HOU @ KC
Over/Under 56.5 KC -9
Oh boy! The NFL is finally back and we have the perfect marquee matchup to start the season off with a bang. Myself along with the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs would like to welcome you to a season filled with more uncertainty than at any other time in league history. One game at a time…deep breath.
As a reminder for this season: each week I write out a Thursday night Showdown game breakdown as well as the big Sunday slate breakdown. When time permits I’ll toss in a variety of other game breakdowns and a milly maker review or few.
So without further ado, lets see what this game looks like in Kansas City. The Chiefs are coming off of a season where they performed fairly well to say the least. They have one of the most powerful offenses in NFL history and with newly resigned Mahomes at the helm, there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. The defending Superbowl champions also come into this game with a little additional confidence in this matchup, as the last time these 2 teams met the Chiefs had one of the greatest comebacks in NFL Playoff history, going down over 3 Touchdowns in the first quarter and then proceeded to blow the literal doors off of the Texans from then on out to end up victorious 51 – 31.
Generally, the KC roster hasn’t changed much since this game. The only noteworthy difference is that RB1 Damian Williams decided to opt out of the season. The back certainly had his moments in 2019, showing flashes of brilliance, but Chiefs fans aren’t too concerned about the loss of the starter as the team appears to have found his immediate replacement in 2020 first round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Depending on how much hype the rookie back can live up to, Damian Williams very well might be looking for another team in the very near future. A lot of people will toss out mention of the other D. Williams in the KC backfield, but if the team was that excited about giving him touches they probably wouldn’t have drafted a runningback in the first round and/or made it a point to declare Darrel Williams the starter with his experience in the offense legitimized.
The KC RB position is particularly noteworthy in this game because the spread is so high in KC’s favor that it stands to reason that the backfield might get a few extra touches once their offense gets ahead and they start sitting on the clock. Any game can completely defy the gamescript, but the current script feels pretty solid in expecting KC to come out sharp against a Texans team with a new RB1 and fresh off of trading their All-World WR1.
On Draftkings, I’m looking first at Edwards-Helaire $8,800 to be on full display. He’s going to score his first NFL TD in the game, in my estimation by a pass from Mahomes and then fall into a 2nd TD later in the contest. Truth be told, I’m not his biggest fan from a skill standpoint, but there’s something to be said for being drafted into the perfect situation, with little if/any pressure. Right out of the gates he should do well. As the season progresses we can reevaluate what his future holds as we gather a usage sample set.
Mahomes is always in play at $12,600 and for good reason. His selection is pretty self-explanatory. I think where you really have to take a stand in this matchup is at the KC receiver position. Is Mecole Hardman $5,200 going to see an uptick in targets, after his 30 receptions in the prior season? I like him in one off situations like this game. To be successful in DFS you have to be early before you’re late and you have to generally do so in a way that makes you look like an idiot at times by picking a dude whose numbers don’t really justify your pick. This is that type of dude and that type of situation. I’m going to do everything I can to highlight more of these situations down the road. Obviously Travis Kelce at $9,200 is a stud, the knee injury that popped up in the news appears to be rather minor but I still think it downgrades him. Also, I’m not sure if they really need him to ball out in this matchup to be successful. Watkins is incredibly priced at $5,800 and could be very popular. He’s certainly worth a look. I’m not playing Tyreke Hill; potentially a full fade. At $10,800 this dude has to hit it out of the park, and he could, he’s a very talented dude, but there are far too many avenues that KC can wander through on their path to victory. I’ll probably have in 1 single lineup. Other than a sprinkle of $3,800 Kicker Harrison Butker as a salary saver, I think you can stick with a KC pool filled with Edwards-Helaire, Mahomes, Hardman and Watkins in that order.
On the other side of the ball, Texans fans have to be a little nervous. KC is a juggernaut on offense and defensively much better than given credit for. The Chiefs defense is just on the field so often because the KC offense scores so quickly, that their numbers aren’t as representative of how good of a defensive unit they have. (I started the Texans team breakdown and it immediately let me into giving more praise to the Chiefs, and I’m sure that happens often to others. This Chiefs team is THAT scary.)
Based on the expected gamescript, Deshaun Watson at $11,800 is going to be throwing from behind. He no longer has a safety net in Deandre Hopkins and now in this game has to rely on an injured Brandin Cooks and a currently healthy Will Fuller who has spent his entire career coming back from one injury or another, as his WR1.5s. There is no definitive answer as to whether Cooks plays, currently questionable. I don’t think he does, and if he does, I don’t imagine why an underdog would give a ton of usage to their new number one receiver who comes into the game injured.
There will be other games to play Cooks and this one is not one of them. Fuller is going to be popular, at $8,000, and most likely the new #1 target in this game, he should be very popular. Primarily due to popularity and the fact that this dude is more likely to get injured than he is to catch a TD pass, I’m going to be very underweight. He’ll be in my player pool but I doubt I’ll play him much and if those KC corners find a way to keep him in check, we’ll have huge leverage on the field.
Newly signed Randall Cobb at $4200 is definitely worth a look, maybe/probably even a longer one than Fuller. He’s got experience, he’s still in good form and the usage is going to be there for sure. The floor is safe but I’m not sure the ceiling is as high as the Texans receiver I really like here: I really like Kenny Stills. Stills at $4600 should be your top recruit at WR. His ownership will be much lower than Fuller and as crazy as it sounds probably has a safer floor. Without Hopkins, Stills should move up in targets and in this matchup is going to have a lesser corner than whoever the Chiefs put on Fuller.
The rest of the receivers for Watson to throw to are dart throws at best. Coutee at $1,400 is going to be the sneaky play for a lot of experienced DFS players, but I guarantee they won’t feel good about it, and neither should you, but he does have one statistical anomaly pointing in his direction. The only thing going in Coutee’s favor, which is fairly substantial in an offense that just lost their Go-To WR1, is the fact that his adot (average depth of target, 2019) is the lowest of all of the Texans receivers at 7.6 yards , followed by Cobb at 10.4, Stills at 10.7, Carter at 10.8 and Fuller at 14.2; for context Brandin Cooks’ adot on LAR was 13.9, but this number likely adjusts closer to the 10.5 Hopkins held onto as he
takes tries to take on a similar role.
We know that Watson’s O-line in 2019 wasn’t great, ranking 27th out of 32 teams in pass protection by FootballOutsiders, and unfortunately for the Texans it doesn’t appear to be much better this season. Watson has less time to throw than most QBs in the league so he’ll want to get the ball out quick before he gets drilled into the turf. Generally speaking, any QB in this situation will try to get the ball out fast, either to a great pass catching back, like David Johnson (or Duke Johnson), to his WRs with the lowest Adot, ie Coutee, Cobb and Stills or to the easiest dude in their progressions: the TE.
The Texans TE duo of Jordan Akins at $3200 and Darren Fells at $4400 are certainly worth a look as salary savers and also as great fits for the gamescript. In terms of adot, they’re fairly similar: Fells 5.4, Akins 6.8; also their volume is more similar than you’d expect — Fells 34 receptions to Akins 36. The TD numbers are what really separate the two as Fells was much more of an RZ target last year with 7 TDs on 11 RZ targets to Akins’ 2 TDs on 6 RZ targets (2 completions — 33% complete rate). Ultimately I like the upside of Darren Fells between the two but where the salary meets your build, you could do an awful lot worse than taking Akins over Fells. If the dude falls into the end zone instead of Fells, you should have decent ownership leverage there too.
As I mentioned earlier, I actually like pass catching backs on the Texans. It’s counter intuitive and mostly a bad idea to draft the runningback(s) from a sizable underdog that you expect to be throwing from behind, but these backs are pass catcher-extraordinaires. I’m a very big fan of $7,600 David Johnson. When healthy, this dude can catch out of the backfield about as well as anyone in the league and appears as healthy as he’s been in a long time. Plus, the head coach traded Hopkins for him and was criticized for that trade more than he could have possibly imagined and I’m sure he would love to get a win against KC through a solid performance from David. I think regardless of scoreline, the coach feeds the ball to the beast through a variety of dump off and short passes to get those stats flowing this season. $4800 Duke Johnson is a nice pivot but seems expensive for his role in the offense. He’s worth a sprinkle in any place you don’t have David Johnson though, I’ll just have much more exposure to David due to the coach-motivation factor.
David Johnson — 7600
Kenny Stills — 4600
Mecole Hardman — 5200
MEDIAN PLAYER POOL
Randall Cobb — 4200
Edwards-Helaire — 8800
Patrick Mahomes — 12600
Darren Fells — 4400
Deshaun Watson — 11800
Sammy Watkins — 5800
Jordan Akins — 3200
Keke Coutee — 1400
Duke Johnson — 4800
Harrison Butker — 3800
Ka’imi Fairbairn — 3600
***All players above are ordered by who I like the best in each tier.
****Please don’t play more than one punt in each lineup, lightning only strikes once.