The top seed in the AFC did earn the Chiefs a bye last week but it did them no favors this week, as they host the red-hot Colts, winners of 10 of their last 11 games. The Colts started the season just 1-5 before heating up, while the Chiefs started red hot and went 8-1 out of the gate before struggling down the stretch. Kansas City still did enough to claim home-field advantage, though, so they’ll be at Arrowhead as they try to reverse their recent playoff struggles in the first game of the Divisional Round weekend.
In this strategy post, we’ll run down how the game could play out in favor of each team, and the game script that could lead to each team heading to the AFC Championship next week. Based on these two scenarios, I’ll highlight the players who you should look to target for your roster in single-game Showdown. After playing it out both ways, I’ll tell you which team I think will win, select a Captain’s Pick, and give you my top picks for who should be a lock for your roster.
Can the Colts keep rolling and pull the upset, or can the Chiefs overcome their demons and ride their franchise QB to the next level? Let’s dive in and break it down.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
REID FOWLER’S TOUCH PROJECTION
Marlon Mack, $12,600 Captain’s Pick, $8,400 Flex — Performing well against the highest-ranked rush defense per DVOA in Houston last week, Mack now gets the polar opposite by the same metric with the easiest matchup against Kansas City, a team that ranks 32nd in rush defense. With 81 percent of the snaps last week, the Indy running back faces a defense that’s given up 144.6 yards at home to opposing RBs over last five home games, allows the third most DKFP, and is giving up a little over seven targets per game. The Colts hold the seventh highest time of possession (53.3 percent) on the road and should deploy the best game plan to keep Patrick Mahomes ($11,800) and the Chiefs offense off the field for as long as possible.
Rushing: 16 Attempts
Receiving: 4 Targets; 3 Receptions
Total: 19 Touches
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Chiefs have won each of their last 10 day games.
— The road team has covered the spread in four of the last five games between the Colts and Chiefs.
— The Chiefs have failed to cover the spread in six of their last seven games
— The Chiefs have won the first half in each of their last 12 games at Arrowhead Stadium.
— The underdogs have won the third quarter in five of the last six games between the Colts and Chiefs.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
If the Colts win…Indianapolis transformed its season as Andrew Luck ($10,800) rediscovered his rhythm and the Colts DST ($2,600) emerged as a strong unit led by rookie Darius Leonard. The offensive line was able to protect Luck, allowing an NFL-best 18 sacks after giving up 56 sacks last season and 44 sacks in 2017. The offensive line also facilitated a resurgent running game as Marlon Mack ($8,400) returned from injury and was very effective down the stretch.
Luck threw for two touchdowns and 222 yards last week and added 29 yards rushing to finish with 18.78 DKFP. He has thrown multiple touchdowns in 12 of his past 14 games and totaled over 20 DKFP in 11 of those contests. The Colts will need Luck to be on his game as they try to keep up with the potent offense of the Chiefs, but he should find room to work against a Kansas City secondary that allowed 14 passing touchdowns in five games before their Week 17 laugher against Derek Carr and the Raiders. The Chiefs were one of the most generous defenses to opposing QBs during the season, so Luck should be set up for more success this week.
T.Y. Hilton ($8,800) remains Luck’s top target despite continuing to play through an ankle injury that has forced him to miss lots of practice time but hasn’t appeared to limit him in-game. He led the team with 10 targets, five catches and 85 yards against the Texans, but the two touchdown catches went to Eric Ebron ($7,800) and Dontrelle Inman ($6,200). Inman has emerged as a solid second receiver and has found the end zone in three straight games, and Ebron has had a good first year in Indianapolis while helping to fill in for the loss of Jack Doyle (kidney). Ebron has another great matchup this week since the Chiefs allowed 66.7 yards-per-game to TE this year along with an NFL-worst 10 TE touchdowns. The Chiefs were slightly better against WRs but still ranked in the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to the position.
