Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- Game sets up well for Cleveland to see 33-35 rush attempts on the ground, split 60/40 amongst Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt
- Game also sets up well for Cleveland to move the football, but poorly for any individual player
- Nothing about the 4-2-5 base cover-3 defensive alignment should deter Kansas City from attacking in their preferred manner
- Cleveland should control the tempo and pace here for as long as the game remains within striking distance
How Cleveland Will Try To Win ::
The Browns are one of the more straightforward teams as we enter 2021. Not a whole lot has changed with respect to personnel, coaching, or how this team should try and win games. The team returns all five starters along an offensive line that ranked first in pass protection and second in run-blocking in 2020, after averaging 30.4 rush attempts per game (fifth in the league). On the defensive side of the ball, we can expect a heavy zone defense under second-year coordinator Joe Woods, who ran a 4-2-5 base cover-3 defense in 2020. The biggest thing for this team’s defense is health as they lost a combined 45.8 games to injury in the secondary alone in 2020.
We pretty much know what to expect from this team on the ground. Nick Chubb averaged just a 51.6% snap rate after returning from injury in 2020, leading to an average of 18.5 running back opportunities per game over that time. With Kareem Hunt still on hand, expect that trend to loosely continue, leading to 18-22 running back opportunities per standard game, with Hunt soaking up 14-16 running back opportunities per game himself. This offense is most certainly at their best with both Chubb and Hunt on the field together, but the Browns ran 21-personnel an embarrassingly low 5% of the time over the second half of the 2020 season. The Chiefs surrendered the eighth most fantasy points to opposing backfields in 2020 despite allowing only seven rushing scores, primarily due to the 121 targets filtered to the position. The pure rushing metrics painted a different picture as the team allowed a moderate 4.5 yards per rush attempt.
The Browns’ maddening usage of the talent they possess at wide receiver continued last season. Odell Beckham, Jr. ran primarily slants, goes, posts, and comebacks in 2020 while Jarvis Landry ran primarily outs, crosses, slants, and hooks, most of which are of the “low upside after the catch” variety. Kansas City’s high rate of zone coverage (fourth most in the league in 2020) and standout secondary led to the second fewest fantasy points allowed on downfield passing. The aim of Spagnuolo’s heavy dual-high safety defense is to keep the game in front of them, allowing inside, underneath, and low upside receiving work. While this bodes well for the Browns in a “move the football” sense, it leaves a lot to be desired from the primary pass-catchers in this offense from an “expected fantasy points” standpoint. The Chiefs struggled to handle dynamic tight ends via this defensive formation, but tight ends Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant split snaps at a 40/35/25% clip.
How Kansas City Will Try To Win ::
Kansas City is another team we largely know what we’re going to get heading into 2021 as the coaching staff and most primary players return. On the offensive side, Sammy Watkins headed to Baltimore and is expected to be replaced by Mecole Hardman to start the season. If you haven’t yet read the “What to Expect Primer” (“Team Previews”), I highly recommend you do so. There, I break down what I expect as far as snap rate for these Chiefs wide receivers to start the year. The other big story out of KC is the complete overhaul along the offensive line. Expect no less than four new bodies to start the season, all of which should be considered an upgrade from 2020. Other than that, we pretty know what we’re going to get from 2020’s second most efficient offense.
The improvements expected along the offensive line cannot be understated after then-rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire finished 2020 on the wrong side of variance. His four touchdowns were less than half of his expected output based on role and usage. Furthermore, prior to the arrival of Le’Veon Bell in Week 6 of 2020, CEH was on the field at the league’s fifth highest running back snap rate and held the league’s second highest expected fantasy points per game. Look for him to improve upon his 4.4 yards per carry and efficiency metrics this season. The matchup this week is less than ideal after the Browns surrendered just 21.0 fantasy points per game to the running back position in 2020 (seventh best in the league), including only 4.1 average yards per rush against. The Browns’ defensive line is one of the top units in the league, capable in both the run game and getting to the quarterback. Behind CEH, expect both Darrel Williams and newcomer Jerick McKinnon to share a lowly snap rate and running back opportunity share.
Tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill should continue to dominate both targets and fantasy output for the Chiefs this year. Expect Mecole Hardman to operate in the previous year’s “Sammy Watkins” role and both Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle to see snaps in a dynamic offense behind them. The matchup is quite interesting here as the Browns’ 4-2-5 cover-3 base defense attempts to keep the game in front of them via low blitz rates and suffocating back-end ball-hawking. The “bend but don’t break” defensive philosophy has led to increased damage against from opposing tight ends, evidenced by them allowing the fourth most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends in 2020. This isn’t necessarily a matchup Tyreek Hill cannot beat because all it takes is one busted coverage or mental lapse in heavy zone formations for the league’s second most efficient wide receiver (from a fantasy points per touch perspective; behind only AJ Brown) to inflict heavy damage. The tertiary options in the pass game will require additional volume in order to provide a bankable floor and ceiling combination, which is unlikely based on the combined pace of play and total offensive plays expected in the likeliest game flow.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
How each team would prefer to attack and what each defense is most likely to give up line up fairly well here, with Kansas City most apt to allow rushing production and underneath passing and Cleveland most apt to allow production inside to running backs through the air and tight ends and the possibility for busted coverages early in the year. What this means is we should expect the Browns to continue a slow pace of play and to try to win the game on the ground with their pair of dynamic running backs for as long as they remain in the game, which should serve to control the overall tempo and pace (the Browns ranked 29th in the league in 2020 in situation neutral pace of play with the score within six points). Kansas City has all the required pieces to dissect a zone-heavy defensive scheme, with all of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire excellent against the expected alignments. In all, it will be Cleveland who dictates the overall game environment in Week 1.
The only way this game plays to a tributary (speaking to the game environment as a whole) is if the Chiefs go up by multiple scores early, which would tilt the Browns more pass-heavy and open up the opportunity for more offensive plays to be run from scrimmage for both teams. This scenario is less likely for the Chiefs when compared to a standard week against the now healthy prevent defense of the Browns. In this case, both Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. gain an increased volume expectation, and this is about the only scenario (outside of either scoring multiple touchdowns) in which we should expect GPP-worthy scores out of the Browns’ pass-catchers.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
Travis Kelce should be considered the number one tight end option on most slates he plays this season, and Week 1’s main slate is no different. His unique weekly mix of floor and ceiling are quite simply unmatched at the position. This game sets up well for Kelce to see his standard-week eight to 10 targets, but the yards after the catch and yards per reception expectation takes a slight hit against a swarming defense.
Tyreek Hill is always a player that carries one of the top raw ceilings on the slate, but his range of outcomes remains fairly wide this week against a defensive unit that should see five members of the secondary on the field for a majority of snaps. It becomes increasingly difficult to play “high range of outcomes wide receivers” the higher they get in price, and that is exactly the case for Tyreek in Week 1.
Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire should enjoy the other side of variance with respect to his fantasy production this season, and the offensive line overhaul should aid in that endeavor. The matchup isn’t perfect against a top defensive line, but the volume and efficiency should be there for CEH. In situations like this, I prefer to be early and catch the increase to efficiency and production before the field catches on and the player’s price rises, but there are simply a plethora of running back options for Week 1, making CEH unlikely to make my late-week condensed 3-Max player pool. Consider CEH a high leverage play with a tight range of outcomes.
Early season shots can be taken on Mecole Hardman, but I have a feeling his ownership is likely to outweigh his expected range of outcomes, leaving me okay playing the leverage fade here. That said, his theoretical ceiling will remain high as long as he is treated as the WR2 on the Chiefs.
The Browns are likely to be afforded the opportunity to continue their vaunted ground attack deep into the game, which should lead to split running back work between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Of note, Hunt averaged almost five fantasy points per game more than Chubb in Cleveland losses in 2020. Either way, the ceiling for either requires extreme efficiency and multiple trips to the paint, which is unlikely against a Chiefs team that buckled down on the run game in the red zone.
The fantasy upside (and real-world upside) of the Cleveland pass-catchers is muted by their own offensive design. Play calling and offensive scheme simply have Odell Beckham, Jr., Jarvis Landry, and all tight ends running low upside routes. As such, each would require a bump to expected volume to prove useful (only the case for the tributary game scenario).
