Large-field tournaments like Best Ball Mania IV on Underdog Fantasy can feel like a crapshoot. With over 677,000 teams already drafted, the odds of winning the $3 million top prize are low, but there are strategies that can help maximize our odds.
Pete Overzet recently dove into the mechanics of game stacking with Week 17 in mind. Simply put, by correlating our lineups, fewer things have to go right for us to gain an edge. However, not every game environment is worth targeting.
Using some data from 2022, I reverse-engineered a way to identify ideal matchups to target as well as ones to avoid. Training camp news and offseason hype may change some things, but we can still apply the same process to any new information.
Identifying Ideal Matchups
Early betting projections can give us a decent starting point, as most models include metrics we prioritize for fantasy (e.g. run/passing rates, team efficiency, etc.). Of course, game totals will shift as more data becomes available. Regardless, early offseason odds last year had six Week 17 games for the 2022 season at or above 48 implied total points projected:
- Rams at Chargers (51 points)
- Cardinals at Falcons (49 points)
- Broncos at Chiefs (48.5 points)
- Panthers at Buccaneers (48 points)
- Cowboys at Titans (48 points)
- 49ers at Raiders (48 points)
The point isn’t that half of those matchups exceeded their total. It’s what we did with the information.
I used Underdog Fantasy’s pick-by-pick data for the BBM3 finals teams and isolated names with a top-100 ADP, and players from those six games made up 46 of the top 100 players.
In fact, Pat Kerrane won $2 million with seven of his 18 draft slots correlated to three of those contests. And looking back on each of those 2022 offenses, they were all above the league average in expected points added (EPA) per play or pass rate over expected (PROE) in 2021. So, let’s apply the same logic to the coming 2023 season with current projected point totals provided by the Action Network.
Even at a glance, a few matchups immediately stick out, and the market reflects the hype. The average implied total is roughly 44.25, and about a third of players with a current top-100 ADP on Underdog are playing in Week 17 games with an above-average projected point total. We'll start there, and then I have a couple of wild card matchups to target following some recent offseason news.
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Matchups to Target
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
- Point Total: 50
I may be in the minority, but I was surprised by the 50-point implied total, and it's because of the Cowboys' offseason moves, or lack thereof.
Mike McCarthy’s boomer energy put a damper on our expectations for the 2023 “Kellen Moore-less” Cowboys. Combined with concerns about Dak Prescott’s interception rate, things looked somewhat bleak for Dallas’s aerial attack this coming season. But leave it to Dwain McFarland to cut through the noise and drop the mic on us.
Well, I’m sold.
On top of what Dwain explained, signing Brandin Cooks to a two-year, $20 million deal doesn’t exactly suggest that the Cowboys plan to establish the run in 2023.
On the other side, Detroit's moves in free agency and the NFL Draft suggest that their offensive philosophy won't change much from last year. The Lions were already third in yards per drive and above average in PROE in 2022. Detroit then added explosive rookie receiving threats in Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta to the pride.
The pass-catching additions made by both Dallas and Detroit this offseason point to a potential barn burner in Texas in Week 17. With both QBs making their way into Dwain’s top six QB tiers, there’s definite value in targeting Cowboys-Lions stacks in your 2023 best ball drafts.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
- Point Total: 49.5
We already knew this one would be a banger when Adam Schefter leaked the script before the 2023 NFL schedule even officially dropped.
This Bengals-Chiefs matchup is a layup, as it reinforces the team archetypes we should lean into when building our best ball stacks. Both offenses were top-five last season in:
- Yards per drive (KC 1st, CIN 5th)
- EPA per play (KC 1st, CIN 5th)
- PROE (KC 1st, CIN 2nd)
And when you dive into their historical results, it only gets more enticing to stack Bengals and Chiefs players for this explosive Week 17 matchup.
Joe Burrow’s worst fantasy finish when playing against Kansas City has been the No. 2 fantasy QB on the week. As a result, we got to see Ja’Marr Chase vault into stardom as a rookie, and while Cincinnati has improved on defense, it'll still be tough for them to slow down the Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce connection.