The Kansas City defense struggled against the pass, but they also weren’t great against the run, allowing the second-most DKFP to RBs this season. It should be another good matchup for Marlon Mack, who has come on strong after battling injuries earlier in the season. Mack has run for six touchdowns in his past five games and posted over 100 yards and over 22 DKFP in three of his past four. He had 148 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries for 26.4 DKFP against the solid Houston defense last week and should be able to continue to find success this week. Nyheim Hines ($2,800) was surprisingly uninvolved last week but could contribute as a receiver if the Colts go with a more pass-heavy gameplan this week.
As is obvious from the numbers, Kansas City didn’t get the top seed in the AFC because of their defense, so for the Colts to pull the upset, the key will be slowing down the Chiefs’ offense. The Colts haven’t faced a unit like the Chiefs in their recent roll because there just aren’t many teams with the firepower the Chiefs have to offer. However, the Indianapolis defense has looked great against the offenses they have faced, allowing 21 or fewer points in six of the past eight games including 11 or fewer in three of their past four. They were very effective last week, both shutting down Houston’s running game, which was one of the best in the NFL at one point this season, and limiting DeAndre Hopkins to just five catches for 37 yards. CB Pierre Desir limited Hopkins to just two catches for 16 yards when he was in coverage and will likely get the majority of the snaps against Tyreek Hill ($9,800) this week. The Colts pass-rush will need to keep Patrick Mahomes ($11,800) from extending plays and be able to balance pressuring him with containing him.
Even though the Colts probably won’t shut down the Chiefs entirely, the defense has been playing well enough lately to slow Kansas City down and allow Luck the chance to attack an inconsistent defense. The Colts will need Marlon Mack to step up again this week and help them keep the ball away from Mahomes, but Indy can definitely ride the experience of its QB, strong running game and improving defense to pull off a second straight playoff road win and get to the AFC Championship.
If the Chiefs win…The recipe for success is simple for the Chiefs — play as they did in Week 1 through Week 10 when the team was 9-1. The Kansas City offense dominated in their first full season with Mahomes under center, and the second-year QB and presumed MVP finished with an unreal 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns. The first-year started led the Chiefs to an NFL-best 35.3 points per game while leading the league in total yards per game (425.6), yards per pass attempt (8.5), yards per play (6.8) and DVOA, which is designed to determine an offense’s efficiency against the league average.
Mahomes was clearly the breakout star of fantasy football and the whole NFL this season and averaged an impressive 28.8 DKFP while starting all 16 games for the Chiefs. Mahomes never had fewer than 18 DKFP and threw for multiple touchdowns in each of his past 11 games. He did tail off a little bit at the end of the season with under 20 DKFP in two of his final three games and under 300 yards in each of those final three games. There could be a bit of concern about fatigue, but last week’s bye week may have given him the rest he needed to get back to top form.
When Mahomes is at his best, he leans heavily on top play-makers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce ($9,400). While Hill is in a bit of a tough matchup as described above, he is still loaded with big-play potential and has shown he can take any catch, handoff or return all the way to the end zone. Coach Andy Reid has been excellent at scheming the ball into his hands, so expect him to be heavily involved again this week.
Kelce is in an even better matchup since the Colts have struggled with TEs at times this season. The sixth-year TE out of Cincinnati has been targeted exactly nine times in four straight games and produced double-digit DKFP every week since Week 1. He can absolutely go off, as he showed with 31.7 DKFP and 42.8 DKFP in Week 11 and Week 13, respectively, and is set up to have a monster game if the offense gets it going.
Another important part of the team’s success this week will be their other receiving options. Sammy Watkins ($4,800) could return after getting in limited practice earlier this week. He has played just one game since injuring his foot back in Week 9 against the Browns. In his place, Chris Conley ($3,800) and Demarcus Robinson ($4,200) have been inconsistent but at times productive.
