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NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown with Matt Savoca | Divisional Round Slate

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The best Yahoo NFL Picks for Divisional Sunday Night Football Chiefs vs. Bills single-game contests with expert projections, rankings & ownership

Cleveland Browns (23) at Kansas City Chiefs (33)

All Graphs Reflect Last Five Weeks of Data, Click Graphs to Enlarge

Quick-Hitter Game Summary

  • With a whopping 56-point Vegas total and the Chiefs implied for 33-plus points on their own, expect ownership to coalesce around the primary skill players from both squads. Patrick Mahomes is expected to be owned in over 32% of lineups on the slate.
  • The Chiefs have the worst-ranked defense of any team remaining in the postseason. Kansas City ranked 19th during the regular season in expected points added (EPA) allowed per play. Cleveland will have plenty of opportunities to meet or surpass it’s 23-point implied total.
  • The Chiefs hope to get back first-round running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire back this weekend. Edwards-Helaire hasn’t played since Week 15, when he injured his hip and ankle against the Saints. Sammy Watkins is also questionable heading into the weekend.
  • Both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt appear to be solid bets to return value compared to their respective salary-based expectations. The Browns’ rushing attack seems to be a bit safer of a play than betting on Baker Mayfield and the passing game, despite Mayfield’s excellent game against Pittsburgh a week ago.

NFL DFS Upside Analysis

While Cleveland ranks average in both early-down passing and game-adjusted pace of play, the Chiefs remain one of the most uniquely fast-paced and deep-ball-oriented teams in recent memory. Andy Reid and Mahomes (despite lacking his typical league-high efficiency to end the season) play by a different set of rules from a pace and passing perspective. Mahomes’ dip in efficiency is a concern, however. Mahomes ranks a shocking dead last in per-drive and per-play efficiency since Week 14. Every fantasy gamers know of Mahomes’ slate-breaking ceiling, but he hasn’t been playing at his usual high level to end the 2020 season. Mayfield’s efficiency metrics look much more impressive, particularly his drive-based efficiency, which puts him on par with Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen.

Passing and Pace

Teams that play faster and pass more than average tend to score more fantasy points. When both teams play aggressively, it often creates a game environment perfect for fantasy scoring. Games have a higher probability of going over their Vegas total as well. Ideally we’re seeking matchups where both teams are in the upper-right quadrant of the chart below (see the chart’s caption for more details).

The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).

Quarterback Efficiency

Sustained drives in the NFL rely on efficiency at the quarterback position, so I’ve identified my three favorite performance indicators for assessing quarterback performance. The three bar charts below (see the graph’s caption for more detail) represent a quarterback’s per-drive efficiency (left bar chart), per-play efficiency — including rushes/scrambles (center) — and per-pass efficiency (right). Higher rankings from both players indicate a higher likelihood of efficient play, thus a higher probability of fantasy points.

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The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).


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Hunt immediately stands out as a value in the chart below, ranking eighth on the slate among running backs in expected fantasy points per game, but having the 10th-highest running back salary. Kansas City struggled mightily down the stretch against opposing running backs, giving up the second-worst schedule-adjusted fantasy points to the position of any team this weekend. The Chiefs have been equally weak against tight ends, giving a boost to Austin Hooper despite Hooper being the clear third fiddle in the Browns’ low-volume passing attack, behind Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins. For the Chiefs, Travis Kelce demolishes the rest of the tight end field in expected fantasy points per game, and the Browns can’t stop opposing tight ends. That’s a recipe for disaster for Cleveland, and fantasy gamers should absolutely take advantage despite Kelce’s $7,800 salary.

Cleveland Browns NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
CLE Baker Mayfield, QB #7 #6 #5 #6 18.5 Fpts (QB6)
CLE Jarvis Landry, WR #8 #8 #12 #4 14.5 Fpts (WR10)
CLE Nick Chubb, RB #3 #2 #3 #7 21 Fpts (RB2)
CLE Rashard Higgins, WR #18 #16 #17 #4 9.5 Fpts (WR17)
CLE Austin Hooper, TE #5 #2 #2 #8 16.5 Fpts (TE2)
CLE Kareem Hunt, RB #10 #7 #8 #7 15.5 Fpts (RB4)

Kansas City Chiefs NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
KC Patrick Mahomes, QB #1 #4 #2 #5 26 Fpts (QB2)
KC Travis Kelce, TE #1 #1 #1 #7 27 Fpts (TE1)
KC Tyreek Hill, WR #2 #5 #4 #6 18.5 Fpts (WR4)
KC Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB #6 #9 #4 #2 9.5 Fpts (RB10)

