The AFC has long been defined by its quarterback battles. Heck, no one not named Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger or Flacco has even been the conference’s representative in the Super Bowl in basically two decades. A generation before that, it was household names like John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino constantly squaring off in big moments. So, I guess you could make the case that Sunday’s tilt between the Texans and the Chiefs is almost the beginning of a new era. Two quarterbacks were taken in the opening round in 2017, just two picks apart, meeting in the Divisional Round for what feels like the first of many.
I’m excited. We’re all excited. Yet which makes for the better play in Showdown slates this weekend?
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices
CAPTAIN PLAYS TO CONSIDER
FIVE BETTING TRENDSStats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
— The Chiefs have won each of their last 10 day games at Arrowhead Stadium following a win.
— The Chiefs have covered the spread in each of their last six games.
— Each of the Texans’ last five games following an overtime win have gone UNDER the total points line.
— Travis Kelce has scored a touchdown in four of the Chiefs’ last five games following a home win.
— Carlos Hyde has scored a touchdown in each of the Texans’ last three road games.
Kansas City ChiefsThe biggest decision you’ll be making in this particular Showdown contest is whether or not you’ll be using Patrick Mahomes ($12,800). The pivot is carrying a massive salary and one that you could claim is weighted primarily by what Mahomes was doing last season and not so much by what he’s done so far in 2019-20. In fact, since scoring at least 30.0 DKFP in each of his first three starts of the year, the 24-year-old’s production has been a little underwhelming, at least by the standard Mahomes set for himself in a sophomore MVP campaign. Going back to the beginning of Week 4, Mahomes is averaging a respectable 0.50 fantasy points per dropback, however, that’s tied for only the 10th best mark among all qualified QBs within that span of time. He hasn’t thrown more than two touchdown passes in a single game in six weeks and, since Week 11, he’s exceeded the 300-yard plateau once. Of course, that doesn’t mean his massive ceiling doesn’t still exist. It also doesn’t take away from the fact that Houston’s allowed the second-most DKFP per contest to opposing quarterbacks. Yet, despite the fantastic matchup, Mahomes’ recent form will limit me from utilizing the Texas Tech product at 1.5x value. He’s still viable as a FLEX play, but dropping over $19K seems a tad bit insane.
Interestingly, the “struggles” that Mahomes’ has dealt with the past two months haven’t had an equal impact on both his top-flight receiving options. While Tyreek Hill ($10,400) hasn’t mustered more than 72 yards through the air going back to Week 11, Travis Kelce ($9,000) was more or less the same fantasy asset he’s always been. The Pro Bowl TE averaged 9.2 targets and 18.4 DKFP per game across his final six starts of the season, ratios that he maintained despite a poor showing in Week 17’s victory over the Chargers. Also working in Kelce’s favor is his overwhelming monopoly on Kansas City’s goal-line opportunities in the passing attack. Not only did the former third-round pick finish the year with the sixth-most red zone targets of any player in football (19); but, additionally, he was one of only three men to have a red-zone target share above 30.0% and the lone player in the NFL to have at least a 40.0% target share inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Obviously there’s immense value in Hill’s ability to consistently get into the end zone on big plays and the Texans have been known to concede some long gains from time-to-time, yet few people in the league sport Kelce’s mix of set-in-stone target volume and touchdown expectancy. Even with the knee issue, he’s in a fantastic spot.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kelce will be active for today’s game.
As for the Chiefs’ tertiary options at wideout, you’re probably best served by taking a shot at some upside. Demarcus Robinson ($3,200) is technically the clear-cut WR3 in Andy Reid’s system, yet he’s produced a paltry five catches in Kansas City’s past six games and his numbers have essentially fallen off a cliff anytime Hill’s been active so far in 2019-20. A further example of snap share not necessarily translating to fantasy points is Sammy Watkins ($5,200), who hasn’t found the end zone or exceeded 14.0 DKFP since a Week 1 performance that saw him score an incredulous three touchdowns. In fact, of the 53 wide receivers with 70-plus targets since the beginning of Week 2, Watkins is averaging the fewest PPR points per snap of the group (0.14). So, that just leaves Mecole Hardman ($3,600). The rookie is clearly not a slam dunk DFS asset, as he’s been held to two receptions or fewer in all but three contests in his brief career; however, at the very least, he’s been hyper-efficient with his sparse opportunities. Hardman has gained a league-leading 14.9 yards per target this season – a full two yards more than any other wideout that logged at least 25% of their team’s snaps. He might only get one chance to make a big play this Sunday, yet he’s far more likely to capitalize within his role than Robinson or Watkins.
