XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Oh boy. After a lot of disappointing island game slates, Week 11 brings us a really exciting one with the Eagles visiting the Chiefs for a 45.5 total game with Kansas City favored by 2.5. Wait . . . what? 45.5?! If I had looked at the complete Showdown calendar before the season, I would have circled this as an obvious 50+ total spot for a shootout. The Eagles offense has continued to be elite this season, scoring 28 points per game but the Chiefs defense is legit, allowing a league-low 15.9 points per game. The Chiefs offense, meanwhile, has sputtered this season, scoring just 23.1 points per game (13th in the NFL is respectable, but not what we’re used to seeing from Kansas City – they’re below Cleveland and Indy, for crying out loud), while the Eagles defense is middle of the pack, allowing 21.7 points per game. In aggregate, these teams are scoring 51.1 points per game but allowing just 37.6 points per game, so maybe this total is . . . reasonable? Weird how things change and we have to adjust our perceptions, eh? The Chiefs are no longer an uber offense that scores on everyone and gets into shootouts, while the Eagles D has backslid a bit from last year’s elite unit. There are a lot of ways this one could go.
Let’s start with the Chiefs ground game. Isiah Pacheco has a solid lead back role this season, playing around 60% or so of the snaps most weeks. But the Chiefs are such a pass-heavy offense that this role has led to just 13.8 carries per game to go along with about three targets. $7,200 is a fair price for a running back averaging 16.8 opportunities per game including passing game work, but the matchup on the ground here is truly awful against an Eagles D ranking second in DVOA against the run but just 22nd against the pass. The Chiefs are a pass-heavy offense and it’s reasonable to expect them to tilt even further in that direction given the matchup, which adds some concerns to Pacheco’s potential volume. With modest volume and a difficult matchup, he’ll almost certainly need to find the end zone in order to put up a strong score, but when the Chiefs get in close, they’re usually passing: Pacheco has 10 carries inside the 10 yard line while Mahomes has 26 pass attempts. “Home favorite running back at $7,200” jumps off the page initially, but when we really dig in here, there isn’t much to make us like Pacheco besides the fact that he’s a running back on a good offense. He can still hit, of course, but I’m less excited to play him than I thought I would be at first glance. Behind him is Jerick McKinnon in a primarily passing game role, but the volume here has been abysmal with just 23 targets in nine games. The thesis for McKinnon in Best Ball and in the earlier part of the year was that towards the end of last season, we were seeing him get a ton of schemed usage in the red zone, leading to nine touchdowns in the final six games of last season, but that just hadn’t materialized this year. McKinnon has just two targets inside the 10 yard line. I was surprised to see him at $5,600 given his complete lack of volume. At a cheaper price, he could be worth taking some shots on, but at $5,600, he’s wildly overpriced for his role and only really in play as a “hope for a touchdown” option. Given how the Chiefs spread the ball around, I get it, but there’s really nothing that makes him jump out at me.
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In the passing game, we’ll start at tight end because that’s where the Chiefs offense starts. Travis Kelce hasn’t lost a step in his age 34 season, averaging nine targets per game and 74 receiving yards. Kelce has at least eight targets and has reached double-digit Draftkings points in all but one game. The guy is still elite and he’s in a pass funnel matchup – it’s wheels up here on Kelce. Beyond him, as we know, the Chiefs are wildly unpredictable, with six other wide receivers likely to see snaps: Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Justin Watson, Kadarius Toney, and Mecole Hardman are all likely to see the field. Rice is the rookie who seems to really be emerging here, with his snaps climbing from below 50% earlier in the year to 59%, 61%, and 68% in his last three games. He’s also quickly become a trusted red zone weapon for Mahomes with five targets inside the 10 yard line (Kelce has six, no other wide receiver has more than six). MVS and Watson both play deep threat roles, averaging 17.8 and 19.7 yards per catch, respectively, but on very limited volume (24 and 25 targets, respectively). Skyy Moore is looking more and more like a bust and saw his snaps plummet to 25% last game, his lowest mark of the season and first time below 50%. Toney and Hardman play very limited roles but both have been schemed usage when on the field, though it looks like Hardman is eating into Toney’s role in that regard (three of Toney’s four lowest snap-count games have come since Hardman rejoined the Chiefs in Week 7). This group is a mess. Rice is the guy with the clearly ascending role, but that’s still resulted in just 4.5 targets per game, and at $7,400, he’s overpriced for his volume. He’s the safest option but the most expensive, while everyone else is hard to feel a tremendous amount of confidence in. The Chiefs already pass at the sixth highest rate in the NFL so there isn’t a ton of room for them to go even more pass heavier, but even if they do, things are so spread out that we can’t realistically project much volume for any of the wideouts. Yikes. Rice is the best play here, followed by Watson (I think), then MVS, then Hardman, then Moore, then Toney – at least that’s how I’d rank them, but to be clear there’s a lot of volatility here and it’s mostly guesswork. I’ll share some thoughts on groups for the Chiefs WRs in the suggested rules section of the article. Oh, and you can also include TE2 Noah Gray in your player pool – he’s playing around half the snaps as well, with another 2-3 targets per game. Good grief.