Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Week 7 kicks off with the rare Chiefs game with a total under 50. Kansas City visits the Broncos in what is projected to be a pretty close match, with the visiting Chiefs currently 3.0 point favorites in a 48.5 total game. Injury situations are adding some additional uncertainty to the game here, as is the Chiefs’ somewhat mortal-looking offense the last two weeks. Let’s dig in.
The Chiefs are one of the most interesting offenses in football to pick apart, so we’ll start there. Kansas City’s run game is devolving into a hard-to-predict committee situation — Damien Williams led the team in snaps and carries in Week 5, but then LeSean McCoy unexpectedly grabbed almost all of the rushing opportunities last week and played 50% of the snaps to Damien’s 38%. Damien is the supposed superior receiving back, but only saw one target. Darrel Williams is still mixing in for 15-20% of the snaps as well, so this situation is becoming awfully muddy. In addition, the Chiefs have been one of the pass-happiest teams in the NFL this year, passing at a 66% rate (5th highest in the league) after being 10th in the league with 61% passing plays last season. The Chiefs have scored five total rushing touchdowns on the season against 14 passing TDs. The Chiefs RBs are priced appropriately, but you’re basically betting on A) an outlier game, B) outlier touchdowns on a team that doesn’t score many rushing TDs, or C) passing game success. Personally I’ll always bet on usage, so I’ll lean McCoy here, but it would not at all surprise me to see the usage swing back in Damien’s favor this week. This is a shaky situation.
In the pass game, much has been made of the Chiefs struggling against the man coverage-heavy schemes that the Colts and Texans have utilized the past two weeks. Vic Fangio is a defensive mastermind and we can be certain that he has A) noticed this trend and B) is planning around it for Thursday. But, keep in mind that while the Chiefs have indeed not scored as many points as usual in their last two games, there are a few other factors in play:
- Mahomes has been banged up with an injured ankle, limiting his mobility. Hopefully for the Chiefs that ankle is feeling a little better by Thursday, but watch the practice reports.
- Tyreek Hill missed the Colts game entirely and only played half the snaps in the Texans game. Hill is the best weapon that the Chiefs have against a man-coverage defense, as he can get open against any single defender; the Chiefs have certainly missed his ability to break free. While I’m not sure if Hill becomes a 90%+ snap player on a short week, going from half the snaps to 75% seems reasonable, and that will make it much more difficult for the Broncos to just sit in man coverage. Note that the drives on which Hill played heavily resulted in two touchdowns and a whopping 10 targets.
- Finally, let’s note that in these last two weeks when Mahomes “struggled,” he still put up over 20 Draftkings points in each week. He’s the highest floor play in this Showdown, and only Hill and Kelce can realistically challenge his ceiling.
The Chiefs’ pass game has been tricky to utilize in DFS due to the injuries to their two top receivers as well as their tendency to spread the ball around (JM noted last week, I believe, that the Chiefs have only produced one great-for-a-tournament receiver score from Weeks 2-5, not including Pringle coming out of nowhere after Watkins was re-injured). Hill is a premium piece with a massive ceiling and an always-uncertain floor though he is awfully expensive at $11.2k given that we have a bit of uncertainty around his usage, while Kelce has a history of absolutely crushing a Broncos defense that has historically been vulnerable in the middle of the field. Vic Fangio is adding new schemes to the Denver defense, so it isn’t the same as it’s been in years past, but we’ve still seen Darren Waller exceed expectations here (7 for 70 on 8 targets) while in Kelce’s last five games against Denver he is averaging 110 yards and 0.8 touchdowns. I just finished writing a whole paragraph on the rest of the receiving corps and then Sammy Watkins was ruled out, so now I get to rewrite it (lucky me, and also lucky you!). DeMarcus Robinson is the preferred play with Watkins out, as he led all Chiefs receivers in snap count the last couple of weeks by a wide margin, while Hardman and Pringle split work roughly down the middle last week. Of those two, I would prefer Pringle based on his significantly cheaper price and that he largely ran the Watkins-type routes while Hardman ran more of Tyreek’s normal route tree. Pringle is still going to be a part-time player, but I would put money on him outsnapping Hardman here.
