Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- The playoff picture is crystal clear for the Chiefs: win out and secure the top spot (and only bye) out of the AFC; lose, and open the door for the Titans to nab the top spot (that seems insane considering everything the Titans have been through this season – I digress).
- Although unlikely, the Bengals are also currently in the running for the top playoff seed out of the AFC, currently two games behind the Chiefs for that honor. They can end the season anywhere from the top seed to out of the playoffs.
- The Chiefs return most of the nine players that were on the COVID list last week, including kicker Harrison Butker and tight end Travis Kelce. Nobody of note remains on the list, as of Thursday night.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire has yet to practice this week with a shoulder injury, possibly opening the door for Darrel Williams to take over as the lead back for Chiefs. He would be backed up by Derrick Gore should CEH miss (UPDATE: CEH missed his third practice on Friday while Jerick McKinnon returned to practice this week. Expect McKinnon to be fully activated should CEH miss, which now appears likely).
How kansas city Will Try To Win ::
The Chiefs surprisingly hold the league’s tenth-highest overall rush rate over the previous four weeks of play (games against the Steelers, Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos). During their nine-game win streak, Kansas City has held a much more natural 60% pass rate, which “drops” to 58% when playing with a lead over that same time frame. Their situation-neutral pass rate (first and second down with the score within seven points) during that nine-game win streak stands at 61%. I wanted to highlight most of their situational play-calling tendencies during this win streak to emphasize the fact that this team is still one of the most aggressively pass-heavy teams in the league, which should remain the case in as close to a must-win game as possible heading into the postseason. Furthering that notion is the possibility of an absence from starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has yet to practice this week with his shoulder injury. Finally, the Bengals present a pass-funnel matchup, as although their DVOA values are both in the middle of the pack, they have allowed the fourth-lowest yards per carry while allowing the fourth-most yards per pass.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire appears headed for a game-time decision, an absolute best scenario considering he has yet to practice this week. Should he miss, we are likely to see Darrel Williams step into his vacated lead-back role, likely seeing 65-75% of the offensive snaps in the process. He would be backed up by Derrick Gore, who has only seven targets on the season, meaning Williams should be viewed as much more than a yardage and touchdown back here (again, assuming CEH misses). We’re likely to see a relative three-way split in running back opportunities should CEH play. The matchup yields a well below average 4.08 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Bengals defense allowing 23.9 fantasy points per game and the second-most targets to opposing backfields. Williams has games of 25, 23, and 19 running back opportunities on the season, so we can feel confident in his workload should CEH miss.
Tyreek Hill played only 42% of the offensive snaps in his first game back from the COVID list in Week 16. He reportedly lost eight pounds with the illness and was struggling through the entire game just to muster his 29 offensive snaps. With another week between his illness, expect Hill to be more involved this week. All of that is extremely notable because it highlights the varying levels of effect this virus has on different individuals, which adds another layer of variance to this already crazy season because we don’t get any information from teams regarding individual health outside of what is reported to the league through protocols. That said, Travis Kelce was activated from the league’s COVID list on Wednesday. While he will get a full week of practice, we have no idea how well he is feeling, nor how his snap rate will look in his first game back from the virus. We’ll discuss more on this below, but it is something we need to keep in mind as we fight through information this week (and something that I haven’t seen discussed much around the industry). Behind the two top players from this pass-catching corps, expect Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson to remain involved to varying degrees, with Pringle the likeliest to see his elevated role continue. The Bengals present the rare case of a defense allowing higher-than-league-average completion rate against and yards per reception against, keeping the upside high for the primary pass-catchers from the Chiefs. Furthermore, the Bengals have faced the second-most running back targets in the league.
