Hilow is a game theory expert and tournament champion who focuses on mid/high-stakes single-entry/three-entry max
First off, this slate carries a ton of perceived value, particularly at the wide receiver and tight end positions. It also carries a ton of “bad chalk” plays based on the expected ownership I’m seeing. What we typically see when that is the case is a bias towards paying up at running back and quarterback, which from the look of things on Friday evening, appears to be true again based on the expected ownership values we’re seeing. Digging a little deeper, the theme for this slate is player absences – either through injury, COVID sagas, player releases, or impaired judgment; we’re going to see a lot of teams playing shorthanded this weekend.
The best way to approach a slate like this is to narrow down your player pool as much as you possibly can, weighted towards the contests you will be playing. As in, any contests with a max entry limit of 20 rosters or below, I’d be looking for extremely narrow core plays; and MME pools should feel more trim than usual. The field is simply likely to be overwhelmed by the perceived value to such a degree that -EV plays run rampant in their player pools this week, a situation we can look to exploit.
Restrictive chalk. I spoke to L-Jax’s rushing profile on the season in the Edge writeup for this game. If you haven’t read that yet, I’d recommend starting there because I won’t go into it here. With that knowledge, and with the knowledge of the fact that the only two games this season where L-Jax has scored more than just 23.08 fantasy points came in a shootout with the Chiefs early in the season and a miraculous overtime comeback win against the Colts on national television, we start to see a situation where the field might be blinded by name value here. If you’re playing L-Jax, it better be on a roster that tells a very specific story of this game developing into a shootout (correlated pairings and game stacks).
Restrictive chalk. Smash! Not much more needs to be said other than it’s fairly difficult to narrow down where the pass game production will flow for his pass-catchers, assuming Cole Beasley plays.
Restrictive chalk. Zeke checks a lot of the boxes at the running back position this week: lead back for a home favorite, solid net-adjusted line yards value, and improving pass game usage (15 targets over the previous two weeks after averaging a tick over two per game over the first five games of the season). That said, Zeke has seen between 18 and 24 running back opportunities in four of seven games, with one game at 13 (outlier against the Bucs in Week 1), one game at 24 (Week 5 blowout against the Giants), and one game at 26 (a nine-target game in a surprising shootout against the Patriots). His profile appears rock-solid on paper, just realize there is a good deal more that has to go right for Zeke to see a ceiling game than the field is giving credit for, particularly considering the extreme pace-down nature of a matchup against the Broncos (covered more below).
Restrictive chalk. This is one of the few chalk pieces this week I can get behind, as Ekeler’s profile is bonkers-good this week. Austin Ekeler ranks fourth in the NFL in running back targets at 42, and two of the three players ahead of him have played one more game (and that includes his zero-target outlier game in Week 1). The weakness of the Eagles defense is linebacker coverage, and the Chargers are slated to score almost four touchdowns (via Vegas implied team totals) in a game with a spread of only 1.5 points. All running backs on the Chargers not named Austin Ekeler have a combined nine targets this season, and Justin Jackson, who will not play this week, has seven of them. Finally, Ekeler has eight touchdowns in seven games played and the Eagles defense ranks 29th in the league in red zone touchdown rate allowed at 74.07% (as in, opponents score a touchdown on three out of every four trips to the red zone against them).
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Man, recency bias ad nauseam with this one. Let’s see if I get this right: “the last time the Dolphins experienced this many injuries, Gaskin put up 31.9 fantasy points on the backs of 10 receptions on 10 targets and two scores through the air, so he’s gotta be a good play here!” Okay, first off, that was against a Buccaneers team that opponents can’t run on so they pass to the running back. Secondly, that came in a game where the Dolphins were large underdogs. Finally, the narrative surrounding an increase in his snap rate and usage with Malcolm Brown out is overblown. The Dolphins made Patrick Laird active last week and gave him 14% of the offensive snaps, and when combined with Salvon Ahmed’s involvement, it is likely to put a hard cap on Gaskin’s workload here. Consider this: Gaskin has a season-high of just 19 running back opportunities and Salvon Ahmed has seen nine in each of the last three games. I don’t get this one.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. The bottom line here is that Amari is priced a good $1,000-$1,200 too low when we consider his expected volume, matchup, and Vegas implied team total. Does that mean he’s guaranteed to hit here? Hellz no. But he’s materially underpriced. That said, the Cowboys see the highest net negative in pace of play this week (fourth fastest situation-neutral pace of play against a Broncos team that ranks 32nd in situation-neutral pace of play and 28th overall). It would take a lot going right for the Broncos to push the Cowboys into increased pass volume. Just the cold, hard facts. Thems the rules.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Extremely slow-paced game (like the slowest we’ve seen all season in combined pace of play with the 29th and 30th offenses in situation-neutral pace of play, and 30th and 31st offenses in the total pace of play), meaning fewer offensive plays for each team and lower expected pass volume. Higgins feels like the upgraded version of Robby Anderson; the volume is good, the underlying metrics are good, and we all just keep waiting for it to happen. This isn’t the most likely spot for it to happen.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Between five and nine targets in every game this season with a season-high of 18.7 fantasy points. The absence of Hingle McCringleberry (the second-year wide receiver who shall not be named) is not likely to influence the volume expectation of Renfrow, who typically plays 50-55% of the offensive snaps out of the slot. Look for Zay Jones to step into Officer Doofy’s role. Kudos to anyone who caught all three of those references.
Neither restrictive nor expansive chalk. Jarvis Landry holds a team target market share over 30% in games played without Odell Beckham, Jr., over the past three seasons. That’s a no-joke market share. But (yes, there’s a “but”), the Browns have attempted just 30 passes per game this season and it would take a very specific game environment for them to see that value increase. As in, Baker Mayfield has a season-high of 33 pass attempts, he has landed in the 28-33 pass attempt range in six of seven games, and the Browns currently sit at a 3-4 record; it’s just not how this offense is built. The likeliest scenario leads to eight to 10 low upside targets (we’ve discussed how Jarvis is being utilized from a route tree perspective in this space before) against an opponent holding their opposition to just 9.7 yards per completion (ninth-best in the league). He’s going to need extreme efficiency and a score to provide a GPP-worthy score (possible, but lots to think about).
Expansive chalk. The top on-paper point-per-dollar play on the slate. That said, Noah Fant, the player Albert O will be directly filling in for, has only one game all season above just 16.6 fantasy points (6.6 targets per game and four of eight games in single-digit fantasy points) and the tight end position is one of the highest variance positions in fantasy football. Yes, all the point-per-dollar upside, but the raw ceiling is rather thin here. Not meant to sway your thoughts in any direction, just simply laying out all the facts. As the tight end expected to garner the most ownership at the position by a large margin, there is definite merit to a fade (or underweight stance).
Expansive chalk. The Chiefs defense is expected to carry the highest ownership of any player (or defense) on the slate. Let that sink in. A $2,300 defense, the same defense that has allowed 27.5 points per game, has generated only 11 sacks and eight turnovers through eight weeks, and holds the league’s worst drive success rate allowed and second-most yards per drive, is currently projected to garner the highest ownership on the entire slate. Yea, no.
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