Welcome to the Fantasy Football Forecast! My goal with this weekly column is to get you actionable information as quickly as possible, and by that, I mean with a lot of charts instead of words. The first part of the column are my league-wide charts to visualize trends in matchups, and then I take a team-by-team approach to preview matchups. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have questions.
Chiefs (27.75 projected points, -1 point spread) vs. SF
We all know how great Mahomes is, so let’s get straight into the matchup. Per NFL Network’s Keegan Abdoo, “The 49ers generated pressure on 33.6 percent of pass plays over their first seven games of the 2019 season (the second-highest rate in the NFL over that span), but from Week 9 on, they fell to 28th in team pressure rate (22.2%).” Abdoo, who is very smart by the way, credits the 49ers’ more challenging second-half schedule, particularly against more mobile QBs, as the reason why the 49ers weren’t as effective down the stretch. Abdoo and I agree that the Chiefs are more of a problem for the 49ers than vice versa, especially with the Chiefs ranking first in NextGenStats’ hurry probability allowed. Mahomes will be under some pressure, but I’m selling the narrative that San Francisco’s defense will be a major problem.
TE Travis Kelce (46 of 46 routes run last game)
I’m expecting the 49ers to play a lot of off-coverage in an attempt to keep the Chiefs’ playmakers in front of them. That’s potentially bad news for someone like Tyreek but that’s great news for Kelce, who is a fantastic zone beater and Mahomes’ go-to target whenever he needs to pick up a quick first down. Kelce is my favorite to lead the Super Bowl in targets, and it may not end up being close. He shreds versus zone and I don't know who the hell the 49ers have to guard Kelce in man coverage. That's been an underrated problem in recent weeks for San Francisco with Mark Andrews (14 PPR points), Jared Cook (20.4), and Tyler Higbee (19.4) popping off for big games in recent weeks. Given his talent and this matchup, Kelce is my favorite Chiefs player for DFS tournaments, and you can give me the OVERs on just about all of his receiving props.
TE Blake Bell (11 of 46 routes run last game)
The Chiefs’ primary blocking tight end has ran 9, 11, 7, 16, and 11 routes and caught 7-of-9 targets for 72 yards and a score over his last five games. Bell is one of the few sub-$2,000 options for DFS tournaments because he’s at least on the field and has touchdown upside as a 6-foot-6, 252-pound giant.
TE Deon Yelder (0 of 46 routes run last game)
Yelder ran five routes in the Divisional Round and only saw two run-blocking snaps in his last game. He’s 50/50 to even run a single route in the Super Bowl. Finding the $600 to move from Yelder to Bell is a must for DFS tournaments.
WR Tyreek Hill (44 of 46 routes run last game)
Of all the individual matchups, I’m most concerned with Hill’s, and I’m still not overly concerned. Per NextGenStats, the 49ers align in off-coverage at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL, which limits receivers from winning downfield. In fact, San Francisco allowed the second-fewest PPR points on “deep” passes this season. Hill, in particular, has been affected by off-coverage because his route tree shifts from deep to short. He has an 11.7 average depth of target (aDOT) against off-coverage and a 19.7 aDOT against press coverage. That dramatic change makes it harder for Hill to reach his insanely high ceiling -- be on the lookout for UNDER 27.5 yards for Hill’s longest reception -- but Hill’s unique explosiveness make a big game impossible to rule out. For DFS, I like Kelce more, although I will still have Hill exposure in tournaments.
WR Sammy Watkins (41 of 46 routes run last game)
Watkins had a 9-198-3 receiving line in Week 1 and then went on a 14-game streak of fewer than 80 receiving yards before last week's 7-114-1 performance. Despite being a near full-time player, Watkins was only averaging just over 3.0 receptions and 30 yards per game during that stretch, so now we have to figure out if last week's game was an outlier or a trend. I'm betting on it being an outlier. The 49ers' off-coverage zone defense should limit Watkins' chances of hitting on a deep pass like we saw last week, and CB Richard Sherman, PFF's No. 1 coverage corner, will be a very touch matchup on underneath passes. With that said, anyone attached to Mahomes has a chance of a big game. I'm just being extra cautious and likely looking elsewhere in DFS tournaments given his price tag.
WR Mecole Hardman (21 of 46 routes run last game)
Hardman had been a 10-route player in just about every game up until the AFC Championship Game when he finally surpassed Robinson in routes run. I don't think that was a coincidence either. Hardman, who was the fourth-most efficient receiver in the entire NFL per my usage model, has earned more reps by excelling as an explosive play maker. The rookie still only figures to see just a handful of targets and gets a tough slot matchup against CB K'Waun Williams, but he has my interest for DFS as a cheap upside play.