One of the greatest (and easiest!!!) edges in DFS the last two years was simply “NOT playing wide receivers against the Chiefs.” Due to their physical, outside-in secondary, the Chiefs allowed the third fewest receptions and the second fewest yards to the wide receiver position in 2020, one year after allowing the fewest receptions and second fewest yards. Pause for a moment and let that sink in. Back-to-back years, this team has been a bottom-two/three matchup for wide receivers…and yet, wide receivers regularly go highly-owned against them through the rudimentary nature in which so much of our competition builds rosters: “Chiefs will score a lot of points, this opponent will have to keep up, so it’s a great spot for receivers!” While it’s true that a good wide receiver can strike for gold in a tough matchup, it’s also true that you can gain a large (easy, obvious) edge by identifying weaknesses of the field and exploiting those weaknesses ruthlessly. I’m not concerned with the small number of “solid games” wide receivers put up in this matchup throughout the year. I’m much more concerned with positioning myself in the most +EV manner given all the information at hand. As long as the field keeps treating matchups against the Chiefs as an automatic “consider wide receiver” spot, and as long as the Chiefs continue to dominate wide receivers defensively, I’ll continue to “take the team name off the jersey,” so to speak, and trust the underlying numbers.
Elsewhere in this game, we have a couple elements very similar to elements we explored in the Arizona // Tennessee game and the Green Bay // New Orleans game, in that Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill all have high raw ceilings; but their chances of reaching those ceilings are A) lower than the field will assume, and B) not nearly as in-line with their respective price tags as other options available on this slate. Put differently: you can make a case for any of these guys (and I’m not in the business of trying to make a case that any of these guys “fail”), but between expected ownership (due to a softer field of DFS players in Week 1, and the comfort one feels when locking “obvious plays” such as these onto a roster) and expected distribution of fantasy production from these guys if we played out this slate a hundred times (firstly: falling short of the price-considered score you’re looking for more often than the field would expect // secondly: failing to blow past the price-considered score you’re looking for more often than the field would expect) — all on a week with plenty of players in other games who are clearly mispriced — I’ll likely avoid this game myself.
Kelce will be on my list because of the “raw score separator” he can create at his position (i.e., if he outscores almost all other tight ends by 10+ points, it will matter less what you paid for him, and/or what “salary multiplier” you’re getting, as you can hope to make up the “point-per-dollar” production in other spots by nailing some value, and you can gain a positional edge on the field by outscoring everyone at one position on your roster). Of course, on DraftKings, we also have Kyle Pitts at practically half the price of Kelce, making it less likely that Kelce proves to be a “had to have it” piece this week. Kelce is most valuable on sites where tight end pricing is more condensed.
To summarize all that more simply :: no one is going to look at your roster and laugh at you for playing any player from this game. But because ownership interest should be relatively high, and because players from this game are appropriately priced (or even slightly high-priced) for “range of expectations” on a week in which so many other players are mispriced, you can make a very strong strategy case for letting the field be happy with their 3x to 3.5x salary-multiplier scores, while you stay busy hunting for your 250-point roster elsewhere.
Finally, if building with pieces from this game, you’ll want to look to overcome the fact that this is likely to be a relatively popular game, with a lower-likelihood-than-the-field-will-realize chance of being the reason you win a tourney. In order to work around this, don’t just take a one-off player from this game (Kelce being the exception). Instead, bet on a game environment avenue that would result in the higher-scoring affair you need, and that allows you to get several things right at once (i.e., “Chiefs take a big lead, which leads to CEH getting more run than the field will expect, and leads to the Browns throwing more than they’d like”). If your game environment bet hits, you’ll get multiple roster spots correct at once, with a lower-owned “block of players” from this game than the ownership those players will carry individually.