Unless participating in a large-field tournament, the players above are the players that fantasy gamers should be focusing on in their daily fantasy football lineups. For each player, it’s easy to compare their DraftKings main-slate salary ranking (in column 3) to their per-game fantasy scoring (in column 4). A player’s opportunity is measured by expected fantasy points, (column 5), which is curated by PFF.  Defense vs. Position (column 6) is an extremely helpful position-specific and player group-specific metric (for example, the metric delineates between primary wide receiver vs. secondary wide receivers) that helps determine if an offensive player is likely to be in a position to exceed their expected fantasy points. Higher numbers in the Defense vs. Position column indicate easier matchups for the offense, while numbers closer to one indicate a stout defense against that specific position group. Finally, expected projection (column 7) combines a player’s expected fantasy points with their weekly matchup into one helpful value metric. Apart from the Awesemo projections (which should still carry the most weight in determining player value), expected projection is one of my favorite metrics to help me narrow down my favorite plays of the week. The rankings are always specific to the slate, meaning if a player or team is ranked No. 1 at a specific metric, they may not necessarily be ranked No. 1 in the NFL, but they are for this specific slate.

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NFL DFS Skill Position Values: Expected Points

Chubb and Hunt remain the best running back plays from this game by a large margin, but Edwards-Helaire, if healthy, had been seeing roughly an equally valuable workload to Hunt before getting injured. Edwards-Helaire would be more appealing if his salary were a bit lower, but he’s still a quality pivot play at the position this weekend. Kelce has seen much more of the Chiefs’ passing attack over the last five weeks than any of the Browns players have for their offense, but Hooper, shockingly, is next on the receiver expected fantasy points list. Hooper is a value play this weekend as the fifth-highest-salary tight end on the slate.

By assigning a value to each play (based on score, down, distance to the goal line, distance to first down, play type, etc.), we can measure not just a player’s workload, but the expected value of that workload using recent league history as a guide. Expected fantasy points should be considered a volume metric. If a player scores more fantasy points (represented by the dots in the bar chart below) than expected, that means the player is either talented or lucky (or both) and may have unsustainable fantasy production based on their usage.

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This chart measures Expected Fantasy Points (DraftKings scoring) per Game, indicated by each player’s bar, as well as fantasy points per game, indicated by the dot. If a dot is outside the bar, that means the player is performing above expectation. If the dot is within the bar, that means the player is performing below expectation. It includes injured players in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

 

This chart measures Expected Fantasy Points (DraftKings scoring) per Game, indicated by each player’s bar, as well as fantasy points per game, indicated by the dot. If a dot is outside the bar, that means the player is performing above expectation. If the dot is within the bar, that means the player is performing below expectation. It includes injured players in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

NFL DFS Auxiliary Offensive Players for Large-Field Contests

With such a high Vegas total, the auxiliary weapons from both passing attacks should be on fantasy gamers’ radars this weekend, especially Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson, should Sammy Watkins miss Sunday’s game. The Browns rank third worst on the slate against opposing wideouts. Kansas City has been awful against opposing tight ends over their last four games, making both David Njoku and Harrison Bryant quality large-field tournament options with salaries outside the top 10 tight ends. 

Cleveland Browns NFL DFS Tournament Picks

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Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
CLE Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR 56% 52 #2 MME-only
CLE David Njoku, TE 51% 38 #8 MME-Only
CLE Harrison Bryant, TE 58% 67 #8 MME-Only

Kansas City Chiefs NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
KC Sammy Watkins, WR 82% 41 #8 MME-Only
KC Mecole Hardman, WR 45% 36 #6 MME-Only
KC Demarcus Robinson, WR 61% 31 #6 MME-Only
KC Le’Veon Bell, RB 28% 36 #2 Look Elsewhere
KC Darrel Williams, RB 28% 48 #2 Look Elsewhere

In daily fantasy football, depending on the size and type of contest you’re playing, it’s often advantageous to expand your player pool to less-utilized offensive players. In this section, we examine every part-time player’s usage based on playing time, opportunity and defensive matchup. For each player, an Opportunity Score is calculated using position-specific predictive metrics, which are then scaled to number between zero (least valuable) and 100 (most valuable). Scores above 50 tend to indicate starter-level opportunity, while scores over 80 indicate star-level usage. Finally, players are categorized as an NFL DFS value, a mass multi-entry option (MME-only) or a player to avoid altogether.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to imagine this game being anything other than an offense-heavy pass fest, ideal for fantasy production. Mahomes should be able to find his mid-season form against (an improved, but still league-average) Cleveland defense, but Mayfield should be able to exploit the Chiefs secondary that finished the season well below average in per-drive efficiency. Enjoy the fireworks, fantasy gamers.

Prediction: Chiefs 31, Browns 24


Looking for more NFL DFS picks and daily fantasy football matchups content? We have loads of articles, data and more on the Awesemo NFL home page. Just click HERE.

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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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