slate Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Pricing is once again almost a non-issue on DraftKings. This is going to lead to extremely chalky builds and heavy chalk on the top-tier players in pricing.
- I also expect the field to build heavily for the likeliest scenario from each game, meaning heavy emphasis on the pass games from Cincinnati and Kansas City, heavy emphasis on game stacks from the AFC, and low overall exposure to the NFC.
- COVID has apparently been eradicated across NFL playoff teams. All kidding aside, there shouldn’t be any pandemic concerns for any of the four Championship Round teams.
- Rotational rookie defensive end Cameron Sample was the only Bengal player to miss practice on Wednesday.
- Safety and defensive communication leader, Tyrann Mathieu, missed practice on Wednesday with the concussion he endured during the Divisional win. He faces an uphill battle to be ready for the Chiefs.
- The 49ers are a bit banged up heading into Championship weekend, with left tackle Trent Williams and running backs Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson, Jr. missing practice on Wednesday.
- Wide receiver Van Jefferson, defensive linemen Greg Gaines, and fill-in offensive linemen Joe Noteboom missed the Rams walkthrough practice on Wednesday, while the league’s top-rated pass-blocking tackle, Andrew Whitworth, returned to a limited participant.
How CINCINNATI Will Try To Win ::
The general theme from the industry surrounding the play-calling tendencies from the Bengals has been to try and fit them into a box. I would argue that the box does not exist. What we’ve seen from this team is a coaching staff that pays particular attention to pre-game matchups, game planning, and analytics, while being open to adjusting during the game to both game flow and any changing dynamics. They become much more predictable with this understanding in place, meaning we should look to their opposition to gain the clearest glimpse into how we should expect them to approach a given game. All of that to say, this isn’t a team that was run-heavy to begin the year, then went through a pass-heavy spurt, only to recycle those trends over the second half of the season. On the contrary, this is a team that takes what their opposition gives them, is capable of leaning on the run against inferior run-stopping units, but is also capable of airing it out with the best of them should it be required. Since their defense is basically middle of the pack across the board in most metrics, and since their offensive line is no world-beater, they have been forced into a pass-balanced approach more often than not this season, but that isn’t necessarily a nod to want or need more than it has been the clearest path to giving them a chance to win games this year. Head coach Zac Taylor earned his first look at head coaching duties through a willing embrace of what gives this organization the best chance at winning football games, and that is exactly what they have done. Whether it be embracing analytics on fourth downs, understanding when to kick the point after and when to go for two, or early-down rush-pass rates, Taylor and his coaching staff are consistently hunting for any edge to be gained. Against a powerful Chiefs squad, expect the level of aggression to be high from the start as the Bengals look to earn a victory, as opposed to trying to back into a trip to the Promised Land. Although the Bengals exhibit aggression almost across the board, one spot they deliberately choose to take their feet off the gas is the pace of play, as they finished the season with bottom-three marks across the board in an attempt to relieve any pressure they can from a middle-of-the-pack defense.
Joe Mixon should be considered closer to a workhorse than he would be to a “lead back” after playing on 60% or more of the offensive snaps in 15 of his 17 fully healthy games this year, and 70% or more in 11 of those. Furthermore, after seeing four or more targets only five times over his first 14 games, he has gone over that mark in each of the previous four games, en route to target totals of six, seven, four, and six since Week 16 of the regular season. 20+ running back opportunities are all but assured here, with valuable pass game work “mixed in.” Behind Mixon, expect Samaje Perine to operate in a pure backup role, most likely seeing only a handful of opportunities on a 15-20% snap rate. The pure rushing matchup yields an elite 4.51 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Chiefs defense that allowed 24.3 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, including the fifth-most targets filtered to the position.
Ja’Marr Chase’s low 63.3% catch rate is offset by an elite 8.3 average yards after the catch, elite 36.9% share of the team’s available air yards, and elite 2.59 average yards per route run. The big play potential is on par with his counterpart from the other side of this one in Tyreek Hill. Fellow perimeter threat Tee Higgins falls just shy of Chase’s gaudy metrics, putting up a solid 20.4% team target market share, 30.6% of the team’s available air yards, and 2.32 average yards per route run during the regular season. Tyler Boyd’s low 7.7 aDOT and moderate 17.3% team target market share required outlier volume and touchdown efficiency to return a ceiling comparable to those of the aforementioned two wide receivers. Finally, tight end CJ Uzomah has been operating as a borderline every-down tight end for the majority of the season and presents an interesting mismatch down the seam. Of note, this Bengals offense has operated heavily from 11-personnel in games that correlate with a more pass-balanced approach and has mixed in increased heavy personnel groupings in games they are able to lean heavier on the run, so expect 11-personnel to be the percentage solution in a game against the Chiefs. The final piece to this pass game puzzle is the uncertainty of Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has missed practice to start the week as he works through the league’s concussion protocol. His absence would seemingly be a big hit to the back end of their defense as he is the primary facilitator and communicator of their secondary. That is likeliest to translate into increased chances at splash plays against both the perimeter and down the middle of the field, with communication issues likeliest to be the culprit in a heavy zone-based defense.