Watkins wasn’t the only big in-season loss for the Chiefs after Kansas City cut starting RB Kareem Hunt after Week 11 due to multiple off-field issues. Hunt was initially replaced by Spencer Ware ($5,000), who has battled a hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined since Week 14. Like Watkins, Ware has returned to limited practice after the team’s first-round bye and could be rested and ready to carry the load against the Colts. If he isn’t all the way back, Damien Williams ($6,600) has shown he can lead the way with three big games following Ware’s injury. Williams had 30.3 DKFP against the Chargers in Week 15 and 29.0 DKFP against the Seahawks in Week 16. He’ll have a high ceiling if Ware is out or if he retains the majority of the workload against the Colts, a team that ranked in the middle of the pack against opposing RBs but haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season despite games against Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon, Derrick Henry and Adrian Peterson, who all finished in the top-eight in rushing yards this season.
The Chiefs DST ($3,000) has struggled at times this season but can also make big plays. They finished the year with an impressive 24.0 DKFP against the moribund Raiders, and that big game brought their home average to a respectable 11.9 DKFP fo the season. Kansas City’s pass rush led by Dee Ford, Chris Jones and Justin Houston will need to overcome a stout offensive line and get pressure on Luck, who sometimes can throw bad interceptions when rushed. This unit also needs to find a way to shut down Mack, or just rely on the offense to put the game out of reach and take the running option off the table for Indy.
Kansas City will be trying to overcome a history of bad results. Since 1994, the Chiefs have gone 1-11 with they only playoff win coming when Alex Smith (remember him?) helped beat Brian Hoyer and the Texans 30-0. The Chiefs haven’t been to an AFC Championship game since 1993 and haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1969. Andy Reid has had his own playoff issues and is 11-13 all-time and 1-4 in his tenure with the Chiefs. All of his playoff losses in Kansas City have been within one score and three have been by two points or fewer.
The Chiefs definitely have what it takes to slay those demons in Mahomes and this powerful offense. They can end the Colts magical run if Mahomes continues his other-worldly production in the postseason and the exploit the mismatch with Kelce over the middle and in the red zone. The Chiefs offense is high-powered enough to put the game out of reach early with a few big plays, and the defense can be opportunistic enough to keep the Colts from rallying if they become one-dimensional.
The OutcomeThe obvious Captain’s Picks are also the highest priced this week with Patrick Mahomes ($17,700 CP) and Andrew Luck ($16,200 CP) both good options, but either one will seriously limit your flex options. I love the matchup for Travis Kelce ($14,100 CP) and Marlon Mack ($12,600 CP), but given his heavy usage and low risk, I’d rank Kelce as my primary captain’s pick target. If you’re going to go with a sleeper in your 1.5x spot, check out Dontrelle Inman ($9,300 CP) or Sammy Watkins ($7,200 CP), if he’s cleared to return. If you go with a big name as Captain’s Pick, you can save money by going with Harrison Butker ($3,400) or Nyheim Hines ($2,800) as bargain flex plays.
This matchup is a great way to kick off the weekend and will lead to either the top seed in the conference or the hottest team in the NFL heading home for the postseason. There’s no way I would pick against the Chiefs if they finished the season as they started it, but this team went just 1-3 dating back to their Monday Night loss to the Rams against teams not named the Raiders. Their one non-Gruden-aided win during that stretch was a gift from the Ravens after a late fumble from Lamar Jackson. That win over Baltimore was their only win against a playoff team since Week 1 when they beat the Chargers.Kansas City’s 12-4 record and offensive stats are impressive, but the Chiefs padded those stats with two games against the Raiders and Broncos along with wins over the Cardinals, Bengals and 49ers. Since 2013, QBs are 4-15 in their first playoff start and last weekend first-timers went 0-3. Mahomes has proven he can exceed typical expectations all season, but the Chiefs just haven’t been the same in the second half of the season. Given Kansas city’s current form and history of playoff disappointment, I’m going to go with the hot team and pick the Colts to pull off the upset and continue their magical playoff run.
Final Score: Indianapolis 31, Kansas City 27
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is reidtfowler) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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