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Optimizer Groups: Week 18 Saturday NFL DFS Optimal Lineup Strategy on DraftKings & FanDuel

Terry McBride



NFL DFS Optimizer Groups DraftKings FanDuel Saturday Football

The final week of the NFL regular season brings us the first-ever Week 18 and a loaded weekend featuring two Saturday games and a loaded Sunday slate. The pair of contests on Saturday night make for interesting NFL DFS targets, the matchup between the Chiefs and Broncos is far more lopsided on the board in Vegas, but it is difficult to imagine a winning lineup without some of the Kansas City star power. The other game between the Cowboys and Eagles looks like a much tighter NFC East-style slugfest, with just a 43-point game total and the visiting Cowboys favored by 3.5. With apologies to Denver quarterback Drew Lock, there are viable quarterback candidates on three of the four teams, and excellent skill player options in all corners, the two games provide enough options to leave some hope of differentiating lineups on an extremely small NFL DFS slate on both FanDuel and DraftKings tonight.

This article focuses on building lineups with a quality foundation by utilizing the powerful Groups and Rules/Limits tools within Fantasy Cruncher. All of the concepts and pairings included below can be applied to hand-building as well, the goal is to create lineups that have high scoring correlation and take advantage of combined outcomes within stacks while limiting the likelihood of building inefficient or negatively correlated entries for a full slate of NFL DFS lineups.

Fantasy Cruncher – New How-To Video

The uptick in questions related to the how-to aspects of Fantasy Cruncher along with several noteworthy new tools demanded a new how-to tutorial video. I put together the above review of all of Fantasy Cruncher’s advanced options with some basic how-to on the constructions, rules, limits, and groups that we use in this article. The tutorial also reviews all of Fantasy Cruncher’s new features and the important distinctions between the various sets of projections that are available.

Week 18 DraftKings & FanDuel NFL DFS Optimizer Groups & Picks – Saturday Slate


The Week 1 article featured a deep dive into the general settings menu and various utilities within Fantasy Cruncher, it is still available for anyone who would like to refer back. We will maintain the list of rules and limits below throughout the season, with occasional tweaks, if needed. Each week sees yet another fresh crop of value plays as situations change and injuries create opportunities around the league. These changing roles and emergent value plays are accounted for in the process of creating these groups from week to week. After a large pool of lineups is created utilizing these groups, it is still of critical importance to filter them for factors including ceiling projections and leverage potential, as well as our optimal lineup rates and Boom/Bust potential. Getting to a strong mix of the most optimal positively leveraged plays will be a strong foundation for a large pool of tournament lineups.

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DraftKings + FanDuel Stack Rules

This set of rules will force Fantasy Cruncher to build lineups with certain combinations. We are looking to always stack at least one skill player, ideally a pass-catcher, with his quarterback while also playing a skill player from the opposing team in the lineup. The theory behind this build is that a high-scoring stack will require some response from the opposing team to truly deliver a ceiling score in most situations, otherwise the team that is ahead will simply slow down and run out the clock. These rules are applied by completing the sentences with selections from the drop-down menu, they follow a very straightforward logic. Exceptions can be made for teams at the bottom of the rule creation window. After a rule is set, click the blue bar to add it, it will appear at the bottom of the screen as a completed rule.

Week 15 NFL DFS Optimizer Picks DraftKings FanDuel Groups stacking optimal lineup strategy advice predictions best bets free expert

QB with at least one WR/TE from Same Team (note: It is fine to make this two or to utilize two of these, one with WR/TE and one with RB/WR/TE, but we can refine that and get it exactly how we want it for each team via Groups)

QB with at least one RB/WR/TE from Opposing Team

QB with at most zero DST from Same Team (this is more of a personal preference; high-scoring teams and quarterbacks tend to leave their defenses on the field exposing them to simple point-scoring negatives)

Limit Rules

Limit rules can be applied to restrict certain combinations from coming together. This is powerful for limiting multiple running backs from the same team or getting overweight to a certain stack within a lineup.

Week 15 NFL DFS Optimizer Picks DraftKings FanDuel Groups stacking optimal lineup strategy advice predictions best bets free expert

Limit QB/RB/WR/TE from Same Team to three

Limit RB/WR/TE from Same Team to one unless paired with QB from Same Team OR Opposing Team

Limit RB from Same Team to one (one can also do this with WR in a separate rule that adds an “unless paired with QB or opposing QB,” but it is a personal preference for NFL DFS)


These groups are built by utilizing the quarterback as the KEY player (by clicking the key icon next to his name), with the thinking that the quarterback play is the driving factor in which stack is utilized in that lineup. Built to specification, each team will have two groups, a team group, and an opponent group, both of which utilize the same quarterback, so four groups per game. This is the best approach to truly capture the requirement of playing individual “run-back” plays from the opposing team. A more basic approach would be to include all of the skill players from a game in each quarterback’s group and rely on rules and limits to restrict any potential overflow. It is highly recommended to save the Week 1 groups as a foundation that will be updated for the rest of the season. The recommended groups will include skill players who have an active role in their offense and provide significant correlation with their quarterback’s scoring, quite often bell-cow running backs who do not specialize in the passing game will not be included in groups as they are projected highly and appear on their own in basically correct distributions, while also not always providing the strongest positive correlation plays. Stacking quarterbacks with pass-catchers and allowing running backs to fall into the lanes then crated by settings, available salary and randomness should create a well-distributed set of quality lineups. These groups are updated weekly to account for changes in utilization, schemes, injuries, target shares, and more.

