Hilow is a game theory expert (courses at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Northwestern) and tournament champion who focuses on mid/high-stakes single-entry/three-entry max
This might be the slate of uncertainty of the 2022 season, with no games over 50.0 and an astounding eight games with game totals of 43.5 or less (remember, 43.5 is a significant betting threshold in the NFL). That leaves only HOU // MIA ((47.0), LV // SEA (47.5), and LAC // ARI (48.5) as the top expected game environments on the slate, and the Dolphins are favored by 14 points, removing that game from consideration for game stacks. The Dolphins have the top Vegas implied team total at 30.5, followed by the Chiefs (28.75), the 49ers (26.0), and the Seahawks and Chargers each tied at 25.75. The Bucs, Jets, Ravens, Bengals, Commanders, Cardinals, and Raiders are the only other teams projected to score more than three touchdowns, with 10 (!!!) total teams projected for under three scores.
The first thing I do when breaking down a slate is to look at the game environments that can outperform expectations. From there, I look to teams that can outperform expectations, before looking to the tertiary tier of concentration in order to identify any potential one-offs. Using that practice leads to two games that have a better than average chance at blowing up into something you had to have (LV // SEA and LAC // ARI), and six teams that are worthy of team stacking (MIA, KC, SF, SEA, LAC, and I throw in CIN into this grouping), with the Bucs, Jets, and Ravens the likeliest teams to return GPP-viable one-offs outside of the aforementioned games. And yet, expected ownership is all over the damn place because the field seemingly has no process like this from which to identify potential upside. As you will shortly see, there is not one quarterback or tight end expected to cross my chalk threshold of 15% ownership at each of those positions, and there are only three chalk running backs and three chalk wide receivers. This. Slate. Is. Spread. Out!
Quick explanation: restrictive chalk is an expected highly owned piece that restricts the maneuverability of the remainder of your roster while expansive chalk is an expected highly owned piece that allows for higher amounts of maneuverability on the remainder of your roster. Classifying various forms of chalk as either restrictive or expansive allows us to visualize what it means for roster construction on a given slate and how restrictive a certain player might be, meaning more of the field will look similar from a roster construction standpoint with that piece.
Expansive chalk. The Dolphins are thought of as this extremely pass-heavy offense, ranking near the top of the league in pass rate over expectation this season. And yet, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has attempted between 30 and 35 passes in five of his six full games this season, with the only outlier being their Week 2 impressive comeback win over the Ravens (50 pass attempts and six pass touchdowns). Furthermore, Tua has been involved in three games in which the Dolphins were able to control the environment throughout (Week 1 win over the Patriots, Week 7 win over the Steelers, and Week 10 thrashing of the Browns). In those games, Tua averaged 33.3 pass attempts while Dolphins running backs combined to average 28.67 running back opportunities per game. Furthermore, all of those games came in Miami. Raheem Mostert is listed as doubtful after not practicing throw Thursday and seeing only a limited showing on Friday – not a good look with the team coming out of their bye week. Finally, the Texans have faced the highest rush rate against this season and cede the most DK points to opposing backfields. Yea, Wilson is probably the best on-paper chalk of the season in my eyes.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Walker has already shown the ability to amass 30+ running back opportunities under the right conditions during his rookie campaign and faces a Raiders defense ceding 28.0 DK points per game to opposing backfields. Not much pushback from me here.
Restrictive chalk. The other side of this game. The Seahawks allow 27.2 DK points per game to opposing backfields, one spot lower than the Raiders. Jacobs has one of the most secure roles and workloads in the league. The only knock to Jacobs here is the addition to the team’s injury report on Friday with a calf injury after practicing in full over the first two sessions of the week – never a good sign heading into the weekend.
Expansive chalk. Wilson’s low aDOT (8.6, 76th in the league) and heavy snap rate (88% or more in each of the last three games) line up well with what Mike White brings to the table at quarterback for the Jets, but this is still a low aDOT wide receiver that needs heavy volume, efficiency, and touchdowns in order to provide a GPP-worthy score. Wilson has seen double-digit targets only twice all season, each instance of which came with Joe Flacco in at quarterback to start the season. The field seems content to thread an extremely thin needle here.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Allen returned from an extended absence to play 68% of the offensive snaps for the Chargers in Week 11, converting 5-of-8 targets for 94 yards, including an electric 34-yard reception on the final possession of the game. That said, this is still a wide receiver that held a poor 8.9 aDOT last year (69th in the league) and scored only six touchdowns all season. All the field seems to be seeing is “Keenan without Mike Williams? Score!” The reality of the situation is Keenan’s workload is more affected by the presence of Austin Ekeler, whereas someone like Josh Palmer is the likeliest beneficiary of Williams being out (hello, first two-touchdown game of his career last week). Another extremely thin needle to thread for the chalk wide receivers this week.
Restrictive chalk. Nuk has gone over 100 yards receiving nine times in 31 games as a member of the Cardinals, which is a function of a low aDOT role and volume based entirely on game environment. He has scored 16 touchdowns in those 31 games. He has exactly two games with multiple scores in those 31 games. He has gone over 100 yards and scored multiple touchdowns exactly zero times as a member of the Cardinals. At a price of $7,700, can he hit the 100-yard bonus and score multiple touchdowns? Sure he can, he’s a talented alpha wide receiver. Is it the likeliest scenario against an above average Chargers secondary? Nope. Why not pay $900 more for some scrub named Davante Adams that has gone over 100 yards receiving in six of 10 games this season and has popped for 100 yards and multiple scores three times already with the Raiders? These are the decisions that win tournaments.
Expansive chalk. The two chalk pay-down defenses of the week. The strange thing is I can’t really poke many holes in either of these units, assuming Justin Fields misses (which I get the feeling we might see him play this week). The Chiefs generate pressure at a 24.6% clip and have already amassed 32 sacks and 37 quarterback hurries, each of which rank in the top five in the league. They now face a Rams team already with the worst offensive line in the league, now playing without their starting quarterback and their top pass game option in Cooper Kupp. Yea, I can see this one. Head back to the game write-up for the Bears // Jets game for more in-depth coverage of that situation as it pertains to the Jets defense and Justin Fields.