The Matchup ::
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- Andy Reid is 2-2 vs Dean Pees’ defenses with point differentials of -3 (Feeley), +1 (Vick), +21 (Smith), and -3 (Mahomes)
- Reid’s teams scored 28, 24, 34 (2 Def. TDs), and 32, while Feeley, Vick, and Mahomes all topped 345 passing yards and multiple touchdowns
- TEN has allowed greater than 24 points just four times all year, but one of them was to Mahomes and KC
- TEN has allowed six passers to top 300 yards, with Mahomes being the only one over 400 yards, and TEN has allowed just three 3-TD passers, with one being Mahomes
- KC with Mahomes has topped 31 points in all 3 playoff games
- TEN D: Only 1 team has allowed more receptions to RBs, only 8 teams have allowed more receiving yards to RBs, and only 7 teams have allowed more TDs to RBs
- In Damien Williams’ last 5 full games, his attempt (& target) totals read: 12 (2) // 19 (5) // 16 (3) // 12 (7) // 12 (6)
- 5 of Williams’ 7 TDs over that 5-game stretch have come in the Red Zone, and 5 of his 10 TDs on the season have come inside the Green Zone, where he only trails McCoy and Kelce in touches this season
- Lesean McCoy has not touched the ball since Week 15
- TEN has allowed the 5th-most DK points to opposing TEs with the 3rd-most touchdowns allowed to the position
- Travis Kelce has received under 8 targets in just 3 games all year, and now leads the team in Green Zone touches on the season
- Kelce has outscored Tyreek Hill in 5 of the last 6 full games they have played together
- Hill received 19 targets in the first matchup, his season-high by 9 targets
- Hill has not topped 5 targets in 3 straight games and has only topped 70 yards once since Week 10
- In Tannehill’s three games vs top-5 pass efficiency defenses (KC, NE, BAL), he has combined for just 341 yards on only 48 pass attempts, with 5 passing TDs and 1 rushing TD
- In those same three games, Derrick Henry is averaging 29 attempts for 188.33 yards, along with 3 rushing TDs and 1 passing TD
- In his last nine games, Henry has been above 24 DK points eight times, and above 30 DK points four times
- Chiefs DL Chris Jones is Questionable to play on Sunday
- Pro Football Reference’s Expected Points measure ranked 2 of KC’s 3 regular season games without Jones as their 2 worst defensive performances all season
- In AJ Brown’s 6 games with Tannehill vs top-15 efficiency pass defenses (KC ranks 6th), he has totaled 10 receptions for 156 yards, 58 rush yards, 1 rec TD, & 1 rush TD
- That’s just 43.4 DK points in 6 games, and only 32.5 when removing his 49-yard rushing score
- In KC’s first game without Juan Thornhill (+ Jones), they allowed three HOU receivers to top 80 yards receiving, albeit playing an entire second half in catch-up mode
- KC has allowed the 5th-most yards to TEs on the season
- When TEN was actually forced to throw more during Weeks 14-16, Jonnu Smith received more than 4 targets all 3 times, cleared 60 receiving yards twice, caught 2 TDs, and even ran once for 57 yards
The Game ::
This has been one of my favorite sets of playoff games in recent memory — from a pure fandom perspective — as we have not only had a series of mostly-great games, but we also find ourselves in a position where the teams that are playing the best football at the moment are the teams left standing. Entering the postseason, the best teams in the NFL were (in no particular order) the 49ers, Saints, Ravens, and Chiefs — so while we have lost two of those four teams, the Ravens have been replaced by a Titans team that is red hot at the moment, while the unfortunate first-round loss of the Saints left the Packers as the best remaining team in the conference. Both games land the home team as a 7+ point favorite, but there are reasons to believe the games could play closer than that, and this is especially true on the AFC side, where the Titans just so happen to be built in a way that can give the Chiefs fits.
As explored throughout the season, the Chiefs are constructed to put up points on offense with a pass-leaning approach that calls on Patrick Mahomes to utilize Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, his running backs, and a broad range of complementary receivers to take a lead and mask the one area where this team is deficient: run defense. With a decent amount of talent and excellent scheme/communication on the back end that limits big passing plays, the hope for the Chiefs is that they can take a lead on offense and force the opponent away from the run in this way, thereby taking control of their games and cruising to a win. If we take away the Matt Moore loss to the Packers, however, the times the Chiefs have had trouble this year have been against teams that can march the entire field on the ground (Indy with 45 rush attempts, Houston during the regular season with 41 rush attempts, and this same Tennessee team with 26 rush attempts vs only 19 passes). This will be the goal for the Titans this week, creating a slim path for the less-talented team to fight all the way to the Super Bowl because their preferred approach matches up perfectly with all the teams they are facing.
On the flip side of this, the Titans are coming off games against a New England team that couldn’t throw the ball downfield and a Baltimore team that is built around the run, while they will find themselves this week facing a Kansas City team that can score through the air with lightning-fast speed. For all his brilliance, one of Andy Reid’s shortcomings as a coach is the pure strategy side of things — i.e., “How do we best win this particular game?” — so we cannot necessarily bank on this being his approach; but given that the only non-fluky way for the Titans to win is for the game to remain close enough that they can continue pounding the rock, it would make sense for the Chiefs to attack from the start and aim to jump out to a big, early lead — forcing the Titans away from Derrick Henry. The downside to this approach is minimal, as the Chiefs have no trouble scoring points quickly (when the Chiefs fell behind 21-0 last week, I was hunting for an in-game line from Vegas so I could tweet that I would still take the Chiefs against whatever the new moneyline was; unfortunately, by the time I figured out where to find such a line, the comeback had already begun), and if they fall behind through their early aggressiveness, they can make up for it throughout the game; while the upside is potential for a three-score lead that could jar the Titans away from their preferred approach…
…all of which is said because, quite frankly, it’s an open question as to whether the Chiefs even have the personnel to truly stop Derrick Henry otherwise. If the volume is there for Henry, he’ll once again have a clear path to a big game on the ground — and while we should keep in mind that the NFL is now 100 years old, and Henry just became the first running back EVER to record 180+ rushing yards in three consecutive games (i.e., that level of production should still be considered an outlier), he still stands out as one of the more straightforward options on the slate, with his role not at all in question, and with the matchup (when separated from any game flow concerns) working heavily in his favor.
