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Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown: Week 7 Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

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The Chiefs head to Denver for a showdown with their division rivals after a Monday night win against upstart Buffalo. Drew Lock‘s return to the field for the Broncos resulted in a win in New England, and now they return home to face the best quarterback on Earth. Can the Broncos beat Patrick Mahomes a week after beating Bill Belichick? For the 2020 NFL season, Matt Savoca will be providing his weekly NFL DFS and NFL Daily 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 11 games on tap for Week 7 NFL DFS 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 Chiefs – Broncos NFL DFS picks for your daily fantasy football lineups.

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NFL Daily Fantasy Football + NFL DFS Matchups Column for Week 7

Kansas City Chiefs (28.5) at Denver Broncos (19.5) – 4:25 p.m. ET

Kansas City Passing Game

The Chiefs advanced to 5-1 with a win against Buffalo in rain-soaked week 6. In the type of performance we’ve become so accustomed to that fantasy gamers barely even notice, Patrick Mahomes finished as a top-10 quarterback while only throwing 26 times and two touchdowns. Mahomes’ underlying advanced metrics remain impeccable. His 8.7 yards per attempt in week 6 was his second highest of the season, as were his 36 rushing yards, and his 81% completion rate was Mahomes’ best mark in that metric since week 7 of last year against these same Broncos. Mahomes now ranks in the top five among signal-callers in clean pocket completion percentage, adjusted yards per attempt, expected points added and fantasy points per dropback. In week 7 of this year, Mahomes will face a Broncos team that ranks in the top 10 in points allowed per play and is tied for first in PFF’s team defensive rating. It appears Vic Fangio has finally crafted the defense he sought to assemble when he left his post as the defensive coordinator in Chicago two seasons ago. Right after slowing down Cam Newton in week 6, the Broncos now face by far their toughest test yet, and not only that, the Chiefs will likely have a new weapon on offense this week in former Pro Bowler Le’Veon Bell, signed this week after being egregiously misused by the New York Jets.

Not much needs to be written about the incredible connection between Mahomes and Travis Kelce, who consistently use their on-field mind meld to attack defenses after the play’s original plan breaks down, except for the fact that he’s a value this week as the second-highest tight end on the main slate. Kelce is once again No. 1 among tight ends in high-value opportunities (all on-target passes and goal-line rushes), and third in true weighted opportunity share. Denver has struggled (in terms of schedule-adjusted fantasy points) against tight ends, as well as secondary and tertiary wide receiver options. When all three of those positions appear to be a vulnerability, the likeliest explanation is that the defense is exploitable in the middle of the field, and that’s exactly where Kelce loves to operate. DFS players who have the ability to take on his $6,3000 salary get an incredible floor/ceiling combination this weekend. With apologies to George Kittle, you can’t do better at the tight end position this weekend.

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Beyond Kelce, the secondary option for the Chiefs has varied based on gameplan, shifting from Sammy Watkins, who’s trending towards missing his second straight game with a hamstring injury, to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, as it was in week 6, or Tyreek Hill, who leads the team in average depth of target. Hill’s target share has dipped slightly overall since week 3, and he now technically ranks third on the team in that metric. But prior to his 12% target share in week 6, where weather was absolutely a factor for deep passing, Hill had yet to see a target share below 14% and will likely see closer to his seasonal average of 18% or more in this matchup. It would also be surprising if Hill wasn’t moved around in order to avoid cornerback Bryce Callahan, who is having another Pro Bowl-caliber season while playing over 65% of his snaps on the outside despite traditionally being considered a slot cornerback. It should be noted, though, that Denver has not used shadow coverage on any receiver this year, so they’ll likely use multiple defenders and hybrid schemes to attempt to confuse Mahomes and slow down the Chiefs’ vaunted passing attack.

For mass multi-entry, there are few pivots worth noting. Demarcus Robinson, who was the surprise team leader in yards in week 6, could absolutely have another six target game and find the end zone. He’s playing on 95% of snaps with Sammy Watkins sidelined, and could even venture into GPP-pivot territory and a solid contrarian play. Last year’s second-round pick Mecole Hardman still splits time with Byron Pringle. Neither played on 40% of snaps in week 6, and they combined for three targets. They’re nothing more than dart-throw plays and will likely be the first to cede snaps to the incoming Bell, who (likely not this week, but in the future) will almost certainly be deployed as a hybrid slot receiver.

