DFS Strategy: Vegas wants you to play Tony Romo and his buddies. Here’s why.

A quick word regarding DFS strategy: this week, Tony Romo and the Cowboys are the guys to target for DFS lineups.  But the reasoning may not be what you expect.  Yes, Romo and his skill position guys are studs, both on the real-life field and on the fantasy one.  Yes, the Redskins field a pathetic defense that’s now missing Brian Orakpo and DeAngelo Hall.  But those factors, as air-tight as they appear to be, are more anecdotal than they seem.  Tell me with a straight face you’ve never been shellacked in this game of ours by chasing a MAJORLY plus individual matchup.  Even Peyton Manning has poor games, and even poorly-rated backup CBs have good ones, so relying on those fickle individual square-offs is a fool’s game.

In short, you don’t want to JUST chase juicy individual matchups, since there’s little real way of predicting a 60-yard TD pass or a RB getting five carries from inside the five.  Instead, you want to chase games with tons of scoring opportunities for the teams involved.  This boosts both the ceiling and floor of your guy – a lot of scoring chances gives him potential to score more TDs, and limits the number of times he’ll come up empty-handed.  Remember, a 300-yard game with two long, dazzling TD passes earns you the same fantasy score as a shaky 200-yard game in which a QB turned a ton of red zone trips into three short TD flips to Gavin Escobar.  This is why your best bet to maximize fantasy scoring is to use the Las Vegas scoring lines as a tool in player selection.

Vegas’ scoring lines seek to use team expectations as a whole to lay out scoring expectations.  The Vegas line considers the weekly performance trends of the Cowboys and their opponents altogether – not just for Romo or DeMarco Murray or Dez Bryant.  Maybe the Cowboys are predicted to score consistently even when Romo sucks for the day – maybe they win field position battles to obtain short fields, or lead the league in return yardage, etc.  Maybe Washington is predicted to allow a ton of scoring opportunities because their special teams are atrocious in addition to their pass defense.  In other words, following the Vegas line means you’re evaluating MANY factors that point to high-scoring games – rather than just one or two – in one tidy, two-digit number.

Take this Dallas-Washington matchup for example.  Anecdotally, I know that Romo can shred defenses like this one, and that backup CBs usually aren’t as good as the starters, and so forth.  I know how poorly Washington rates in coverage.  But Romo is human, so just like Brian Hoyer, he could very easily come out off-kilter Sunday.  And Washington’s decimated defense could very well play its best game of the year.  So why would I place all of my eggs in a basket that assumes a small handful of guys will play up to expectations?

We all know that when you assume, you make an ass out of Uma Thurman, so utilize the Vegas scoring lines and play as much information at once as you can.  This way, you’re not just hoping Romo gets eight hours of sleep and eats shitty-but-healthy Grape Nuts Sunday morning.  You’re not hoping Scott Linehan doesn’t wake up Sunday with an iron-clad commitment to running the wheels off Murray in the red zone and trimming down Romo’s attempts.  You’re instead planning on the Cowboys finding themselves near the goal line a whole bunch of times – which Vegas suggests is extremely likely.

Jonathan Bales at RotoViz recently wrote an enlightening piece on this very topic, and he outlined how to identify the top-scoring teams each week according to Vegas.  It’s absurdly simple:

  1. Take the Vegas scoring total for the game and subtract the team’s spread.
  2. Divide by two.

Example: DAL-NO has a line of 50, and the Cowboys are 9.5-point favorites, so the Dallas spread is (-9.5).  Subtract (-9.5) from 50 to get 59.5.  Divide by two, and you have the Cowboys’ scoring expectation: 29.75 points.  For Washington, subtract their spread (9.5) from 50 to get 40.5.  Divide by two and you get 20.25.  Boom, you have Vegas’ predicted score for the game: 29.75-20.25, Cowboys.  As of 10/21, here are Vegas’ top-ten scoring teams for Week Eight:

Dallas (29.75)

Denver (29.25)

New England (28.25)

New Orleans (28)

Green Bay (26.5)

Detroit (25.5)

Arizona (25.25)

Cleveland (25.25)

Kansas City (25)

Seattle (24.5)

Of course, as Bales points out, there are further factors you need to consider here.  Vegas isn’t perfect, just an extremely helpful tool.  Sure, the Cowboys are expected to score more points than anyone, but the DFS price tags for many of them reflects that.  So Vegas isn’t directly picking your lineup; you want to weigh matchup and value here, too.  But again, when you play all of these factors, you’re considering much more than one or two individual matchups (like QB v. CBs).  Rather, you’re taking large blocks of opportunity and data, condensing it into manageable chunks, and playing that comprehensive data.

It’s a good thing.


Lead photo: “Over the Top” by AJ Guel is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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