Thursday Night Football NFL DFS Showdown Strategy: Cowboys-Seahawks (November 30)

For nearly two years now, I have been hosting the High Stakes podcast for Stokastic, interviewing DFS pros on a range of topics. There have been a lot of recurring themes on the show, but the most relevant for this article: DFS pros love NFL DFS Thursday Night Football Showdown. We’ll be diving into our NFL DFS Thursday Night Football showdown picks, but first, let’s talk about why the format is so popular.

A lot of casual NFL fans enter the Showdown fray to have some action on island games. As a result, DraftKings and FanDuel offer enormous contests with generous prize pools. The contests become more difficult to win, too, when there are hundreds of thousands of entrants, but with a large portion of the new players being casual, the increase in difficulty pales in comparison to the increase in prize pools. It is a tradeoff DFS pros will gladly make.

My goal with these Thursday Night Football Showdown articles for NFL DFS slate this season — is to help you attack the largest-field DraftKings GPP like a pro. There are three main components to discuss when it comes to Showdown, and I will break them down accordingly: Projection, Correlation and Differentiation.

NFL DFS Showdown Strategy | TNF Showdown

Projection

The goal in DFS is to make the lineup that puts up the most points, so a natural starting point is looking at individual players who are likely to put up high scores or high point-per-dollar scores. I rely on Stokastic’s NFL DFS projections and tools to determine which players should be core pieces of my lineups. I primarily look at the base projections and the Top NFL DFS Showdown Plays Tool, which publishes results of thousands of advanced simulations run by the Stokastic team.

Studs

These are the top-projected players on the slate. I’d recommend having at least three of these players in just about every lineup you make tonight, either as captain or in a flex spot.

  • CeeDee Lamb ($11,400) leads the Cowboys in route participation and has nearly twice as many receptions as anyone else on the team with 78. Lamb has a mediocre matchup with a Seahawks defense giving up the 22nd-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to wide receivers over the past 5 weeks, per Fantasy Points. He has a nearly 70% chance of optimality, according to Stokastic’s Top NFL DFS Showdown Plays Tool.
  • Dak Prescott ($11,000) faces a Seahawks defense giving up the 20th-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over the past 5 weeks, and he has around a 65% chance of optimality.
  • Tony Pollard ($9,800) played 78% of snaps in week 12 and had 13 of the team’s 16 running back carries while running routes on 63.6% of dropbacks and seeing 6 targets. Pollard has an elite matchup with a Seahawks defense giving up the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to running backs over the past 5 weeks, and he has a better than 50% chance of optimality.
  • Geno Smith ($9,200) faces a Cowboys defense giving up the 22nd-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over the past 5 weeks. He has a nearly 50% chance of optimality.
  • Tyler Lockett ($7,200) leads the Seahawks in route participation and is second on the team in target share, at 83.3% and 20.4%, respectively. Lockett has a tough matchup with a Seahawks defense giving up the 26th-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to wide receivers over the past 5 weeks, and he has around a 40% chance of optimality.
  • Zach Charbonnet ($6,800) played 87% of snaps with Kenneth Walker out in week 12, getting 14 carries and 4 targets on 65.7% route participation. Charbonnet has a tough matchup with a Cowboys defense giving up the 27th-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to running backs over the past 5 weeks, and he has a greater-than-45% chance of optimality.
  • DK Metcalf ($9,600) is second on the Seahawks in route participation and leads the team in target share, at 80.8% and 22.1%, respectively. Metcalf has a greater-than-30% chance of optimality.

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Top Point-Per-Dollar Cowboys-Seahawks Picks

These are just a few players who will be featured throughout my lineups due to their high points-per-dollar projection. At the same time, because I will typically have at least three studs in each lineup, the top points-per-dollar plays are often players I will be pivoting away from in some lineups in favor of players who project a bit worse but who will also garner lower ownership. I am also excluding any player with a projection below 3 fantasy points from this list.

