So far, Vegas doesn’t really know what to do with this game — and frankly, I don’t blame them.
This game opened at an Over/Under of 51.5 before jumping all the way up to 55.5. Since then, things have swung back the other way, with this game dropping back down to 52.5. (As you surely know by now, you can find all of this on the Advanced Odds tool by clicking on the “line history” option for this game.) And as noted in the Angles email this week, both of these teams will have their hands full on every side of this game (Chiefs O vs Ravens D // Chiefs D vs Ravens O || Ravens O vs Chiefs D // Ravens D vs Chiefs O). This introduces plenty of chaos, and plenty of ways in which this game could play out.
Given the extreme levels of recency bias we see driving ownership and assessments in the DFS community, we should expect this game to be approached by DFS players with only one potential game flow in mind. We’ll run through that game flow first; but then we’ll also hit on a few of the alternative ways in which this game could viably play out this week.
Likeliest Course ::
The Chiefs have five players who can legitimately score from anywhere on the field (Travis Kelce, all three wide receivers, and “whoever ends up playing running back this week”), while the Ravens have four such players (Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews, and — while lesser-used — Miles Boykin and Justice Hill); all of which doesn’t even consider the “on his own” upside each of these quarterbacks has. In eight home games last year, the Chiefs scored 38 // 30 // 45 // 30 // 26 // 27 // 28 // 35 — and while that 27-point game came against the Ravens, they weren’t exactly these Ravens, as Baltimore had a bit of non-negligible turnover in the offseason on this side of the ball and is still dealing with injuries in the secondary to their starting slot corner and their “former number one, now number two” corner in Jimmy Smith. Marlon Humphrey is a force as the remaining starting corner, and Earl Thomas provides stability on the back end (while even Brandon Carr — thrust into a starting role — could be a starter on plenty of other teams), but this is a more attackable unit than the one against which the Chiefs still scored 27. You could say, “No need to overthink the matchup at home; trust Andy Reid, and trust Patrick Mahomes.” With this thinking, it’s also easy to say, “And if the Chiefs score, the Ravens will find a way to keep up.
Second Most Likely ::
Last year at home, the Chiefs allowed 27 // 14 // 10 // 23 // 14 // 24 // 29 // 3 points, with a much worse defense than they have now. The Chiefs haven’t had the toughest schedule of opposing offenses; but before we crown the Ravens, we should note that they haven’t faced the toughest schedule either: a Dolphins team that may be the least talented roster we have seen in over a decade, and a Cardinals defense without its top two corners (and with no secondary depth behind those two) that plays a zone defense with lots of holes in it. In that second game — at home against the Cardinals defense — the Ravens scored 23 points. The Chiefs have a better defense than the Cardinals right now, and this game is being played at Arrowhead. The clearest alternate scenario is that the Chiefs score their 27 to 31 points, and the Chiefs force Lamar Jackson to work underneath — refusing to give up the big downfield play. If the Chiefs can get the Ravens moving laterally, they win this game, and Spags will know that. (It was a lesser offense they faced last week, but they effectively pulled off that strategy against the Raiders.)
A Third, Less-Likely ::
There is a scenario in which the Chiefs just blow the doors off the Ravens — scoring five or more touchdowns while the Ravens fail to get much of anything going.
JM’s Interpretation ::
The Chiefs are going to put up points; it’s a given almost every week — so the bigger question (as we explored last week) is whether the high-priced guys (Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce) can be predictably relied on to produce (Tier 1), or if they’re instead “upside with a lower floor” (Tier 3). Kelce has the best matchup, as Tony Jefferson isn’t a “liability,” but he also isn’t really a match for Kelce. Especially with the matchup and the health issues on the Chiefs tilting this game toward the air, Kelce (even with so much to like in other, more affordable spots at tight end this week) has a clear shot at sneaking into Tier 1. Watkins disappointed last week against Paul Guenther’s Raiders, but he still saw 13 targets (after seeing 11 the week before). And while this is about his realistic ceiling for targets, it’s a fairly safe bet that he’ll approach this range once again. His floor comes in a bit too low for Tier 1, but he shapes up as a strong Tier 3. Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson move around enough that they’ll all catch good matchups at times, and both will be involved. It’s fair to hammer either of these guys in tourneys for the upside as well.
The Chiefs backfield looks like an ugly timeshare no matter what (keep in mind that Darrel Williams will prevent Darwin Thompson from seeing a full share of snaps, even if LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams each miss), but these guys are cheap enough that an upside shot can be taken. And of course, Mahomes is always Tier 1, with the highest floor/ceiling combination of any quarterback in football.
Lamar will also likely push for Tier 1 again, as there are just so many ways he can pick up points, and the Ravens will have to stay aggressive in this one. Given what he’s done the first two weeks of the season, he’ll feel like a disappointment if he “only” scores 25; but when you have a guy who has established those types of expectations, you can feel solid entering a game against the Chiefs.
Marquise Brown jumped to 50 out of 77 snaps last week and ran a route on 38 of Lamar’s 46 drop-backs (by far leading the team). Brown doesn’t need to be on the field every play; he just needs to be out there when they’re passing — and after the snap jump and the 13 targets, we should consider him to be for real right now. Another eight or more targets should be in play for him this week.
Mark Andrews is also about as integrated as can be, with 29 pass routes run last week (second on the team), and with another nine targets. Andrews is being used downfield with consistent, schemed looks and should be able to find openings in the Chiefs defense. Both he and Brown are on either the low end of Tier 1 or the very high end of Tier 3.
It should be noted that Miles Boykin ran the third most pass routes, at 26. He saw only three targets, so he is still a thin play; but four or five targets could be enough for a slate-breaking game from him.
We’ll close with an interesting spot: the Ravens’ backfield — where Mark Ingram took a commanding lead in snaps last week (45, to 31 combined for Gus Edwards and Justice Hill). Game flow tilts away from Ingram here, and the matchup on the young season has not looked good; but the Ravens still want to be a run-heavy team, and it’s not crazy in tournaments to bet that the Ravens keep this game close enough for Ingram to rack up 18+ touches and a touchdown or two. This is a less likely scenario, but it’s viable enough to keep Ingram settled in as a deeper Tier 3 play.