WR Demarcus Robinson (17 of 46 routes run last game)
In terms of routes run, Robinson was jumped by Hardman last week after operating as the Chiefs' third receiver for the entire season. It's possible that Robinson doesn't start in the Super Bowl, especially if coach Reid wants even more explosiveness on the field. Ultimately, I project Robinson and Hardman to split reps similarly to last week, but definitely prefer Hardman's abilities/speed to Robinson's.
WR Byron Pringle (0 of 46 routes run last game)
The Chiefs’ WR5 doesn’t have a target since Week 14 and has only ran one route since. The most likely outcome is Pringle running 0 routes. I prefer 49ers WR Richie James to Pringle if you’re on the hunt for a min-priced receiver in DFS tournaments.
RB Damien Williams (58 of 68 offensive snaps last week)
Williams has lost just one touch to another back in the Chiefs’ two playoff games while operating as the clear-cut bell cow back. However, Williams is used differently than other bell cow backs. He’s a receiving-heavy back who basically only gets carries in short-yardage and drain-the-clock situations. With Williams only projected for 10-15 carries, he'll need to do work as a receiver and convert his goal-line opportunities to pay off his hefty price tag in DFS tournaments, especially in this difficult matchup. The 49ers allowed the fewest PPR points to RBs through the air (it's hard to dial up screens against a primarily zone defense) and the seventh most on the ground this regular season. With that said, being the bell cow back on a high-scoring offense always makes Williams a viable DFS tournament play.
RB Darwin Thompson (11 of 68 offensive snaps last week)
Both Shady McCoy and Thompson played one snap in the Divisional Round, but coach Reid made a decision to roster just one of these two backs last game. He chose his explosive rookie to backup Damien. Thompson played 11 snaps, had one carry, and then was pegged in the back of the head by Mahomes for his lone target. It’s hard to imagine Reid and Mahomes trusting Thompson in the Super Bowl, but he has the athleticism to make a play if he gets a touch. Thompson’s outlook is obviously improved if McCoy is inactive again.
RB LeSean McCoy (0 of 68 offensive snaps last week)
Shady McCoy played one snap in the Divisional Round and was a healthy scratch last game. The veteran is 50/50 to be active for the Super Bowl and would likely finish with three or fewer touches even if he dodged an inactive designation. The only reason to roster McCoy in DFS tournaments would be for the off chance something happened to Damien.
FB Anthony Sherman (6 of 68 offensive snaps last week)
Sherman doesn’t have a touch since Week 13, but he is at least on the field for some snaps. The fullback has offensive snap totals of 6, 3, 14, 4, 9, 9, and 6 since his last touch. The only reason to play Sherman in DFS is in hope of a very rare goal-line touch.
49ers (26.75 projected points, +1 point spread) vs. KC
The Chiefs’ defensive splits are staggering. They are a top 17th percentile team against the pass and a bottom 9th percentile team against the run, per DVOA. Opposing offenses have looked to run the ball whenever possible in an attempt to keep Mahomes off the field, and that’s exactly what I expect to happen with the 49ers. Garoppolo will have to throw more than 19 and 8 pass attempts to keep up with the Chiefs Offense, but this will be a run-heavy approach for as long as the game stays close. The tricky part is determining how long this game stays close.
The 1-point Vegas spread suggests it’s likely this game stays close throughout. However, I'm on the Chiefs side of the spread because Kansas City’s advantage on offense. Remember, passing offense is more sticky week-to-week than rushing offense, rushing defense, passing defense, and special teams. That’s why models like 538’s have the Chiefs as the better team. I anticipate the 49ers chasing a score or two in the second half of the game, which would force Garoppolo into higher than expected volume, so give me the OVER on pass attempts (29.5) for Jimmy G. I’ll also be rostering him more than the field in DFS tournaments as my tribute to fading recency bias.
TE George Kittle (10 of 12 routes run last game)
Kittle has been limited to a blocking-heavy role in the playoffs with the 49ers building early leads. Now that the 49ers are playing the Chiefs, I’m expecting Kittle’s role to switch a bit, at least in the second half of the game when I anticipate San Francisco to pass more than expected. That’s great news for Kittle. In the nine games when Jimmy G had at least 23 pass attempts this season, Kittle averaged 6.8 receptions, 77 receiving yards, and 0.44 touchdowns on 8.7 targets. Compare that to his 4.8-71-0.2 average on just 5.8 targets in the five other games and that doesn’t even include the two playoff games when Kittle posted 3-16-0 and 1-19-0 receiving lines. Kittle should see 6-10 targets and be the most productive pass catcher on the 49ers, especially with Kansas City checking in as a bottom 22nd percentile defense against fantasy tight ends. I don’t mind taking the OVER on Kittle’s 5.5 receptions prop, and I will be rostering him a good amount in DFS tournaments.