Finally, we get to Kansas City’s running backs. Really, the only question you have to ask yourself here is how much you fear the vulture-effect that LeSean McCoy ($4,400) might have on this game. The veteran RB was basically inactive for the final two weeks of the regular season, as Reid continued to stress that he was saving McCoy’s legs for the postseason. I’m just not buying it. While both McCoy and Damien Williams ($8,000) have averaged 5.0 yards per touch so far this year, the latter has consistently proven to be the more explosive of the duo and the better pass-catching option in the backfield. With Houston surrendering an AFC-worst 7.4 yards per target to opposing running backs and the sixth-most DKFP per contest to the position, I don’t mind grabbing a healthy dose of Williams exposure at an extremely enticing price point.
Houston TexansThough Deshaun Watson ($11,000) has been much better at home than on the road in 2019-20, I think there’s a definite reason to be excited about his fantasy prospects this weekend. Yes, the Chiefs’ secondary has performed surprisingly well all season long, but, as we saw last Saturday against a Bills’ defense that finished the year ranked fifth versus the pass by DVOA, pedigree doesn’t always matter when opposed by a quarterback of Watson’s diverse skill-set. Also, when in doubt, it’s generally good to be on the side of overwhelming volume. In Kansas City’s final three games of the regular season, it outscored teams by 17.7 points. That hefty margin of victory heavily impacted script, with opponents passing the ball on a whopping 67.4% of plays, which, in raw data, translated to 40.0 pass attempts per contest. As of writing this, the Chiefs are 9.5-point favorites on Sunday according to the DraftKings Sportsbook. That’s a huge number. It’s a number that makes me think Watson will be asked to drop back and throw a lot, which has usually meant DFS success for the Clemson product. In fact, the 10 times Watson’s exceeded 30 attempts this year, he’s averaged 25.9 DKFP. In the five regular-season matchups where that didn’t happen? Well, his output fell to 17.3 DKFP.
However, if you’re going to feel that way about Watson’s potential role, you almost have to be willing to completely ignore Carlos Hyde ($6,200). In a vacuum, I could see how one might believe that Hyde’s in for a decent fantasy performance this weekend; yet negative scripts weren’t exactly where the veteran RB tended to thrive. Even if we don’t count Week 17’s loss to the Titans – a contest where Hyde only played five snaps – the 29-year-old mustered a mere 9.1 DKFP in Houston’s other five regular-season losses, games where Hyde saw just 11.4 carries. Sure, Kansas City conceded 4.82 adjusted line yards per opponent rushing attempt; however, that’s only important if said opponent maintains the ability to stick to the ground game. In recent weeks, the Chiefs haven’t allowed teams to do so. Hyde’s a one-dimensional piece and this doesn’t appear to be his ideal spot. As such, Duke Johnson ($6,000) becomes an interesting pivot. No squad has surrendered more targets to opposing backfields than Kansas City (140) and Johnson is still an elite talent when it comes to pass-catching. You don’t technically have to use either, but I’d definitely be siding with Johnson if forced to choose between the pair.
Still, at the end of the day, Johnson’s target share will pale in comparison to DeAndre Hopkins’ ($10,000). Honestly, the only reason to not have Hopkins in a lineup on Sunday is that you can’t fit him in at his price. That’s it. There are no other knocks. He finished the season second in receptions among wide receivers (104) and fifth in PPR points (264.3). Hopkins was also about as consistent as they come, recording at least five catches in all 15 starts he made. Conversely, Will Fuller ($7,000) is everything Hopkins is not. He’s extremely boom-or-bust and, more importantly for the purposes of this Showdown slate, he’s rarely on the field. If Fuller ends up being active, I have my reservations about his viability, based on both his limited career production away from NRG Stadium and how easily his presence could be justified as simply nothing more than a decoy. However, Fuller playing would also steamroll the value of Kenny Stills ($5,800), who would see his snaps reduced against a defense that has conceded the second-fewest amount of DKFP to opposing WRs in 2019-20. Really, Darren Fells ($4,600) might be the Texans’ most enticing mid-tier receiving option, as the tight end has seen his snap share live above 75% for a majority of the season’s second half. Combine that with the fact that Fells is actually tied with Hopkins for the team-lead in red-zone targets (13) and that the Chiefs have allowed an NFL-high 25% target share to TEs, and his price tag becomes pretty tempting.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Fuller, Still and Fells will be active for today’s game.
THE OUTCOMEEven if you take a somewhat conservative approach to the Captain’s slot by using Travis Kelce ($13,500 CP) or Damien Williams ($12,000 CP), the real key to this slate will be finding the value plays that can help you save enough to afford four stars. That’s where the likes of Darren Fells and Mecole Hardman come into play, while Chiefs D/ST ($4,200) is also a reasonable option considering Houston’s struggles along the offensive line. In any case, Kansas City is winning this matchup.
Final Score: Kansas City 28, Houston 20
Set your lineups here: NFL $300K Showdown Special [$100K to 1st]
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