By Chad Bellin. The AFC West lead is on the line as the Oakland Raiders travel to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders have been as exciting as any team in the league this season, amassing 10 wins and looking like a championship-caliber club. The Chiefs continue to build under Andy Reid, and pose as much of a challenge as any team to the Raiders’ dominance.
For the Raiders to win, they must overcome the tough crowd at Arrowhead and be efficient on offense. The Chiefs feature a formidable pass rush, and will look to keep pressure on Derek Carr. The Chiefs only give up 21 points per game on defense, but they rank near the bottom in yardage which means plenty of fantasy opportunities for the Raiders’ stars.
The Chiefs cannot afford to get into a shootout with the Raiders, and will look to establish Spencer Ware on offense to control the clock. Although Khalil Mack is an unbelievable talent, the rest of the Raiders defense is vulnerable, and could give up big numbers even to an offense led by the unexciting but functional Alex Smith.
The Raiders have been masterful at doing just enough at the right times to win this season. But their luck will end on Thursday as the Chiefs utilize their home field advantage to squeak out a last-minute victory.
Raiders 23 | Chiefs 24
It is too late in the season to mess around with inferior receivers. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree must also be on your “nice list” and start for your fantasy football team this week. Both Cooper and Crabtree registered touchdowns last week, and both rank in or close to the Top 10 fantasy wide receivers in most standard formats. While the Chiefs will pressure Carr, and while Eric Berry is the beast who won the game against the Falcons, there are no answers to stop Cooper and Crabtree this week. However, more than likely, only one will score a touchdown while the rest of their fantasy football production will be made up of yards. Take it and run.
After last week’s epic performance, it may be difficult to bench Latavius Murray. Murray has had a nose for the end zone, even if he doesn’t post 100-yard games. The Chiefs allow over 120 rushing yards per game, so that may help. This is not a bad start in fantasy football.
Travis Kelce is among the elite receiving tight ends in the game who averages between 8-10 fantasy points per game. Kelce is the unquestioned focus of the Chiefs passing game, and he leads the team in receptions (65) and yardage (815). The Raiders have little of an answer for Kelce down the middle, so 8-10 fantasy football points may be his floor this week.
Among running backs, Spencer Ware has also been a very pleasant surprise this season. Ware built his resume during the last half of 2015 as he filled in for the injured Jamaal Charles, but he has definitely capitalized on his opportunities this season. Ware is a true every-down back, and should be able to rack up double-digit fantasy points combining his rushing and receiving efforts against one of the weaker rush defenses in fantasy football. Ware is a TFG Start ‘Em.
One of the upside fantasy surprises this season has been Derek Carr. Carr’s 3,300 yards and 24 touchdowns are among the league leaders. The Chiefs defense will have a plan for containing Carr, and that will include plenty of pressure. It’s been something that’s worked in the five games the Chiefs have played against Carr. In those five games, Carr has thrown for 1,098 yards, 6 TDs, and 5 interceptions. Despite the history, Carr can be in your fantasy football playoff lineup but more as a low end QB1 this week.
Tyreek Hill is a tough call this week for some fantasy football team owners. Hill has been a breakout star for the Chiefs in 2016, enlightening a position (wide receiver) that has been a fantasy desert in Kansas City recently. Hill failed to find the end zone last week after his multi-touchdown performance in Week 12. If your fantasy league rewards points for returns, that probably makes Hill your WR3 or flex this week. But with Jeremy Maclin potentially back in the mix, Hill is a riskier fantasy play than he otherwise would have been. If Maclin misses the game for some reason, Hill gets a bump in value.
Speaking of Jeremy Maclin, many reports have him returning to the Chiefs lineup this Thursday. Maclin has not set the world on fire with his play before being injured, but he is a credible deep threat who could exploit the Raiders’ weak secondary. This writer likes Hill over Maclin, but if you need a miracle in a deeper league, Maclin is an option.
If you must start a team defense, the Chiefs DST could be a play even though they are facing the Raiders’ Top 5 offense because of the past history. If you include kicker Cairo Santos, the Chiefs generate nearly half their points from either defense or special teams. They don’t look great from a stats and rankings perspective, but they are opportunistic. And the Chiefs aren’t 9-3 based on the raucous play of their quarterback (unlike the Raiders).
While your fantasy team may still have holes, Alex Smith will not be the quarterback that helps you win a fantasy championship. As marginal as the Raiders’ defense is, Smith is not good enough to do anything other than manage things. He may propel the Chiefs to a win, but he will not set the fantasy football world on fire doing it.
In deeper fantasy leagues, guys like Jalen Richard are awesome because they can win you games because of their upside surprise. But in standard leagues, Richard and the other Raiders reserves don’t have enough upside, and the chances of good surprises are fairly remote when there are other backs who will get many more touches.
Like Richard, Charcandrick West has shown potential, but doesn’t have the opportunity. Keep West on the bench, since his value is tied only to Spencer Ware’s health.
Even though Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford have seen a slight uptick in action, they are still mired in tight end obscurity. Either could score a touchdown. Either could get you zero. That’s not the chance you need to take this deep into the fantasy football playoffs.