TE Levine Toilolo (2 of 12 routes run last game)
Toilolo is your classic run-blocking tight end. He has two receptions on the season and has only ran 5, 1, 4, 1, and 2 routes over the last five games. Toilolo will be on the field on many run plays but will sub out on most passing plays. He’s more likely to have 0 catches than 1, so I’d rather have WR Richie James or FB Anthony Sherman as min-priced punt plays in DFS tournaments.
TE Ross Dwelley (0 of 12 routes run last game)
Dwelley has more pass-catching upside than Toilolo but will not be on the field as much as him, especially in rushing situations. Dwelley has run 1, 1, 3, 0 and 1 routes over his last five games and is nothing more than a complete punt play in DFS. The only sliver of hope for Dwelley is if the Chiefs build a lead and force Dwelley onto the field over Toilolo on passing downs. Even then, he’s more likely to end the game without a single catch.
WR Deebo Samuel (11 of 12 routes run last game)
The versatile rookie is one of the underrated key players of Super Bowl 54 because he plays almost every snap, can mix in a carry or two, and figures to see more than expected receiving work given the expected high-scoring affair. Samuel should see 5-9 targets given his 22% target share since Week 14 and is a positive receiving touchdown regression candidate per my usage model. His individual matchup this week isn’t as daunting as it appears either. Despite ranking near the top of the league against fantasy receivers this season, the Chiefs have allowed the 9th-most PPR points on “underneath” targets, a spot where Samuel does most of his damage. Chiefs outside CB Charvarius Ward is PFF’s No. 51 coverage corner out of 134 qualifiers and has allowed the most receiving yards in coverage among any corner playing in the Super Bowl. For these reasons, I like Samuel’s DFS price tag and the OVERs on some of his receiving props.
WR Emmanuel Sanders (11 of 12 routes run last game)
Sanders is on the field just as often as Samuel, but he’s not been given the ball as much. The veteran has seen five fewer targets (31 to 26) than his younger teammate since Week 14 in New Orleans and doesn’t get as many run/trick plays dialed up either. With that said, Sanders is still a candidate for 4-8 targets in a rebound spot for the San Francisco passing game after back-to-back low-volume games. In DFS tournaments, Sanders is a nice pairing with Jimmy G in the hopes of the Niners chasing points, especially with Chiefs outside CB Bashaud Breeland expected to cover him for a chunk of the game. Breeland is PFF’s No. 124 coverage corner out of 134 qualifiers.
WR Kendrick Bourne (5 of 12 routes run last game)
Bourne basically only plays when the 49ers are in three-receiver sets, so we should expect him to play 20-60% of the offensive snaps depending on the score. The part-time slot receiver only has two 20+ yard targets this season and has somehow scored 2.2 more touchdowns than expected given his usage this season, so I like “NO” on Bourne’s TD prop at -220 odds. Of the 49ers’ skill-position players, Bourne has the lowest upside, but he is a candidate for 2-4 targets at or near the line of scrimmage if you’re looking for a couple of cheap receptions in DFS. As for his individual matchup, the Chiefs’ defense has allowed 14.3 PPR while in slot coverage this season, a number that puts them right in the middle of the NFL.
WR Richie James (0 of 12 routes run last game)
James’ last receptions happened in Week 11 against the Cardinals. Since Week 14’s shoutout in New Orleans, James has run 4, 1, 3, 2, 1, and 0 routes. The backup receiver will only rotate in when a receiver needs to catch his breath, so he’s more likely to finish the game without a grab than with one.
RB Tevin Coleman (left last game early)
Getting the 49ers running back situation right is probably the most crucial part of wagering on Super Bowl 54, especially for DFS. Fresh off a 22-105-2 Division Round game, Coleman started the NFC Championship before rotating drives with Mostert. Coleman left with a torn labrum in his shoulder, which allowed Mostert to post an insane 29-220-4 game two weekends ago. If completely healthy, Coleman likely would have been the 1A back in this hot-hand committee, but I believe it will be difficult for Shanahan to play Coleman over Mostert after the former UDFA went nuclear last game, especially since Coleman has been limited to practicing off the side leading into the game. From a medical perspective, Coleman is expected to be “fine” and play with a harness on his shoulder, but there is at least some risk of a re-injury. Ultimately, I’m projecting Coleman to have a minimal workload -- his 4.4-rush attempt average from Weeks 13-17 seems realistic to me -- but I’ll be reacting to credible news reports that surface in the couple of days before they kick off.
RB Raheem Mostert (44 of 54 offensive snaps last game)
Mostert is my bet to be the 1A in this hot-hand committee after going off in the second half of the season. The former UDFA averaged 6.1 YPC, picked up at least 45 rushing yards per game, and scored at least one touchdown per game over his last six regular season contests. Mostert lost his 1A role in the Divisional Round when Coleman caught fire, but rebounded in his last game after Coleman left with a torn labrum. With Coleman unable to practice and with Mostert producing, I’d be surprised if Mostert didn’t finish with the most snaps and touches of all 49ers running backs, at least in the first half of the Super Bowl.
