NFL Conference Championship Fantasy QB Breakdown: Should You Play Patrick Mahomes in the Cold?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15).
We are just two games away from the Super Bowl, and this weekend the four best teams in football will compete to see who will advance to the big game.
Although the slate consists of only two contests, they both seem likely to excite. The Saints-Rams game kicks off on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET; Chiefs-Patriots, 6:40 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at the quarterback who stands out the most in the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
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Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs (-3.0) vs. New England Patriots, 56.5 Over/Under
- DraftKings: $6,600
- FanDuel: $9,000
UPDATE (Jan. 20): Running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and will play this weekend.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, we talked about Mahomes as the slate’s top option, and it’s not hard to see why we’re enthusiastic.
Almost a lock to win the 2018 Most Valuable Player award, Mahomes painted a masterpiece of a campaign over the past few months: In the regular, he led the league with his 9.6 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) and 81.7 Total QBR.
With his 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns passing, Mahomes is only the second 5,000-50 quarterback in NFL history. The first was Peyton Manning in his record-setting 2013 MVP campaign.
To no one’s surprise, Mahomes has had the most productive fantasy season ever for a quarterback.
Mahomes is dominating the league with a position-high 26.3 FanDuel points per game. For context: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is second with 22.3. Mahomes easily leads the position with an obscene +7.19 Plus/Minus, and his emergence has been the story of the season.
Mahomes’ weekly consistency is outstanding. Last week was the first time all season that he scored fewer than 18 FanDuel points, and he just barely fell short of the mark with 17.9. And it’s not as if he had a poor game: He completed 65.9% of his passes and led the Chiefs to 31 points.
In only four games this season has Mahomes failed to throw for either 300 yards or three touchdowns. Although the Chiefs went 3-2 after their Week 12 bye, they are still probably the best team in the AFC, and on a per-game basis they’ve…
- Outscored their implied total by 5.9 points (No. 1 in NFL)
- Exceeded their game total by 7.2 points (No. 1)
In the regular season, the Chiefs ranked first in scoring at 35.3 points per game, and Mahomes has been foundational to their success. No quarterback in NFL history has dominated in his first season as a starter the way Mahomes has.
Mahomes doesn’t have an especially great matchup. The Pats haven’t been highly exploitable with their 18.5 FanDuel points per game allowed to quarterbacks, and they are second overall with their 93.0 Pro Football Focus coverage grade.
Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore leads all corners with his 91.1 PFF coverage grade: He will likely be responsible for defending wide receiver Sammy Watkins for most of the game. In Week 6, he shadowed Watkins, holding him to just two receptions for 18 scoreless yards on four targets.
Jason McCourty is a top-24 corner with his 78.6 PFF coverage grade, and he’s likely to shadow wide receiver Tyreek Hill with safety help. While Hill is one of the fastest players in the league, McCourty is by no means slow.
He’s old for a corner at the age of 31, but in his 2009 pre-draft workouts he blazed a 4.30-second 40-yard dash. McCourty won’t be able to neutralize Hill, but he might be able to do enough to keep Hill from going off.
And safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are more than serviceable with their 78.6 and 75.4 PFF coverage grades. This season, the Pats are eighth in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA against tight ends, and Kelce was held in relative check in Week 6 with just 61 scoreless yards on five receptions.
If the Pats are able to limit the Chiefs through the air, it’s not hard to see how it would have occurred.
But it’s also not very likely to happen. The Pats play more man coverage than any other team in the league, and Mahomes has dominated against man coverage this season.
Patrick Mahomes vs. five defenses that utilized man coverage at a top-12 rate
Patriots: 352 yards-4 TDs-2 INTs
Broncos: 304-1-0, 303-4-1
Bengals: 358-4-1 https://t.co/xkP9QCF6hV
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) January 15, 2019
Given that Mahomes dominated the Pats in Week 6 with 29.0 FanDuel points, he shouldn’t be significantly downgraded just because his primary receivers don’t have highly exploitable matchups. Greatness tends to find a way.
One drawback to rostering Mahomes is that he’s at Arrowhead Stadium. While playing at home is normally advantageous, that’s not necessarily the case with Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Conference Championship Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other divisional round positional breakdowns.
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