NFL DFS Pace of Play for Divisional Round (Fantasy Football)

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Not sure how the WildCard round went for you, but I was trounced on some of my stacking hunches including being dead wrong about the Patriots defense. Whoops.

For the divisional round, we have a four-game slate to work with and zeroing in on the pace of play highlights to the prospective DFS player an opportunity to consider not just Vegas totals but how the game will be played out in a given week.

Game flow is a tricky rabbit hole to jump down when you consider the endless scenarios that can play out in a game. Stacking up-tempo offenses who can keep the ball moving is crucial to gaining an edge in DFS. Even slight differentiations of team trends matters in a world where volume is king. In 2020, on average, teams ran a play 0.8 seconds per play slower in positive game scripts than they did in neutral game script.

A reminder on a simple metric I introduced last week: Game Pace Score (GPS). I liked the acronym to also give you a “compass” of how the game total and neutral pace statistics come together. These scores are ranked 1-5 with five indicating the pace of the play is everything you want for a DFS bonanza.

  • 5– Back-and-forth shootout is looming. Both teams are pace up and both sport team implied totals of 25+.
  • 4– An up-tempo spot worth game stacking in DFS in multiple ways. Consider multiple game-scripts in play.
  • 3– This game could go either way. Often, these are onslaught spots for teams with healthy implied totals or games that hit the under because two middling offenses collide.
  • 2– Strong indications of a game you want to stay away from. Usually, the pace is dragged down by one team with an absurdly slow neutral pace or a team with a team implied total so low it drags the entire game environment through the mud.
  • 1– This has all the makings of a plodder. These games have totals hovering close to 40 which gives you zero confidence in DFS.

Keep in mind that we must analyze these pace-up spots within the context of the slate. In other words, while each game is played between just two teams, the selections you make in DFS are not. You can only roster one QB and thus his stacking options with him.

There is an interesting divergence this week. We have three of the top-4 teams (TB, KC, LAR) and three of the bottom-5 (SF, CIN, GB) in terms of neutral pace still alive. The SF-GB game could be a real slog but we know how efficient both of those offenses can be each week.

Make sure to check out the DFS Podcast where Betz and I break down the main slate and highlight some of our favorite plays of the week.

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Cincinnati Bengals @ Tennessee Titans (-3.5)- O/U: 47.0

Team Team Implied Neutral Pace Pass Rate
Cincinnati Bengals 21.8 30th 60.1%
Tennessee Titans 25.3 21st 53.2%

As I mentioned in the First Look article, Derrick Henry‘s return is the centerpiece of conversation this week. His usage and the Titans’ relentless desire to feed him the rock is colliding with our tentativeness of fully trusting a player coming off a fracture. My cop-out answer is to play Henry in cash and being willing to go underweight in tournaments. If anything, this is a buying opportunity for Ryan Tannehill who we last saw explode in Week 18 for his first 30+ point game of the year. The Bengals’ pass defense allowed the most passing yards and the highest opponent pass rate when they were trailing among playoff teams. A.J. Brown is a game-breaker and the fact CIN allowed 65 20+ yard pass plays on the year. The TEN passing game is a flag plant for me and I’m willing to use it as leverage against Ja’Marr Chase.

The Bengals played turnover-free football last week and controlled most of the game flow despite being out-gained by Las Vegas. Joe Burrow‘s calling card is efficiency, as he led the NFL in completion percentage. Cincinnati is running the fewest offensive plays per game (58.1) among playoff teams. Double-stacking Burrow is still the preferred method but you are betting on big plays, not volume. Burrow’s 0.64 correlation with Ja’Marr Chase through 17 games played is downright awesome so I can’t ignore it. Instead, the Bengals could easily sit on a lead or hope to eek things out on the ground with Joe Mixon.

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