The Kansas City Chiefs (big surprise) have scored 24+ points in eight of their last nine games with Patrick Mahomes under center, and they have scored 24+ in all six of the games in which Tyreek Hill has been healthy. This week, Andy Reid has had an extra week to prepare for the poor pass defense of the Raiders, and the Chiefs are as healthy through the air as they have been all year. The Raiders, meanwhile, are coming off a beating at the hands of Sam Darnold.
A quick “game environment” note before we dive in: the Raiders fell apart last week on offense because they are built around running the ball and expanding into the passing attack from there, and they hit a wall against the top-two run defense of the Jets. This is not likely to be a problem against this Chiefs defense that ranks 30th in DVOA against the run, which should be able to stimulate something closer to a back-and-forth affair than the ugly showing from this team last week.
Running backs are averaging 5.05 yards per carry against the Chiefs this season (which means the Chiefs are turning the average running back they face into Nick Chubb // Christian McCaffrey on a per-carry basis), with the potential for a blowout win for the Chiefs the biggest dent in this spot for Josh Jacobs, who has not topped three receptions or 30 receiving yards in a game (and who has only three games north of 20 receiving yards this year). The Chiefs are allowing 24 running back carries per game on the whole — though this includes some losses and some tighter games, and this didn’t all come with Mahomes // Kelce // Hill playing together at home against the secondary of the Raiders. When these teams met earlier in the year, Jacobs saw 12 carries. That’s an extreme example of what can happen if things go wrong, but if betting on Jacobs at the higher ends of the price range, you’re betting on an unpredictable multi-touchdown game, or you’re betting on a game flow in which the Raiders get to lean more run-heavy.
The Chiefs have been much tougher through the air this year, with a DVOA ranking of six and the second fewest catches allowed to the wide receiver position. The Raiders seem to have lost Hunter Renfrow for the rest of the year, which leaves you throwing up a game flow prayer at wideout for this team.
It’s a different story for tight ends, of course, as the Chiefs have faced the second most targets, allowed the second most catches, and allowed the fifth most yards to the position. Darren Waller has seven or more targets in all but four games this year (five or more targets in all but one) and is a solid bet for seven to nine looks in this one. Waller has gone for 60+ yards in five contests (with three coming in soft tight end matchups — including the first time through against the Chiefs, when Waller went 6-63-0), so while he needs some atypical downfield work or a touchdown to really hit at his higher-end price tag, the matchup and game flow should put him in somewhat solid position.
On the other side of this game, the Chiefs have essentially zero matchup concerns, with the highest total on the slate and a big game the likeliest outcome (with the only major questions being workload // concentration of touches // ceiling hitting high enough for the prices). The Raiders rank 31st in defensive DVOA while allowing the fifth most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and the fifth most yards per game to wide receivers. This defense also ranks 31st in red zone touchdown rate allowed and 31st in opponent drive success rate. In Week 2, with Hill not playing, Mahomes threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns on the road against the Raiders in a blowout win.
The Raiders are going to look to control the clock in this game as much as they can, and with teams running against the Chiefs and their offense able to score quickly, they rank 24th in time of possession and 25th in plays per game. As such, it’s preferred to bet on “players who are likeliest to hit big plays” over betting on volume with this offense — which leaves the Chiefs as a question mark in the backfield. This team has been giving us a fairly unprofitable timeshare with often-unexplained role shuffling and not a single have-to-have it score emerging from this group (and only a handful of really useful scores). If Damien Williams is out with his rib issue, LeSean McCoy will be the likely touch leader in this backfield, with Darrel Williams grabbing some pass game work and a few carries. If Damien is active, he’s the likeliest touch leader, but there will be room for a shakeup from there.
The passing attack for the Chiefs is clear at the top, where Travis Kelce has eight or more targets in all but two games this season (with six and seven targets in those two), and where Hill has quietly seen nine or more targets in four of his five healthy games (going 3-74-1 on five looks against Chris Harris in the other). There is nothing to concern us in the matchup here, as Oakland simply doesn’t have the personnel to scheme away whatever the Chiefs want to do.
Behind these two, Sammy Watkins has eight or more targets in six of his eight healthy games, but he hasn’t topped 64 yards or scored a touchdown since his Week 1 blowup — with a shorter-area role and only six red zone targets on the year. Mecole Hardman, meanwhile, has five touchdowns and seemingly hits one big play every game, though he hasn’t topped four looks since Tyreek returned. Demarcus Robinson is also still seeing snaps — so while he needs a lot to go right for ceiling, he’s able to effectively dent the floor of Hardman along the way.
JM’s Interpretation ::
On the Raiders side, I have fringe interest in Waller — but most of my interest in this spot will be on the Chiefs. Kelce (who ranks second in targets inside the 10 with 10, but who has only two touchdowns to show for these looks — with his fellow leaders Landry // Godwin // Evans // Golladay all grabbing four or more touchdowns on their looks) is a clear Tier 1 play on FanDuel where tight end pricing is condensed; and while he’s a bit overpriced on DraftKings for his likeliest range, he’s an elite tourney option for the ceiling, with an outside shot for a true have-to-have-it score against a Raiders defense that has allowed the second most touchdowns to the tight end position. Hill carries a lower floor than I would love at his elevated price, but only CMC has a higher raw ceiling on this slate. Hill is attractive in this spot with nine or more targets established as his likeliest range, and with the matchup doing him plenty of favors. Mahomes also approaches the top of the quarterback pile; and while Necessary scores rarely emerge on this offense behind a healthy Kelce/Hill, it’s likely enough that one or two other solid scores emerge from the backfield or passing attack that I’d definitely be fine with mixing and matching a few additional pieces if building heavily around this offense in tourneys this week.