CHIEFS // RAMS OVERVIEW
I’ve had this game circled for weeks, and the lead-up has not disappointed, as the Chiefs and Rams each sit at 9-1, ranking second (L.A.) and third (K.C.) in yards per game, and ranking second (K.C.) and third (L.A.) in points per game. These teams are also ranked first (L.A.) and second (K.C.) in yards per pass attempt, creating opportunity for quick strikes, and for points to pile up. The Chiefs rank second in drive success rate on offense, and the Rams rank third. Only two teams have been worse than the Chiefs at preventing drive success rate. Everywhere you turn, this game sets up great for offense.
Unsurprisingly, Vegas has backed up this thought, with an unheard of Over/Under of 63.0. This game was originally slated to be played in Mexico City, but due to concerns about field conditions it has been moved to L.A. This should not impact much in this game, but it does remove altitude concerns that could have stirred up at least a bit of uncertainty. This game is all systems go now for each unstoppable offense.
CHIEFS PASS OFFENSE
The Rams have been an average matchup for passing attacks, ranking middle of the pack in yards allowed per pass attempt and allowing the 11th fewest passing yards per game. This latter mark has been driven by the Rams allowing the second fewest opponent plays per game — though the Chiefs strike so quickly on offense, this is not really a concern for them; incredibly, K.C. has run the eighth fewest plays per game this year.
Furthermore, matchup has not been a concern for Patrick Mahomes, as he has thrown for 300+ yards in all but two games, and he has accounted for at least two touchdowns in nine of his 10 games. Mahomes has produced four or more touchdowns five times already — including in games against the above-average pass defenses of the Chargers, Steelers, and Broncos. With the Rams merely middling in yards allowed and below-average in touchdowns allowed (their 19 passing touchdowns allowed is the eighth most in the league, and only eight teams have been worse at stopping opponents in the red zone), this is a great spot for the Chiefs’ passing attack.
Recent targets on the Chiefs have looked like this:
Analysis is obviously a bit wasted on Hill, as we know that he is prone to some volatility in his target counts, and we know that his downfield role introduces further volatility — but with that, it should also be noted that Hill and Mahomes have connected on an incredible seven of their 11 attempts of 20+ yards across their last five games. With the Rams likely to push things back-and-forth on the scoreboard, this is a great spot for the Chiefs to get aggressive in their deployment of Hill, opening more opportunities for him to hit.
The Rams have been below-average against tight ends this year, allowing the 12th most catches and the sixth most yards to the position. Kelce has finished below 78 receiving yards only three times in 10 games, and he has finished below five catches only once all year.
This passing attack wraps up with Watkins, who should return this week to take on the team that got rid of him in the offseason. Watkins’ role has started to really settle in place, as he has four or more catches and 52 or more yards in each of his last four games against “not Stephon Gilmore.” Watkins has “only” three touchdowns and “only” two games of 100+ yards this year (low marks in this offense, but strong marks for his price). It seems likely that Mahomes tries to feed him a couple extra looks this week.
CHIEFS RUN OFFENSE
The Rams rank last in the NFL in yards allowed per carry, and even with the Rams constantly playing with a lead, only eight teams have allowed more rushing yards to running backs this year. While the Rams have impressively clamped down on receiving yardage from backs (with the sixth fewest receiving yards allowed in the league), they have allowed the eighth most receptions to the position.
This is a solid setup for Kareem Hunt, who has recent touch counts of 15 // 20 // 21 // 18 // 18, and who has scored an elite 13 touchdowns on the year. Because Hunt rarely rises above 18 carries (he has done so only once all year — and has been at 17 or fewer carries in five consecutive games), and because he can sometimes fall out of the pass game (recent target counts of 2 // 6 // 6 // 6 // 2 // 2), he carries more volatility than is optimal at his price tag. But his red zone role gives him plenty of upside (fourth in the league in red zone carries; third in the league in carries inside the 10 and the five), and his attachment to this offense creates potential for true week-winning scores — a range Hunt has reached four times already this season.
