Hilow is a game theory expert and tournament champion who focuses on mid/high-stakes single-entry/three-entry max
I remember writing the End Around during the middle of the season, before this recent bout of COVID hit, and before game totals shrunk across the league, and before we had an immense number of injuries to contend with, and I remember saying that the field was likely to struggle with information overload. I laugh to myself now thinking back at that because of the number of moving parts we’ve had to contend with over the previous three weeks, and all of that is coming to a head this week. Over 470 unique individuals have been placed on the league’s COVID list over the past three weeks alone. Teams are left playing for pride, or the future, or whatever they need to tell themselves to go out there and play a game of football having already been eliminated from the postseason. Teams have had their head coaches out for games. There has been more news and background information to sort through than ever before, and this week we have to do all that for 28 freaking teams on a 14-game slate. Buckle up, Buttercup.
Before we dive into the rest of this slate, I quickly want to discuss something that has been burning a hole in my mind this week, and that is the additional variance associated with players coming back from COVID. We know that this virus affects individuals differently, we know that more severe cases can lead to lethargy, lost weight, poor appetite, amongst other symptoms, and that those symptoms can last over two weeks in some cases. We know for others the symptoms feel like the common cold and that those symptoms can subside in under a week. Why is all this important? Well, the only news we get from teams is what they have to report to the league as part of the COVID protocols, which means we are privy to who has the virus, who is symptomatic, and who has reported their symptoms to be subsiding or improving (as part of the newly agreed-upon protocols). We have no idea who has experienced more severe symptoms or who simply felt like they had a cold for three to four days. What this does is add an additional layer of variance that we must contend with, and the field (and other providers) are not discussing this truth, giving those of us who are considering this wrinkle an additional edge. We didn’t see this affect the chalk over the previous two weeks but that has seemingly flipped this week, with the field largely staying away from players who have recently returned from the COVID list due to that same uncertainty. With that said, we’ll discuss a few places where we can leverage these findings below.
Expansive chalk. Lance is simply priced too low for a game against the Texans, one in which the 49ers need to win to get into the playoffs. While he is highly unlikely to hurt you, he is also highly unlikely to provide a differentiator score. As in, he is highly unlikely to hurt you if you play him and he is highly unlikely to hurt you if you don’t. He’s just kind of “there.”
Neither restrictive chalk nor expansive chalk. I’ve talked about Michel and his recent surge in usage ad nauseam this week, so I won’t belabor it again here. One of the top touch-per-dollar expectations on the slate.
Neither restrictive chalk nor expansive chalk. If Michel is the top touch-per-dollar play at the running back position, DMo would be second this week.
Restrictive chalk. Not much else needs to be said about Taylor at this point other than he’s priced up to match his likeliest range of outcomes. He has also seen his pass game role dry up of late, meaning he represents the definition of “yardage and touchdown” back. Think of Taylor the same way we were thinking of Derrick Henry late last season.
Neither restrictive chalk nor expansive chalk. RoJo could possibly be one of the last men standing for the Bucs this week, in a game against the bottom-feeder Jets. Pay close attention to the expected statuses of Antonio Brown and Mike Evans. That said, he played only 52% of the offensive snaps last week in another game the Bucs controlled throughout. Lots going on here.
Neither restrictive chalk nor expansive chalk. Currently listed as questionable after apparently aggravating his ankle injury in practice. Keep a close eye on his expected status, as he is currently projected to be the highest-owned wide receiver on the slate.
Expansive chalk. Berrios presents a rare path to double-digit targets priced under $4,000 this week. Similar to Trey Lance above, Berrios is unlikely to hurt you if you play him and unlikely to hurt you if you don’t.
Restrictive chalk. Not much else needs to be said about Kupp at this point other than he’s priced up to match his likeliest range of outcomes. Think of Kupp the same way we were thinking of Davante Adams late last season.
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