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🏈 Super Bowl LV Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown | Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Thursday Night Football Week 15 NFL DFS Showdown Strategy Show. DraftKings + FanDuel daily fantasy football advice | Chiefs vs. Chargers

Matt Savoca’s Daily Fantasy Football Matchups Column is here for Super Bowl LV. In it, he goes through every single game on the Super Bowl Showdown Slate to guide you to the best plays for Yahoo, ESPN, CBS and your NFL DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel. Let’s dive into the action.

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Super Bowl LV NFL DFS Showdown Matchups

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vegas Total: 56.5 Points

Vegas Implied Score: Chiefs 29.75, Buccaneers 26.75

All Graphs Reflect Last Five Weeks of Data, Click Graphs to Enlarge. Salary rank data is based on DraftKings salary.

Quick-Hitter Game Summary

  • These two teams met in Week 12, with the Chiefs winning by a score of 27-24, but the final score doesn’t tell the whole story. The Chiefs were up 17-0 and 27-10, reaching a win probability of 98.6% with 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Tampa Bay ultimately scored two garbage-time touchdowns to save face.
  • In that Week 12 matchup, Patrick Mahomes torched the Buccaneers’ secondary, throwing for a completion percentage vs. expectation (CPOE) of +18%, best in the NFL that week. He ranked No. 1 in RBSDM.com’s Quarterback composite rankings in Week 12 as well.
  • The Chiefs come into the weekend as strong favorites in this matchup in most win probability models. Kansas City has roughly a 60% chance of being crowned back-to-back champions.
  • Intriguingly, the Chiefs are favored by the same amount against the Buccaneers as the Packers were a week ago. While Aaron Rodgers played at a top-notch level throughout the second half of the 2020 season, the Chiefs’ offensive potential is significantly greater than Green Bay’s. If either team ends up winning in a blowout, it’ll be the Chiefs.
  • Travis Kelce has had otherworldly production since Week 14, averaging over 25 expected fantasy points per game, by far the best on the slate, and is the much-preferred option at Captain over Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, even in large-field tournament.
  • Over the past six weeks, Tom Brady has been the more efficient quarterback in per-drive and per-pass efficiency, but, respectfully, who cares? Mahomes has been mediocre (by his standards) through much of the second-half of this season, and yet the Chiefs haven’t lost a game Mahomes has started since mid-October. Dating back to 2019, the Chiefs are 25-2 in Mahomes’ last 27 starts.
  • Besides likely needing 30-plus points in order to win, the Buccaneers drastically increase their chances of winning if they’re able to put pressure on Mahomes, forcing mistakes or errant throws. The late-season injury to offensive lineman Eric Fisher (and the questionable status of guard Mike Remmers) leaves an opportunity for the Tampa Bay front seven, led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett and newly-activated Vita Vea, to get consistent pressure. They’ll need to make a major impact in order for Tampa Bay to pull off the upset in their home stadium.

Passing and Pace

Expect plenty of passing in this contest, but don’t expect the Buccaneers to suddenly start passing on early downs. The Buccaneers ranked below league average and well below playoff-team average in game-adjusted early-down pass rate. At the very least, the Buccaneers ranked third in the NFL in game-adjusted pace,  meaning there should be plenty of total plays run in this matchup. The Chiefs remain one of the most pass-heavy, uptempo offenses in recent memory and will be facing a Buccaneers defense that may be missing both starting safeties in the secondary. There’s virtually no concern of either team becoming run-oriented at any point in Sunday’s matchup. From an efficiency standpoint, Mahomes has had one of the worst stretches of his career since Week 14, and he still ranks average among the final eight playoff quarterbacks in per-drive and per-play efficiency. If we were to look at the same three efficiency stats as the quarterback graph below but included the last two seasons of data, Mahomes would rank first in both per-drive and per-play efficiency. All running backs in this game, including presumed starters Leonard Fournette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, are thinner plays than typical starting backs (particularly on such high-powered offenses) due to both teams’ reliance on their passing attacks.

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NFL DFS Super Bowl 55 Showdown Chiefs Buccaneers Pace and Passing

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).

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).


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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.

NFL DFS Super Bowl 55 Tom Brady Patrick Mahomes Chiefs Buccaneers QB Efficiency

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).

Super Bowl LV NFL DFS Player Pool Picker

Kelce’s recent numbers are just absurd. Using expected fantasy points as a guide, Kelce looks like a slam-dunk Captain play this weekend, with an expected projection nearly 10 fantasy points higher than the next highest-projected player, including quarterbacks. The Buccaneers might have been a strong defensive unit overall, but they ranked 10th worst in the NFL in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends and fifth-worst against primary wide receivers during the regular season. Especially with Tampa Bay banged up in the secondary, Mahomes has a chance to torch the Buccaneers deep. Contrary to their public perception as a mediocre secondary, the Chiefs defense ranked in the top 10 against both primary and secondary wideouts this season, slightly lowering the enthusiasm for either Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, though both make quality plays at the Captain slot in large-field tournaments.