The 49ers’ rushing game should be quite effective against Kansas City, who finished 29th in run DVOA defense, but I’m less convinced that San Francisco can stick with a run-heavy approach with Mahomes likely putting up points in a hurry on the other side of the ball. If I were to bet the OVER on a Mostert prop, I’d only do so on a first half bet because I’m anticipating more passing in the second half of the game. As long as news doesn’t change, I’d set the over/under for Mostert’s touch count at 15.5. That, of course, does include most of the goal-line work.
RB Matt Breida (2 of 54 offensive snaps last game)
Things could change if Coleman is suddenly ruled out or is severely limited, but it would be a surprise if Breida saw even four touches in the Super Bowl. He only played two snaps last game and 11 the week before that despite the 49ers leading multiple scores early. If Breida isn’t even playing with a huge lead, then it’s hard to see him playing in a close projected game, assuming Coleman is active.
RB Jeff Wilson (0 of 54 offensive snaps last game)
Wilson hasn’t played an offensive snap since Week 13 when he had five of them. Unless Coleman is unexpectedly inactive, then Wilson isn’t in the conversation for touches. The next player is the better low-priced DFS play.
FB Kyle Juszczyk (40 of 54 offensive snaps last game)
The 49ers’ do-all fullback can pop up on the box score as a pass-catcher. Juszczyk has ran 13, 10, 9, 13, 8, and 6 routes since Week 14, catching 7-of-7 targets over that stretch. Of the DFS punt plays, Juszczyk is one of my favorites because he actually projects for a reception and is a candidate for some sort of trick play given his high snap counts and versatile role.
Super Bowl DFS
Tier 1. Patrick Mahomes ($12,600 on DraftKings’ Showdown)
Tier 2. Jimmy Garoppolo ($8,000)
Tier 1. Tyreek Hill ($11,000)
Tier 2. Deebo Samuel ($7,600)
Tier 1. Travis Kelce ($9,600)
Tier 2. George Kittle ($8,400)
Tier 3. Blake Bell ($800)
Tier 2. Tevin Coleman ($6,400)
Tier 1: Chiefs ($3,000), 49ers ($3,600)
Super Bowl Prop Bets
These are just a bunch of Westgate Las Vegas lines I like in no particular order after doing all of the research from above:
First half points = UNDER 27.0 (even)
Longest touchdown = UNDER 47.5 yards (-110)
49ers Player Props
Garoppolo pass attempts = OVER 29.5 (-110)
Garoppolo passing yards by half = 2ND HALF (-130)
Garoppolo longest completion = UNDER 37.5 (-110)
Mostert rushing yards = UNDER 80.5 (-110)
Mostert rush attempts = UNDER 17.5 (-110)
Kittle receptions = OVER 5.5 (-120)
Samuel receptions = OVER 4.5 (+110)
Samuel touchdown = YES (+140)
Sanders receptions = OVER 2.5 (-130)
Bourne touchdown = NO (-220)
49ers with a rush attempt = UNDER 5 (-140)
49ers with a pass attempt = UNDER 7 (-140)
49ers defense sacks = UNDER 2.5 (-150)
Chiefs Player Props
Mahomes rushing yards = OVER 30.5 (-110)
Williams receiving yards = UNDER 29.5 (-110)
Thompson rush attempts = UNDER 1.5 (-140)
Hill longest reception = UNDER 27.5 (-110)
Hill receptions = OVER 5.5 (+105)
Kelce receiving yards = OVER 75.5 (-110)
Kelce receptions = OVER 6.5 (-110)
Kelce touchdown = YES (+120)
Watkins longest reception = UNDER 20.5 (-110)
Bell receiving yards = OVER 1.5 (-110)
Chiefs' defense sacks = OVER 2.5 (+110)
Final Super Bowl Prediction
MVP: Patrick Mahomes
The horizontal line in the middle of the chart at 1.96 represents the league average in offensive plays per minute in neutral situations. The Chiefs played at the sixth-fastest offensive pace, and San Francisco was down at 20th. I won’t be surprised if the Chiefs play as fast as possible in an attempt to tire out the 49ers’ relentless pass rush. On the flip side, I could see the 49ers play at an even slower pace than normal to keep Patrick Mahomes on the sideline.
Good “Deep” Matchups: Nobody
Bad “Underneath” Matchups: Sammy Watkins
Good Slot Matchups: Nobody
Bad RB Matchups: Damien Williams
The 49ers’ defense creates more pressure than the Chiefs’ defense, but Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offensive line is much better at handling pressure than Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers’ offensive line. Jimmy G should see slightly more pressure on a per dropback basis than Mahomes.