It is easy to break down the Chiefs offense and point to all the reasons why they can be expected to put up points; but as alluded to already this season, the thing that can often get lost in the discussion of the Chiefs’ offense is price. Which makes it interesting to note that based on average per-game production to this point in the season, each of Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman is overpriced this week (with Watkins still riding the wave from his spectacular Week 1 to be the least overpriced of the bunch — especially with his higher price tag making a higher point-per-dollar game more valuable). And when this is the case, we would typically say that “the best approach is to let others chase at the high price, knowing you are building more floor and ceiling on your roster by allocating salary in other ways, and knowing that this will guide you to more money over time.” But the Chiefs are an interesting situation in that the slate-breaking scores these players can post when they do hit make them still very much worth considering.
The Lions defense is likely to stick to a mix of man and zone coverage with some sort of plan in place designed to slow down the Chiefs with strong communication and assignment-based play. But regardless of what plan the Lions come up with, there is just no getting around the fact that they do not have the pieces in the secondary to keep up with the quartet of Watkins // Hardman // Robinson // Kelce. With that said: there is no solid piece of statistical or film-based research that points to any one individual piece of the Chiefs over any other.
How to handle Chiefs pass catchers ::
Since Week 2, when Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes had an opportunity to integrate Hardman and Robinson more fully into the offensive game plan, targets among Chiefs pass catchers have looked like this:
Watkins :: 13 // 8
Kelce :: 9 // 8
Hardman :: 6 // 5
Robinson :: 6 // 4
Touchdown production over the last two weeks ::
Robinson :: 3
Hardman :: 2
Kelce :: 1
Watkins :: 0
With Kelce and Watkins out-targeting Robinson // Hardman 38 to 21, but getting outproduced in touchdowns 5 to 1, the best way to handle the uncertainty in this spot would be to trust the unpredictability of touchdowns and the certainty of recency bias driving ownership — essentially saying, “I don’t know which Chiefs player will pop off for a big game this week, but I do know that Robinson // Hardman have a much lower floor than they have shown, and that ownership on them should remain steady because of their solid production; while Kelce and Watkins have landed on floor games and could see a dip in ownership as a result.”
To put all that another way: if we played out this slate a hundred times — taking into account ownership, price, and projections — Kelce // Watkins would make you more money than the other two; though with the upside all these pieces carry, you could make a case for any of them being +EV on this week’s slate.
How to handle the Chiefs backfield ::
This is a tough matchup for the Chiefs running backs, but that hardly matters given the offense they play in and the upside that is also available for the backs in this offense through the air.
With Damien Williams missing last week’s game, the Chiefs gave 11 touches to LeSean McCoy and 14 touches to Darrel Williams, with playing Williams 37 snaps and McCoy 26. With Damien likely to miss again this week and McCoy likely to play (but unlikely to rise above his Week 3 snap share), we’ll likely see a similar setup once again. McCoy had three catches and Darrel had five — and while the floor is low on both of these guys, they both have enough upside at their prices to join the ranks in the ugly Week 4 running back conversation.
How to handle the Lions ::
While the Chiefs are by no means an elite defense, they have been playing assignment-sound football through three weeks, and have been forcing opponents to march the field rather than allowing big plays that can turn their games into back-and-forth affairs. The goal in bringing in not only Steve Spagnuolo but also Tyrann Matthieu and Frank Clark was not necessarily for the Chiefs to become “good” on defense, but was for them to instead at least become “not bad.” They have accomplished that goal — and with that, this actually becomes the second toughest matchup the Lions have had, after games already against Arizona and the secondary of Philly.
If we look at this slate through the lens of ownership, there is a strong case to be made for Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones going over-owned this week, as the perception of this offense remains separate from price-based expectations on these players (generally speaking, the field seems to not realize, for example, that Golladay has gone for 100 yards only once every 7.25 games in his career, with a touchdown only once every 2.9 games; in fact, Golladay has only topped 80 yards once very 4.1 games in his career — with fantasy community hype tilting perception on Golladay’s to-date production in a different direction than his to-date reality). But if we remove ownership from the equation, we can note that chasing points against the Chiefs always provides clear paths for upside.
If you want to chase the upside in this spot: Golladay is still the alpha — but as we reminded last week: Jones still maintains upside for a big day.
T.J. Hockenson’s Week 1 blowup — while it came against the Cardinals — is a reminder of the sort of elite upside and downfield ability Hockenson has, though he also remains more “guessing and hoping” than lock-and-load.
The big news on the Lions comes in the backfield, where Kerryon Johnson encouragingly played 77% of the Lions snaps last week after the team got rid of C.J. Anderson. Kerryon was on the field for 24 of a possible 34 pass plays (running 18 routes and blocking six times), and while he saw only one target (giving him a disappointing six on the year), he carried the ball 20 times after he and Anderson had previously combined for carry totals of 27 and 17. On the year the Chiefs have faced only 18.3 running back rush attempts per game (something about them scoring a lot of points…), but Kerryon should be on the field enough (and should touch the ball enough one way or another) to be kept in the conversation this week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
While all of Mahomes’ pass game weapons are overpriced based on per-game averages, Mahomes himself is one of the most underpriced players on the slate by that measure, as he has averaged 4.3 points per game against his DraftKings salary and 3.14 points per game against his FanDuel salary. Only Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson (and on DraftKings, our boy Terry McLaurin) have outpaced their Week 4 price at a higher rate — and unlike Russ // Lamar (and very much like our boy McLaurin), Mahomes has produced at this level through consistency, rather than through one or two ultra-spiked week. Mahomes will have games this year in which he scores “only” 22 or 23 points; but by the end of the year, his Week 4 price tag will almost certainly look too low in retrospect — making him one of the sharper ways to allocate salary on this slate.
You can play Mahomes naked, given how much this team spreads the ball around and how unpredictable the bigger games from his pass catchers are (last week, Mahomes was one of the top quarterback plays on the slate without bringing any one of his pass catchers with him), but in tourneys, I also like the idea of pairing him with Watkins and/or Kelce and hoping to catch touchdown variance swinging back the other way. There is nothing in this matchup that should scare us on either player.
The Chiefs backfield is playable in large-field contests, but the backfield that stands out more in this spot is the Lions’, where Kerryon is in the thick of the “ugly week at running back” conversation with his dropping price (10.8% of the cap on both DraftKings and FanDuel) and his 75% role in this offense.
There are also cases to be made for the Lions’ passing attack — though ownership is likely to outpace the likeliest range of production, making this a +EV fade if we were able to play out this slate a hundred times. Isolated from ownership expectations, there are plenty of cases to be made for Golladay and/or Jones (or even Hock) to post a big game, however — if you want to play that angle and hope you can capture one of their bigger weeks.