Evan Silva’s Matchups Breakdown for Chiefs vs. Broncos
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes
Below is a breakdown of Thursday night’s matchup by Evan Silva of Establish The Run. The goal is to help fantasy players and bettors alike understand the game at the deepest level. For all of Silva’s breakdowns and more fantasy analysis, visit EstablishTheRun.com.
Team Totals: Chiefs 26, Broncos 22.5
The Colts and Texans upset Kansas City with a defined formula in Weeks 5-6, gashing Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo’s walkover defense via short passes and rushing attempts, dominating time of possession, and keeping Patrick Mahomes on the sideline. As Houston clocked K.C. by a whopping 40-to-20 minute margin last week, Andy Reid’s offense ran just 16 second-half plays. While this approach is always easier planned than executed, it will undoubtedly serve as Broncos OC Rich Scangarello’s vision on Thursday night. Having shown willingness to stay run committed even when down multiple scores, Scangarello fed Phillip Lindsay 17 touches and Royce Freeman 16 on corresponding snap rates of 47% and 62% in Week 6’s win over Tennessee. Even as Lindsay is clearly the superior talent and a locked-in every-week RB2, Freeman is an underrated flex play with 15-plus touches in four of the last five games and positive-TD regression forthcoming with zero touchdowns despite 11 red-zone touches, including five inside the ten. Due especially to Scangarello’s probable game plan, Lindsay and Freeman are playable together in one-game DFS lineups. Badly missing DT Chris Jones (groin) and NT Xavier Williams (ankle), the Chiefs have been throttled for 157/818/4 (5.21 YPC) rushing by enemy backs. … Joe Flacco is a solid two-QB-league play versus Kansas City; Spags’ defense ranks 26th in both sacks (11) and QB hits (25) and has permitted top-ten fantasy outcomes to 4-of-6 quarterbacks faced. Flacco is averaging a robust 8.1 yards per attempt sans pressure and has thrown all six of his touchdown passes from clean pockets. Kansas City’s inability to generate pass rush strongly suggests Flacco will have ample time to throw, while Chiefs slot CB Kendall Fuller’s (broken thumb) likely inactivity further boosts Flacco’s matchup.
Flacco’s Weeks 1-6 target distribution: Courtland Sutton 46; Emmanuel Sanders 38; Freeman and Lindsay 26; Noah Fant 19; DaeSean Hamilton 17; Jeff Heuerman 10. … Consistent with upside, Sutton has 75-plus yards and/or a touchdown in 5-of-6 games, and his ceiling is raised by Sanders’ questionable health. Sutton’s usage and production warrant matchup-agnostic WR2 treatment. … Reports have been positive regarding Sanders’ knee, but his inability to return to last week’s victory and this week’s quick turnaround are worrisome for a 32-year-old receiver who’s managed ten yards or fewer in three of his last four games. I’d treat Sanders as a low-floor WR3 best avoided in season-long leagues but viable on one-game DFS-tournament slates. … Fant is averaging just 20 routes run over the last two weeks after running 29 per game in Weeks 1-4, largely because Denver has begun playing in positive script. Fant’s involvement will grow if Mahomes’ Chiefs grab a lead, giving Fant some one-game DFS appeal. Still yet to clear 40 yards in a 2019 game, Fant is a tougher sell as a TE1 streamer. … Hamilton has topped 25 yards once through six games but would become one-game DFS-slate playable were Sanders to sit.
Battling an ankle sprain on a short week, Thursday night’s game sets up as one of Patrick Mahomes’ toughest to-date challenges against a Broncos defense that has yet to surrender a single top-12 fantasy quarterback week, keeping Aaron Rodgers (QB25), Derek Carr (QB21), Mitchell Trubisky (QB31), Gardner Minshew (QB14), and Philip Rivers (QB28) at bay before forcing the Titans to make an in-game under-center change last week, first sacking Marcus Mariota three times before decking Ryan Tannehill four more times for seven all-told sacks. No defense has permitted fewer fantasy points to signal callers, and the Broncos’ offense is equipped to control time of possession as discussed above. Coach Vic Fangio is also one of the NFL’s premier defensive schemers. I’m not benching Mahomes’ week-winning upside in any season-long leagues, but there are enough negative data points here that we can’t be shocked on the off chance he disappoints. … Just after Damien Williams appeared to reemerge as Kansas City’s lead back in Week 5’s loss to Indianapolis, LeSean McCoy dominated the Chiefs’ Week 6 backfield in touches (10) and snaps (49%) while Damien (2, 38%) and Darrel Williams (1, 13%) took backseats. It does appear this running game is moving toward a two- rather than three-man RBBC with McCoy and Damien at the top, even if their usage lacks reliability. They are both risky flex options at Denver, which has limited enemy backs to 143/589/5 (4.12 YPC) rushing and a below-par 42 combined receiving yards per game.
Mahomes’ Week 6 target distribution: Tyreek Hill 10; Travis Kelce 6; Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson 4; Byron Pringle 3; McCoy and Darrel 2; Damien and De’Anthony Thomas 1. … Even as Tyreek (shoulder) played just 51% of Kansas City’s offensive snaps in last week’s return against the Texans, he dominated targets and looked as good as new on the field. Hill does figure to be sore on a short week and will likely draw Broncos top CB Chris Harris’ coverage; Harris has permitted 157 scoreless yards on 21 attempts (7.5 YPA) and a paltry 65.0 passer rating when targeted. Only two wide receivers (Tyrell Williams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling) have cleared 75 yards against Fangio’s secondary this year. Hill is a boom-bust WR1 play on Thursday night. … This matchup is no better for Kelce; Darren Waller (7/70/0) is the only tight end to clear 45 yards against the Broncos this season. Hill and Kelce are both fade-matchup, bet-on-talent plays at Denver. … Chiefs receiver snaps were distributed as follows upon Hill’s Week 6 return: Robinson 87% > Pringle 60% > Hardman 53% > Thomas 15%. Robinson unfortunately goose egged with a drop on four targets, while Pringle ran ahead of Hardman for the second straight week. Robinson does happen to be popping in Week 7’s Air Yards Buy Low Model. In such a tough matchup, all of Kansas City’s non-Tyreek wideouts remain dart-throw WR4s on Thursday night. And all of this assumes Sammy Watkins (hamstring) doesn’t try to play on a short week; Watkins’ return could morph the Chiefs’ receiver position into a reliability-killing five-man committee.
Update: Sammy Watkins was indeed ruled out on Wednesday. I would rank Chiefs receivers’ Week 7 playability as follows: Tyreek Hill > Demarcus Robinson > Byron Pringle > Mecole Hardman with an obvious tier drop behind Hill, Robinson in is own tier, and Pringle and Hardman in a dead heat.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 27, Broncos 24