Chiefs defense is fourth in defensive EPA allowed since Week 10 — good news for CEH
Kansas City won't have Travis Kelce because of COVID protocols, but did get some good news in Week 16. The Chiefs can take solace in the fact that Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones and several others did test off the list.
We all know what Hill brings to Chiefs, but it’s weird to say but the Chiefs have been a defense-first team for the better part of 2021’s second half. Since acquiring Melvin Ingram, getting Frank Clark healthy and moving Jones back inside, this unit has been taking a few teams to the woodshed.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will draw this stop unit in Week 16 after getting slammed by the Titans. Najee Harris was completely shut down and Diontae Johnson was the most productive skill-position player with just 38 yards.
It was a brutal scene.
Even with Patrick Mahomes not having one of his favorite pass-catchers available, the Chiefs could still find the upper hand quickly. The Steelers' offense could certainly come alive; in fact, it’s almost a lock they’ll be better than last week. But a few timely turnovers and sacks will be all it takes to garner a win for Kansas City even without Kelce.
Nevertheless, there might be one overlooked Chiefs offensive player who does have a high ceiling. The Steelers are 32nd in rushing EPA allowed since Week 10. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is hardly ever a true ceiling play but if he’s ever going to access the higher end of his range of outcomes, this is the moment.
The Chiefs have clearly needed to remake parts of their identity and adjust to the new conditions of this NFL season. They've obviously got the defense part right at this point.
Now, it might be time to see if they can truly commit to the establishing-the-run portion.
The absence of Kelce could force their hand into potentially leaning on Edwards-Helaire more often than usual. The matchup indicates that they should consider doing it either way. Edwards-Helaire's salary is a mere $17 in Yahoo DFS and could come in at a low rostered rate in Week 16.
Dallas is No. 1 in EPA per play defensively
While the offense is still not exactly firing on all cylinders, the Cowboys defense has emerged as a true needle-moving unit. That’s rare for a defense in today’s NFL.
The Cowboys are just so dynamic at multiple crucial spots. The unreal pass rush that they get when all three of Micah Parsons, Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are available just creates so many opportunities for a ball-hawking secondary led by Trevon Diggs.
We expect the offense to get right at some point. In the meantime, this defense is more than good enough to win them some games.
Amon-Ra St. Brown is sixth among WRs in targets (41) since Week 11
The only players with a higher target share than Amon-Ra St. Brown in that span are Cooper Kupp, Elijah Moore (now on IR), Justin Jefferson and George Kittle.
St. Brown has been a set-it-and-forget-it guy ever since he was moved into two-wide sets after the team’s bye. The loss of T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift certainly vaulted his overall target upside the last few weeks but that initial role change was the key to unlocking his upside.
St. Brown would've carried his usual projection if we got Jared Goff (COVID) under center in Week 16, but that looks unlikely at time of this writing. Nevertheless, the rookie WR has been a revelation and taking a leap after a bye week is an expected development for a first-year receiver.
No Bengals WR is averaging more than 7 targets per game over their last five
Here are their targets over the last five games:
Tee Higgins - 35
Ja'Marr Chase - 29
Tyler Boyd - 28
The near-even split, especially between Chase and Boyd, is almost as problematic as the lack of overall volume. It makes all of these guys dicey, low-floor plays — as last week’s date with the Broncos proved.
The matchup could not be more gorgeous in the opposite direction compared to what they faced in Denver last week. While the Broncos live for limiting vertical shots, the Ravens have been at the bottom of the league in explosive pass-rate allowed all season and are decimated at cornerback.
The problem is DFS wants you to pay September salary ($28) for December Ja’Marr Chase. That’s tough to swallow knowing that the volume is just not that bankable right now.
Kyle Pitts’ 1.1% TD rate is sixth-lowest among top-50 TEs
Only two tight ends with 50-plus targets this year have a lower touchdown rate: Cole Kmet and Dan Arnold.
Kyle Pitts is simply too good and frankly, too involved for this rate to hold much longer. We’re talking about Pitts as if he’s been a huge disappointment.
He hasn’t been — he’s just not scoring touchdowns.
Pitts is fourth among tight ends in yards and targets while averaging 14.6 yards per catch. His red-zone conversion rate (three catches on 12 targets) could be better but that’s all part of the reason why I’m calling my shot: This is the week for Kyle Pitts to enjoy another big game.
The Lions are 30th in weighted DVOA and 26th against the pass overall this season. With a strong matchup and bankable positive regression in his outlook, Pitts' salary is a nice value at $17 in Yahoo DFS.
Justin Jefferson has a 44 percent catch rate in Weeks 14-15
The good news is that Justin Jefferson has been absolutely pummelled with volume since Adam Thielen left the lineup. The bad news: Those looks have been gnarly from an efficiency perspective.
Jefferson has totaled 126 yards on 11 catches in his last two games. That’s fewer yards and the same amount of catches he saw on 11 fewer targets in Week 13 alone.
We know better than to make hard and fast truths based on minuscule sample sizes in the NFL but it’s fair to wonder if teams are completely content to bracket Jefferson with intense coverage and sell out to stop him with Thielen out. We saw as much on rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s touchdown on Monday when three Bears’ defenders crashed on Jefferson when the ball left Kirk Cousins’ hands. There is no one else on Minnesota’s offense who is hyper-threatening, even if K.J. Osborn is a nice player.
Since Thielen tested his injury pre-game in Week 15, it stands to reason he’ll be back this week. While that might bring the volume projection down for Jefferson, perhaps it'll also come with an efficiency boost.
Justin Jackson ran a backfield-high 22 routes in Week 15
The Chargers backfield isn’t quite like the Vikings, Rams or Chiefs; areas where we knew all season long who would walk into a bell-cow role if the starter went down. Los Angeles doesn’t offer us that kind of clarity.
However, if Austin Ekeler’s injury-compromised Week 15 gave us any clues, Justin Jackson looks like the next man up. Ekeler said as much himself on the latest Ekeler's Edge.
Not only did Jackson carry the ball a team-high 13 times, but he also ran more routes than Ekeler with 22. Third-stringer Joshua Kelley factored in on the ground game (seven carries, one fumble lost) but was not involved in the receiving distribution.
Figuring out this backfield is crucial if Ekeler remains on the COVID list for the Chargers matchup with the Texans. Jackson would be a near-must start with what we know about the split from last week. Houston has been gashed all year, allowing the most yards (1,752) to running backs. Kelley would also be in play but as a very low-end desperation FLEX option, someone who could throw Jackson off course with a vulture touchdown plunge.