Kansas City Chiefs NFL DFS Core Offenses – Showdown Captains

Team Captain Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position (Slate-Specific) Defense Vs. Pos. (Reg Season) Expected Projection
KC Travis Kelce, CPTN #2 #1 #1 #1 #22 40.5 Fpts (CPTN1)
KC Patrick Mahomes, CPTN #1 #2 #2 #2 #18 30 Fpts (CPTN2)
KC Tyreek Hill, CPTN #3 #4 #5 #2 #28 27.75 Fpts (CPTN4)
KC Clyde Edwards-Helaire, CPTN #8 #14 #14 #1 #1 9.75 Fpts (CPTN16)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL DFS Core Offenses – Showdown Captains

Team Captain Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position (Slate-Specific) Defense Vs. Pos. (Reg Season) Expected Projection
TB Tom Brady, CPTN #4 #2 #2 #1 #16 30 Fpts (CPTN2)
TB Chris Godwin, CPTN #5 #5 #4 #1 #4 27.75 Fpts (CPTN4)
TB Mike Evans, CPTN #6 #6 #7 #1 #6 25.5 Fpts (CPTN6)
TB Leonard Fournette, CPTN #7 #8 #6 #2 #23 23.25 Fpts (CPTN7)
TB Antonio Brown, CPTN #9 #7 #9 #2 #21 19.5 Fpts (CPTN8)

Edwards-Helaire should receive the majority of the backfield touches in his second game back from injury, but the Chiefs still ranked dead last in game-adjusted rush rate during the regular season. The Buccaneers were league best in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to running backs, all but eliminating Edwards-Helaire from contention in anything but large-field tournaments. Neither defense was particularly impressive in slowing down opposing quarterbacks during the regular season, but it’s hard to rank one quarterback ahead of the other, as Brady and Mahomes have averaged the exact same expected fantasy points per game (19.9) since Week 14. Mahomes gets a slight boost, however, as the Chiefs’ offense generates roughly 15 more cumulative expected fantasy points per game more than Brady’s Buccaneers.

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Core Offense honorable mentions: Harrison Butker, K, Chiefs and Ryan Succop, K, Buccaneers

Both kickers are absolutely viable in cash games. Neither are strong Captain plays, and neither are priority plays in tournaments. A high Vegas total, efficient quarterback play on both sides of the ball and decent weather at kickoff are just about all we can ask for when projecting kicker performance. This game should feature at least two of those things (current forecasts project soft winds but a possible rainstorm).

Kansas City Chiefs NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position (Slate-Specific) Defense Vs. Pos. (Reg Season) Expected Projection
KC Patrick Mahomes, QB #1 #2 #1 #2 #18 21 Fpts (QB2)
KC Travis Kelce, TE #1 #1 #1 #1 #22 27 Fpts (TE1)
KC Tyreek Hill, WR #1 #1 #2 #2 #28 18 Fpts (WR2)
KC Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB #2 #4 #5 #1 #1 7 Fpts (RB5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position (Slate-Specific) Defense Vs. Pos. (Reg Season) Expected Projection
TB Tom Brady, QB #2 #1 #1 #1 #16 21.5 Fpts (QB1)
TB Chris Godwin, WR #2 #2 #1 #1 #4 18.5 Fpts (WR1)
TB Mike Evans, WR #3 #3 #3 #1 #6 17 Fpts (WR3)
TB Leonard Fournette, RB #1 #1 #1 #2 #23 15.5 Fpts (RB1)
TB Antonio Brown, WR #4 #4 #4 #2 #21 13.5 Fpts (WR4)

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

Fournette leads all running backs by a wide margin in expected fantasy points per game since Week 14, and he ranks fourth among all skill position players on the slate, out-pacing even Evans in that metric during that span. Evans has been more efficient on his looks, however, resulting in a slight lead in fantasy points per game, but Fournette’s been no slouch on a per-touch basis either. Like Evans, Fournette has averaged more than 2.5 fantasy points over expected (FPOE) during the Buccaneers’ last six contests. Fournette makes for an intriguing option at Captain, especially in tournaments, with only the seventh-highest Captain salary on the slate.

NFL DFS Super Bowl 55 Chiefs Buccaneers RB Expected Points

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.

Kelce’s insane usage and production are perfectly illustrated in the chart below. Kelce is averaging nearly 40% more volume than the next-closest receiver on the slate (Godwin), and is outproducing his volume-based scoring expectations by 3 fantasy points per game. While that level of production is unsustainable long term, the data indicates that Kelce is simply operating at a different level than his peers and isn’t valued accordingly. Kelce and Hill combine for more than 40% more of the Chiefs’ weighted opportunity rating (WOPR) than the combination of Evans and Godwin. Evans, Godwin and the rest of the Buccaneers receivers have had their fantasy production propped up by Brady’s supremely efficient play, but compared to the Chiefs’ high-powered offense, the Buccaneers’ offensive attack appears rather middling from a volume standpoint. With a near-perfect Brady (from an efficiency standpoint) in the range of outcomes Sunday, fantasy gamers should be cautiously optimistic that the Buccaneers’ passing attack can continue to vastly outproduce their expected fantasy production. Cameron Brate has taken a clear lead over Rob Gronkowski during the playoffs, earning 16 targets to Gronkowski’s 7. Gronkowski is at least being targeted deep, as he has an average depth of target (ADOT) above 9, but he’s a large-field tournament play only and is a rather uninspiring option at Captain.