How kansas city Will Try To Win ::
The Chiefs playoff games have played out almost exactly as we predicted in the previous Chiefs write-ups with one exception: the backfield. In somewhat of a surprise move, the Chiefs stuck with Jerick McKinnon in a “more than lead back but less than workhorse” role last week following the activation of Clyde Edwards-Helaire from IR. To add to the unknowns this week, Darrel Williams is tentatively expected back from his 1.75-game absence. Overall, expect the Chiefs to continue to place games in Patrick Mahomes’ capable hands after he attempted 83 passes to only 33 combined running back carries over the first two playoff weeks. There is nothing pointing to this heavy emphasis on the pass game changing, particularly considering the Chiefs should be able to find success in any way they choose against a very mediocre top-to-bottom defense, one that has gotten by primarily on scheme over talent this year.
As alluded to above, the Chiefs backfield carries the highest level of uncertainty of any of the four teams playing this weekend, which immediately presents one of the better leverage spots on the short slate (will be discussed more below). On one hand, Jerick McKinnon has looked highly capable as both a rusher and pass-catcher out of the backfield over the previous two weeks. On the other hand, Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned from a stint on the IR in time for the Divisional Round and one could point to his level of conditioning (or lack thereof) as the reason for his low snap rate. On even the other hand (because we have three hands?), Darrel Williams performed admirably over the six-week stretch where he was the lead back for this team, and he arguably possesses the best mix of between the tackles chops and pass game chops of all three backs. Basically, who the hell knows how the split in work will look between these three this week, assuming Williams returns to game action (full practice on Wednesday and limited on Thursday). Even if Williams misses, there is a very real possibility that CEH would be utilized heavier should the Chiefs find themselves in a more positive game script. The matchup on the ground yields an average 4.29 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Bengals defense that allowed 25.4 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields during the regular season, including the fourth-most targets to the position. Again, more on this situation below.
Primary pass-catchers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce continue to operate in “tick below every-down” roles, typically landing in the 75-85% snap rate range on an offense that has developed more consistent secondary options. That last notion is primarily a nod to the leap that Byron Pringle has made during the 2021 season, as he is now on the field the most out of the secondary options, and is moving further away from his early-season status as “Tyreek Hill’s backup.” Mecole Hardman has been relegated to the primary “gadget” player on this offense, while Demarcus Robinson has maintained his low upside, possession-style, part-time role. The Josh Gordon experiment has taken a back seat once the playoffs started, and he was recently released and re-signed to the practice squad. Hill and Kelce maintain their respective statuses as the players most likely to be relied upon late in games, but we’ve seen this team spread the ball through the air over the first three quarters for the better part of the past two months. So, while the optimal way to play Hill or Kelce is in a game stack with Cincinnati pass-catcher bring-backs, that will be the highest combinatorial ownership by a wide margin. Again, more on this situation below. Of note, the Bengals faced the most air yards of any team during the regular season, which makes sense when you consider their low blitz rates (seventh-lowest) and moderate pressure rate. Mahomes should have time to pick this team apart through the air whenever required.
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Likeliest Game Flow ::
The ultimate game flow, pace, and environment are likely up to the Bengals to decide here as the team with the widest range of potential outcomes. As in, we could see this team come out aggressive through the air against a Chiefs team likely to be without its captain in the secondary (likeliest, in my mind), or we could see the Bengals commit to the run early in the game in an attempt to keep the ball away from Patrick Mahomes and company. Either way, we’re likely to see the Bengals start the game with a slow pace of play and only alter that approach should they fall behind early, leading to a first half with a more standard number of total offensive plays run from scrimmage and a second half with a wide range of potential outcomes as far as pace and total number of plays are concerned. Overall, the likeliest scenario yields a back-and-forth, shootout-style affair with each team highly capable of trying to “outscore” the other, but we would do well to keep all possible game flows and environments in the front of our minds when building, particularly considering the likeliest scenario is sure to be the highest ownership seen from this game (as in, both pass games).
