Thursday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Chiefs vs. Broncos
Thursday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Chiefs vs. Broncos

This article is part of our Showdown/Single Game DFS Breakdown series.

Thursday night brings us a tight AFC West divisional matchup between the 4-2 Chiefs, who have lost each of their past two games, and the 2-4 Broncos, winners of their last two. FanDuel Sportsbook has the Chiefs giving three points on the road, with a game total of 48.5 that's equal to or below four other games in Week 7. Denver hasn't been a high-scoring team this season, putting up more than 20 points just once, which came in a 26-24 loss to the Jaguars, while the Chiefs' normally high-flying offense has sputtered lately, putting up 37 in their last two combined after scoring 40, 28, 33 and 34 in their first four, respectively. Nevertheless, we can't ignore that the Chiefs are capable of putting lots of points on the board, and there's legitimate wonder if the Broncos can keep up if that happens.

QUARTERBACKS

Patrick Mahomes ($12,000 DK, $16,000 FD) is the most expensive player on both sites, with his salary one of the highest we've seen all season. Despite some recent struggles, Mahomes still leads the league with 2,104 passing yards and a 9.1 YPA, while his 14 passing touchdowns are more than all but Matt Ryan. Mahomes' struggles are really in comparison to his usual output, as he threw for only one touchdown in Weeks 4 and 5, but he also threw for at least 315 yards in each of those games, and he rushed nine times for 71 yards in that span. He had his first sub-300 passing-yard game last week at home against Houston, but he accompanied his 273 yards with three passing touchdowns, giving him at least three touchdowns or 300 passing yards in every game this season. He has the highest floor and highest ceiling of anyone in the game, and he's likely to be the highest-owned player despite a really high price. Given the upside, he'll also likely be the most popular captain/MVP selection, though spending that much salary on him won't give you lots of lineup-building paths, which is a recipe for creating a roster that's duplicated many times over, something we really want to avoid in showdown/single game GPPs.

Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco ($8,000 DK, $14,000 FD) isn't remotely close to Mahomes in terms of volume, as his 1,435 passing yards are good for 17th in the NFL and 24 QBs have thrown more touchdown passes than Flacco's six, three of which came in the loss to Jacksonville. The Broncos' recent success doesn't bode well for optimism that Flacco will be let loose Thursday, as he's thrown for fewer than 185 yards in each of the last two games, including one touchdown and two interceptions. A quick glance will show us that the Chiefs have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game on FanDuel and 11th-most on DraftKings to quarterbacks this season, but a deeper look will show that they allowed four rushing touchdowns, including two last week to Deshaun Watson, one in Week 5 to Jacoby Brissett and one to Lamar Jackson in Week 3. Needless to say, Joe Flacco is not any of those guys when it comes to using his legs, with his last rushing touchdown coming in Week 14 of the 2017 season when he was with Baltimore. He isn't likely to be highly owned, and certainly won't garner much captain/MVP thought even at home, so there's an opportunity for uniqueness if you go that route.

PASS CATCHERS

Tyreek Hill ($11,200 DK, $14,500) returned from a shoulder injury last week to lead the Chiefs with 10 targets, catching five for 80 yards and a touchdown despite only playing 29 snaps, a total lower than three other wide receivers and tight end Travis Kelce ($9,800 DK, $13,000 FD). Nevertheless, Hill's immense upside has made him the second-most expensive player on both sites, but he ends up being more of a substitute for Mahomes than a complementary piece because of their high prices. Playing both of them together on FanDuel takes up just under 51 percent of the salary cap, while captaining Mahomes on DraftKings and playing Hill in a flex spot takes up more than 58 percent, while using the 1.5x multiplier on Hill accounts for 57.6 percent. Hill is likely to get more snaps Thursday now that he's further away from his injury, but it's a hefty price to pay if he can't get sizable volume. Meanwhile, Kelce comes in after a season-low six targets last week, catching four for 58 yards, though he had been targeted at least eight times in each prior game this season, helping him to a team-high 49 targets, 32 receptions and 497 receiving yards, while his 508 air yards are the second-highest. The best tight end in football, a pairing of Mahomes and Kelce could be popular if only because it's decently cheaper than Mahomes and Hill, and those who go in fading Mahomes could use his top two receivers instead.