Using our ADP tool, this late-season duel boasts eight players with a top-100 ADP value. It already made sense to target players with elite weekly ceilings, but with this high-scoring matchup projected for Week 17, it's even easier to pull the trigger early on guys like Chase, Kelce, Mahomes, and Burrow. Tee Higgins and Kadarius Toney are enticing targets at ADP as well.
Wild Cards to Stack
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
- Point Total: 45.5
It's worth immediately noting that we’ll get this Week 17 divisional matchup in a dome without any weather concerns, as the elements have historically played a major factor when these two teams have faced each other.
Since 2020, which is when Minnesota drafted Justin Jefferson, the over has hit in five of the last six Packers-Vikings matchups. Also, in those six matchups, Kirk Cousins has averaged 18.3 fantasy points per game (PPG) and finished outside the top-12 fantasy QBs for the week just once.
And finally, outside of Jefferson, a Green Bay or Minnesota offensive skill player has finished in the top 12 at their position for the week in three of those six matchups.
Luckily, we already have an idea of how the Vikings will approach their passing game. Cousins had a career-high 643 pass attempts last season in Year 1 of Kevin O’Connell’s high-octane scheme, and the Vikings' first-round selection of Jordan Addison indicates a continuation of their pass-happy ways in 2023.
On the other side, any concern about Jordan Love’s first season as a starter should dissipate when looking at the sorry state of Minnesota’s secondary. The Vikings' defense allowed the 10th-most QB1 finishes last year, and they didn't address defense in the NFL Draft until the end of Day 2.
With Christian Watson in his second year and rookies Jayden Reed and Luke Musgrave at his disposal, Love has the weapons to keep up with Cousins, Jefferson, and Addison to give this game shootout potential.
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens
- Point Total: 43.5
To be honest, I wasn’t shocked by the low point total for this game. Miami and Baltimore faced off in Week 2 of last season, and the books gave it just a 44.5 point total. But in typical fashion, Lamar Jackson vastly exceeded expectations.
On the Miami side, Tua Tagovailoa also went Super Saiyan and threw for six TDs, and Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle combined for 361 yards in that game, also known as the “Gesicki tried to Griddy” game. It's easy to see from that 42-38 Dolphins win last year why this 2023 rematch has intriguing potential.
Miami was seventh in PROE last season, and they’ve concentrated their offense on the “Blur Brothers.” From a stacking perspective, we know to target one or both of Hill and Waddle with Tua, whose ADP is currently sitting at QB11.
As for Baltimore, they've completely revamped their offense by hiring Todd Monken to replace Greg Roman at offensive coordinator. The Ravens also finally got more weapons for Jackson by signing Odell Beckham and drafting Zay Flowers. With the return of a healthy Rashod Bateman, Baltimore could have enough firepower at WR to rival Miami's dynamic duo.
Both teams project to have above-average passing rates in 2023 along with talented pass-catchers. The Dolphins boast two WRs who both finished in the top three in yards per route run (YPRR) last year, and Jackson led all QBs in explosive runs before he was injured in 2022.
If the Ravens increase their passing rate (as their offseason moves suggest) under Monken, this game could be full of fireworks and even exceed the 80 total points scored in Week 2 of last year. It makes no sense that the total for this game is currently only 43.5, so best ball drafters should take advantage and get some Dolphins-Ravens stacks at relatively cheap ADPs while they can.
Matchups to Avoid
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Point Total: 40.5
This should come as no surprise, but Tampa Bay is an anchor here. Last season, the Buccaneers weren't afraid to sling the ball, and they finished the season first in plays per game, fourth in PROE, and 12th in red-zone pass rate.
However, it makes sense that the sportsbooks have this Week 17 total at just 40.5 points following Tom Brady's retirement, as few people have much faith in Kyle Trask or Baker Mayfield to move the ball as efficiently for the Buccaneers' offense.
Even after Mayfield’s primetime comeback performance in Week 13 of 2022, the Rams still had a -6% PROE to close out the season. Tampa’s infrastructure heading into 2023 is slightly better assuming Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are healthy, but it's hard to target Saints-Buccaneers stacks unless Trask or Mayfield can show some flashes in training camp or the preseason.
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