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 San Francisco 49ers are heading to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles as 2.5-point favorites. The total is set at 46.5.
Christian McCaffrey – Calf – Did Not Participate
Elijah Mitchell – Groin – Did Not Participate
Deebo Samuel – Ankle – Limited
Brock Purdy: $9,400
Before last week, Purdy had thrown for multiple touchdowns in seven straight games. Any quarterback who throws for numerous touchdowns is likely to land in the optimal lineup. He’s expected to be rostered less than 5% at Captain. With so many high-priced options, Purdy can get lost in the shuffle, which leaves the door open for unique 49ers stacks.
Christian McCaffrey: $11,400
McCaffrey is the most expensive player on the slate and is also dealing with a calf injury. He hasn’t seen more than 20 opportunities in a game since Week 17. All things considered, McCaffrey seems like an easy fade, however, his roster percentage is expected to be under 50%. He may be battling injury, but Mitchell is even worse off, leaving room for a massive workload with a below-average roster percentage for one of the best players in the league.
Deebo Samuel: $8,400
With so many high-end options above $7,000, we’ve got to find excuses to take some great plays off the board. Aside from his massive performance against Seattle, Samuel has been largely underwhelming for most of the season. His eight touches last week resulted in just 56 total yards, and I expect a similar outing against a tough Eagles secondary.
George Kittle: $7,800
Kittle is overpriced relative to his median projection. He’s also priced close to both DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown who should be popular pairing options with the slate’s most rostered player in Jalen Hurts. This should create a perfect storm to allow for Kittle to go overlooked.
Brandon Aiyuk: $5,800
Aiyuk should see similar opportunity to Kittle but at $2,000 less and double the roster percentage. Aiyuk is a necessary evil to make 49ers onslaughts work with three of Purdy’s pass catchers. If stacking the Eagles, Aiyuk’s high roster percentage can be generally avoided.
Elijah Mitchell: $5,200
Mitchell is battling a groin injury and seems to be in worse shape than McCaffrey. If he is good to go he will be rostered somewhere around 10% and could provide leverage in lineups that aren’t including McCaffrey.
Jauan Jennings: $2,400
Jennings will be the most popular salary saver for the 49ers. He’s guaranteed to see multiple targets on half the snaps and even receives some schemed opportunities. With the “stars and scrubs” approach expected to be the most popular, I prefer some of the mid-priced punt plays like Mitchell or Boston Scott.
Brock Purdy / Christian McCaffrey / George Kittle / Zach Pascal
Purdy is likely to fall under the radar at Captain, especially with last week’s box score production. In a tough NFC Showdown, the field is going to gravitate toward a slow run-heavy approach for both teams. Purdy has been efficient in the red zone and can easily hit multiple different receivers for touchdowns. McCaffrey is the obvious stacking option, but Kittle should come with a low roster percentage given he’s priced similarly to A.J. Brown, Samuel, and DeVonta Smith. To fit four strong options, we will need a punt near minimum price. We can do worse than Zach Pascal who played 34% of the snaps last week and was targeted once.
Philadelphia Eagles Offense
Jalen Hurts: $11,000
Hurts is the second most expensive player on the slate, yet he will still carry the highest roster percentage by a large margin. He has rushed nine times in both games since returning from injury. His totals were low, but it’s difficult to attest to his shoulder injury given how natural the runs looked. The Eagles have an impressive knack for operating whatever type of offense works best against their opponent. To succeed against the 49ers, it’s likely Hurts is going to have to attempt over 30 passes, which typically results in a great fantasy outing.
Miles Sanders: $6,200
Sanders was just another member of a three-back committee last week, but he still managed 17 carries and just under 100 yards. His $6,200 salary is egregious given the year he’s had and it won’t go unnoticed. Whatever exposure was going to be lost due to his low snap share over the past three weeks, will be gained by his discounted price. His salary helps fit more Eagles, but he doesn’t stack great with Hurts and he will be rostered close to 40%.
A.J. Brown: $9,200
Brown has one of his lowest salaries of the season after a tough outing in the Divisional Round. The Giants’ secondary is none to be scoffed at, and Brown had averaged over 100 yards in the four games prior. He’s cheap enough to be included in Hurts stacks, but he also has the ceiling to play at Captain as the only Eagles receiver.
DeVonta Smith: $8,800
Smith is the most expensive he’s been all year, and he’s earned it. Since Week 16 he’s averaging nearly eight catches and 89 yards per game. He’s hit the 100-yard-bonus five times this season; three of which came in the last month. The 49ers’ defense is the toughest in the league, so we may prefer to go with Brown based on his ability to create after the catch versus Smith’s slightly larger workload if choosing just one.
Dallas Goedert: $6,800
Goedert seems expensive at first glance, but he’s playing nearly 100% of the snaps and has been targeted 11 times over the last two weeks. He offers over $2,000 in savings from either Brown or Smith in Eagles stacks and can offer a similar upside against a defense that tends to keep the lid on. He’s just as good of a play as Kittle for $1,000 less and only a slightly higher roster percentage.
Kenneth Gainwell: $4,800
Gainwell rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries last week, but the game was out of hand early. Even at an elevated cost, Gainwell will be more popular than we’d like given his projection.
Boston Scott: $3,200
Scott rushed six times for 32 yards and a touchdown. In a competitive game, it’s more likely Scott and Gainwell see identical opportunities, and Scott saves $1,600.
Jalen Hurts / A.J. Brown / DeVonta Smith / Elijah Mitchell
Hurts will be the most rostered Captain, for good reason. We’ve seen throughout the year that the field has been hesitant to heavily stack rushing quarterbacks. By pairing Hurts with both Brown and Smith, we create a unique build with three of the slate’s top options, because we will not be able to include either Purdy or McCaffrey. In lineups where McCaffrey is not an option, consider including Mitchell who has run hot in the scoring department of late and could negatively impact McCaffrey’s production in the red zone.