DFS+ Interpretation ::
CIN @ KC
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- CIN has won 5 of the last 6 vs KC
- The Mahomes vs CIN matchups: 45-10 KC in 2018 // 34-31 CIN in 2021
- The loss to CIN in W17 is KC’s only loss in their last 12 games
- After getting through a shaky stretch middle of season, Mahomes has 21 TDs to 2 INT in the past seven games
- QBs with 2+ TDs vs CIN: Cousins // Rodgers // White // Mayfield // Herbert // JimmyG // Josh Johnson // Mahomes // Keenum
- Mahomes went for 259:2 in W17 vs CIN, but KC scored just 3 pts in the second half after 28 in the first
- CIN allowed the 6th most pass yds on the 5th most pass att (263.9 yds/g)
- Mahomes has cleared that avg in 11 of 17 games (7 of 300+)
- Mahomes in the Conf Champ: 295:3, 11 (NE) // 294:3, 53:1 (TEN) // 325:3, 5 (BUF)
- The final game scores of Hill’s 25+ pt scores since 2020: (35-9), (33-31), (35-31), (27-24), (33-27), (38-24), (33-29), (42-30), (20-17), (41-14), (34-28), (42-36)
- The current spread of this game is set at (30.75 KC to 23.75 CIN)
- Hill went for just 6 rec for 40 yds vs CIN
- CIN allowed the 13th fewest WR DK pts/g
- CIN allowed the 12th highest rate of explosive passes to WRs
- AJ Brown just scored on a deep TD last week vs CIN (142 yds on 5 catches)
- Since 2019 (57 games), the quartet of Watkins, Hardman, Robinson, Pringle has produced just 8 scores of 20+ DK pts, with the biggest coming either during the absence of Hill or with him playing extremely limited snaps
- 3 of the 8 scores came in the last five games (Hill was limited; Pringle x2, Hardman)
- WRs in the playoffs so far (yds:TDs)::
- Hill (57:1 // 148:1) // Hardman (49 // 57:1) // Pringle (37:2 // 29:1) // Robinson (76:0)
- Since 2020: Kelce has produced 70+ yds in 23/36 games, including 14 100yd games and 25 TDs
- In 2021, Kelce has scored 17+ DK pts in 10/18 games; 20+ in 7 games
- Since 2020: DK pts when Hill sub-15 DK pts: 22.5 // 30.6 // 22.8 // 26.9 // 20.4 // 17.7 // 12.5 // 17.8 // 5.7 // 5.7 // 13.4 // 13.4
- Since 2020: DK pts when Hill 25+ DK pts: 27.9 // 28.9 // 29.9 // 16.2 // 30.6 // 25.6 // 6.3 // 4.7 // 22.9 // 44.1 // 23.6
- Kelce playoff DK scores with Mahomes (low-high): 7.5 // 12.8 // 19.3 // 21.3 // 23.6 // 28.3 // 28.9 // 28.9 // 43.3 // 46.4
- CIN allowed the 8th highest yds/att to TEs
- TEs with 40+ yds vs CIN: Conklin (41) // Hock (73) // Andrews (48) // Waller (116) // Freiermuth (40:1) // Kittle (151:1) // Fant (57), Albert O (58) // Andrews (125:1) // Waller (76)
- CIN allowed the 11th most RB DK pts/g
- CIN allowed the 10th fewest RB rush yds/g but the 6th most RB rec yds/g
- KC RBs games with 50+ yds: CEH (7) // Williams (9) // McKinnon (3) // Gore (2)
- McKinnon receiving last three: 3:26:1 // 6:81:1 // 5:54
- At least one KC RB has 10+ rush att in 15 games (two RBs in 3 games)
- KC RB TDs as main guy: CEH (6 TDs in 9 g) // Williams (6 TDs in 9 g) // McKinnon (2 TDs in 3 g)
- Work split last week: McKinnon (10 att, 7 tg) // CEH (7 att, 2 tg)
- In non-BUF games, KC has allowed 15.7 ppg in 9 home games vs 25.75 ppg in 8 road games
- BUF scored 38 & 36 points at Arrowhead, the two highest totals KC has given up in all games this year
- CIN has scored 25.4 pts/g on road (9 g) vs 27.6 pts/g at home (10 g)
