It will be a surprise if Houston at Kansas City is not one of the most popular games on the slate this week, as there are only 10 games in all, this game carries the highest Over/Under, the Chiefs are always an attractive offense, and the Texans are coming off a high-owned pasting of the Falcons. This is also a good place to talk about something we talk about quite a bit on the site: you should work to become intimately familiar with your own “style of play.” Do you embrace volatile, high-upside plays even when they come with high ownership? Or are you willing to miss out on a monster game if you feel that you are putting yourself in what would be a “profitable position over time” (even if that might mean the pain of one high-owned player wrecking your weekend?). Realize: there is no “right” or “wrong” answer here; instead, there is only consistency. As long as you are consistently taking the approach that makes the most sense to you, you will consistently put yourself in position to capitalize on the types of weeks that are going to be profitable for your style of play. The one thing you cannot do, however, is bounce from style to style from one week to the next — always chasing “what worked most recently,” and always thinking yourself out of profit as a result.
The next thing to mention here: there are game-breaking players in this spot. Lots of them. And with game-breaking players, matchup sometimes simply doesn’t matter. If you are mass-multi-entering this week, you are going to want to make sure you have some exposure to this game (including some creative, lower-owned exposure), as these offenses are too explosive to not target in that style of play. If, on the other hand, you are trying to narrow things down to one or two or three rosters, there are some interesting matchup elements in play here that you can blend into whatever is your preferred style of play.
The next thing we should talk about in this space, then, is the monster game Will Fuller had last week against the Falcons — including an exploration of how that monster game came about. And the first thing to note in that regard is that only four of Fuller’s 16(!) targets came more than 10 yards downfield. On the one hand, this expanded usage is a positive (after all, no one was rostering Fuller for his short-area prowess last week), but the next question we have to ask is why Fuller saw a career-high 16 looks when in 35 other career games he had topped eight targets only four times, and had hit double-digit looks only twice.
The answer? The Falcons absolutely sold out to keep DeAndre Hopkins from beating them. This had the Falcons double-teaming Hopkins every time the Texans came close to scoring (while leaving no help on other pass catchers), and the focus was so heavily tilted toward Hopkins that things like this happened as well:
In this screenshot, three Falcons broke with Hopkins, leaving one to break (late, no less) with Fuller.
This game yielded at least twice as many targets as Fuller had seen in 31 of 36 career games, and also yielded only his seventh 100-yard game of his career, while Hopkins has now gone four consecutive games without double-digit targets for the first time in five seasons. There is a reason Fuller finds his way into Tier 3 (low floor, high ceiling) in the Player Grid every single week, but unless the Chiefs pay equal attention to Hopkins this week, we should expect the pendulum to swing back toward the Texans’ superstar in this spot.
We’ll get back to Hopkins in a moment, but the next question we need to take a look at his “how have teams been attempting to beat the Chiefs?”
So far this year, the Chiefs quietly rank eighth in pass defense DVOA (more on this in a moment) while ranking 30th in run defense DVOA. In fact, the Chiefs have been so bad against the run that — in spite of boasting an offense that would typically introduce “game flow concerns” for an enemy backfield — only four teams have faced more running back rush attempts this year, while no team has allowed more running back rushing yards. Since allowing only 81 yards on the ground to the Jaguars in Week 1, the Chiefs have allowed rushing yardage totals of 129 // 203 // 186 // 180, with four consecutive backs going for 99+ yards. Only 10 teams are facing a lower opponent pass play rate than the Chiefs, as teams are absolutely refusing to give up the run regardless of game flow.
From a “game environment” perspective (i.e., not yet looking at the DFS implications), we should keep in mind that the Texans are perfectly willing to lean on the run as a team, as they rank 19th in pass play rate this season after ranking 25th last year, and it “likelier than not” that the Texans strike a balanced approach in this spot — continuing to involve Carlos Hyde and the run game for as long as this contest remains in the balance.
Before we wrap thoughts on Nuk and Hyde (and bring in Deshaun Watson and Kenny Stills // Keke Coutee), we’ll first swing over to the Chiefs side, where a handful of injuries weigh heavy on this matchup:
1) Eric Fisher is still missing on the offensive line for the Chiefs, which has hampered this unit’s ability to protect Patrick Mahomes
2) Mahomes injured his ankle last week against the Colts after the Chiefs’ weakened offensive line allowed too much pressure to get to him, and this is likely to hinder at least some of his in-the-pocket mobility against the fierce pass rush of the Texans
3) Tyreek Hill seems likely to return this week, while Sammy Watkins appears likely to miss.
Before we go any further: if we are going to note statistical outliers (Fuller’s monster Week 5 game) and identify them as such, we should also note that in the Mahomes era, the Chiefs have been a literal lock for 26+ points. This week, they are playing against a Texans pass defense that can be attacked at all levels of the field and is allowing an increase on the league-average catch rate of 7.5%. This is a good spot for the Chiefs regardless of these injuries (as is basically any spot), but the injuries should be noted.
On the off chance Hill misses :: it will be Byron Pringle filling in the Sammy Watkins role, with Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson effectively tag-teaming the Tyreek Hill role.