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba ($5,200) is 3rd on the Seahawks in route participation and target share, at 69.6% and 15.3%, respectively.
  • Jake Ferguson ($6,200) is 3rd on the Cowboys in route participation and 2nd in target share, at 69.4% and 14.4%, respectively. He is tied for 2nd on the team with 6 end zone targets. The Seahawks have given up the 13th-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to tight ends over the past 5 weeks.
  • Noah Fant ($3,200) is 4th on the Seahawks in route participation and target share, at 45.4% and 6.4%, respectively. The Cowboys have given up the 18th-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to tight ends over the past 5 weeks.
  • Jalen Tolbert ($3,000) has out-snapped Michael Gallup ($3,800) each of the past 3 weeks. Tolbert has 13 targets on 47.1% route participation over that span, while Gallup has 8 targets on 43.0% route participation.
  • As usual, kickers and defenses are among the top value options.

Correlation

In NFL DFS, correlations are endless, both positive and negative. Most are minor enough that they do not necessarily need to be factored into lineups. If you want to give a boost to your running back’s defense, for example, that is great; but running backs will frequently be optimal without the defense also being optimal, even in NFL DFS Showdown.

The only correlations that are almost mandatory to consider on NFL DFS Showdown slates involve quarterbacks — particularly non-rushing quarterbacks. That is because of the scoring dynamics on DraftKings. On each passing play, the pass catcher scores more fantasy points than the quarterback. For example, if a quarterback throws a pass for 5 yards, he will get 0.2 fantasy points — 1 fantasy point per 25 yards passing, divided by five. The receiver will get 1.5 fantasy points — 1 point per reception, plus half a point for 5 yards receiving. The quarterback also only gets 4 points per passing touchdown, while the receiver gets 6 points for a receiving touchdown.

The quarterback is also generally one of the most expensive players on his team. Thus, he will often need to be his team’s highest fantasy point scorer to be the optimal captain. Outside of rare occasions where the quarterback scores fantasy points by passing to a player who is not in the DraftKings player pool or gets points as a receiver on a trick play, there are essentially just two ways for the quarterback to be the highest-scoring player on his team: adding fantasy points via rushing or spreading the ball around to multiple pass catchers.

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Some General Thoughts:

  • If you play a quarterback at captain, and he does not have rushing upside, and he is the most expensive player on his team, you will almost always want to have multiple of his team’s pass catchers in the flex. This is also largely true if the quarterback is only slightly less expensive than the most expensive pass catcher on his team.
  • If you play a quarterback at captain, and he has moderate rushing upside, you can consider playing just one of his pass catchers in the flex — but multiple may still be preferred, depending on the extent of that rushing upside. The quarterback’s price may also come into play here; the more expensive he is, the more likely you will need to have multiple pass catchers in the flex.
  • If you play a quarterback at captain, and he has major rushing upside, you do not necessarily need to play any pass catchers in the flex. This is relatively uncommon, and only applies to a few quarterbacks.
  • If you play a quarterback in the flex, and he does not have rushing upside, you will generally want to have at least one of his pass catchers elsewhere in the lineup, either at captain or in another flex spot.
  • If you play a quarterback in the flex, and he has moderate to high rushing upside, you do not necessarily need to include one of his pass catchers elsewhere in the lineup. But there will always be positive correlation there between a quarterback and his pass catchers.

Some Cowboys-Seahawks Game-Specific Thoughts for Thursday Night Football Showdown:

  • If you play Prescott: Prescott is averaging 13.7 rushing yards per game this season, with 2 rushing touchdowns. He should always be paired with at least one pass catcher, and preferably multiple when used at captain. Pollard qualifies as a pass catcher.
  • If you play Smith: Smith is averaging just 7.8 rushing yards per game this season, with no rushing touchdowns. He should always be paired with at least one pass catcher, and preferably multiple when used at captain. Charbonnet qualifies as a pass catcher.

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Differentiation

Making highly projected lineups with smart correlations will separate you from the lowest-level Showdown players, but there are many very smart casual players as well. Differentiation is the last step to separating pros from Joes.

