the tight-end snaps but will be written off because of his zero last week. Chris Olave is a fantastic run-back option as the top receiver for Andy Dalton who should be passing more often to keep up with the Buccaneers.