The Chiefs play aggressive man coverage with a strong pass rush (eighth in adjusted sack rate; tied for first in the league in sacks), leading to a middling yards allowed per pass attempt, and leading to an impressively low completion rate to wide receivers of 57.2%. As a man-heavy coverage unit, the Chiefs will be less susceptible than most opponents to the movement and misdirection of the Rams, and the loss of Cooper Kupp (ACL) will make it more challenging for the Rams to run the pick plays that they would like to use in a setup like this. While the Chiefs have allowed the fourth most wide receiver catches in the league, this has been due more to volume than to poor play, as only one team has faced more wide receiver targets. With the Rams ranked 28th in pass play rate and less likely than most teams to be chasing points all game in this spot, there is some cause for caution on Cooks and Woods, compared to what on-the-surface expectations look like in this game. The Chiefs have also — somewhat quietly — allowed the sixth fewest wide receiver touchdowns, in spite of not yet having played their bye.
Part of the reason the Chiefs have been so strong against wide receivers in the red zone is because teams can hammer this team on the ground. The Chiefs have incredibly allowed almost as many receiving touchdowns to running backs (six) as they have allowed to wide receivers (seven), while K.C. has allowed the second most catches, the most receiving yards, and the sixth most rushing yards to backs. No team in football has allowed more touchdowns to running backs than the 15 the Chiefs have allowed — an incredible six more than they have allowed to wideouts and tight ends combined. By now, you know about the otherworldly red zone role Todd Gurley boasts (by far the largest red zone role in the league). As crazy as it sounds: this is the best spot Gurley has had this year.
The last time Kupp missed time (most of Week 6, along with Weeks 7 and 8), Woods saw target counts of 10 // 7 // 7, while Cooks went 6 // 5 // 8. Gurley stuck to his normal range (5 // 5 // 7), and Josh Reynolds stepped up with target counts of 2 // 1 // 5.
Woods’ typical range is seven to nine targets, while Cooks’ typical range is eight to nine, and it is reasonable to expect them to stick to that range or perhaps see a small boost. Cooks is the player likeliest to take advantage of the Chiefs’ deep ball issues, while Woods is the player likelier to disappoint — though Woods’ role in the jet sweep run game (recent carry counts of 2 // 1 // 1 // 0 // 2 // 3) should benefit from the Chiefs’ man coverage, while either guy can pop with the ball in his hands.
Reynolds is unlikely to become a major factor with Kupp on the sidelines, but three to five targets is a fair projection, and there are scenarios in which he could go for more.
The Rams could also begin to get the tight ends more involved — though this team trusts Tyler Higbee far more in the run game than they do Gerald Everett, while Everett is the better receiving threat. This team has literally been charted with two plays all season with two tight ends on the field (by far the lowest number in the league), so we’re unlikely to see a big spike for Everett on a team that is focused first and foremost on the run. On whatever involvement the tight ends do see, the matchup is great, as the Chiefs have allowed the sixth most catches and the second most yards to the position.
While the “anything can happen” caveat applies: If I were playing this Showdown slate, I would go 100% Gurley and simply bet on the best player with the best usage in the best spot, and I would mix and match other pieces with him from there — with a multi-entry approach that bets on various upside scenarios.
The players likeliest to challenge Gurley for the top score on the slate are Hill first and Mahomes second. Hill obviously carries a much lower floor. I wouldn’t put any other players on quite this same “upside” level, though there is a case to be made for Hunt.
The next level would be (vaguely in the order I like them — with price taken out of consideration) Goff // Hunt // Kelce // Cooks // Watkins // Woods — though you could rearrange the top three or the bottom three in any order, and I wouldn’t have a complaint. It is worth pointing out that most of your competition will simply assume this is a tremendous spot for Woods and Cooks (Kupp out, and a high-scoring game), so there is a game theory case to be made for betting on your knowledge that this is a tougher wide receiver matchup than most will realize — hoping that the macro truths of this matchup play out in the micro sample size of this single game, giving you an edge on those who moved around salary to fit these two. If I were on this slate with a multi-entry strategy, I would still have some of Cooks and Woods for their obvious upside, but I would aim to be underweight compared to the field.
Wrapping things up are Reynolds and the Rams’ tight ends, plus any other long-shot stuff you want to try. The kickers are also in play. Playing these defenses would likely be nothing more than lighting money on fire, but it is the NFL, and crazy things can happen.