Welcome to the Thursday Night Showdown Breakdown. This article will focus on DraftKings GPPs, but some insights here may also apply to cash games.
After two straight losses, the Chiefs find themselves with their backs against the wall. Mile High Stadium is one of the tougher road environments in the league, and I’m sure the Broncos would love to pull off the upset against their suddenly beatable division rivals. With the Chiefs only favored by three points, the Broncos have a legit shot here.
Patrick Mahomes hasn’t looked quite as Mahomesian of late. After starting off the season with three straight weeks of at least 30 DK points, he’s since gone three consecutive weeks posting between 20-21 DK points. Maybe he’s playing through pain and his ankle sprain is hindering his ability to connect on deep balls, but whatever it is, he isn’t putting up the same numbers we’ve come to expect. As far as slumps go, he’s still doing alright scoring wise, but I’m not sure we can justify jamming him into our CPT spot at his $18k price point. At $12k in the flex though, he’s more palatable.
The Broncos secondary hasn’t been a hospitable environment for opposing QBs this season. They shut down Philip Rivers, holding him to 6.25 fantasy points, while only giving up 15.65 to Aaron Rodgers. They’ve allowed the third-fewest QB DK points per game, only giving up 10.47, trailing only the 49ers and Patriots. The Broncos have been dominant defensively despite their losing record, so this will definitely make for an interesting subplot in this game. It might be smart to go underweight on Mahomes here (gasp, I said it!) and let the field chase him. Regardless, I’ll still build some Chiefs onslaught lineups, but I don’t think they’ll completely blow this game up by any means.
While this might not be the likeliest scenario, it could be worthwhile to build some contrarian 4-2 or 5-1 Broncos onslaught stacks without Mahomes, essentially banking on a game dominated by the Broncos defense, and running it back with one or two Chiefs skill players.
Leaning on Joe Flacco ($8k/$12k CPT) shouldn’t be the way the Broncos win this game. The only way they’ll come out on top is on the backs of their backs, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, and a strong defensive performance. Regardless, we have to dissect him. Here’s what the Chiefs have allowed in their past five regular-season games:
It’s definitely a winnable matchup for Flacco here, but the 11-13 points that Derek Carr and Jacoby Brissett scored are perhaps more likely than the 20-plus that other QBs have put up. Is Flacco worth his $8k price tag if that’s all he delivers? No, but here’s another stat to consider:
Over his last 50 games, Flacco has only played in three games with an over/under that’s in the same realm as this Chiefs matchup. He’s scored over 20 PPR points in all three of those games. Granted, this includes his time in Baltimore, and it’s safe to say that he’s dealing with a more competent stable of RBs than he had in his final years with the Ravens.
If rostering Flacco, we’re hoping that he’s able to connect with Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton for at least two touchdowns, or maybe find a Lindsey or Freeman dump-off touchdown scamper. We’re also hoping that the Chiefs are able to get up early (which is no guarantee), forcing the Broncos to pass more (which also isn’t a guarantee — they rank 24th in pass percentage while trailing by 7 or more points, and fifth in rushing percentage). I’m only playing Flacco in my contrarian Broncos stack lineups, as his path to the optimal winning build is narrow.
Let’s tackle the Broncos side of things first. Lindsay ($8.8k/$13.2k) and Freeman ($6k/$9k) are facing a Chiefs defense that ranks dead last in rush success rate, allowing a successful running play 59.65% of the time. They’ve allowed the second-most rushing yards in the league with 971, and they rank 24th in RB DK points per game allowed (28.08). Lindsay might be my favorite CPT option on this slate, as his path to success is the clearest. The Broncos offense ranks second in early down success rate with 59.82% (EDSR), and the Chiefs defense has given up the highest percentage of successful plays on early downs, allowing an EDSR of 59%.
Lindsay has seen more success out of this duo so far, but they still are locked into a 60/40 usage split. Freeman has had 10 rushing attempts in every game except for one this season and has four games with at least 5 targets. It’s not unfeasible for Freeman to burst onto the scene a la Jamaal Williams, and by that I mean he’d be the lower-owned RB that might just pop off in the CPT spot and outperform the running back everyone is playing (Lindsay/Aaron Jones). I’ll build a lineup for this scenario, however unlikely it may be.
I say it’s unlikely since Lindsay has seen 60% of the Broncos rushes inside the 10 so far, and he’s already demonstrated that he has that 25-plus point upside (something he’s done twice so far). Here’s what KC has allowed to running backs as of late:
They’ve allowed a 100-yard rusher in every game, apart from when Josh Jacobs fell one yard shy. If rostering Lindsey in the CPT and if we’re banking on a dominant rushing game for the Broncos, it might make sense to pair him with Freeman and capture their entire rushing attack. There’s more risk with Freeman, as he’s demonstrated a lower floor, but Lindsey should be a lock for most of our lineups.