On the Broncos’ side, their run game has been a pretty even split this year — 53.9% of snaps for Freeman and 49.4% for Lindsay. Lindsay, however, has 84 carries to Freeman’s 66, and while they both have 26 targets, Lindsay has 12 “green zone” touches (touches within the 10 yard line — thanks to OWS Collective contributor IanDouglas902 for one of my favorite weekly data points!) to just five for Freeman. Lindsay is the superior play here but he’s also priced like it at $8,800 versus just $6,000 for Freeman. It’s worth noting that Freeman has yet to score a touchdown this year and yet is still putting up 10.7 Draftkings points per game — quite reasonable at a $6k salary, and with ceiling if TD regression comes back his way. Denver runs the ball 44% of the time, good for the 10th best rate in the league, and they continue to run even if down multiple scores unless it’s very late in the game. Lindsay and Freeman can absolutely both pay off their salaries, and while I normally would shy away from using two running backs from the same team, given the matchup and the price, I’m fine using them both here. It’s worth questioning whether you want to use both if you have one heavily featured in the captain spot (as captain spot placement effectively says you expect that player to post the highest score, or one of the highest scores, on the slate), but even then I would prefer to limit my exposure to the other RB rather than crossing them out entirely.
Denver’s pass game also presents some intriguing options. Courtland Sutton has been growing into the guy a lot of people (myself included) were hoping he would be last year with five games of double-digit DK points and two games over 20. Sutton is actually leading the league in market share of air yards with 44.8%, and while the Chiefs are 8th overall in pass defense DVOA, their top cornerback, Kendall Fuller, has been ruled out for Thursday. At just $7,600 I view Sutton as somewhat egregiously mispriced for his role and a core building block of my tournament lineups on this slate. Emmanuel Sanders is expected to play but his share of targets (and more importantly, air yards) has diminished with the emergence of Sutton. He’s still a viable play with plenty of ceiling, but I would prioritize him below Sutton here. That said, everyone else will too — so make of that what you will from a game theory perspective. The rest of Denver’s passing attack are ancillary pieces (DaeSean Hamilton is seeing very modest volume and only near the line of scrimmage, Noah Fant has caught on as a bit of a trendy play this season but really hasn’t done much of anything and unlike most TEs has almost no red zone role with just one target within the 10; everyone else is a part-time player and only suitable to dart throws in MME).
The most likely way for this game to play out is for Denver to try to keep the ball on the ground, following the keep-away offense that the Colts and Texans used to defeat the Chiefs the last two weeks. The Chiefs are expected to win, which means Vegas thinks their air game will eventually break through, but the Broncos are likely to keep it fairly close (and thus on the ground) for most of the game.
Some other ways this could play out:
- Maybe there’s more to the Chiefs’ recent struggles than just Hill’s absence and some man coverage. Maybe Mahomes’ ankle is bothering him more than he’s letting on. Maybe going to the thin air of Denver on a short week is too much, and the Chiefs just get stifled by the Broncos’ not-elite-but-still-very-good defense. While I normally don’t build onslaught lineups against the Chiefs, I see it as viable here (especially given how the Chiefs spread the ball out so much; the Chiefs could put up a couple of touchdowns without anybody but Mahomes being in the optimal lineup).
- The expectation here is that the Broncos will score on the ground and the Chiefs will score in the air, and that’s the way ownership will flow. But, touchdowns are incredibly unpredictable, and simply reversing how everyone thinks the touchdowns will flow is a way to be contrarian without being dumb.
As always, captain choices should be based around the game scripts for which you’re building, but my overall favorites are the three primary Broncos (Sutton, Freeman, and Lindsay) and then Kelce and Hill on the Chiefs.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (consider at least 3 in Mahomes’ case given how expensive he is)
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- For lineups with Freeman or Lindsay captain, consider excluding the other or reducing exposure
- At most 2 of the Chiefs’ ancillary receivers
— Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns; and given the tangible edge in this contest type, it should pay itself off pretty quickly(!).