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Sunday Updates

Several of the rules above need to be stripped, they have been crossed out but anyone typically skipping the boilerplate section should refer back and change any saved rules for the two-game Saturday slate. It also makes sense to allow at least one player against a team defense on this slate. The groups below include all active/inactive information as of first-thing Saturday morning. Boost and downgrade recommendations are included to encourage more evenly distributed groups of players within stacks for a large pool of differentiated entries to sort.

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NFL DFS Optimizer Picks: Week 18 Team Groups for DraftKings & FanDuel – Saturday Slate

The goal here is to create a large pool of well-built lineups that can be utilized in any large-field GPP contest. Crunch far more lineups than needed and utilize a sorting table in Excel to filter to the best set of lineups for entries. The lineups created in these crunches should provide a broad distribution that includes some of the lower-owned skill players from each stack. Applying boosts is critical in pushing and pulling ownership on individual players within their team’s stacked lineups.

The groups below are designed so that each quarterback will have two groups to create, one with his skill players and another with the opposing team. A more basic approach would be to add them all to one large group with an “at least three” and let rules and limits set things, but there is a more granular level of control in creating them separately.

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Utilizing two groups also allows us to place running backs into the “run-back” position in certain teams while not including them in the primary stack for their team. This is useful when there is a situation with an extremely highly projected running back who does not necessarily fit into his team’s passing game. These players are threaded throughout the following construction recommendations.

Dallas Cowboys

Key Player: Dak Prescott (Prescott may see limited action, ceding time to Cooper Rush)

Setting: Between one and two

Group: Ezekiel Elliott (-10%), Corey Clement (-15%), CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Dalton Schultz (+15%), Cedrick Wilson (+15%), Noah Brown (+15%), Malik Turner (+15%) (Tony Pollard will miss Week 18, many of the Dallas skill players may rest in the right situation)

Opposing Setting: At least one

Group: Kenneth Gainwell (-15%), Boston Scott (-10%), Dallas Goedert (D), DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins (+15%), Jalen Reagor (+35%), Greg Ward (+25%), Tyree Jackson (+25%)

Denver Broncos

Key Player: Drew Lock

Setting: At least one

Group: Javonte Williams, Noah Fant (+15%), Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Albert Okwuegbunam, Melvin Gordon (+10%)

Opposing Setting: At least one

Group: Darrel Williams (-25%), Tyreek Hill (-15%), Travis Kelce (-10%), Byron Pringle (+15%), Mecole Hardman (+35%), Demarcus Robinson (+50%)

Kansas City Chiefs

Key Player: Patrick Mahomes

Setting: Between one and two

Group: Darrel Williams (-25%), Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Byron Pringle (+15%), Mecole Hardman (+35%), Demarcus Robinson (+50%) (Clyde Edwards-Helaire is out for Week 18)

Opposing Setting: At least one

Group: Javonte Williams, Noah Fant (+15%), Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick (+15%), Albert Okwuegbunam, Melvin Gordon (+10%)

Philadelphia Eagles

Key Player: Jalen Hurts (Gardner Minshew is likely to see snaps in the second half at least, and may start this game)

Setting: At least one

Group: Kenneth Gainwell (-15%), Boston Scott (-10%), Dallas Goedert (D), DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins (+15%), Jalen Reagor (+35%), Greg Ward (+25%), Tyree Jackson (+25%) (Dallas Goedert is doubtful to play. Miles Sanders is out for Week 18. All of the primary Eagles skill players are currently up in the air, running back Kenneth Gainwell seems like the most reliable option for secure volume, but he is heavily owned)

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Opposing Setting: At least one

Group: Ezekiel Elliott (-10%), Corey Clement (-15%), CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Dalton Schultz (+15%), Cedrick Wilson (+15%), Noah Brown (+15%), Malik Turner (+15%)

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If you’re interested in other NFL DFS picks for multiple game slates, head over to DFS NFL projected ownership, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, NFL daily fantasy football rankings, and daily fantasy football stacking. Take a look at our depth charts for NFL games, NFL starting lineups and inactive player list. View our FanDuel NFL DFS rankings and our DraftKings NFL DFS ownership rankings. We also have NFL single-game projections and NFL single-game ownership projections.

Terry used to do other things, now he writes words on the internet. He hopes his more than 20 years’ experience in season-long and daily fantasy sports and his custom models for MLB, NBA, and NFL don't steer you too wrong when he writes columns and makes picks on A lifetime of experience keeping odd hours make Terry ideal to cover KBO baseball overnight until the world returns to normal. Most of those late night hours have been spent on the couch watching sports, T.V., and movies; just try to shut him up about any of the above. You can find his pop-culture ramblings and more on Sideaction.

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