The Chiefs running back stable is muddled, but the Broncos are a bit weaker against the run as opposed to their pass defense (they’re allowing 26 DK PPG to running backs). Damien Williams ($6.6k) and LeSean McCoy ($6.2k) are both tough to fall in love with individually. McCoy saw 54% of snaps last week, with Damien Williams seeing 34%. McCoy saw eight rush attempts last week, with Williams only getting one. It’s possible Williams was just getting eased into things, in which case we might see more of any even split this week in terms of snaps/usage. I would build lineups with either of them, but they aren’t must plays.
Tyreek Hill came back with a bang ($11.2k/$16.8k), but he’ll have a tough matchup with one of the stingiest corners in the league in Chris Harris Jr. Denver has not been an easy matchup for opposing WRs:
That’s a lot of red. Granted, none of those other teams have remotely close to the level of offensive talent that the Chiefs possess, but if we’re expecting another Hill explosion, we might want to temper our hopes a bit. But then again, he’s Tyreek Hill, and he’ll find his way into the bulk of my lineups on his talent alone (both in the flex and in CPT).
Sammy Watkins has been ruled out for this game, so that leaves us with Demarcus Robinson ($6.8k), Byron Pringle ($2.8k), and Mecole Hardman ($5.8k). Robinson ran a route on 81% of his snaps last week, with Hardman at 60%, and Pringle with 28.9%. Logic would say roll with Robinson and hope he captures some magic again, but it’s hard to trust any of these guys with Tyreek back in the fold.
The Broncos side of things is much more straight-forward, with Sutton and Sanders being the only relevant options. The Chiefs have been surprisingly good at limiting WR fantasy production this year, and here’s how opponents have fared lately:
Sutton is in the midst of his Year 2 breakout, and for only $7.6k, he’s as solid a flex play as we might have here. He’s seen seven or more targets in each of the last five games. A CPT case can be made as well, especially if we’re banking on good Flacco to show up and for the Broncos to be playing catch up. Sanders at $6.2k is not as intriguing as Sutton. He’s had two straight weeks of less than 2 DK points, with four total targets over that span. His hot start seems like forever ago, but expected game flow should give him a role in this contest. Still, a case can be made to leave him off some of our builds entirely. DaeSean Hamilton isn’t worth a look here.
Travis Kelce ($9.8k/14.8k) has been a disappointment so far. Outside of a strong Week 2 outing, he hasn’t really done much of value. Kelce put up 19 and 20 DK points in his two divisional duels with the Broncos last season, so perhaps he’s able to get right on Thursday and find the end zone. The Broncos have yet to face a tight end of his caliber, and they’ve still allowed the 12th most TE DK points per game this season. Kelce is the safest Chiefs player outside of Hill.
For the Broncos, we have Noah Fant at $3.4k. He has some of the makings of a sneaky cheap value play. The Chiefs have allowed the fourth-most TE DK PPG so far, with 16.3 PPG allowed. They made Darren Fells look like Tony Gonzalez last week, so perhaps the Broncos took some notes and will scheme Fant into this game. The problem is, Fant has yet to eclipse four targets in a game, and has zero end-zone targets. I like the matchup and the potential for him to bust out here, but he’s still nothing more than a punt play.
D/ST & Kickers
The Broncos D/ST ($3k) just put up 23 DK points last week against the hapless Titans. I don’t mind sprinkling them a bit, but I don’t like playing defenses against Mahomes. If we do, we’re banking on their stout pass defense to show up and shut down Mahomes and company, which is no small feat.
Brandon McManus ($3.6k) or Harrison Butker ($3.8k) could make their way onto a winning roster, especially if these teams struggle to find the end zone as the teams did in the Monday night game.
If the Broncos are still without their pricey RT Ju’Waun James, it might make sense to roster the Chiefs D/ST ($4k), in hopes of some increased sack numbers and perhaps a Flacco pick or two. Defense is impossible to predict, so I’ll build plenty of lineups with and without a D/ST.
- The most likely way this game should shake out is a) Mahomes struggles a bit, but still manages to put up a respectable fantasy score in the 20-plus DK point range, and b) the Broncos do their best to run the ball down the Chiefs’ throats and keep Mahomes off the field, sprinkling in some Sutton and banking on their defense to contain Hill and Kelce. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Broncos pull off the upset here, and one of the kickers finds his way into the winning lineup.
- The Chiefs explode early with a Hill/Robinson bomb TD or two, forcing the Broncos out of character and into catch-up mode. In this scenario, Sutton and Sanders would see a boost in targets, as would their RBs. One of Hill or Kelce might pop off in CPT, while Mahomes is a must-play in the flex as he silences all the critics and pops off regardless of his ankle and the Broncos strong pass defense.
This game is likely to go roughly in one of those two ways. Build accordingly and find your way atop the leader boards!