How cincinnati Will Try To Win ::
The Bengals have alternated two-game win streaks and two-game losing streaks over their previous eight games, which has been enough to keep them in the third-seed out of the AFC heading into the final two weeks of the season. That said, the Bengals can mathematically achieve the one-seed in the AFC with wins in their last two, and they can be mathematically eliminated with losses in their last two games. Quite the range of potential outcomes here. As such, this game represents the pinnacle of both Zac Taylor’s coaching career and Joe Burrow’s playing career. During the second half of the season, the Bengals rank in the middle of the pack in overall rush-pass rates, rush-pass rates when playing with a lead, and rush-pass rates when trailing. Basically, this has been an extremely balanced offense all season. Their slow pace of play (30th-ranked situation-neutral and 31st-ranked overall) has led to them averaging only 61.2 offensive plays per game, which is the same as the Packers have run per game this season, for reference. Because Zac Taylor is regarded as one of the most adaptable up-and-coming play-callers in the league, we should expect the Bengals to attack the paths of least resistance against the Chiefs. Those areas would include rushes, passes to running backs and tight ends, and short-to-intermediate passes over the middle of the field to wide receivers. We’ll revisit that idea below.
Joe Mixon has seen 18 or more running back opportunities in every game since Week 8 on a “between lead back and workhorse” weekly snap rate. Expect more of the same here, with clear paths to 30+ running back opportunities should the game environment facilitate increased involvement. Behind Mixon, Samaje Perine should “mix-in” for 15-30% of the offensive snaps, again highly dependent on actual game flow. The matchup on the ground yields a well above average 4.475 net-adjusted line yards metric and presents one of the aforementioned paths of least resistance against the Chiefs. Furthermore, the Chiefs have faced the fifth-most running back targets on the season, raising both the expected floor and expected ceiling for Mixon.
The pass game has been dominated by rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and second-year wide receiver Tee Higgins, with Tyler Boyd approaching near every-down status as well. The Bengals run 11-personnel at a 76% clip on the season, which has jumped to 82% since Week 8. CJ Uzomah and Drew Sample split snaps at a 65/45 clip last week after three straight weeks of 80% or more from Uzomah. Expect personnel alignments to be driven by game flow in this one, with the team likely to run more “heavy” sets in neutral-to-positive game scripts. As mentioned above, another path of least resistance against the Chiefs is through the short-to-intermediate middle of the field, slightly raising the expectation for Boyd and Higgins, the two players that run the most of those routes.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
You’d be hard-pressed to find a “second-to-last” NFL game that carried more playoff implications than this one, giving each team all the motivation they needed. Furthering that discussion is the wide range of potential outcomes as far as playoff seeding is concerned for each of these teams, in what has become an extremely crowded AFC playoff picture. The Chiefs can end up anywhere from the top seed to the six seed, while the Bengals can end up anywhere from the top seed to out of the playoffs entirely. Considering how each of these teams is built, how each of them responds to varying game environments, and how each offense and defense has performed up to this point in the season, the flow, pace, and environments of this game have the widest range of outcomes on the week. There really is no point in anchoring down on what the likeliest scenario is. That said, each potential game flow carries varying players that should be regarded as optimal, and because each offense is highly concentrated, players from this game can be used in rosters for all potential game flows. Again, something to keep in mind when narrowing down the top game environments on the slate (spoiler alert, this game is one of the top two or three game environments).
