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Early DFS lineup thoughts for Titans-Chiefs in DraftKings Showdown

The AFC Championship Game gets going later this week and we’ll see the first Titans and Chiefs injury reports Wednesday afternoon. In advance, we break down some options for your Showdown matchups.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes leaves the field after the win over the Houston Texans in a AFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Not many people saw this coming. The Tennessee Titans started off the season 2-4, with both wins coming against teams that would finish the season below .500. Now, after winning three straight games against AFC divisional champions, they’ve earned their way into the AFC Championship game against the lone remaining AFC division champ: the Kansas City Chiefs. Offensively, it’ll be a clash of the old against the new, as the Titans hope their run-heavy scheme can keep pace with the Chiefs’ explosive passing game. How should we approach this game as DFS managers? This article aims to take an early look at what some of the best options for Sunday’s DraftKings Showdown might be.

Captain options

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs ($19,800)

He’s the best player in the game. He’s the hub of the most explosive passing offense in history. Before getting hurt in Week 7, Mahomes was on pace to throw more completions and more yards than he did in his MVP 2018 campaign. While it didn’t seem like he was fully himself for his first few games after returning from that injury, he now looks like he’s back to 100% and playing with the confidence and ability we’ve come to expect. The Titans’ pass defense is not particularly scary – they’ve got a few great players, but as a unit, they’ve ranked in the bottom third of the league all season by many metrics, including passing yards allowed and pass defense DVOA.

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans ($18,000)

Another somewhat obvious pick, but we have to at least consider Henry when we make our lineups. He ran for 211, 182, and 195 yards in his last three games. Henry is the first player in NFL history with three straight games of at least 180 yards. Lower the threshold to 170 yards, and he’s the first to do it in 40 years. You have to lower the threshold to three straight with at least 160 yards to find someone this millennium, and Henry’s still the first to put up such a streak in 16 years. Whether or not you choose to roster Henry, it’s an active choice you’re making – there’s no “oh he was sorta interesting but I couldn’t fit him in” going on here.

On the one hand, unprecedented streaks scream “regression coming”. On the other, the Chiefs had one of the worst rush defenses in the league this season, ranking 29th in rush defense DVOA. They allowed the seventh-most rushing yards, despite playing in a lot of game-scripts that would incentivize opponents to pass. The Titans have only attempted 30 passes over the past two games combined – they’re heavily invested in just feeding Henry the rock.

Jonnu Smith, TE, Titans ($6,600)

Want some differentiation and the ability to afford both Mahomes and Henry in a GPP? Take a look at Smith. 11 of the Titans’ 30 pass attempts over the past two games have gone to TEs, and Smith is their most talented and the one who sees the most red zone targets. Furthermore, the Chiefs allowed the seventh-most DKFP to TEs this season. You’re probably touchdown dependent here, but at this salary, the 10+ points (factoring in the captain’s bonus) from a TD would make Smith a worthwhile play.

Flex options

Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs ($11,000)

Kelce, not actually WR Tyreek Hill ($10,200), has been the Chiefs leading receiver since their Week 12 bye. Compare Kelce’s 44 catches on 57 targets for 530 yards and four TDs to Hill’s 28 catches on 37 targets for 358 yards and two TDs. Hill is an incredible athlete and it only takes one or two plays for him to have a great game, but Kelce has been the better fantasy play, it’s as simple as that. I’m definitely building my lineup to try to maximize exposure to the Chiefs’ passing offense, and the salary difference between Hill and Kelce is not big enough to turn me off of Kelce.

Mecole Hardman, WR, Chiefs ($3,800)

Have I mentioned I want exposure to the Chiefs’ passing attack? If I’m trying to fit in both Mahomes and Kelce, I’m going to need some discount options, and Hardman is the perfect sweet spot to blend those two priorities. At $3,600, Demarcus Robinson is another option, but I believe Hardman is the more talented player. While Hardman’s best play in the Divisional Round wasn’t a reception, but a 58-yard punt return, the play serves as a reminder of Hardman’s speed and big-play ability.

I am an avid fan and user (my username is arikleen) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.