Sunday, Feb 11th — Late
Bye Week:

End Around :: Week 6

Hilow’s End Around: Game Theory Training for DFS Play

Mark “Hilow” Garcia



We have a very interesting slate on tap, with clear chalk at running back and not much else to speak of. We should see a couple games where ownership will congregate (HOU/TEN, ATL/MIN), but outside of those two games and the two running backs we’ll cover shortly, there aren’t many clear cases of chalk. What we find on slates like this is you basically have three options: go with the clear chalk and look to differentiate your lineups elsewhere, fade the chalk and look to pick up the same floor/ceiling across your roster elsewhere, or leverage the chalk (basically saying “if X then Y, or, if the chalk misses, it is likely it is due to another area of the chalk team going off.” 

I personally utilize each scenario in differing situations. With this slate, both of the primary chalk pieces can be deemed “yardage and touchdown” running backs, which I typically look to either be even the field and leverage the remaining lineups or leverage on majority of my lineups, because yardage and touchdown running backs typically either hit or they miss hard, and if they miss hard, it is likely due to another player or players from their team soaking up the touchdowns that were expected to go to the running backs. This idea or angle gives you additional leverage on the field should they miss when compared to simply fading chalky yardage and touchdown backs. 



Yardage and touchdown chalk back number one on the week. The spot is mouth-watering, but that doesn’t change the fact that Henry must reach the yardage bonus and score multiple touchdowns in order to pay off his price tag (Titans are playing an NFL football game on only 4 days rest). Taylor Lewan, widely regarded as one of the best run-blocking tackles in the NFL, has played a total of 62 offensive snaps over the last two weeks, dealing with multiple injuries. Over that same time, Henry has averaged a paltry 3.91 yards per carry. The Texans have yielded an insane 5.19 yards per carry to opposing running backs, but are coming off a game in which they held opposing rushers to 3.75 yards per carry on 20 totes following the firing of Bill O’Brien (under defensive-minded interim head coach Romeo Crennel). The fact of the matter is he is likely to go over-owned relative to his chances of truly smashing in this spot. 

(I almost always will be underweight yardage and touchdown running backs as chalk; borderline BAD CHALK with clear leverage angles to be covered shortly)


In his rookie year in 2019, Mattison saw 100 carries to 12 targets over the course of the season, averaging 4.62 yards per carry and 8.20 yards per reception on those touches. In 2020, Mattison has seen 44 carries to nine targets, averaging 4.98 yards per carry and 7.13 yards per reception. His likeliest scenario range of touches against the Falcons has him landing in the 18-22 carry range with 3-4 targets, extremely solid expected usage. The problem is this Falcons defense is so much more easily attacked through the air than on the ground, ranking 30th in DVOA against the pass (31st in yards allowed per pass) and 10th in DVOA against the run (14th in yards allowed per carry), and although they have allowed the seventh most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, a good chunk of that damage has been done through the air (43 receptions allowed on 50 targets for 317 yards and four touchdowns, compared to 378 yards allowed on the ground on 99 carries and only two touchdowns). To allow almost as many yards through the air to opposing running backs as you allow on the ground is a difficult feat to accomplish, but it highlights the misconceptions of the matchup. On the ground, Mattison will run behind the NFL’s second-ranked run-blocking offensive line (5.07 adjusted line yards), but the matchup yields an average 4.5 net-adjusted line yards value, as Atlanta rank ninth in the NFL in defensive adjusted line yards allowed at 3.93.

(Slightly higher floor than Henry with comparable ceiling; borderline GOOD CHALK with clear areas of hesitation)


AJB is simply too cheap in this spot for his role on a highly efficient offense. His likeliest range of targets is 7-9, but they should be expected to be of the “high value” variety. As of this writing, it appears Corey Davis will once again be held out, as he has yet to return from the NFL’s COVID list. The Titans do get Adam Humphries back from the COVID list, who should be expected to see 5-7 targets of his own, but he plays between 50-55% of offensive snaps primarily out of the slot, which would leave AJB on the field for around half of his snaps with only Jonnu Smith (who we’ll cover here shortly) and Kalif Raymond.

(Neither GOOD CHALK of BAD CHALK, but there are some interesting Game Theory angles to think about which we’ll touch on shortly)


Jonnu is an interesting case this week, as his touchdown-elevated box scores give the sense of security, when in fact he’s averaged just 6.75 targets per game over the Titans’ first four games. There are safer places to look at tight end this week if considering Jonnu as a one-off play, but we’ll cover below how we can leverage the situation we have with the chalk Titans from a Game Theory perspective.

(Neither GOOD CHALK of BAD CHALK, but there are some interesting Game Theory angles to think about which we’ll touch on shortly)


Between the two running backs listed above (Henry and Mattison), I’d expect 70-80% ownership, which is an insane amount of concentrated ownership at the running back position (this is, of course, assuming MIN/ATL plays as scheduled on the main slate). There is an interesting dynamic to this slate from a game theory perspective, in that there is one clear game where ownership is expected to settle for pay up wide receivers (again, MIN/ATL), and there are a few clear cases of mispriced wide receivers in the middle tier. All things considered, it is likely that 20%+ of rosters shove both Henry and Mattison in with the value available at the wide receiver position, giving us a solid edge with our understanding that both can be considered “yardage and touchdown backs” (I do want to make it clear that yardage and touchdown backs can hit in these situations, but should they miss, they’ll likely miss hard!).



