For most of the fantasy football world, it’s Championship Week as five months of blood, sweat, and tears from missing out on that waiver wire treasure comes to an end. Luckily for anyone that owns players on the Kansas City Chiefs roster, they are playing the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead and a win for the Chiefs could put them in line to win the AFC West division if Denver stumbles against the Bengals on Monday Night Football.
In other words, it’s highly doubtful the Chiefs – winners of eight straight games – will be overlooking the 3-11 Browns on Sunday afternoon. The Chiefs are doing everything they can to keep a hold on a playoff spot while the Browns are a hot mess that aren’t even sure what they want to do for the 2016 season at coach, front office, quarterback, and maybe even parking lot attendants. All signs point to a big game from several Chiefs players this week.
Linebacker Justin Houston (knee) and safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) were officially listed as “Out” after practice on Friday, but since both have now missed several games to these injuries, adequate back-ups are in place that should be able to handle Cleveland’s hit-or-miss offense. Houston’s bookend teammate, linebacker Tamba Hali, is listed as “Questionable” despite the revelation earlier in the week that he had broken his thumb in the win over the Ravens last Sunday and had surgery to repair it Tuesday. It remains to be seen if he’ll play against the Browns, but just his presence on the field would be a huge boost to the Chiefs pass rush. All other potential fantasy players for your team were full participants in practice on Friday and will start Sunday.
Here is my take on what you can reasonably expect out of the Chiefs for fantasy against the Browns:
QUARTERBACK: Alex Smith did not take advantage of the weak Baltimore secondary like I thought he would last Sunday, throwing for only 171 yards and a touchdown. Proving that statistics can be damned, he actually had a fabulous game at quarterback, but you don’t care about that. You want stats out of your QB and lots of them. Smith should have another Smith-like day against the Browns with a few yards and possibly multiple touchdowns. He is ONLY a viable option in fantasy if your league allows you to play two quarterbacks, otherwise good luck if you have to play Smith this week.
Projection: 235 yds passing, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 30 yds rushing.
RUNNING BACK: Charcandrick West will get the majority of carries Sunday even with Spencer Ware getting healed up from his injury and being a full participant in practice all week. This has all the earmarks of a game where the Chiefs will run the ball 40 times just because the Browns defense is so bad against it. I could make you a case that both West and Ware are viable starters as flex players because both should get plenty of touches and both have shown the ability to break long runs. In the case of Ware, he could vulture a goal line carry from West because of Ware’s wrecking ball size and running style. Knile Davis should be relegated back to the bench now that Ware has returned and probably won’t get a single carry, barring injury to one of the other two backs.
Projection: West – 85 yards rushing, 4 catches with 20 yards receiving; Ware – 55 yards rushing, 1 touchdown.
WIDE RECEIVER: As always, you’re insane if Jeremy Maclin is not in your starting line-up. It’s clear he probably will never sniff 200 yards receiving in this offense, but at worst, he’s a solid and dependable #2 fantasy receiver. And in fantasy, that’s how you made it to your championship game, right? If you’re desperate, Albert Wilson could be a semi-decent low-end flex player as the Chiefs seem to want to get him more involved in the offense. The only monkey to that wrench is the (thank goodness) return of De’Anthony Thomas to the playing field after missing several games due to a concussion. Before the concussion, Thomas was getting a lot of the looks that Albert was getting and it remains to be seen how the Chiefs will utilize both of them in the game plan. Again, unless you are absolutely desperate, it’s best to avoid anyone but Maclin on this roster.
Projection: Maclin – 7 catches, 85 yards, 1 touchdown; Wilson – 4 catches for 40 yards; Thomas – 3 catches for 20 yards, 2 rushes for 15 yards.
TIGHT END: As a Chiefs fan, I was thrilled to see Travis Kelce make the Pro Bowl roster this week, but as a fantasy owner, I’m wondering if the voters were actually watching the games? Kelce is without doubt the hands-down winner of “Most Frustrating Chiefs Fantasy Player” this season, which is crazy because he will exceed his career high in catches in a season this week (65), and could surpass 1,000 yards receiving next week with a couple of good performances. It’s just that we were expecting more. Ah well, he’s a must-start this week despite the fact that the Browns are good against fantasy tight ends this year, only giving up 11.03 fantasy points per game, which ranks as the ninth-best in the league.
Projection: Kelce – 7 catches, 85 yds receiving.
KICKER: This just in … Cairo Santos has become one of the better fantasy kickers in the league and is a viable starter every week. Who would have guessed it, eh? The weather in KC should be terrific (sunny and about 39 degrees) so that shouldn’t be a problem and the field condition is always one of the best in the NFL. Start Santos this Sunday.
Projection: 2-3 FG attempts, 3-4 extra points.
DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS: Are you kidding? The Chiefs D/ST potentially could win you your league by themselves this week as you have the second-best ball-hawking defense in the NFL against Johnny “Throwing the ball up in the air for grabs” Manziel at the helm for the Browns. With him running around in the pocket, he’s a prime candidate for multiple sacks, and because his favorite play is heaving the ball in the air and hoping Travis Benjamin runs underneath it, he could throw multiple picks. And the strength of the Chiefs defense this year in fantasy has been taking the opposing tight ends out of games, which neutralizes the Browns biggest offensive threat, Gary Barnidge. Better yet, the reappearance of kick return ace, De’Anthony Thomas, gives the Chiefs back their biggest weapon in the return game. It’s not completely far-fetched to think that KC could have a punt return and an interception return for touchdowns this week.
Projection: 9 points given up, 3 sacks, 3 forced turnovers.