With the excitement that comes with the Chiefs offense, this is probably a good place to point out that this team has been spreading the ball around to three wide receivers, a tight end, and two running backs (with a few assorted complimentary pieces mixed in), to a point where in the last four games, the Chiefs have literally produced one single pass-catcher score that was not a price-considered disappointment. One. Nothing is guaranteed, even with the Chiefs putting up points. If Hill returns, however, he should be ready to step back into his typical role (with his injury being to his shoulder, his game-level conditioning should not be an issue) — a role that last year yielded 12 touchdowns, six games of 100+ yards…and seven games in which he had 70 or fewer yards and no scores. Hill is one of the most boom/bust wide receivers in the NFL, but he is affordable enough (and his “booms” are monstrous enough) that he’s very much in play this week.
The likeliest scenario if Hill returns (and Watkins misses) has Robinson remaining on the field while Pringle steps into Watkins’ role — a role that last year yielded five or more targets in seven of 10 games, with five games of seven or more looks as the intermediate compliment to Kelce and Hill. Every player on the field in a Mahomes offense has tournament value, but with Hill offering a lot of what Hardman/Robinson offered the last few weeks, it could be Pringle who shows up with the most targets behind the big names on this team.
This passing attack wraps up (well…sort of) with Kelce, who has scored only one touchdown all year but has target counts of 8 // 9 // 8 // 8 // 10 and has gone for at least 70 yards in every game. The Texans have been lights-out in tight end coverage with Tashaun Gipson anchoring the Texans’ defense in this area; but Kelce is always a focal point of the defense and has continued to produce yardage, while it is only a matter of time before the touchdowns follow. He’s (obviously) in the mix this week.
The Chiefs’ passing attack only “sort of” wraps up with Kelce because Andy Reid is going to continue to involve the running backs as well. The matchup on the ground is not great (the Chiefs are good enough on offense that you could bet on things breaking their way, but the Texans rank sixth in DVOA against the run while the Chiefs rank 21st on the ground on offense), and after LeSean McCoy was benched last week for “pass protection issues” (which the veteran should have no problem cleaning up), it is likely we see a timeshare again. But Damien Williams (and to a lesser extent, McCoy) boast obvious offense-driven upside to go with their low floors, keeping them in the mix as well.
Ultimately, we should expect the Chiefs to put up points one way or another in this game (and you can target individuals on this offense hoping you can make strong, educated guesses on where that production will come from, or you can fade altogether and hope this offense continues to produce disappointing price-considered scores at high ownership while spreading the ball around), and the Texans are good enough that — even with the Chiefs boasting a solid pass defense to date — the Texans should be able to keep pace throughout the majority of this game.
Perhaps the biggest question is how the Chiefs will handle pressure, as Steve Spagnuolo has been far less blitz-embracing than Bob Sutton was last year with this defense (enabling the Chiefs to keep the ball in front of them on the back end and force opponents to methodically drive the field), but last week against Jacoby Brissett the Chiefs decided to unleash more blitzes than normal. Watson’s best games this year came against teams in the Chargers and Falcons that opted to not blitz him — and if Watson’s jersey stays clean, the Texans are going to post some big numbers on offense. On the flip side: if the Chiefs decide to get after Watson, they could create just enough trouble for this game to be “high scoring, but not a true shootout,” which could cause a number of players to fall shy of price-based expectations.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Regardless of how the Chiefs decide to attack Watson, they are unlikely to “sell out to stop Hopkins” the way the Falcons did last week — especially after what Fuller did as a result of that approach, which makes Hopkins stand out this week as a solid bet for double-digit looks, and for his typical range of elite production. It’s early in the week still, but Hopkins looks like a solid Tier 1 bet.
I don’t yet have a strong enough handle on the week’s quarterback layout to know where Watson will land (obviously, his monster ceiling keeps him in play in tourneys — but as noted in last week’s Player Grid, when Watson was Tier 1, his floor is low enough behind this offensive line in this sometimes-dysfunctional offense that he’s more of a “make an appearance in Tier 1” guy than he is a Tier 1 staple), but any game with Watson in a potential shootout keeps him in the thick of the conversation.
The other pass catchers on the Texans (Fuller + Stills // Coutee — depending on Stills’ health) maintain upside with a low floor, while the Texans’ minor league rushing attack will be worth keeping in mind after Hyde saw 20 carries in Week 2 and 21 carries last week, though with Hyde catching passes in only two games this year and averaging 4.2 yards per carry, the floor is not in lock-and-load territory. (Duke Johnson is also an interesting piece in this spot, as he has six to nine carries in four of five games. The Texans rarely involve running backs in the pass game, but he could break off a long play and become a viable tourney piece in large-field play.)
Even with the ankle concern, Mahomes is one of the highest floor/ceiling plays on the slate (and it’s viable to roster Mahomes naked and hope he spreads the ball around so much that none of his pass catchers pay off their salary — as has been the case in three of the last four weeks), while Hill is a monster-upside tourney play, Kelce is a solid bet to finally pay off salary (if for no reason other than the fact that he’s too good to be kept out of the end zone much longer), and Pringle becomes interesting if Watkins misses (especially if we get some quiet clarity on his spot in the starting lineup — not enough that the field jumps on board at high ownership, but enough for us to feel certain he’ll be out there most plays). Behind these guys, Robinson (or even Hardman, if we don’t have clarity on Pringle’s role and you want to guess in large-field play on Hardman seeing the work instead) and the running backs are viable large-field darts for the upside.
And with that, the lengthiest and knottiest writeup of the season is in the books. Go us!