Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
A wild week 11 wraps up with the Chiefs “visiting” the Chargers down in Mexico City to play the highest total game of the week (too bad it wasn’t on the main slate). The Chiefs are currently 5 point favorites with a total of 53, so there’s some potential for fireworks here.
The Chargers’ run game is the best place to look for production on the LA side as the Chiefs have been legitimately horrible against the run (31st in DVOA, in front of just the Panthers). Melvin Gordon has gotten his mojo back the last two weeks with 24 and 23 touches, averaging over 4 yards per carry after a slow start. However, in those two games he’s only played 62% and 63% of the snaps, compared to 45% and 34% for Austin Ekeler. Gordon’s getting the touches, but Ekeler isn’t going away, getting 16 and 8 touches of his own (including 6 targets against 5 for MG3). My concern here is less about the rushing work, as Gordon should dominate the workload there, but the pass game work that is so valuable on Draftkings could skew more Ekeler’s way for the rest of the season. Both MG3 and Ekeler feel like they’re priced about 10% above where I would really like to see them, but they are both priced for timeshare roles, and both can hit in the same matchup. Given the exploitability of this particular matchup, both are very strong plays here.
The pass game for the Chargers gets much dicier. I feel like people still attack the Chiefs with receivers, and that can still sort of work just because of volume if the Chiefs offense gets out big early on and the other team has to throw. But what’s been lost in that volume story is that the Chiefs pass defense is good. Like, really good. Borderline elite, even, at 5th in the NFL in pass defense DVOA, ahead of teams like the Bears, Ravens, and Bills. Chargers’ receivers can succeed here, of course, but the matchup is a lot harder than the field tends to give it credit for, and LA pass catchers are likely to go heavily owned here. Keenan Allen, as always, needs a ton of volume to smash because he doesn’t have much big play ability or a big red zone role. Mike Williams will have his hands full on the perimeter, and neither Williams nor Allen are priced down for the matchup. Where things get interesting is with Andre Patton, who has played over 80% of the snaps for the last 3 weeks but has done literally nothing. He did see 4 targets last week, including 2 deep balls that were overthrown by Rivers, so there could be some opportunity here and at just $200, he really only needs to connect on one deep ball to be someone you might have to have in order to win a tournament. He’s worth some exposure, though he’s a legit risk to post a 0. Finally, the Chargers’ pass game wraps up with Hunter Henry. Henry is the one receiver who has a strong matchup as the Chiefs have struggled against tight ends this year, and as he’s averaging 8 targets per game, Henry isn’t nearly as touchdown reliant as most tight ends (though he’s getting just shy of 2 red zone looks per game as well). Henry is a really strong play here.
In the Chiefs’ run game, Damien Williams took command of the backfield last week with a 73% snap share and 24 total touches, including 5 targets. LeSean McCoy was a surprise healthy scratch, while Darrel Williams backed up Damien and saw 3 touches. Preseason and best ball darling Darwin Thompson even got in on the fun with 2 touches of his own (and beat reporter info was that one of the reasons for Shady being inactive was that they wanted to start working in Darwin — though that seems to have been a bit of wishful thinking). It’s hard to say what’s going to happen with Shady here. Andy Reid had some coachspeak about keeping him rested for the stretch run, but McCoy also only played 6 snaps the week before and lost a critical fumble the week prior to that, so maybe he’s in the doghouse (though to be fair to Shady he’s played very well this year, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and catching 20 of 22 targets). Watch for beat reporter news here. It seems likely that Damien has taken over as the lead back, and at $7,400 he’s not priced for lead back-type workload. If Shady is active, he could be Damien’s backup, or he could just be an emergency active…it’s hard to really parse this situation, but at the end of the day I think Damien Williams is a strong play regardless of Shady’s status unless we get some news indicating that McCoy will not only be active but also starting.
