JAGUARS // CHIEFS OVERVIEW
This is a “hedge line” by Vegas, as there is a massive range of outcomes in this game between the best offense in the NFL and the best defense in the NFL. No team has allowed fewer points per game than the Jaguars, and no team has scored more points per game than the Chiefs.
The Jags will likely try to shorten this game and limit the time Patrick Mahomes spends on the field, and Mahomes could struggle to get going, which could lead to this being one of the lower-scoring games on the weekend. Conversely, this game is in Kansas City, and the Jags have been susceptible to blowup games in the last couple years, which opens opportunities for this to turn into one of the higher-scoring affairs on the weekend.
At first glance, this looks like it will be a game to avoid in cash, while standing out as a sneaky game to target in tourneys. Let’s dig in and see what we can find.
CHIEFS PASS OFFENSE
We usually begin with the road offense, but since the flow of this game is almost certain to be dictated by the Chiefs, we will start with the home team here.
No team has allowed fewer passing yards per game than the Jags, and only two teams have allowed fewer average yards per pass attempt. Only three teams have allowed a lower catch rate than the Jags, and no team has allowed fewer yards after the catch on a per-reception basis. This pass defense is in a league of its own.
Last year, there was a two-part recipe for beating the Jags:
1. Run the ball against them
2. Gain short fields by forcing Blake Bortles turnover and mistakes
The only teams that succeeded through the air to any notable extent were the Patriots and the Steelers. The Patriots picked up small gains over the middle with Danny Amendola in the AFC Championship game last year, and otherwise spread the ball around, with targets being fed to eight different players to attack the Jags from as many angles as possible. The Steelers attacked relentlessly with Antonio Brown, and they landed a blowup game from Vance McDonald with the Jags focused on AB, Smith-Schuster, and Bell.
The Chiefs will look to spread out the Jaguars and attack on both the short and deep levels. With the Jags’ superior discipline and communication, we are unlikely to see much impact from the Chiefs’ misdirection.
The first order of business for the Jags will be keeping eyes on Tyreek Hill at all times. Against most teams, this would open an opportunity for attacking underneath with other weapons, but the Jags have the bodies to play tight coverage on Travis Kelce as well. In last year’s AFC Championship game, Jacksonville held Rob Gronkowski to one catch for 21 yards (on three targets) before he was concussed halfway through the game on a vicious hit from Barry Church.
If Sammy Watkins misses this week, Chris Conley will likely step into the third spot on the target ladder, though there is a chance that Kareem Hunt will become more involved. Hill will also see his role grow (and his route tree become more nuanced) if Watkins misses. If you are desperate to play Hill in this spot, it’s worth noting that Brandin Cooks hit for 6-100-0 on eight targets in the AFC Championship. Hill has a strong shot to climb above his typical eight targets if Watkins is out.
CHIEFS RUN OFFENSE
Last year — as noted above — the way to beat the Jags was on the ground. This year? If we take away that 68-yarder from Saquon Barkley against the Jags in Week 1, they are allowing only 2.8 yards per carry to running backs, which makes this an extremely difficult spot for Kareem Hunt and the KC rushing attack. Last week, Hunt played only 45 of a possible 78 snaps, introducing further concerns with his pass role dropping (target counts of one, one, one, and four on the year). We saw last week against Denver what Hunt can do with the ball in his hands (6.4 yards per carry, and 18.0 yards per catch on three receptions), against what had previously been a stout run defense — so I’m never willing to fully count him out. But until his role changes, he’ll remain a guy who is relying on big plays and touchdowns. The Jags have allowed only one rushing play of 20+ yards this season.
JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE
The Chiefs’ pass defense has been below-average in all areas, and across all levels of the field. They have not been as atrocious as most want them to be — but they have been bad; and as with last year, their biggest issue has been the big play, with the Chiefs tied with the Chargers and Bucs for the most pass plays allowed of 20+ yards.
The difficulty in attacking this matchup on our DFS rosters in Week 5 is twofold:
1) The Jaguars would prefer to go run-heavy when they can (and the Chiefs can certainly be had on the ground).
