Staking Bales: A Look at Head-to-Head Matchups, Plus Week 15 Analysis

Staking Bales: A Look at Head-to-Head Matchups, Plus Week 15 Analysis

By Jonathan Bales (Daily Fantasy Expert), last update Dec 13, 2013

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Jonathan Bales is a DraftKings Pro and the author of the Fantasy Football for Smart People book series. His latest book, How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports, is a data-driven guide to winning on DraftKings. He is also (unofficially) sponsored by GrubHub.

Follow Jonathan Bales on Twitter: @BalesFootball.

I’m up $392 on head-to-head and 50/50 games this year, which is just under 20 percent of the initial deposit. That’s a decent return through Week 14, I suppose—better than you’d see through most other investment vehicles—although I haven’t found very much tournament success.

It’s strange since I’ve always considered myself a better tournament player than heads-up player. I’ve gone after some bigger tournament cashes a little harder of late, without much success—either breaking even or losing my head-to-head profits. I know GPPs are volatile and bankroll growth is exponential when you’re focusing on large-field leagues, but it’s disheartening to have no big tournament cashes in this Staking Bales series through Week 14. Three more weeks to take one down.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to provide information on how to see sustainable bankroll growth through a successful approach to head-to-head and 50/50 leagues. Although my hope was to grow my bankroll in this series by more than a couple hundred bucks by hitting on a tourney lineup, I still think it’s been relatively successful since I’ve showed decent growth without the GPP success. If you’re playing a lot of tournaments, staying even or profiting slightly isn’t the worst thing in the world because you’re basically playing tournaments “for free.” Eventually, you’ll hit.

Earlier this week, FanDuel announced a new contest type called the head-to-head matrix. Here’s how they explain it:

The “Head to Head Matrix” format contests essentially package a group of twenty smaller head to head contests in one entry. If you enter a $25, 21 person H2H Matrix, you will be facing twenty unique opponents in a contest where the prize structure exactly mimics the payouts that you’d receive if you played each of those twenty people in a $1.25 head to head contest. Similarly, 21 person H2H matrix contests at other buy-ins simulate playing head to head contests against 20 opponents, each for 1/20th of the Matrix entry fee.

A Twitter follower asked me to break down the strategy involved with this format. Here are the pros and cons, as I see them:


  • You can enter a bunch of leagues very quickly.
  • You can face unique opponents.


  • You can’t hand-select opponents.

For so long on FanDuel, entering a bunch of head-to-head leagues was extremely tedious. A few weeks ago, they changed their contest creation format so that you can make dozens of head-to-head matchups all at once. I’ve been using that feature, but when you make a head-to-head public, anyone can grab it. Worse, a shark could take a bunch of your matchups at once.

The primary advantage of the matrix, then, is that you’ll face 20 unique opponents. If you want to enter 20 head-to-head leagues, you might be better off entering the matrix instead of creating 20 contests yourself.

The downside, of course, is that you can’t hand-pick your opponents. It’s much faster, but you could end up facing stiffer competition. The key to the potential profitability of the matrix will be which type of players are entering them.

My hunch is that novices won’t be in them right away until they learn more about them and get comfortable placing more money into what they view as a “single” contest, even though it is truly 20 separate matchups. That means that, for now, I think you might be better off targeting five players in $5 matchups than placing $25 into the matrix, but time will tell. In theory, I love the idea. It just comes down to who plays it.

Regardless of whether you’re playing in the matrix, in traditional heads-up matches, or in 50/50s, you’ll want to take the same approach: maximize your team’s floor. Here are some high-floor players I like in Week 15 across all sites.


Week 15 High-Floor Plays

QB Tony Romo vs. GB

If you’re going elite at quarterback, I don’t think you can get any safer than Matthew Stafford. That’s the direction I’d head—even over Drew Brees—in many head-to-head leagues. There’s value in his incredible consistency.

If you’re spending a little bit less on a quarterback, though, I think Romo is about as safe as anyone in his price range. It’s popular to argue that Romo is a volatile quarterback just waiting to blow up, but the Cowboys have really changed their offensive philosophy this year such that Romo isn’t taking many chances. He has 27 touchdowns to only seven picks.

The downside is that he’s not necessarily the same high-upside play he used to be. His efficiency is down because he’s playing too conservatively—bad for the Cowboys, but good for you if you need a high-floor passer.


RB Matt Forte @CLE

Running back is a position at which you often need to pay up for a high floor since their production is so closely linked to their workload and low-priced backs rarely see many carries. The exception, as we saw last week with Marcel Reece and Joique Bell, is when there’s an injury to a starter. Those are highly advantageous situations you always need to monitor on game day.

Otherwise, I think you need to look for pass-catching backs in heads-up leagues. Backs who can contribute as receivers aren’t as susceptible to unfavorable game situations, so they’re less volatile on a week-to-week basis.

Forte, who has at least 16 carries in the Bears’ past eight games with 38 catches over that stretch, is one of those players.


WR Pierre Garcon @ATL

Do I think Garcon is an immensely talented wide receiver? Not at all. If he were my team’s No. 1, I’d be scared.

But take a look at this string of numbers: 12, 12, 10, 12, 10, 11, 11—Garcon’s targets over the past seven games. With 145 targets on the year, he hasn’t recorded fewer than five catches all season. On full PPR sites, Garcon is an extremely safe play—perhaps the safest wide receiver out there on a per-dollar basis. I don’t think Kirk Cousins will hurt his value in the least, and he has a juicy matchup as well.


TE Jimmy Graham @STL

Because really, who else is safe at tight end?

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