Then again, there are other Chiefs receivers who are fully capable of putting up big games with fewer targets, such as Mecole Hardman ($5,800 DK, $8,500 FD), Demarcus Robinson ($8,000 FD) and Byron Pringle ($2,800 DK, $7,500 FD), who all have aDOTs above 12.0 and expected to get some decent opportunities with Sammy Watkins out again because of a hamstring injury. Robinson leads the team with 514 air yards and a 17.1 aDOT, and he comes in with the second-most targets on the team among active players. Unfortunately, he hasn't been that helpful after his six-catch, 172-yard, two-touchdown game in Week 2, combining for 10 catches on 19 targets for 109 yards and one touchdown in three games. He's at least had 72 air yards in each of his last three games, so there's hope he can get back to a dominant showing Thursday. Meanwhile, Hardman has caught four passes in each of the past two games, but with only 124 receiving yards and 79 air yards in that span, he hasn't shown much upside, and he's now gone three straight without a touchdown. Finally, Pringle is the cheapest of the trio and had six catches on eight targets for 103 yards and a touchdown in Week 5 against the Colts, but he came back to Earth last week and seems to be the clear fourth guy in the pecking order.

The rest of the Chiefs list is basically a bunch of guys, including tight ends Blake Bell ($200 DK, $5,000 FD), who had one target last week to tie his season-high (he hasn't caught a pass since Week 3) and Deon Yelder ($200 DK, $5,000 FD), who caught both of his targets for 43 yards in Week 4 but has played just five offensive snaps since, garnering no passes. Otherwise, wideout De'Anthony Thomas ($200 DK, $5,000 FD) is only likely to see the field if the Chiefs suffer a few injuries.

The Broncos' target tree is significantly smaller, with Courtland Sutton ($7,600 DK, $12,000 FD) the clear no. 1, as he not only leads the team in targets (46), receptions (30), receiving yards (477), air yards (545) and aDOT (11.8), but his 44.8 percent air yards market share is the best in the NFL. Anyone looking for exposure to the Broncos' passing game should surely start with Sutton, who has been targeted at least seven times in every game this season. Emmanuel Sanders ($6,400 DK, $10,000 FD) has been decent, coming in with 25 catches on 38 targets for 307 yards (359 air yards) and a 9.7 aDOT, though he recently battled a knee injury that severely limited him, catching two of four targets for nine receiving yards in the past two games. He is not on this week's injury report, but he's also still firmly behind Sutton. After those two, we're left with a few players who really haven't done much, as DaeSean Hamilton ($4,800 DK, $7,000 FD) hasn't caught more than three passes in a game this season, and he's put up donuts twice, while tight end Noah Fant ($3,400 DK, $6,500 FD) is still looking for his first game with more than 40 receiving yards or 50 air yards. The Chiefs have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends on DraftKings and sixth-most on FanDuel, so at least there's a positive for Fant's potential, more so than for Jeff Heuerman ($800 DK, $5,500 FD), even if has twice as many red-zone targets (two to one).

Sutton could be an interesting captain/MVP option if the game plays out where the Chiefs go up early and the Broncos have to pass their way back into the game. You're obviously hoping Sutton does more than Mahomes or any of his receivers, but it's surely in the realistic realm of possibilities. Otherwise, you can focus on the Chiefs wideouts against a Broncos defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season.

RUNNING BACKS

The Chiefs' running back situation is about as gross as it gets, with Damien Williams ($6,600 DK, $10,000 FD) and LeSean McCoy ($6,200 DK, $11,000 FD) splitting work enough that it makes it tough to justify one over the other, especially since neither has been good. McCoy has caught at least two passes in five straight games, but he also hasn't rushed more than 11 times or had more than 56 rushing yards in that span. Meanwhile, Williams missed Weeks 3 and 4 due to injury but has done little since returning, rushing 10 times for 29 yards and catching four of five targets for 29 yards and a touchdown. And I guess we can't forget about Darrel Williams ($2,000 DK, $7,500 FD), who caught one of two passes for 52 yards last week after putting up no stats the week before, a surprising outcome after he had two touchdowns in Week 4. Like I said, it's gross. It also doesn't help that the Chiefs simply don't run the ball that much, so buying into a committee for a team that's pass-heavy seems only for those putting in many lineups.

