How the Patriots Can Finally Slow the Red-Hot Chiefs’ Passing Game in Week 6
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Stephon Gilmore, Patrick Mahomes
- Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs head to Foxborough with a red-hot offense and one of the NFL's last two undefeated records.
- Here's how the New England Patriots can disrupt the Chiefs' passing game in this Sunday Night Football matchup, and where to find betting and DFS value.
I’ll be leveraging my experience as a fantasy analyst with a statistics background and a high school football coach to identify aspects of one matchup every week that you can take advantage of while setting your fantasy football lineups and/or placing bets on the upcoming slate.
For Week 6, we’re focusing on the upcoming Sunday Night Football matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots — a classic battle of an unstoppable force and an immovable object between the Kansas City offense and the New England defense.
The Chiefs’ Dominant Deep Passing Game
One look at Patrick Mahomes’ passing chart from AirYards.com makes it easy to tell where the strength of the Chiefs’ passing game lies.
Kansas City owns an extraordinary deep passing game. The Chiefs are second only to the Sean McVay-led Rams in completed passes of 20 or more yards in 2018 with 25.
Kansas City was ranked just 12th in passes of 20 or more yards last season. The transition from Alex Smith to Mahomes at quarterback, and the free-agent addition of an excellent deep threat such as Sammy Watkins has clearly added even more big play-ability to this offense.
Mahomes leads the league with 33 deep attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. His average depth of target of 10.3 yards ranks fifth in the NFL.
This passing game is a consistent nightmare for opposing defenses. The Chiefs hung 30 points on the Jaguars — 23 on offense — while averaging 8.2 yards per attempt last week. Kansas City had four passes go for 30 or more yards.
The Patriots’ Elite Secondary
What might be lost in the Jacksonville shellacking is that the Jaguars secondary has taken a step back from last season, particularly in the play of Jalen Ramsey. He was the second-rated corner in coverage by PFF last season. This season, he is outside of the top 70 in coverage grades for qualified corners.
Meanwhile, the Patriots very quietly have the best cornerback tandem in football. Both Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore rank inside the top seven in coverage grades. Slot corner Jonathan Jones also ranks inside the top 25.
This is critical since the Patriots play heavily in man coverage — typically in the form of Cover 1. Last season, only the Chiefs played more man coverage than the Patriots.
While the Chiefs have been one of the best deep-passing teams in the NFL, the Patriots have been the best at stopping deep passes. According to Pro Football Reference, the Patriots are allowing only 7.85 yards per deep pass attempt, which is tops in the NFL. The next closest team is all the way up at 9.14.
Here’s New England’s pass defense chart for comparison to Mahomes’:
New England’s defense is the perfect foil to Mahomes.
The Patriots Can Apply Enough Pressure to Mahomes
As I’ve discussed in this series, man coverage allows teams to send more pass rushers at the quarterback. The Patriots’ excellent cornerback play has allowed them to pressure the quarterback more in 2018 than they did in 2017.
According to PFF, New England has averaged 19.8 pressures per game, which is about an 18% increase from last year’s regular-season average of 16.75. The Patriots are one of the best teams at applying pressure right now.
Getting after the QB drives everything else that happens for a defense- these teams are applying the most pressure this season.#LARams #GoPats #DUUUVAL #HereWeGo #GoPackGo #RaiderNation #GoBucs #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/PPsl77uc91
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) October 9, 2018
Pressuring Mahomes will be key in this matchup. He’s been pressured only 14 times per game through five weeks, but sees a noticeable decline in production when facing a quality pass rush.
Mahomes is completing 74% of his passes when not under pressure (per PFF), good for eighth among quarterbacks to play in at least three games. But when he’s under pressure, he completes only 44% of his passes, which ranks 28th.
Fade Mahomes and Kansas City in New England
The Chiefs have had an incredible start to the season and go into Foxborough undefeated. Mahomes is also the top-scoring passer in fantasy football.
But I think that you should fade both this weekend.
You certainly aren’t benching Mahomes in season-long leagues, where it’s doubtful that you own an adequate replacement. But in DFS contests, I will be avoiding the second-year quarterback. On the upcoming Showdown slate especially, I will target Tom Brady over Mahomes.
With Kansas City’s hot start, New England already owning two losses and the Chiefs dominating the Patriots in Week 1 of 2017, I would expect the road team to be a popular bet in the island game on Sunday night as a 3.5-point underdog.
But the Patriots being so much better on defense — particularly against the deep passing game — has me laying the points in this contest instead.