Travis Kelce Injury, Chris Jones Holdout: How Valuable Are Chiefs Stars to the Spread?

Travis Kelce Injury, Chris Jones Holdout: How Valuable Are Chiefs Stars to the Spread? article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Travis Kelce (left) and Chris Jones.

The Chiefs will be playing without two of the best players in the NFL on Thursday night against the Lions. Travis Kelce is out after hyperextending his knee this week in practice, while Chris Jones is still holding out.

Obviously, it's not an ideal situation for Kansas City, which begins its defense of the Super Bowl tonight. The Chiefs still have Patrick Mahomes, which keeps them in any game, though.

We know quarterbacks are the most valuable position to the spread. For example, Mahomes is worth 7-7.5 points on any given week, and that's the most in the NFL.

But what about non-QBs? How big of an impact are Kelce and Jones' absences for bettors? Let's break it down.

Travis Kelce

Kelce is worth 1-1.5 points to the spread for the Chiefs. He’s one of the NFL’s most valuable non-QBs given how productive he is in the passing game and how much offense he generates compared to other tight ends in the league.

The Chiefs’ EPA per play was 0.1 higher when Kelce was on the field last season, and their EPA per play on pass attempts was the same with him on and off the field.

Where the Chiefs may suffer without Kelce is actually in the run game. Their EPA per play was 0.1 higher per rush attempt. That’s likely more due to opposing defenses having to worry about him in the passing game than him being a great blocker. Without Kelce, teams may be more inclined to leave another defender in the box to stop the run.

Kelce’s biggest impact is on the total. The over/under for this game was 54.5 before Andy Reid announced Kelce’s injury on Tuesday. It went down to 52.5 initially but has settled back at 53.5.

I think Kelce is worth closer to two points when it comes to the total.

Chris Jones

Jones is worth about one point to the spread, which is elite for his position. For reference, Aaron Donald was worth about 1.5 points in his prime.

Jones’ value stems from his impact in both the pass and run game. Opponents averaged 4.3 yards per rush against K.C. with him on the field and 5.8 when he was out.

In the passing game, the Chiefs had a 36% pressure rate (seventh in the NFL) with Jones on the field. That dropped to 32% with him off the field, which would’ve ranked 21st.

The potential lack of pressure from the Chiefs also led me to my player prop for the game, which is over 1.5 passing touchdowns from Jared Goff. The Lions QB’s touchdown per attempt rate went up from 2.7% while facing pressure to 5.7% in a clean pocket.

Last season, Goff averaged 8.5 yards per attempt with a clean pocket and 4.7 under pressure. That’s the second-biggest drop-off among 40 qualified QBs last year in the NFL.

Jones’ absence will have about as big an impact that a defensive player can have, especially factoring in the matchup.

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