With the season on the line in each game played, we are also seeing two other teams on this slate (the Chiefs and Packers) cut down their backfield rotation to a one-man show, with the Chiefs turning their backfield into the Damien Williams show last week — and while this led to only 14 touches last weekend, his chops in the passing game and his opportunities for touchdowns keep him massively in the mix in this small, two-game slate. The offense at the moment is revolving around Kelce // Hill // Williams before all the other pieces.
The discussion on all this becomes more interesting when we look at the Chiefs’ pass catchers, as Hill has recent target counts of 8 // 8 // 7 // 5 // 5 // 4 (with no games in this stretch over 72 yards) — and yet, he headed into this stretch with target counts of 10 // 5 // 9 // 9 // 19, with the 19 targets coming against the Titans. What we are ultimately seeing here is that teams have to choose between paying extra defensive attention to Hill or paying extra defensive attention to Kelce; and because of the way Hill can wreck a game on a single play, he has consistently drawn “focal point” attention from opposing defenses. Especially after what Hill did against Tennessee last time around (11-157-1 on those 19 looks), we should expect the Titans to make him the focal point of the defense this week. This should again free up Kelce (recent target counts of 9 // 9 // 13 // 9 // 5 // 12) to be leaned on more aggressively, with a workable floor and an elite ceiling against a Titans team that struggled against tight ends throughout the year, allowing the seventh most yards and the fourth most touchdowns to the position.
Behind these key focal points in this game (Henry // Williams // Hill // Kelce), the Titans will look to generate explosive plays through A.J. Brown (top of the league in YAC/r this last season) and Jonnu Smith (the Chiefs, as we know, gave up the second most tight end receptions and the fifth most tight end yards), with Corey Davis mixed in as well. The Chiefs will spread some looks to Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson, with any of these three requiring a busted play or a touchdown in order to hit (and with Hardman the player likeliest to be schemed an explosive play).
( Slate Interpretation after second game… )
Xandamere’s Showdown Notes ::
- Both of these games suck for DFS purposes, at least to me. I was feeling icky about these games and then I read over JM’s interpretation section and I think I agree with him; I’ll be playing a bit of Showdown, but I don’t think I’m playing the 2-game slate. On most showdown slates, I play because I feel like I have an edge in being able to pick apart how a game is most likely to go. On these 2 games, I don’t feel that I have that edge; ownership should reflect the various likelihoods pretty accurately, I think. Overall, I would focus here on building rosters with strong correlation over trying to figure out which low owned guy is going to smash, but I may just take this weekend (mostly) off.
- There are basically 2 ways this game can play out: the game stays relatively close and the Titans can feed the crap out of Derrick Henry in a really good matchup, or the Chiefs pull away early enough that Henry’s volume dries up as the Titans are forced to turn to the air.
- Consider that when building. Chiefs receivers (and Mahomes) are good in any build, but Henry doesn’t really belong in a build with, say, Tannehill and 2 Titans receivers unless you’re predicting an unlikely Tennessee onslaught.
- Mahomes is the safest play on the board, hands down. Tannehill is second as he’s incredibly cheap for a starting QB on a good offense. I’d put Damien Williams 3rd, as while he’s overpriced for his most likely touch count, he has enormous touchdown equity and solid pass game usage.
- In the cheap range, Harrison Butker, Jonnu Smith, and Tajae Sharpe are attractive right now. Adam Humphries, though, is trending toward playing, and if he’s a full go he should push Sharpe back to a bench role and take over as the full-time slot receiver at just $800, making him (by far) the strongest value play on the board. Expect massive ownership if that’s the case as people try to jam in the expensive Chiefs.
- Kelce is a much safer play than Hill, as JM points out in his game writeup discussing how teams have been scheming to stop Hill. Tyreek still has the enormous ceiling, of course.
- Road underdog kickers are always fragile plays, but Greg Joseph is even more so this week as the Titans have scored touchdowns on some massive percentage of their red zone visits. Like, over 70%, which is some sort of ridiculous record. Plus, if the Titans are behind, they’re more likely to be forced into situations in which they can’t settle for a field goal.
- Mecole Hardman is clearly the best of the ancillary Chiefs receivers but Demarcus Robinson outsnapped him 58% to 17% last week (they both saw 4 targets, though).
- I’d like to say I can magically pick out who’s going to be this week’s Blake Bell, but I can’t. Sorry.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain Mahomes with at least 2 receivers and captain Tannehill with at least 1 receiver
- Consider ways to limit your exposure to Henry and too many other Titans. Something like “at most 3 of Henry, Tannehill, Brown, Davis, Jonnu” or “if captain Henry, at most 1 of Tannehill, Brown, Davis, Jonnu,” or something like that.
- There are a lot of thin punt plays in this game (Titans tight ends other than Jonnu, Blake Bell, Demarcus Robinson, the various backup RBs). I wouldn’t play more than 1 of them.