The Kansas City pass game is, of course, the more lethal part of the Chiefs’ offense. Tyreek Hill has the speed to dust anybody in the game, and while he will be shadowed by Casey Hayward, this is a matchup that Hill crushed in Week 1 of last year for a massive game. It’s a tough matchup and I view Hill as a tourney play (as I almost always view him) but don’t ever sleep on his ceiling. Travis Kelce has had a bit of a letdown season with only 1 game over 100 yards and just 3 touchdowns on the year, but the volume is still there and I expect that he’s going to have a couple of big ones down the stretch. This particular matchup is tough, but Kelce is as matchup-proof as they come. He’s a strong all-around play. Sammy Watkins is priced in that awkward 6k range that always tends to lead to lower ownership and while he’s only really had 1 blowup game this season, if Hayward gets the best of Hill and Kelce struggles against the Chargers’ tough tight end defense, the Chiefs could turn to Watkins more frequently to keep moving the chains. Sammy is still averaging a very healthy 9 targets per game in his last 3, and he’s just not priced for that kind of volume (especially when the volume is coming from Patrick Mahomes). Denard Robinson is a tough option at just $4,400; he’s not meaningfully cheaper than Watkins, and he hasn’t consistently outscored the kickers who he’s priced around. If he gets a fluky touchdown he’ll smash, otherwise he’s likely to disappoint as he just isnt’ getting the kind of volume he needs to do well on yardage and catches alone. Finally, Mecole Hardman is the bane of my showdown existence, as he’s only been playing around 20% of the snaps the last few weeks and only getting 1-3 targets (and thus I haven’t been playing him) but he’s caught a long touchdown in 3 of his last 4 games. Players like that aren’t really my thing unless they’re exceptionally cheap, which Hardman isn’t, but feel free to chase the long touchdown again in this one (he’ll probably score another one just to spite me).
The way this game is likeliest to play out is the Chargers trying to keep the ball on the ground and control time of possession. They’re unlikely to be successful at that for very long, though, against the Chiefs’ high-powered offense. As long as the game is within a score, Los Angeles will be able to feed its running back duo, but if Kansas City starts racking up points, we’ll see more Rivers dropbacks.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- I really don’t ever bet against the Chiefs scoring points, but I suppose it could happen. Maybe they all get Montezuma’s Revenge at the hotel?
- I feel like I write this up whenever I write about the Chargers: they’re a good team and a good offense, but they have a tendency to just fail sometimes in spots that should be relatively good. The odds are they hit here, but with the Chargers, would it ever be that surprising to see them fall flat?
My overall favorite captains in this one are the running backs: Gordon, Williams, and a splash of Ekeler. Hill, of course, has a massive ceiling and is always viable.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
- At most 1 of Hardman and Robinson
- At most 1 Chargers wideout (perhaps overly bold but given the matchup it’s just hard for me to see more than 1 wide receiver really smashing)
— 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(!).
JM’s Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::
- This is the rare game that can completely shift the places where we focus if playing the Thursday-to-Monday slate, as the Chiefs introduce Patrick Mahomes // Travis Kelce // Tyreek Hill // Damien Williams (and dart throws behind those guys), while the Chargers introduce Melvin Gordon // Austin Ekeler // Hunter Henry.
- Notably, I didn’t include Keenan Allen on that list; which should require no explanation, but since there is still so much bad information out there about the Chiefs’ defense, it feels worthwhile to drop a quick reminder that the Chiefs have faced the seventh fewest wide receiver targets in the NFL this year and have allowed only one wideout to top 100 yards. Keenan can always hit if the volume piles up, but that’s what you would be betting on here, which makes him more “tourney dart” than “staple piece.”
- Mahomes is always Tier 1, and that doesn’t change vs a Chargers defense that ranks 21st in DVOA vs the pass. He stacks up nicely against the other top QBs on the slate.
- As noted last week, Kelce has been seeing scoring-position work all year and simply hasn’t been hitting. He scored a touchdown last week on a creative play designed to get him into the end zone and had another touchdown called back. Peg him for his typical range of expectations here.
- Hill has a difficult matchup against Casey Hayward, which broadens his range of outcomes, but the ceiling remains. (Last year in this spot, he went 4-46-0 in one game and 7-169-2 in another.) Hill’s three highest-target games last year (playoffs included) were followed by target counts of 7 // 6 // 7 // 3, so keep in mind that his massive target spike last week doesn’t necessarily guarantee we see the same thing again. But the upside obviously remains.
- There is still significant risk that LeSean McCoy returns on Monday night without warning, and takes back some of the role from Damien Williams, so keep that risk in mind when building; but if Damien sees the bulk of the work again, he’ll be in great position to produce.
- We know how bad the Chiefs run defense is, and Gordon has 20 and 22 carries (23 touches in each game) in his last two contests. He’s a floor/ceiling piece here.
- Barring a shift in organizational philosophy/approach, Ekeler is not going to usurp Gordon as the lead back, but he’ll still get a few carries and a handful of targets, keeping his floor low but his upside intact.
- The Chiefs have allowed the sixth most yards to tight ends while facing the most tight end targets in the league. This game sets up well for Hunter Henry involvement, making him one of the stronger tight end plays on the slate.