In just about any NFL DFS GPP, finding low-owned gems is key because lower ownership reduces the field of lineups you’re competing against when the player has a 99th-percentile outcome. Taking it to the extreme, just as a thought exercise, let’s say that Charbonnet scores 100 fantasy points tonight. You’re not just going to need him; you’ll need him in the captain spot (150 fantasy points). If 20,000 lineups in your contest have Charbonnet in the captain spot, you’ve essentially reduced the field of lineups you’re competing with to 20,000. If only 200 lineups have Charbonnet at captain, now we’re talking.

On Thursday Night Football Showdown slates, there is an additional factor for large-field GPPs. We don’t just want to find seldomly used players; we want to find seldomly used LINEUPS. Why? Well, I’ll give you two examples from 2021:

  • On Sept. 20, 2021, DraftKings had a Milly Maker for the Packers vs. Lions tilt, but the top lineup was duplicated 231 times. Rather than winning a million dollars, the users who entered those 231 lineups had to split the top 231 prizes, for just a bit over $6,000 each. That’s despite having everything go their way, which requires an extreme amount of luck.
  • On Oct. 11, 2021, we saw the other end of the spectrum: user rcoho1984 played a unique lineup in the Ravens vs. Colts Milly Maker, taking home not just a million dollars but a ticket to the Tournament of Champions.

If you’re going to win — which takes a lot of luck, regardless of how well your lineup projects — I’d suggest making it count. I’m not necessarily concerned with making an entirely unique lineup like rcoho1984 did every single time, but I aim to be a lot closer to their unique lineup than those that were duplicated 231 times.

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Some Easy Tricks for Thursday Night Football Showdown

Low-owned players. Yup, even if you are using other tricks to get unique, it is still a good idea to play a few players in some of your lineups who will not be getting much ownership. Some low-owned players to consider:

  • Colby Parkinson ($800) has 26.9% route participation and 3 targets over the past 5 weeks. Will Dissly ($1,400) has 17.3% route participation and 6 targets over that span. Dissly is currently questionable, and Parkinson should see more opportunities if he is inactive.
  • Jake Bobo ($1,600) has 19.8% route participation and 7 targets over the past 5 games.
  • DeeJay Dallas ($1,200) has played just 14 snaps over the past two weeks, but he has 3 carries and 2 targets on 8 routes run during that time. At his price point, Dallas has both standalone and contingent value.
  • Kavontae Turpin ($2,600) has 7 targets, including 2 end zone targets, over the past 4 games he has played. Turpin is a bit of a Swiss army knife for the Cowboys, as he has 8 carries for 79 yards on the year and also returns kicks.
  • Luke Schoonmaker ($1,800) has 7 targets on 18.6% route participation over the past 5 games, while Jalen Brooks ($600) has 5 targets on 14.9% route participation over that span.
  • Rico Dowdle ($4,200) has 30 carries and 5 targets over the past 5 games. Dowdle has contingent blowout or injury value.
  • Brandin Cooks ($8,000) isn’t a true low-owned play, but it’s worth noting that he is 3rd on the Cowboys in both route participation and target share over the past 5 games, at 72.1% and 12.8%, respectively.

Embrace lineups missing some correlation pieces or even with some negative correlation. Generally, highly correlated lineups will be over-owned, whereas the field will avoid negative correlation at all costs.

  • Quarterback against opposing defense.
  • Pass catcher at captain without including the quarterback at flex.
  • Multiple running backs from the same team in a lineup.

Leave salary on the table. This is the easiest way to lower your duplicates. Casual players assume that if they have salary left over, they should upgrade. The problem with this approach is that it almost inevitably leads to highly duplicated lineups. How much salary should you leave on the table? That is up to you. If it is less than $800 and you have not gotten extremely unique with player selections and weird correlations, it is likely you will have to split any winnings with many other entries.

Neil Orfield
Author
Neil Orfield has been playing DFS regularly since 2013, but his success really started taking off in 2019 when he had a six figure payday with a hand built NFL lineup. The next day, he signed up for a Stokastic+ subscription with FantasyCruncher. Since then he has won an NFL milly and added six figure wins in XFL, MLB, and NBA. He has recently excelled at NFL Showdown, with many five- and six-figure wins since 2021.

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