The Denver running back depth chart is a bit easier, but it's far from easy, with Phillip Lindsay ($8,800 DK, $13,500 FD) and Royce Freeman ($6,000 DK, $8,000 FD) splitting touches as they head into a matchup against a Chiefs defense that's allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs on DraftKings and sixth-most on FanDuel. Lindsay has been more successful, rushing 84 times for 397 yards and four touchdowns while Freeman has 284 yards and no touchdowns on his 66 carries, and they've both been solid pass catchers, with the former catching 19 of 26 targets for 147 receiving yards and the latter 21 of 26 for 145. Because of their extensive use in the passing game (only Sutton and Sanders have been targeted more or caught more passes), rostering both backs isn't the craziest idea even though it's usually not optimal. If anything, you know you're locking in almost all of the Broncos' carries (literally no other running back or fullback has a rushing attempt this season) and they each do enough in the passing game that they can contribute like a regular possession receiver. Neither has the long-play upside of Sutton, but you're getting no. 2 or 3 wideout potential from a running back. Lindsay will be the more popular because he is used more, but using Freeman on FanDuel instead of Sanders is certainly viable since he saves $2,000 in salary. Given their touch potential, either makes for a sneaky captain/MVP pick, with Lindsay more likely to make that pay off.

KICKERS

One positive about Thursday's game is the high altitude could allow for longer field-goal attempts, something that helped Brandon McManus ($3,600 DK, $9,000 FD) last week when he nailed kicks from 53, 48 and 31. Then again, it was only his first attempt from 50+ at home this season, but that's probably more due to the Broncos' offensive struggles than anything else. Meanwhile, Harrison Butker ($3,800 DK, $9,500 FD) missed his first 50-yarder last week, but he has still attempted multiple field goals in four of six games, and he's had at least three PATs in five of six. With a game not expected to be extremely high scoring, rostering a kicker is a reasonable play for their floor, though upside continues to be with the wideouts in their respective price ranges.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

After opening the season with three straight games without a sack, the Broncos ($3,000) have come alive, registering 12 in the past three games, which included zero against the Chargers in Week 5. They had a monster game last week at home against the Titans, intercepting three passes and sacking the quarterback seven times while allowing zero points. The shutout is really unlikely to happen (the Broncos are +10000 for a shutout win), and it doesn't help that Mahomes' 3.3 percent sack rate is one of the lowest in the league. Additionally, Mahomes has thrown just one interception on his 230 pass attempts (he had 12 on 580 attempts last year), so there seems to be pretty little upside to the Broncos' defense. 

The Chiefs ($4,000) haven't offered much all season, scoring more than 5.0 points just twice, one of which was their season-high 13.0 against Detroit in Week 4 that included a touchdown. Kansas City is certainly expected to allow fewer points than Denver, but there really hasn't been much this season to think they're worth as much as a kicker from a floor perspective, and like the kickers, there are offensive players in their price range that have significantly more upside.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Andrew M. Laird plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: kingmorland, DraftKings: andrewmlaird, Yahoo: Lairdinho.
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NFL Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NFL fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew M. Laird
Andrew M. Laird, the 2017 and 2018 FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's Head of DFS Content and Senior Soccer Editor. He is a seven-time FSWA award finalist, including twice for the Football Writer of the Year Award.
DFS Tournament Guide: Week 12 NFL Strategy
DFS Tournament Guide: Week 12 NFL Strategy
Thursday Night Observations
Thursday Night Observations
NFL Game Previews: Colts-Texans Matchup
NFL Game Previews: Colts-Texans Matchup
SXM Highlights:  Zach Pascal's Fantasy Value
SXM Highlights: Zach Pascal's Fantasy Value
Pick8 Football: Week 12 Picks
Pick8 Football: Week 12 Picks
Yahoo DFS Football: Week 12 Picks
Yahoo DFS Football: Week 12 Picks