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NFL DFS Super Bowl 55 Chiefs Buccaneers Skill Player Expected Points

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.

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.

NFL DFS Auxiliary Offensive Players for Large-Field Contests

Kansas City Chiefs NFL DFS Tournament Picks – Showdown Captains

Team Captain Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position (Slate-Specific) Defense Vs. Pos. (Reg Season) Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
KC Darrel Williams, CPTN 19% 36 #1 #1 Look Elsewhere
KC Mecole Hardman, CPTN 44% 63 #2 #22 MME-only
KC Demarcus Robinson, CPTN 54% 53 #2 #22 MME-only
KC Le’Veon Bell, CPTN 23% 32 #1 #1 Look Elsewhere
KC Sammy Watkins, CPTN 76% 68 #2 #22 MME-only
KC Nick Keizer, CPTN 20% 0 #1 #22 Look Elsewhere

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL DFS Tournament Picks – Showdown Captains

Team Captain Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position (Slate-Specific) Defense Vs. Pos. (Reg Season) Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
TB Cameron Brate, CPTN 27% 47 #2 #25 Value
TB Ronald Jones, CPTN 28% 50 #2 #23 MME-only
TB Rob Gronkowski, CPTN 38% 58 #2 #25 MME-only
TB Scotty Miller, CPTN 19% 26 #2 #21 MME-only
TB Tyler Johnson, CPTN 17% 5 #2 #21 Look Elsewhere
TB Tanner Hudson, CPTN 9% 16 #2 #25 Look Elsewhere

Brate stands out as a sneaky Captain play in massive-field tournaments, especially if Antonio Brown is out (or limited) this Sunday. As mentioned above, Brate has more than doubled Gronkowski’s target totals since the playoffs began despite playing on 11% of team snaps compared to Gronkowski. Scotty Miller is a high-quality big-play threat who likely only needs one big play (like his NFC Championship Game: 2 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown) to hit pay dirt this weekend. Mecole Hardman recovered from a disastrous start to the AFC Championship game and ended up contributing via the ground and the air, but he still averages under 7 expected fantasy points per game. Even if Sammy Watkins returns to the lineup Sunday, Hardman is still the best big-play threat for the Chiefs outside of Kelce and Hill. Ronald Jones had a dud of a performance in the Conference Championship, likely lowering his ownership on this slate, but he still makes for an intriguing tournament option. Based on Bruce Arians’ history of mistrusting running backs, Jones is likely a single Fournette fumble away from assuming the lead-back role for the rest of the evening. There are much worse bets to make than that this weekend.

Kansas City Chiefs NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position (Slate-Specific) Defense Vs. Pos. (Reg Season) Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
KC Darrel Williams, RB 19% 50 #1 #1 MME-only
KC Mecole Hardman, WR 44% 40 #2 #22 MME-only
KC Demarcus Robinson, WR 54% 30 #2 #22 MME-only
KC Le’Veon Bell, RB 23% 38 #1 #1 MME-only
KC Sammy Watkins, WR 76% 50 #2 #22 MME-only
KC Nick Keizer, TE 20% 0 #1 #22 Look Elsewhere

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position (Slate-Specific) Defense Vs. Pos. (Reg Season) Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
TB Cameron Brate, TE 27% 67 #2 #25 Value
TB Ronald Jones, RB 28% 75 #2 #23 MME-only
TB Rob Gronkowski, TE 38% 83 #2 #25 Value
TB Scotty Miller, WR 19% 10 #2 #21 MME-only
TB Tyler Johnson, WR 17% 0 #2 #21 Look Elsewhere
TB Tanner Hudson, TE 9% 17 #2 #25 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

Football fans couldn’t ask for a better matchup to close out the 2020-21 NFL season, with the winningest quarterback in Super Bowl history facing off against the most efficient quarterback (and the most explosive offense) of the modern era. It’s hard to imagine either defense (even Tampa Bay’s impressive front seven) successfully shutting down Brady or Mahomes for four quarters, which should lead to plenty of points Sunday, and fantasy gamers should be going all in on the dueling passing attacks. Every Showdown lineup should have at least one (or, salary permitting, two) of Kelce, Evans, Godwin or Hill. Add a quarterback (you can’t go wrong with either, but try to squeeze in Mahomes), and add a few sleepers from the tournament picks chart above, and you’ll be well on your way to shooting up the leaderboards this Super Bowl Sunday.

Super Bowl LV Prediction: Chiefs 34, Buccaneers 30


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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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