Kickoff Sunday, Sep 9th 1:05pm Eastern

Chiefs (
22.25) at

Chargers (
25.75)

Over/Under 48.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Chiefs Run D
27th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
28th DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
5th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per pass
Chargers Run D
22nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
30th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per pass

CHIEFS // CHARGERS OVERVIEW

I am very interested to see how the DFS public chooses to interpret/attack this game. On the one hand, we have an Andy Reid offense (always a good bet for fantasy production), with five big names in Mahomes, Hunt, Hill, Watkins, and Kelce. On the other hand, we have a Chargers defense that ranked third in the league last year in points allowed per game, fifth in sacks, and fourth in passer rating. Interestingly, the Chargers were slightly below-average in both average depth of target and catch rate, but they shut down YAC so thoroughly, they still ranked third in the NFL in expected yards per target. It’s a good offense in the Chiefs, in a difficult matchup vs the Chargers.

CHIEFS RUN OFFENSE

Because of a mid-season stretch during which Kareem Hunt failed to score and had unpredictable workloads, it’s easy to forget just how dominant he was with the ball in his hands. He earned PFF’s fifth-highest run rating and fifth-highest elusive rating; he generated more avoided tackles than any other back in the league (and it wasn’t particularly close); and he ranked ninth in the NFL in yards after contact per attempt. Here’s where things get frustrating: In 15 regular season games last year, he had 25+ touches on an awesome six occasions. He also had 16 or fewer touches on four occasions. With Matt Nagy gone (Hunt’s touches spiked dramatically when Nagy took over play-calling), the voice of reason whispering in Andy Reid’s ear is gone as well, so we need to head into the season assuming that this is Jamaal Charles all over again — where some Sundays end, and you wonder how this guy did not touch the ball more times.

From a yardage perspective, the Chargers were very content to allow yards on the ground last season — ranking dead last in yards allowed per carry — though they finished in the top half of the league in rushing touchdowns allowed and were also middle-of-the-pack in receptions allowed to backs. Hunt was also used remarkably rarely inside the five-yard-line last year, with six total carries on the year (for context: nine backs hit double-digit carries inside the five, with Gurley leading the league at 18 such looks).

To leave you with something to ponder, here are Hunt’s stat lines from his two games against the Chargers last year:

17 carries for 172 yards and a touchdown (plus a catch for 11 yards)

24 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown (plus seven catches for 51 yards and another touchdown)

CHIEFS PASS OFFENSE

While there are a lot of positive data points for Hunt (to go with the obvious uncertainty that Andy Reid seems dead-set on pumping into our DFS weekends with his perpetual underutilization of elite weapons), there are far fewer positive data points for the Chiefs’ passing attack. Only the Ravens, Vikings, and Jaguars held quarterbacks to lower fantasy outputs than the Chargers last season, lowering league-average expectations by over 10%. Only the Vikings and Bills allowed fewer passing touchdowns last year (the Chargers gave up only 16 passing touchdowns all season). And only Jacksonville and Minnesota allowed fewer yards through the air.

Patrick Mahomes will run a similar offense to the one that allowed Alex Smith to finish as the QB3 in fantasy last year, though Reid will have plenty of wrinkles to take advantage of Mahomes’ mobility, strong arm, and gunslinger mentality. (Side note: Reid is one of the best “during week” coaches I have ever seen — even if his “game day” coaching is questionable at best.)

Last year, the Chiefs mixed in regular deep shots to Tyreek Hill with short routes designed to get the ball in his hands in space. Against a similar Chargers secondary last year (note: they have upgraded even further with the addition of rookie, future-superstar safety Derwin James), Hill posted games of 5-77-1 and 5-88-1.

Sammy Watkins has failed to mesh with Mahomes this offseason, and has really not provided more than name value for a couple years now — outside of the unpredictable splash game. The Chiefs are likely to take at least a couple deep shots with him in this game, however, if you want to bet that talent will eventually win out.

The Chiefs wrap up their passing attack with Travis Kelce, who has also not clicked as well with Mahomes this year as Hill has — but this is less of a concern given his known role in this offense and his consistent production. The Chargers allowed the second-fewest touchdowns to tight ends last season, but they were otherwise only a bit above-average against the position.

CHARGERS RUN OFFENSE

Last year, Melvin Gordon overcame an offensive line that ranked 26th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards to earn another strong season. The line should remain below-average this season, but should at least improve with the addition of Mike Pouncey, while Gordon is locked into an average of about 21 touches per game — with all scoring-position usage flowing his way (his 14 carries inside the five last year ranked third in the NFL). The Chiefs ranked 23rd last year in yards allowed per carry and dead last in DVOA against the run — though they were awesome at preventing receptions to running backs (their 53 catches allowed to the position was 10 better than any other team). Gordon didn’t top 80 yards on the ground in either game against KC last year, but let’s be real: you don’t roster Gordon expecting yardage, as he failed to top 85 yards in all but three games last season. You roster him for his guaranteed role and his scoring-position usage, which will remain intact in this spot.

CHARGERS PASS OFFENSE

Kansas City enters this season with a reputation for being just an absolutely awesome pass defense to attack, though it is worth noting that KC was above-average last year in receptions allowed, catch rate, yards after catch, and receiving touchdowns. Where KC got annihilated was on deep balls, allowing the deepest average depth of target in the league, and allowing the second-most passes of 40+ yards. Interestingly, KC finished only 10th-worst in pass plays of 20+ yards allowed, which speaks more to breakdowns and broken plays than to serious schematic flaws, but there is no way to get around the fact that the Chiefs’ pass rush is unimpressive and their secondary is currently built from spare parts.

Now, this was an unpopular sentiment when I shared it last year, but it proved to be correct both times, so I’ll share it again:

Keenan Allen does not match up well against the Chiefs — in spite of the vast talent edge he has. I’ll explain:

The Chiefs’ goal is to take away the short area of the field — a scheme built on the idea that they have a strong pass rush…though the reality that they no longer have a strong pass rush gives the quarterback time to locate the receiver who is running his route deeper down the field, where the Chiefs place less of a heavy coverage interest. By an inordinate degree, Keenan Allen sees most of his targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage (his highest average depth of target according to airyards.com is actually inside the five-yard-line), while the Chiefs’ average depth of target allowed is a whopping 10.4 yards down the field. In other words: the Chiefs aim to take away exactly what Keenan Allen does — and even though their corners are far less talented than Keenan, the schematic coverage emphasis in “his” area of the field makes it difficult for him to convert his looks the way he typically does. Last year — in spite of lining up away from Marcus Peters the majority of the time, Allen posted the following lines:

5-54-0

5-61-0

Travis Benjamin, meanwhile, went 5-105-0 in one game. This week, Tyrell Williams is the likeliest guy to see targets streaking down the field — the sort of targets that turn into big plays vs Kansas City. He’s a low-floor play, but with definite ceiling. Mike Williams may see a couple deep shots of his own, and he will absolutely be involved in the red zone. And Keenan is a “bet on talent” play, with all the upside in the world — but by the numbers, his chances of hitting in this matchup are lower than most will expect.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I have heavy interest in Kareem Hunt, with secondary interest in Tyreek Hill and Melvin Gordon. I am fine with the idea of using Kelce, and you have the schematic notes on Keenan Allen and the numbers from last year, but this is a guy who is talented enough to beat a tough matchup if you want to test those waters yourself.

I also like the Chargers’ defense as a salary-saver in tourneys. Sure, Mahomes will have some big plays. But he’s also a candidate to hold onto the ball too long and throw one or two picks — and that’s really the reason we roster a defense.

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