Kansas City Rushing Game

Of course, Edwards-Helaire had his best day as a pro just as Bell walks in the door. It was his first game cresting 150 total yards and 20-plus fantasy points, but it’s unlikely that 26 carries and four targets are the stat lines for this rookie with Bell set to take snaps at running back this weekend. Edwards-Helaire’s 76% opportunity share almost certainly sinks down toward a 60/40 split (possibly even 55/45), but most importantly, the Chiefs, led by the screen game guru himself Andy Reid, will find a way to use the two backs on the field together. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs being more lethal on offense than the versions we’ve seen in 2018 and 2019, but Bell is far from washed up at just 28 years old, and he is in a picture-perfect landing spot. Edwards-Helaire is difficult to trust as the 13th-highest-salary running back on the slate. But assuming Bell’s worked in slowly, Edwards-Helaire is a fundamentally great spot as a running back on a heavily favored squad. With plenty of uncertainty and fantasy gamers scurrying for more certainty, Edwards-Helaire may even be under 10% owned in tournaments this weekend. He’s a fantastic contrarian play if that’s the case.

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Denver Passing Game

The Broncos welcomed back their opening day quarterback Drew Lock in week 6, and ultimately they survived a ferocious comeback in the final minutes from Patriots to secure their second win this season. But it was far from a spectacular day for Lock, as he threw two interceptions and no touchdowns and produced only 189 passing yards despite attempting 391 air yards, resulting in a passer air conversion ratio (PACR) of 0.48, worse than all but three quarterbacks in week 6. In his limited sample size this season, Lock has the lowest PACR (a highly predictive metric) in the NFL. That metric almost certainly will need to improve if the Broncos want to have any shot at keeping up with the potent Kansas City offense.

Luckily for Denver, there are reasons to believe the efficiency can improve in week 7 and beyond. They’re set to get back Noah Fant, who was having a fantastic start to his 2020 season, never recording below 9.5 fantasy points until injuring his ankle midway through the Broncos’ week 4 contest against the Jets, as well as rookie speedster K.J. Hamler, who played on 100% of snaps when he was last active in week 2. Both players give a significant boost to an offense that was struggling to make plays with Tim Patrick (29% target share since week 4), Jerry Jeudy (17%) as the Broncos’ big two receivers. To his credit, Patrick has performed excellently since taking on a larger role in the receiving game, averaging over 100 yards through the air and 18.7 fantasy points per game over the last two weeks. Rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam did a fantastic Fant impression in week 6 as well, commanding a  25% target share, a 67% red zone target share and an average depth of target of 14 yards. The only other significant receiving option is DaeSean Hamilton, who’s seen 10% of the team’s targets over the last two weeks but has an average depth of target north of 20, by far the highest in the team in that span. Low-volume, high-ADOT players are perfect pivot plays for tournaments, and while Hamilton has a low probability of success, if he hits on one or two plays, he could easily end up leading the receiving corps in fantasy points.

Another plus for the Denver offense — the Chiefs have been middle of the road defensively this season in almost every metric. Kansas City ranks 10th in points allowed per play but just 16th in yards allowed per play and 19th in PFF’s team defensive grade. Lock should be able to find holes in the Chiefs secondary (and he must in order to keep this game competitive), but that’s far from a guarantee, as interestingly enough, those middling metrics haven’t resulted in significant fantasy scoring for opposing offenses. Kansas City ranks in among the top 10 most difficult matchups to quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends.

Denver Rushing Game

Presumed week 7 starter Melvin Gordon had a dreadful week 6 off the field. After being cited for DUI, Gordon came down with strep throat and did not travel with the team for their game against New England. Filling in for Gordon, and himself seeing first action since a week 1 injury, was Phillip Lindsay, who saw 23 opportunities in week 6, nearly three times more than any other player. In that context, Lindsay’s 10.1 fantasy points in a close matchup that Broncos ultimately win were a disappointment. Worse for Lindsay, he saw zero targets and has only seen one total target this season. In fact, he hasn’t seen more than five targets in a game since week 8 of 2019. On DraftKings this weekend, both Broncos’ backs have a salary within $200 of each other, making it appear difficult for fantasy gamers to discern which is the better value between the two. But the preferred option here is Gordon, who averaged 20 opportunities per game prior to his absence and 18 in week 1 (when both last played together). The Awesemo projections see Gordon as a value relative to his salary-based expectation. The same can’t be said for Lindsay.

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Prediction: Chiefs 26, Broncos 20

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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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