- CIN’s 30+ pt games have come against NYJ, LV, KC, DET, PIT, BAL (x2)
- 4 of those 7 games have come on the road (NYJ, LV, DET, BAL)
- Burrow in the playoffs so far: 244:2 // 348:0
- Burrow has thrown for 270+ in 10/18 games
- Burrow has 300+ yds in 5 of his last 7 games (DEN & LV only to hold him below)
- After a horrid start to the season, the only QBs to throw for 270+ yds vs KC in the last 12 games are Burrow (446:4) and Allen (329:4); Mathieu left in 1st Q last week
- Top QBs passing vs KC: Lamar (239:1:2) // Herbert (281:4 // 236:2:1) // Allen (315:3) // Carr (261:2:1 // 263:1:1) // Dak (216:0:2) // Burrow (446:4) // Allen (329:4)
- CIN benefited from 3 DPIs and an Illegal Use of Hands in the first matchup, with the DPI’s all coming on 3rd down and the last one on the 4th and 1 in endzone that allowed CIN to end game with field goal as time expired
- 2 of Burrow’s TDs came on the drives saved by penalties
- After allowing the 2nd fewest WR DK pts/g in 2019 & 2020, KC allowed 36.7 DK pts/g to WRs and ranked 23rd in def pass DVOA in 2021
- KC’s final rank in weighted DVOA was 13th, which weighs more heavily the more recent games
- KC allowed the 10th lowest success rate to WRs
- WRs vs KC in playoffs: Washington (37:1), Diontae (34:1), Claypool (25), Juju (26) // Davis (201:4), Beasley (60), Sanders (16), Diggs (7)
- Top WRs vs KC in the last two months: Renfrow (13:117:1) // Keenan (6:78:1) // Diontae (6:51:1; 5:34:1) // Chase (11:266:3) // Patrick (6:95) // Davis (8:201:4)
- 100-yd WRs vs KC this year: M Brown (113:1) // Williams (122:2) // Smith (122) // AJ Brown (133:2) // Renfrow (117:1) // Chase (266:3) // Davis (201:4)
- 100-yd games this year: Chase (101, 159, 201, 125, 266, 116, 109) // Higgins (114, 138, 114, 194) // Boyd (118)
- Only once did two 100-yd games come together (Chase & Higgins in Burrow’s 525 yd passing day vs BAL)
- Playoffs receiving: Chase (116, 109) // Higgins (10, 96) // Boyd (26:1, 17)
- Tg with Burrow since W13: Chase (8, 8, 4, 10, 12, 12, 6) // Higgins (14, 7, 3, 13, 5, 4, 9) // Boyd (7, 5, 6, 5, 6, 5, 3)
- Williams, Edwards, Jeudy, Diontae all led in receiving in first game vs KC
- Keenan, Renfrow, Patrick, Washington all led in receiving in second game vs KC
- TEs with 10+ DK pts vs KC: Njoku (10.6) // Andrews (10.7) // Goedert (16.6), Ertz (12) // Knox (23.7) // RSJ (15.8) // Pruitt (10.7) // Engram (10.5) // Schultz (11.3)
- KC allowed the 9th highest success rate to TEs
- Uzomah tg with Burrow since W13: 6, 6, 4, 7, 6, 6, 8
- Uzomah in that span: 20 // 56 // 18 // 36 // 32 (KC) // 64:1 // 71
- Playoff rec yds: Chase (225) // Uzomah (135) // Higgins (106) // Mixon (79) // Boyd (43)
- KC ranked 20th in def rush DVOA
- RBs with 80+ rush yds vs KC: Chubb (83:2) // Henry (86) // J Williams (102) // Jackson (86)
- Mixon has 5 games of 80+ rush yds, but none since W12 (65 is highest since)
- Mixon went for 12 att for 46 yds vs KC (CIN was down 28-14)
- KC allowed the 4th highest success rate & 5th highest yds/att on RB tg
- RBs with 40+ rec yds vs KC: Ekeler (52:1) // Gainwell (58) // Moss (55) // McKissic (65) // Booker (65) // Dillon (44) // J Williams (76:1) // Jacobs (46)
- Mixon has 6 games of 40+ rec yds (59, 58, 46, 70, 40, 51)
- Mixon’s last four receiving: 6:70:1 // 7:40 (KC) // 4:28 // 6:51