NFL DFS Pace of Play for Wild Card Weekend (Fantasy Football)
Pace of play gives 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. Over the last three years, on average, teams ran a play 0.8 seconds per play slower in positive game scripts than they did in neutral game script.
Each week I’ll highlight key game environments factoring in their pace metrics and stacks to consider for tournaments.
Game Pace Score
A reminder on a simple metric I introduced last year: 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 UNDER 40 which gives you zero confidence in DFS.
For WildCard Weekend, I’ve split up each team’s implied totals, seconds per play, neutral situation pace, and combined that for a final GPS score.
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.
General Strategy for Playoff DFS
- Six games are about half the number of games you are used to on main slates. The player pools shrink but keep in mind these are the best teams in the NFL with elite players at the top of these positions. When you get to WR, you can tell yourself a story of about 10 guys to go off this week. Lineup construction is the key element. How do the pieces fit together?
- To follow up that point, what game flows are you considering? Are the Giants jumping out to an early lead and the Vikings battle back? Do the Seahawks keep the game close? Write down those narratives and if you do jump on certain games, realize you are saying no to other game environments. Ask yourself: what am I sacrificing if I go all-in on this game? In other words, do you need Bills or 49ers in your lineup as a one-off?
- Be willing to change your opinion on NFL teams if you have overlooked, not watched, or neglected this season. We have season-long statistics but they don’t fully capture a team when you factor in injuries, changes in QBs throughout the year (Miami, San Francisco & Baltimore), and what these teams would prefer to do in neutral game scripts. That is one of the most important factors when I’m determining stacking options. In the second half of games, what would this team want to do? If they have the lead, do they continue to throw (LAC & TB) or do they shift it down (DAL) and slow the game down?
- You are searching for game environments that can hit the over. Historical trends are nice but I completely ignore any past playoff records when looking at this week. Yes, the Ravens are 8-3 against the spread in their last 11 playoff games under John Harbaugh but those teams bear no weight on the 2023 version of the Ravens.
- You MUST have late swap scenarios readily available. The early games have a major impact on how you handle chalk moving forward. You can take the approach of avoiding them altogether while also seeing that a ton of the field does not stay plugged in and utilize late swap to its advantage.
There are very few movies that hold up as a full trilogy. But I won’t lie, Toy Story 3 has a special place in my heart. This is the 3rd time we’ve seen SEA/SF this year and it was clear the 49ers have the upper hand. The Seattle offense was utterly helpless in their two faceoffs scoring a combined 20 points. In Week 2, they ran their fewest plays of the year but volume never has been Geno Smith‘s calling card. This team wins with efficiency but some of that magic has dropped off towards the end of the year. From Weeks 1-10, the Seahawks were top-10 in EPA per play, explosive pass rate, and 4th in points per game. After their Week 11 bye, they ranked a pedestrian 20th in EPA per play despite Geno Smith throwing on 1st down more than any other QB not named Joe Burrow. You need an outlier performance from Geno and his stacking partners to “get there” compared to the other QB/WR combos this week. Kenneth Walker III might project for 18+ touches but San Francisco ranks #2 in EPA per rush attempt and #1 explosive rush rate allowed. He’s a contrarian play that would get there on volume alone. The 49ers are a machine even with Brock Purdy at the helm averaging 33.5 points per game (#1 in NFL) while running the ball at a 54 percent clip, the 5th highest over the last six weeks. The biggest shift is the emphasis on getting George Kittle more and more involved and now we get Deebo Samuel back in the mix. The 49ers’ passing game might be more spread out than we want for tournament purposes and Purdy’s volume is also. This game has the lowest total of the weekend for a reason with a dominant 49ers’ defense playing at home where they are 8-1 outright and 7-2 against the spread in 2022. One-offs are fine as the other Wild Card games project so much better in terms of the ceilings.
Plan of Attack: