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Week 4 Start/Sit: Monday Night Football Matchup Analysis

Week 4 didn't kick off with a bang, it was a shootout, and there's a good chance the week will go down guns ablazin' when the (3-0) Kansas City Chiefs take on the (2-1) Denver Broncos Monday night.

If you haven't heard by now, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs boast one of the most prolific offenses the NFL has ever seen. And, that's no exaggeration either as their 118 points are good for the eighth-highest total through the season's first three weeks since 1940. Now true, one of the first things that come to mind when thinking of the recent Denver Broncos teams is Von Miller and the defense. And, they say, "Offense sells tickets, defense wins games." But, having allowed 23.3 points per game to this point, this unit is a far cry from the one we saw win the Super Bowl just three seasons ago (they were allowing just 16.3 points per game through three weeks in 2015).

On the flip, Case Keenum now calls the shots at quarterback for Denver -- they've also shored up the offensive line -- resulting in an offense which has almost completed a 180°. (Ok, they've turned about 90°, but at the very least, this unit looks much better than the tragedies of the Trevor Siemian/Brock Osweiler era.) I'd bet they pick up a few additional degrees in this one too, seeing how the Chiefs have been giving up points about as quickly as they score them - only the Chargers and Saints have surrendered more than the 30.7 points per game of Kansas City. KC is also allowing 15.46 yards per point, or a point every first down-and-a-half or so, which is far from dominant (Denver is even worse at 14.59). Clearly, there's a pretty slim chance that this one turns into a defensive struggle. But, unfortunately, it's not as simple as, "Start everybody!" So let's take a deeper dive into some of the matchups.

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Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos

Date and Start Time: Monday, October 1st at 8:15 p.m. EST
Game Spread: KC -4.5
Over/Under: 55
Notable Injuries and Status:

  • Dee Ford (LB, KC) - Groin - Questionable
  • Eric Berry (SS, KC) - Heel - Questionable
  • Jake Butt (TE, DEN) - Knee - Out for Season
  • Brandon Marshall (LB, DEN) - Knee - Questionable
  • Tramaine Brock (CB, DEN) - Groin - Questionable

Offensive and Defensive Rankings (stats through Week 3):

Chiefs Broncos
Passing Yards 5th 16th
Rushing Yards 15th 3rd
Pass Defense T-31st 22nd
Run Defense 18th 4th


Must Starts

Top Players That You Should Have In Your Lineup

Patrick Mahomes (QB, KC)

13 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 92.44 fantasy points through just three games - the guy has been putting up Madden numbers. Yes, the Broncos have a ferocious pass rush, but don't let that scare you into doing something irrational.

Phillip Lindsay (RB, DEN)

I'm not about to sit here and pretend that I'm even remotely close to being smart enough to be an offensive coordinator in the NFL. However, a little common sense tells me that if you're looking to slow down a high-powered offense, keeping them off the field would be a great place to start. The Broncos do not want to get into a shootout with these boys (though, likely unavoidable) and seeing how Denver's RBs have put up the second-most rushing attempts through three weeks, a run-centric offense seems like a safe bet. Scoreboard willing. It also doesn't hurt that at 5.09 yards per carry, the Chiefs have given up yards to backs at the third-highest rate. Coincidentally, Lindsay has managed to pick up six yards per carry - ranking seventh among RBs (minimum five carries).

Oh, and should this turn into the pass fest we saw Thursday night, Kansas City has allowed at least 50 yards receiving to backs in each of their three games and Lindsay has proven to be a capable receiving option out of the backfield. (At 16.67%, Keenum does have the seventh-lowest percentage of passes which have targeted his running backs among starting QBs, though.)

Tyreek Hill (WR, KC)

There's this scene in Superbad where Evan (Michael Cera) is being chased by officer Michaels (Seth Rogen), and Cera straight dusts him which leads Rogen to proclaim, "He's a freak! He's the fastest kid alive!"

... This scene comes to mind every time I see Tyreek Hill with the ball in his hands. (What now comes to mind is Tyreek Hill dressed as Evan from Superbad while emulating his awkward running style. Hilarious. Make it happen Tyreek! Halloween costume of the year, hands down.)

Emmanuel Sanders (WR, DEN)

Sanders has averaged 11.7 yards per target. That's pretty good. The Chiefs have allowed 27.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. That's not very good. Even in what figures to be a run-heavy game plan, it's hard to imagine Keenum not attempting at least 35 passes here. Opposing QBs have averaged 47 pass attempts against KC, Keenum himself has averaged 36, and Sanders has a 21.3 percent target share. Carry the two, add the quotient... Seven-and-a-half. We can project Sanders sees seven-and-a-half targets on 35 attempts which would lead to nearly 90 yards - which is about what he averages on the season. Not a bad floor.

Now granted, if we factor in the number of passes KC has seen attempted against them, this Chiefs secondary has held up fairly well against WRs - allowing just 168.67 yards per game to the position. Still, they've already allowed two, 100-yard receivers to go with five total TDs to the position.

Travis Kelce (TE, KC)

Kelce's 27.96 percent target share not only leads his team, it paces the tight end position and leads all but 10 wide receivers. His 76.3 receiving yards per game? Second among TEs; he'd be the WR17. In other words, he's gonna get his. But, when you take into account the 78.7 yards per game Denver has allowed to opposing TEs this season, or the fact that Kelce has averaged 131.3 yards over his last three games against the Broncos (with two receiving TDs)... This doesn't change anything. He's still gonna get his.


Must Sits

Players To Avoid Putting In Your Lineup

Jeff Heuerman (TE, DEN)

Jake Butt was Denver's primary pass-catching tight end until tearing his ACL in Thursday's practice. Who cares, though? When did whoever starts at TE for the Broncos become a must-own commodity? I know, a matchup against a defense which has allowed an average of 102 receiving yards per game to opposing TEs is enticing, just don't submit to the temptation here.

Matt LaCosse (TE, DEN)

... I know, a matchup against a defense which has allowed an average of 102 receiving yards per game to opposing TEs is enticing, just don't submit to the temptation here. It's not like the tight ends have been heavily featured in this offense (Butt, Heuerman, and LaCosse have combined for 13 receptions - fewer than four TEs, individually) and LaCosse has just three career receptions. It'd be nice to see him lose himself in the moment, own it, and never let it go, but yeah, no thanks.

Chiefs DST/Broncos DST

For the second-straight week, there's absolutely no reason to have either of these defense/special teams units in your lineups. Yes, Pittsburgh managed to be a Top-5 unit despite giving up 27 points, and yes, Keenum is tied for the most interceptions with five. However, the Chiefs have just one interception on the season, zero defensive TDs (they did get a Tyreek Hill punt return TD in Week 1), and have averaged negative-point-six-seven fantasy points per game. Denver on the other hand, well, just scroll up to the top and read the first, fourth, seventh, eighth, and eleventh paragraphs of this article.


Solid Options/Sleepers

Which Players Will Have Solid Games and Which Could Surprise?

Solid Option - Case Keenum (QB, DEN)

Even if we take away his five interceptions, Keenum would barely find himself among the Top-20 fantasy QBs this season. Thing is, take away last week's debacle and the man is averaging 16.82 fantasy points per game. Now, considering we've seen 21, 25-plus fantasy point games at QB this season, 16.82 is somewhat lousy. But, only the Saints have allowed more fantasy points to opposing QBs than the Chiefs - bringing Keenum into the streaming conversation this week.

Solid Option – Kareem Hunt (RB, KC)

Typically, it'd be laughable to not consider Hunt a must-start guy. However, the Broncos have allowed opposing backs to pick up just 3.48 yards per carry (seventh-fewest), and despite seeing more carries than all but five backs, Hunt's 168 yards rank 17th. It does not appear likely that we'll see him repeat as rushing champ, and even more damning has been the lack of targets. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Deshaun Watson are the only two starting quarterbacks to have attempted fewer passes to their backs than Mahomes, and Hunt has caught a monumental one pass (he does have a 100 percent TD-to-catch ratio, though). Still, his 11.8 fantasy points are still good for 15th at the running back position and the Broncos have allowed three rushing TDs over their last two games (and another TD receiving to a RB) so Hunt should be considered a low-end RB1 given the usage and offense he plays in.

Solid Option - Royce Freeman (RB, DEN)

The emergence of Phillip Lindsay hasn't extinguished Freeman's fantasy value, so while it isn't likely Lindsay gets ejected in the second-quarter again this week, you can still comfortably plug Freeman in as a flex option in what looks to be a favorable matchup.

Solid Option – Sammy Watkins (WR, KC)

Watkins' Chiefs debut left a lot to be desired, but he's bounced back with 155 receiving yards, 51 rushing yards, one TD, and 26.6 fantasy points over his last two games in the red and yellow. He's also seen 15 targets over that two-game stretch (which surprisingly, puts him ahead of Tyreek Hill on the season) and looks to have gained the trust of his young QB. The only problem here is that Mahomes doesn't play favorites -- he spreads the ball around with the best of them -- meaning Watkins runs the risk of being the odd man out on any given Sunday (or, Monday in this case). Regardless, combine his recent performances with the offense he plays in, and you have a more than viable, low-end WR2/high-endWR3 option this week.

Solid Option - Demaryius Thomas (WR, DEN)

Despite the lack of production, Thomas leads all Broncos receivers in targets -- both overall and in the red zone -- and frankly, it's entirely too early to give up on DT. He's bound to have a big night eventually, and facing a secondary which has allowed two separate receivers to find the end zone in two of their first three games for a total of five WR touchdowns on the season, I wouldn't blame you for pegging this to be the one. If not, on sheer volume alone, his floor figures to be around six fantasy points this week. I can accept that.

Sleeper – Devontae Booker (RB, DEN)

Booker went from presumed starter, to third-string RB, and is an all but forgotten man outside of the state of Colorado. Maybe even within the state, as well. However, even with the decision to feature the younger, more explosive, more dynamic Freeman and Lindsay, Booker has still managed to see nine targets through three games - more than Freeman and Lindsay, combined. Now, there's a chance the Broncos run the ball more in this one; that just means he's likely to see a few additional carries on the strength of fatigue. There's also a chance that the Broncos are forced to pass the ball more; which would mean he's likely to see a few additional targets on the strength of what we've seen thus far. In either case, Booker makes for a very high-risk, high-reward play this week.

Sleeper – Chris ConleyDemarcus Robinson (WR, KC)

As mentioned, Patrick Mahomes likes to spread the rock like Nutella. And, for this reason, anyone catching passes in this offense has fantasy value. Conley has just five catches on the season, but two of them have been touchdown receptions. Meanwhile, Robinson has just two receptions on the season, one of which went for a TD. I cannot say that I envy you if your options at receiver come down to these two, however, put their names in a hat (I'm sure there's an app for that) and you'll wind up either looking like a genius, or a dunce. But, no one will question your fortitude.

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