2) The Jags have been rotating featured receivers, with Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, and Donte Moncrief taking turns at the top of the ladder.
Because the Jags will be with T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant in the backfield for another week, there are reasons to assume we see more responsibility given to Blake Bortles than this team would otherwise want to give him — and as such, it’s fair to assume we get at least one strong game from this wide receiver corps. Last week, Cole ran 38 pass routes, Westbrook ran 37, and Moncrief ran 36. Cole has seen games of eight and nine targets, and games of three and four, while Westbrook’s target counts have been six, five, four, and 13. Moncrief has gone five, nine, three, and five. He’s the least likely to produce each week — but as we saw last week, this does not make him incapable of producing.
Behind these three, Austin Seferian-Jenkins went for two catches on four targets last week (after going for three catches on five targets each of the first three weeks). He kept up his yardage consistency, landing in the 18 to 25 yard range once again. He’ll need a touchdown in order to pay off — and even then, his line will be a bit thin.
JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE
Last week with Leonard Fournette starting, T.J. Yeldon saw his most carries on the year, with 18 — taking over once Fournette went down, but turning these touches into only 52 yards. He has yet to top 58 rushing yards in a game this year, but his lines have been boosted by his pass game work, with target counts of seven, five, seven, and three to begin the year, and with over 45 yards receiving in back-to-back games. Fournette is set to miss this week, and Yeldon should be in line for another 12 to 18 touches — with the landing spot in that range determined primarily by game flow. If this game stays close, Yeldon will yield more work to Corey Grant; if the Jags take a lead, Yeldon will be leaned on more heavily.
Grant has yet to top 10 touches in a game, and will need a big play in order to pay off. He is, of course, a big play specialist, but he appears to be a thin play on such limited guaranteed volume.
The best way to play this game is by simply betting on different game environments. I will be avoiding this game in cash games, as there are simply too many high-scoring affairs on the slate for me to feel the need to attack such an iffy spot. But in tourneys — more specifically: in tourneys if you are building more than one roster this weekend — you could play out this matchup any number of ways. You could hammer Mahomes to Kelce or Mahomes to Hill, in the hopes that one of these pairings goes off against the Jags’ stout defense. You could also roster Hunt, in the hopes the Chiefs scheme him the ball in order to keep the Jags off balance — which could lead to a couple big plays.
You could bring back these plays on the other side with touchdown-and-usage bets on Yeldon, or with a shot on Cole, Westbrook, or Moncrief (I would rank those guys in that order — though it’s close between Cole and Westbrook; obviously, usage rotates enough on these guys that any of them could go off). You could even leave Mahomes on the sidelines and roster Bortles in this spot instead.
With any of this, you would essentially be betting on the Over for this game — which is not a crazy bet, given how explosive Kansas City is. And if the Chiefs do jump out to an early lead, the Jags have the ability to put up some big games in return.
As always, the time to bet on a talented player (or a talented offense) in a tough spot is when you feel that player (or offense) has the opportunity to post a week-winning score. The Chiefs already have a Vegas-implied total of 26.0 against this stout Jags defense, so it would not be crazy for them to climb to four or even five touchdowns, and to produce some of the better stat lines on the slate.
Of course, this is not a bet I’ll be making with any large percentage of my bankroll, as this is still the Jags — and this fact lowers floor on all these guys. But I will attack this game with a few stacks, as the Chiefs are explosive enough to find a way to produce.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE // Full “Updates” List
Leonard Fournette is not going to play in this game, which we’ve basically known since the start of the week — but I’m beginning to really come around on this side of the ball in this game. While we don’t know exactly how well the Chiefs’ offense will do, or who will put up points and yards on the Chiefs (or how they will do it), we do know that the Jags should have to lean more pass-heavy in this spot, in a good matchup. I’ll have more on this in the Player Grid, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of playing Blake Bortles and/or his receivers. Yeldon and Grant are also in play, as the touches in this game have to go somewhere — in a great matchup against the Kansas City defense. Yeldon has a respectable floor and a moderate ceiling; Grant has a low floor, but he has potential for a spiked week if the workload shows up.