Navigating Thin Field After Upset-Filled Opener

After a ridiculous Week 1 that eliminated roughly 60% of the field, Week 2 was slightly easier on the field — emphasis on slightly.

The week’s chalkiest team according to Yahoo!, and our pick in this column, the Rams, advanced. Although their game did end up being a sweat down the stretch.

However, the next-two most popular teams — the Browns and Bengals — both lost, taking over a third of the field out with them. That means we’re down to roughly a quarter of the original field after almost two weeks.

Given the high loss rate, emphasis on the next few weeks will be on safety, not planning ahead.

Still, we’ll keep an eye on rest of season expectations using projected win probability for the whole season from our Director of Predictive Analytics Sean Koerner. These will update each week throughout the year, so every week we’ll have up-to-date information.

We’ll continue to use pick data to identify chalky teams to consider fading. While it’s less important than it was at this time last week, maximizing EV in massive pools still requires going against the grain.

Week 3 could be another tough one, with no teams favored by more than seven.

Let’s dig into the Week 3 Picks.

Los Angeles Chargers

After taking the safe route with a Los Angeles based team last week, we’re right back on the horse in Week 3. The Chargers are the heaviest favorites on the slate as of Wednesday, getting a full seven points as they host the Jaguars.

This one is a bit scarier than it may have seemed a few weeks ago, with both teams sitting at 1-1 through two weeks. However, the Chargers played the Chiefs and Raiders, while Jacksonville played Indy and Washington.

The Chargers also played on Thursday Night Football in Week 2, meaning they’ll have an extra few days to prepare for this one. According to our data, their odds of winning are 8% higher than anyone else this week.

They aren’t without cost though. The Chargers have the best projected odds of winning in Week 7, when they host the Seahawks. That’s not too far down the line, so it’s somewhat likely those projections will hold.

However, that week their edge over the field is only one percent. Let’s get through Week 3, and deal with Week 7 when we get there.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals eliminated nearly 16% of the field on Yahoo! last week. Those players might have just been a week early, with the Bengals losing a close game in Dallas.

This week they travel to New York to take on the Jets. Cincinnati has the second-best win probability in our data, trailing only the Chargers.

In a lucky coincidence, they’re also the team with the second-best win probability in Week 7, trailing only the Chargers. They host the Falcons that week, and are almost tied with Cincinnati for the top spot.

Therefore, we’re going to want to play one of the Bengals or Chargers this week, and one in Week 7. Using the Chargers first is the safer option, with a 61.56% chance of winning both legs, compared to just under 56% if inverted.

On the other hand, Cincinnati is a solid leverage play in larger field contests. They’re currently being used at less than half the rate of Los Angeles, so could be a plus-EV option in pools with a lot of entrants still alive.

The Data

Below is the full data for each week of the NFL season. The implied probability as of Week 3 is listed for each team, as well as their “future value” in survivor contests.

The future value is the percentile ranking of each team’s combined win probability the rest of the way, and doesn’t factor in which weeks are strong. It should be used as a rough guideline for which teams to save down the stretch.

For a downloadable sheet that covers the entire season, click here.

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