I’d expect all of Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Jonnu Smith to end up top three in ownership at their respective positions, but Tannehill to go largely overlooked. Yes, Henry sets up well; yes, AJ Brown is underpriced; yes, Jonnu Smith carries a locked in floor with tangible ceiling, but what about the position on one of the highest owned teams that touches the ball more than any other player? If we expect a standard range of scoring in this matchup of 31-35 points (which would be my odds-on favorite for team point total ranges in this matchup) from the Titans, odds are Tannehill brings a floor of two touchdown passes with a ceiling of four to five to the table this week, at likely miniscule ownership. The leverage on the likely highest-owned running back on the slate that you get by playing Tannehill on non-Henry lineups is something not many will think about, but creates a massive edge on the field should the Titans’ scoring be done through the air this week. Furthermore, Tannehill can be deployed in a team stack with AJ Brown and Jonnu Smith for only $16,700. 4x on this price block is 66.8 points, well within the range of outcomes for the stack as a whole, with room for ceiling above 4x. This Titans passing offense is yet again going to be highly concentrated, and a stack of the main pass-catchers with their quarterback is a solid cost-considered floor/ceiling play. Looking at this situation through the lens of Game Theory should allow us to get leverage on the field without fading the game entirely. 


I’d expect the ownership that does flow into this game will be concentrated on the Falcons pass game and the Vikings run game, but we’ve seen the Falcons start fast in four of five weeks thus far, returning poorly after half (this points to coaching and failures to adjust, hence the firing of Dan Quinn). Interim head coach Raheem Morris has coached most of his career on the defensive side of the ball, switching to wide receivers coach for three years, before jumping back to the defensive side of the ball last year (following which the Falcons ended the season 6-2). Overall, he is a bright defensive mind with a new-age approach, and is beloved by the players he coaches. I’d expect this team to get up for the first game under new leadership.

That was a lot of back story to arrive at the ideas that maybe the matchup isn’t as good as it looks on paper for Mattison, maybe Atlanta jumps out to an early lead, or maybe Morris actually places emphasis on stopping what the opposition is good at. The truth of the matter is we have no idea what this Falcons team will look like moving forward, and the time to capitalize on that uncertainty is now, before the masses catch on. So then, if one of these scenarios comes to fruition, and the Vikings are forced to the air and the Falcons are able to move to the ground, Minnesota is set up tremendously through the air and the Atlanta run game boasts  the week’s second highest net-adjusted line yards matchup at 4.85.


I’m honestly not sure where DMO’s ownership will land this week, but with the ownership expected on Henry and Mattison, it’s sure to be lower than it should be in this spot. From my write-up of Chicago this week:

“On the ground, it is shaping up to be the David Montgomery show, after he has played 85%/81% of the team’s offensive snaps the past two weeks after Tarik Cohen was placed on IR with a torn ACL (leading to running back opportunities of 16 and 18 against tough opposition). What most will write off (or glance over) is the receiving work Montgomery has seen on the season, with three targets in every Tarik-healthy game, and 14 (!!!) targets over the previous two weeks without Tarik. The net-adjusted line yards matchup for Chicago is above average at 4.64, the DVOA matchup is the softest they’ve seen season to date, and Carolina has given up a total of nine (!!!) touchdowns and 50 (!!!) targets to opposing running backs over five games, leading to them allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs over the first five weeks (37.4!!!).” For the role and matchup, he is a good $1,000-$1,200 underpriced this week.


Gaskin has played on greater than 63% of the offensive snaps in every game this year for the Dolphins, has averaged five targets per game, and finally (!!!) saw green zone work last week with Jordan Howard a healthy scratch. The Dolphins are 10-point favorites this week vs a team allowing the fifth most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, and Gaskin will likely carry lower-than-should-be-in-this-spot ownership. 


Back to the well with the highest net-adjusted line yards matchup on the slate (4.945). The lions have given up the fourth most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs on the backs of 5.57 yards allowed per carry. Robinson has averaged over five targets per game over his last four. The problem with Robinson has been his snap rate, which is highly influenced by game script, so the floor is lower than his price would suggest. 


Jeudy is likely to avoid lockdown corner Stephon Gilmore and comes into this game averaging 7.5 targets per game. Denver is also going to be without KJ Hamler and Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant is shaping up to be a true game time decision. In a game environment which should see Denver playing catch-up for most of the game, against a team allowing 7.9 yards per pass attempt (27th in the league) and is best attacked over the intermediate-deep middle of the field (areas where Jeudy does most of his work), the floor-ceiling combination Jeudy brings to the table this week is enticing at low ownership.

Want More Hilow?

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