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Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown: New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs

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The Patriots got right back to their winning ways with a Week 3 thumping of the Las Vegas Raiders. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are 3-0, red hot on offense and seem poised for another fantastic season. Can Kansas City stay perfect? For the 2020 NFL season, Matt Savoca will be providing his weekly NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown column, going through every single game and offensive and defensive matchup, every week of the season. For your viewing convenience, we have broken up the matchups breakdown into several single columns, each one covering a single game. You can find links to every game right here. We have 12 games on tap for Week 4 NFL DFS picks and NFL Fantasy Football, so let’s dive in. The entire matchups article will be available in podcast form, every Friday afternoon on the Awesemo Podcast Network. Let’s get into Patriots-Chiefs for your NFL DFS lineups.

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New England Patriots (23.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (30.5) – 4:25 ET

Update: Cam Newton has tested positive for Covid-19, and is out for week 4. It is unlikely that this game will be played at its scheduled time.

It’s hard to put into words just how drastically this changes the game flow outlook for this matchup. The simplest thought is that Kansas City gets ahead quickly, and stays ahead, which could spell increased looks for Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrell Williams. It’s safe to assume the Kansas City defense becomes a chalk play. The New England offense, in its entirety, is as close to stay-away as an offense could be with Jarrett Stidham at the helm.

New England Passing Game

Sunday marks the first ever duel between Patrick Mahomes and Cam Newton, who has played nothing short of spectacular over the first three weeks of the season. Newton is top 10 in true drive success rate, expected points added per play, red zone pass attempts, red zone rush attempts, fantasy points per dropback and fantasy points per game. He’s also shown the ability to be effective when utilized in different ways (as coach Bill Belichick is wont to do), dropping back 47 times in the Week 2 matchup at Seattle and then playing much more of a game manager role against Las Vegas (who was struggling offensively), dropping back 31 times, sixth lowest among starting quarterbacks, in Week 3.

The Chiefs do not grade out as a particularly sturdy defensive unit overall, according to PFF, but they were more than capable Monday night thrashing of the defending AFC north champion Ravens, bottling up Lamar Jackson to a horrific 97 yards passing and 54 yards rushing. It will likely be a similar game plan defensively for Kansas City, as Newton presents many of the same issues as a dual threat. Kansas City grades out (again via PFF team unit grades) slightly better in pass coverage than in rush defense. They’ll still be focused primarily on receiver Julian Edelman, who’s tied for 16th in total targets this season. New for Edelman (and previously mentioned in last week’s matchups column), however, is his work as a downfield receiver. He ranks second in true air yard share, putting him in the top five of all players in true weighted opportunity share. As the 24th-highest-salary wide receiver, Edelman presents one the best values at the position according to this week’s Awesemo projections.

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N’Keal Harry also ranks in the top 30 of all players in true weighted opportunity share, a clear indicator that he’s Newton’s second-favorite target in the passing game. Interestingly, Harry has a lower average depth of target than Damiere Byrd, but leads the team in red zone target percent, with over 35% percent of the looks inside the 20 thus far. With salaries of $4,000 and $3,000, on DraftKings, both Harry and Byrd look like fantastic tournament options, and possibly even cash lineups, as cheap access to guaranteed workload in what will likely be a high-scoring game. Ideal for fantasy, no other players (other than backfield options, see below) are receiving more than 6% of Newton’s targets.

New England Rushing Game

James White (personal) will return for the Patriots on Sunday after a two-week absence, likely creating a five-man platoon between White, Sony Michel (highest probability of leading the team in rush attempts), Rex Burkhead, J.J. Taylor (who had more carries than Michel against Las Vegas) and Newton, who leads the team in total rush attempts. The uncertainty surrounding the backfield (outside of Newton), in typical New England Patriots fashion, should be enough to give fantasy gamers pause about using these backs for anything other than mass multi-entry tournaments. All four backs have projections on Awesemo.com that would rank them lower than their DraftKings salary.


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Kansas City Passing Game

It took the bright lights of Monday Night Football for Mahomes and the Chiefs to finally click in 2020, but when they did, oh boy did they ever. The Ravens’ vaunted secondary, seventh in PFF’s defensive coverage grade in 2019, looked utterly helpless against the Chiefs’ 34-point offensive onslaught. The advanced metrics are as gaudy as you’d think they’d be – Mahomes averaged 0.75 expected points added per play, a completion percentage versus expectation (CPOE) north of 10% and an estimated rating north of 94, all off the charts for the position. The 385 yards passing was also his highest passing total of the year, re-asserting the incredible ceiling for the Kansas City offense as a whole. It could have been an even more exciting day for the high-profile receivers, but Mahomes threw touchdowns to both fullback Anthony Sherman and tackle Eric Fisher instead. Andy Reid’s ingenious play calling might occasionally burn fantasy gamers when the fullbacks and tackles score touchdowns, but there’s no doubt you’ll want Chiefs, and plenty of them, in your fantasy lineups week in and week out.

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Defensively, the Patriots aren’t quite the same juggernaut in the secondary that they were a year ago when they ranked No. 1 in PFF’s team coverage grade, but they’re still in the top 10 even after surviving an offensive explosion from Russell Wilson. The Patriots are also top 10 in pass rush grade, meaning Mahomes will have to be intelligent and get the ball out quickly to avoid taking sacks (though it should be noted, the Patriots’ pass rush only sacked Raiders’ Derek Carr twice last Sunday). Their per-play efficiency is third-best in defensive expected points subtracted (EPA allowed), but their expected points allowed per drive are right at league average. Simply, we shouldn’t be scared to play Chiefs in the passing game, but the salaries are quite high, particularly for the top options. Travis Kelce ranks second among tight ends (12th overall) in high-value opportunities (targets and goal line rushes), but he hasn’t commanded the same air yard share as he has in the pass thus far. He ranks just sixth in true weighted opportunity share among tight ends. As the highest-priced tight end, he’ll still have the highest ceiling of anyone in at the position but will be tough to fit into lineups priced at $6,800 on DraftKings.

Priced just $100 more than Kelce is Tyreek Hill, who leads the team in true weighted opportunity share but ranks just 22nd at the position this season. Nonetheless, with the 17th-most total targets (and the fact that they’re targets thrown by Mahomes), it’s enough to consider Hill in lineups each and every week. This week, however, against a tough secondary who will likely focus first and foremost on taking away deep shots, Hill seems like a tough bet as the fourth-highest-priced receiver on the slate. Sammy Watkins is a bit more intriguing, especially at his cost. As just the 59th wide receiver on the board, Watkins presents extremely cheap access to this prolific offense, allowing fantasy gamers immense salary flexibility while still getting a player of this game. Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson could be considered in tournaments as well, but they’re tied for fifth on the Chiefs in total usage.

Dallas Rushing Game

Kansas City’s running back opportunity totals through three weeks: Clyde Edwards-Helaire 71, Darrel Williams 14, Darwin Thompson 9, Anthony Sherman 3. This backfield is owned by the rookie Edwards-Helaire, who’s commanding the eighth-highest market share of team opportunities of any player in the NFL. It’s possible that Bill Belichick’s defense will sell out to stop the pass, allowing the rushing game to get chunk yards, but refusing to give up back-breaking plays to Mahomes (easier said than done). Edwards-Helaire, with the 10th-highest salary among running backs on the slate, presents as an excellent value according to Awesemo’s projections, with his guaranteed receiving workload and immense touchdown upside.

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Prediction: Kansas City 36, New England 27.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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