TOP PLAYS OF THE WEEKEND
SORTABLE GREEN ZONE TOUCHES
TEAM & PLAYER DK POINTS
DFS+ Interpretation ::
By Dwprix >>
- 2nd highest total behind ARZ/DAL (51)
- Total has moved up 1.5 pts
- KC is favored by 5
- CIN has won the last 4 of 5 against KC but got smoked in their last matchup (CIN 10 KC 45 in 2018)
- KC has won 8 in a row & holds the best record in the AFC
- CIN holds the lead in the AFC north & is currently the 3 seed
- Pts allowed in those 8: (10, 28, 9, 9, 9, 14, 7, 17)
- CIN scored on 7 straight possessions last week (streak was broke by a missed FG in the 4th)
- KC is 4th in ppg (28.1) & 1st over their last 3 (39.3)
- CIN is 7th in ppg & 10th in over their last 3 (26.3)
- Mahomes ($7.8k) is the 2nd most expensive QB this week on DK
- He was $8k or higher the first 7 games but has only been above $8k once in the last 8
- Mahomes has scored 30+ DK points 4 times & 25+ in two others
- CIN allowed 3rd stringer Josh Johnson to go 28:40:304:2 TDs vs them last week
- Other notable QB scores vs CIN: Herbert (29.3) // Mike White (31.1) // Rodgers (23.8) // Jackson (23.1) // Cousins (25.0) // Garoppolo (20.14)
- CIN allows the 12th most DK pts to QBs (19.1) & 3rd most pass atts/g (37.8)
- Travis Kelce missed last week w/ COVID but has been removed from the list
- Tyreek Hill saw only 2 tgts in Kelce’s absence
- Byron Pringle saw 7 last week: 6:75:2 TDs, 25.5 DK pts
- His price ($4.1k) jumped up $800 & is a season high (previous high was $3.3k)
- WR snaps last 3: Pringle (55/69, 46/71, 40/66) // Mecole Hardman (30, 31, 23) // Demarcus Robinson (46, 49, 30)
- Kelce has 8 or more tgts in 10 of 14 games & 6 games with 10+
- Mark Andrews ($7.4k) is now more expensive than Kelce ($7.3k)
- KC is 2nd in pass yds/g (285.1) // CIN allows the 4th most (252.8)
- KC is also 2nd in pass yds/g over the last 3 (301.3)(CIN is first)
- CIN allows 35.4 DK pts/g to WRs (14th least) & 7th most to TEs (15.6)
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire missed Wed & Thurs practices, he’s questionable
- CEH has 2 games w/ 100+ rush yds, back in WKs 3 & 4
- He has yet to see 20+ atts this season
- RB snaps last 4: CEH (21, 50, 23, 29) // Darrel Williams (25, 19, 23, 25) // Derrick Gore (19, 0, 20, 8)
- DK pts games CEH missed: Williams (23.9, 8.0, 17.0, 10.7, 32.4) // Gore (0.0, 1.7, 10.8, 2.9, 1.9)
- Rush atts w/o CEH: Williams (21, 5, 13, 19, 11) // Gore (0, 0, 11, 3, 6)
- CIN allows 23.9 pts/g to RBs (14th most)
- Burrow passed for 525 yds vs BAL last week
- This is the most by a QB this season, most ever by a Bengal, & 4th most in NFL history
- Burrow’s price ($6.9k) is $200 less than his season high of $7.1 in WK 8 vs NYJ
- He has 6 games scoring in the 20’s, 1 in the 30’s, & scored 41.1 last week
- 5 times he’s thrown for 300+ & he has 5 games with at least 3 TDs
- KC allows the 6th most DK pts to QBs (20.2)
- Boyd, Mixon, & Higgins each caught 50+ yd passes last week
- Ja’Marr Chase is tied w/ AJ Green for most 100+ yd rec games by a rookie (4)
- CIN is 8th in pass yds/g (259.0) // KC allows the 8th most (245.7)
- CIN is first in pass yds/g over the last 3 (315.0)
- Boyd rec yds:TDs last 5: (194:2, 23:0, 114:0, 138:1, 114:1)
- Tgts over the last 4: Chase: (10, 4, 8, 8) // Higgins (13, 3, 7, 14) // Boyd (5, 6, 6, 7)
- KC allows 34.6 DK pts/g to WRs (13th least)
- It’s been 4 games since Mixon had 100+ rush yds but he had 135 scrimmage yds last week (rush 18:65:1 TD, rec 6:70 1 TD)
- Mixon has 25+ DK pts in 7 games (31.5, 36.3, 27.3, 28.0, 25.1, 26.3, 28.0)
- He’s T-3rd in total TDs w/ 16 (13 rush, 3 rec) (only Ekeler & Taylor have more)
- $7.5k is the 4th most expensive RB
- No other CIN RB has seen more than 5 atts since WK 7
- Mixon avgs 4.1 yds/att // KC allows 4.7 yds/att (T-3rd most)
- KC allows 24.5 DK pts/g to RBs (12th most)