Divisional Round NFL Fantasy QB Breakdown: Can Patrick Mahomes Give the Chiefs a Postseason Win?
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15).
Wildcard weekend was wildly wonderful, and the joy of playing daily fantasy football is once again upon us. The divisional round of the playoffs brings a star-studded four-game slate that kicks off on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at two quarterbacks at the top of 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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One quarterback dominates the FantasyLabs Pro Models this week. You know who he is.
- Patrick Mahomes: $7,000 DraftKings; $9,000 FanDuel
Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts, 54.5 Over/Under
UPDATE (1/12): The game total has dropped significantly due to snowy and windy conditions in Kansas City. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) is questionable but expected to play. Running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) is officially questionable, but he’s expected not to play.
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 26.9 DraftKings points per game. For context: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is second with 22.3. Mahomes easily leads the position with an obscene +7.71 Plus/Minus, and his emergence has been the story of the season.
Mahomes’ weekly consistency is outstanding. Not once has he scored fewer than 18 FanDuel points. In only three games this season has he failed to throw for either 300 yards or three touchdowns.
Although the Chiefs went 3-2 after their Week 12 bye, they are still the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and on a per-game basis they have…
- Outscored their implied total by 6.2 points (No. 1 in NFL)
- Exceeded their game total by 8.3 points (No. 1)
The Chiefs rank first in scoring at 35.3 points per game, and Mahomes is foundational to their success. No quarterback in NFL history has dominated in his first season as a starter the way Mahomes has.
There’s nothing particularly special about Mahomes’ matchup with the Colts, but it’s not imposing. The Colts have a funnel defense: This season, they rank fourth against the run in Football Outsiders’ DVOA but 20th against the pass.
Their secondary is much better than it was last season, and cornerback Pierre Desir in particular has really turned his career around with his 73.9 Pro Football Focus coverage grade (up from 59.1 in 2017 and 42.2 in 2015), but the linebackers are the strength of the Colts defense. And if the Chiefs lean on their passing game, the impact of the Colts linebackers will be minimized.
This season, the Colts held quarterbacks to a bottom-12 mark of 16.9 FanDuel points per game with their zone-heavy defense, but Mahomes hasn’t struggled against the zone.
As much as they’ve improved defensively since last season, the Colts rank 20th in pressure rate and 29th in adjusted sack rate. The Chiefs should be able to move the ball against them.
And the Chiefs and Colts are both top-10 in situation-neutral pace: They will likely combine to have the week’s fastest-paced matchup.
One area where the Colts are weak is pass defense against tight ends: They rank 29th in pass DVOA against the position, which bodes well for Mahomes’ connection with All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. For guaranteed prize pools, you might want to use our Lineup Builder to stack Mahomes and Kelce. Since 2014, quarterbacks on average have had a 0.47 correlation with their No. 1 tight ends, but Kelce’s quarterbacks have had a 0.78 correlation with him.
One drawback to rostering Mahomes is that he’s in Kansas City. While playing at home is normally advantageous, that’s not necessarily the case with Mahomes and the Chiefs. With head coach Andy Reid (since 2013), no home team has made under bettors more money than the Chiefs have with their 17-32-1 over/under record (including playoffs), good for a 27.2% return on investment (per Bet Labs).
The outdoor and raucous Arrowhead Stadium is a hard place to play, especially once the weather is cold, and it’s not just road teams that have played worse in Kansas City this season (per the RotoViz Game Splits App).
- Chiefs on road: 38.3 points per game, 3.25 points per drive, 332.4 yards and 3.88 touchdowns passing
- Chiefs at home: 32.4 points per game, 3.11 points per drive, 308.4 yards and 2.38 touchdowns passing
Throughout the Reid era, the Chiefs have scored 3.1 fewer points at home than on the road. Although the market is expecting a shootout, we could see fewer points than expected. Over the past 15 seasons, outdoor postseason games have a 53-72-4 over/under record. For comparison, domed postseason games are 29-10.
Even so, Mahomes is extremely unlikely to have a poor game, given that he has position-high median, ceiling and floor projections in our Models. His upside is significant. With his unrivaled ball velocity (60 mph), Mahomes has made a habit of attacking defenses deep.
He’s No. 1 in the league with 92 deep attempts (20-plus yards), 44 deep completions, 1,514 deep-passing yards and 15 deep touchdowns. Mahomes likes to air it out.
For a player with only 17 career starts, he’s been incredibly poised in the pocket. This season, Mahomes has been pressured on 35.4% of his dropbacks, but his 11.5% sack rate on such plays is the league’s second-lowest mark. And with a clean pocket, he’s No. 1 with a 134.2 QB Rating (PFF).
Reid has done a magnificent job of scheming to Mahomes’ strengths, streamlining his reads and enabling him to get the ball out quickly. When Mahomes can simply take the snap, focus immediately on his receivers and throw the ball, he’s the best quarterback in the league.
On passes with no play action, he’s No. 1 with a 117.4 QB Rating. When holding the ball for fewer than 2.5 seconds in the pocket, he’s again No. 1 with a 129.7 QB Rating (PFF).
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) has been out since Week 12, and running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) has missed the past three games, but Watkins and Ware are tentatively expected back this week after practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday and Thursday. The Chiefs are almost at full health on offense, and should be rested after the bye week.
The Chiefs’ postseason struggles are legendary — they are 0-9 against the spread at home since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger — but Mahomes is unlike any quarterback they’ve ever had. And in the playoffs, home favorite quarterbacks tend to outperform expectations.
On Saturday I will probably bet the over on Mahomes’ touchdown prop. He’s gone over 1.5 in 14 games this season and over 2.5 in 10. To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections.
Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 227-113-12, good for a 64% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
With a position-high +4.58 Projected Plus/Minus, Mahomes is the No. 1 FanDuel quarterback in all our Pro Models.
Divisional Round Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other divisional round positional breakdowns.
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