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- A lot will be different during this matchup than the one in January: KC revamped their OLine, CLE revamped their secondary, and CEH & Odell return to their respective teams
- KC has the highest implied total on the slate
- Stefanski’s MIN & CLE offense have scored just 23 & 17 pts vs Spag’s KC defense last two years
- QBs vs KC averaged 21.8 DK pts/g in 2020 (9th highest), but scores were boosted by the 2nd most QB rush TDs allowed (7)
- Only four defenses intercepted more passes than KC (16) in 2020
- After 35 INT in his first two seasons, Mayfield threw just 8 in 2020
- Final game scores of Mayfield’s only scores of 20+ DK pts in 2020: (37-34), (41-35), (42-47), (20-6), (48-37)
- Mayfield ranked 17th in total pass att in 2020; Ryan in first had nine more att/g
- Jarvis Landry targets/g with & without Odell: 5.5 vs 6.9
- Landry had one game over 6 targets in Odell’s six full games, and seven in the other 11
- Odell Beckham Jr’s targets pre-ACL tear: 10, 6, 6, 8, 9, 3
- Odell had as many DK scores in single-digits (5.2, 9.9, 4.5) as he did over just 10 DK pts (17.4, 38.4, 11.4)
- In Week 4, Odell needed a 50 yd rush TD to end the game for his first score of 30+ (& just second of 20+) since Week 2 of 2019
- KC has allowed the 2nd fewest WR DK pts in each of the last two seasons
- CLE TE targets when all three played: Hooper (64) // Bryant (25) // Njoku (20)
- All three saw a big chunk of their targets in the game CLE was missing nearly all its WRs on the Covid list: Hoop (15), Bryant (7), Njoku (4)
- KC allowed the 7th most TE DK pts/g in 2020 (14.7)
- CLE TEs in KC playoff matchup: Hoop (2:16) // Bryant (0:0) // Njoku (4:59)
- Only RBs with 20+ DK pts vs KC in 2020: Jacobs (22.5) // CMC (37.1) // Fournette (23.5)
- Jacobs & Fournette were on the only teams to beat Mahomes in 2020
- Chubb & Hunt finished with just 9.3 & 10.4 DK pts vs KC
- Nick Chubb’s DK pts as an Underdog since CLE added Hunt: 4.5 // 6.6 // 4.3 // 17.6 // 24.3 // 24.5 // 9.3
- CLE scored 42 & 48 pts in those two games Chubb scored 24+ DK pts (CLE also led 35-7 in the second one)
- Kareem Hunt’s DK pts as an Underdog with CLE: 8.1 // 12.1 // 19.1 // 7.7 // 8.7 // 29 // 19.1 // 10.4
- Hunt’s 29 pt game was the same 42 pt CLE game mentioned before
- Dalvin Cook with Stefanski vs KC in 2019: 21:71, 4:45
- (Career) In 29 games as a 6+ pt favorite, Mahomes is averaging 26.4 DK pts/g (10 games of 30+)
- (2020) In 12 games as a 6+ pt favorite, Mahomes hit 4x his Week 1 salary five times
- (Career) In 12 games as a 6+ pt favorite implied for 28-31 pts, Mahomes is averaging 27.7 DK pts and has cleared 30 DK pts in half
- CLE’s 25th ranked pass eff def in 2020 added John Johnson & Troy Hill to the unit
- Mecole Hardman is expected to see more targets due to departure of Watkins (6 tg/g in last two seasons)
- In the last two seasons, the quartet of Watkins, Hardman, Robinson, Pringle produced just five scores of 20+ DK pts, and the two biggest came during the absence of Hill
- Tyreek Hill has finished above 60 rec yds in 36 of his 47 full games since 2018
- CLE allowed the 8th most yds & DK pts/g on the 3rd most WR targets faced in 2020
- In 18 2020 games, Hill reached 3x his WK 1 salary six times (33%), and 4x twice (though he had two more games just short with 29 & 30 DK pts)
- The final game scores of Hill’s 25+ pt scores were (35-9), (33-31), (35-31), (27-24), (33-27), (38-24)
- Kelce produced 70+ yds in 14/18 games, including nine 100yd games and 14 TDs in 2020
- CLE allowed 11 TE rec TDs last season, and per @HaydenWinks, CLE ranked in the bottom-5 for TE fantasy pts allowed above expectation
- Through the first seven 2020 games, Kelce averaged 8 tg/g
- Through the final eleven 2020 games, Kelce averaged 11.7 tg/g
- CEH had seven games of 4+ targets in 2020
- CLE allowed the 6th fewest RB recs in 2020
- CLE allowed the 8th fewest RB rush yds in 2020 (+ added Clowney)
- CEH’s rush att prior to KC adding Lev Bell: 25 // 10 // 20 // 16 // 10 // 26
- CEH turned nine rush att inside the 5-yd line into just one TD in 2020
- 3x & 4x CEH’s Week 1 salary is 19.8 & 26.4
- CEH only reached 19.8 pts in three 2020 games, with a high score of 23.9
- RBs with 19.8+ DK pts vs CLE in 2020: Zeke (21.5) // Conner (20.2) // Gio (20.6) // Robinson (29.9)
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