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Getting to grips with the NFL – a $2,150 weekend

Posted {{post.formattedDate}} by Darryl Woodford

The start of the NFL season and the launch of our NFL lineup cruncher slipped a bit under the radar with all the excitement around the AFL and NRL Grand Finals, but as we’re now in a lull between the end of the local sports and the start of NBA, it seems a good time to share some thoughts on how to approach NFL contests, and some of my personal results from last weekend.

THE BIG ONES

In NFL, our tools are best applied to the bigger contests – the ~$2k full round contests as well as the $10k full Sunday slates. These are the contests where some strategic stacking really pays off:

In addition to the 2nd & 10th place finishes above, I also had entries in 19th, 31st and 109th cash at Moneyball. In NFL, I believe that you don’t want exposure to as many players as you would in an average AFL (or NRL) weekend. There simply aren’t enough good, consistent options to have a pool of 60 players. Instead, I tend to focus on 2-5 QB’s, maybe 5-10 WR & RB, and 2-4 TE each week, for a maximum pool of around 20 players that get spread amongst 10 or so entries at each platform.

I will usually run our lineup cruncher tool initially, generating 10-20 lineups with a fair bit of overlap (setting the cruncher to generate lineups with no more than 6-7 players the same per team). From there, I will observe the QB and WR that the cruncher believes to be good propositions for the weekend, and cull that into a list of 5-6 teams to focus on.
For each team, I’ll then look at the QB/WR combinations that make the most sense, and build a couple of stacks (QB/WR, QB/TE, QB/WR/TE, QB/WR/WR) for that team. I then re-run the cruncher with those stacks in place, which spreads the pool of players around those stacks depending on salary remaining – this works pretty well, and gives me a nice spread of lineups. The stacks are key though; with most of the rest of the team identical, my lineups varied between 170.7 (Roethilsberger/Brown/James) and 108.12 (Lynch/Sanders/Thomas) points this week!

SINGLE GAME CONTESTS

Remember when I said there just aren’t many players to choose from in the NFL? This really comes into play in single game contests. While some smart strategy can give you an advantage in these, they are also a lot more of a lottery than the multi-game ones, and I say that despite some good results!

So, yes I came first, but you’ll see what I mean when you look at the standings:

Basically, there’s so few players that, a) lots of people usually have the same team – there were 4 of us with the winning team, and 7 tied for 7th, but also, b) there’s so few points between a big prize and being out of the money; there have been games where less than a dozen points separated a hundred or so players, and $1k vs nothing (this is also the case with EPL single-game contests).

All you can really do in these competitions is put yourself in the best possible position, by covering as many possibilities as you can. In NFL, you get lots of points for non-scoring activities (passing, catching, running), and so the approach of covering possible results (big win for each team and a close game) has some value, though even in a big losing effort you will often have wide receivers putting up decent numbers. When a team gets ahead it is likely to run more, so in a blowout you’ll sometimes want the wide receivers from the losing team (who are chasing and thus throwing) and the running backs from the winning team (who are trying to run out the clock and thus running).
This all creates a bit of a mess, and frankly I’ve been inclined to just go (as I did above) with 1 optimal lineup and then change out 1 or 2 players. That makes a massive difference, with my scores in the contest above ranging from 112.22 (62/191) to 135.76 (1/191) just by changing one or two players.

SUMMARY

So, as you’ve probably guessed by now, NFL is a bit of a different beast to the sports we have talked about around these parts this season. That said, with some basic strategy, our projections, and judicious use of the lineup cruncher and its advanced stacking options, you can certainly make some money and boost your bankrolls as we wait for NBA and Cricket to get going in earnest.

With the fairly large contests popping up across the platforms, it’s worth giving NFL a go if you have the help of the lineup cruncher or Smart Lineups, and we’ll be updating you with picks, extra info and results as the season continues. You can sign up for an NFL subscription for just $14.95/month – try it free for the first 2 weeks here.