Mark “Hilow” Garcia
NFL Week 17. It almost doesn’t feel real. We’ve got a couple things working for us this week that should raise our overall EV (expected value), the first of which being this is a massive 15-game slate! We’re going to see a lot of fringe plays in rosters that simply shouldn’t be there. The second piece of that EV puzzle is the idea that the NBA season is gearing up, and DraftKings is offering large GPPs every single day. This is sure to have an effect on the field’s process for NFL (likely dedicated some NFL minutes and brainpower to NBA throughout the week), making chalk a little bit chalkier for NFL this week, and creating less leverage on lineups overall (as people don’t have the same allotment of brainpower dedicated to thinking through the NFL slate).
The Texans allow the most yards per carry to opposing backfields in the league, the Titans have everything to play for this week (a loss could theoretically eliminate them from the playoffs – it would take a lot of things to go wrong for them to miss the playoffs, but it is nonetheless possible), and Derrick Henry is 233 yards rushing away from becoming only the eighth running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Now, that last point is a little overhyped/misleading, in that head coach Mike Vrabel cares about winning football games and winning a championship more than he cares about individual records, which is of particular note should the Titans destroy the Texans (if the Titans are up big late, I am 100% confident Henry takes a breather prior to their upcoming Wildcard weekend game in an attempt to preserve the Titans’ biggest weapon; yes, even if he works his way to within 75 yards or so of breaking 2,000). There’s a lot to break down/work through here, which is amplified further based on Henry’s low-to-moderate expected ownership (Collective currently has him projected for only 20% ownership). When hunting upside to take down a GPP in a week with 15 games, it would be foolish to eliminate the player with one of the highest ceilings (based on game flow, matchup and expected workload) on the slate. That said, based on everything we’ve discussed to this point, the best chance at Henry seeing a full allotment of touches is for the Texans to keep this game within reason throughout. Thusly, the optimal way to play Henry is to bring back a piece of the Texans’ offense, capturing a game scenario in which both teams are able to put up points and force their opponent’s hand. This is likely to go under-owned relative to where it should be and creates both leverage and one of the highest combined ceilings available to us this week!
(BAD CHALK if played incorrectly; GOOD CHALK if leveraged appropriately)
With the injuries to the Chicago defense, the Packers should have little trouble moving the ball in any way they choose. Some would view this as a positive for Adams, but I view it as a negative. The connection between Rodgers and Adams is unlike any we’ve seen between a quarterback/wide receiver duo this generation, possibly over the history of the NFL. That typically means Rodgers can progress through reads during plays not specifically designed to go to Adams, knowing he can always count on Adams to get open late in the play. What if Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard actually are getting open? Will Adams need to see 10+ targets? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting thing to think about. Pair that idea with the likelihood of the Packers to pull starters if and when this game gets out of hand and I’m much more apt to spend the salary on King Henry here.
(neither GOOD CHALK or BAD CHALK, but we’re left with more to think about regarding Adams than a standard week)
Although he is likely to have game flow working in his favor, the matchup is more difficult than public perception dictates (below average 4.25 net-adjusted line yards metric). More has to go right than his ownership will dictate at a price of $7,400.
(BAD CHALK considering matchup, ownership and cost)
The final player currently projected for over 20% ownership. I can’t argue the fact that this game sets up well for Jefferson, but the big picture makes me less likely to play chalk at the wide receiver position this week.
There are also a lot of unknowns that would affect the flow of this game: how healthy is Stafford (no less than three ailments currently), how does this offense function without Dalvin, how much effort do we expect from two teams with nothing to play for? Those are questions I can’t answer, but the point remains, there are more unknowns than we’d like here. I’m more inclined to take the ownership discount on Thielen, personally. But these are questions and thoughts I posed on purpose, as these are things that are important to be thinking about this week!
(neither GOOD CHALK or BAD CHALK, but a lot to work through)
We honestly don’t need to concern ourselves with the chalk build as much as we would need to in a standard week. This week will come down to leverage, Game Theory, DFS theory and correlation, with the field keeping the cash lines in check due to the high likelihood of suboptimal plays introduced to lineups. Stick to the best-in-a-vacuum plays and build rosters that create pairings and leverage in ways that maximize ceiling, that the field will also not be utilizing. A few such ways are listed below!
Derrick Henry was covered in-depth above, but what about Houston? What people do game stack this game are likely to run Henry back with Watson and Cooks (not a bad answer – and this will also be low combined ownership relative to combined ceiling), but what might be my favorite Game Theory way to attack Henry is to bring him back with Watson and Chad Hansen (yea, the practice squad rookie who is playing over 90% of the offensive snaps weekly, that Chad Hansen). There is a little bit of guesswork induced here, but the ceiling is tantalizing compared to expected combined ownership. Since Hansen was elevated from the practice squad four weeks ago, he leads Texans’ wide receivers in total snaps played (and if we only count the three games that Brandin Cooks played over that time, he still leads), routes run, and aDOT (12.4). I’m not saying this will happen, but if I were Mike Vrabel, I would dedicate strong side blanket coverage to Cooks, forcing either Keke Coutee or Chad Hansen to beat me. Interim head coach Romeo Crennel stated to media he thought he’d never have the chance to be a head coach in the NFL again, providing the fuel for the Texans to give maximum effort here (Crennel is coaching for a possible future head coaching job).
Both are solid plays in a vacuum. We’ve seen the upside Waller brings to the table weekly, but that upside can only be realized should the Raiders be forced into increased aerial aggression. The loss of pass-protection specialist Trent Brown opens the door for a team ranked top ten in pressure rate and adjusted sack rate to disrupt Carr enough to provide short fields and increased scoring opportunities for Gordon, which raises expected pass volume for the Raiders. With the increased pass volume, it would likely have to of the short-area, quick-hit variety with the hole in the Raiders’ offensive line, directly correlating to Waller. The ownership on each is already expected to be lower than it should be here, making the expected combined ownership miniscule. This isn’t the only way of playing Waller or Gordon, but it is the highest ceiling way!
Johnson is expected to lead the Jets’ backfield with both Perine and Gore unavailable, against a Patriots defense ranked dead last in the NFL in DVOA (30th-ranked 4.91 adjusted line yards allowed), paving the wat for Johnson to see 20-22 running back opportunities in a plus matchup. The chances of him hitting a touch ceiling are elevated in the case of the Jets defense creating pressure, turnovers, short field positions and possibly defensive scores against a Patriots team with the sixth-worst adjusted sack rate allowed that has turned the ball over 19 times this season.
The Chiefs will sit Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins have already been ruled out, and it is likelier than not Travis Kelce joins them on the sideline. Just because top offensive players will rest for the Chiefs does not mean Andy Reid will not be actively trying to win this game. Hardman and Pringle will be every-down wide receivers in an Andy Reid offense at low prices and likely low ownership, it’s as simple as that.
You can catch Hilow (and Sonic, and Xandamere, and JM) on the OWS Discord server…
You can get inside Hilow’s DFS mind here.
You can also grab the first five lessons of Hilow’s Game Theory course for FREE.
We’re looking for the best game theory // leverage angles on the slate! Drop your thoughts below, and let’s see where we end up!!!
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