Dallas @ Kansas City
-Cowboys WR Amari Cooper is unvaccinated and tested positive for COVID-19. He's out for the next two weeks. This unfortunately happened after we recommended the bet.
-Cowboys LT Tyron Smith (ankle) was limited all week and is questionable. Smith has missed the last two weeks, but an entire week of practicing is a good indicator that he'll be back. He's a massive upgrade over Terence Steele.
-Cowboys edge rushers DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory remain on IR.
-Chiefs RT Lucas Niang (ribs) is out. He was injured week 9 and missed week 10.
-Chiefs CB L'Jarius Sneed (knee) is questionable, but was limited in practice all week.
-Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (knee) has been out since week 5, but could potentially return.
Betting: The line is sticking at 2.5, which isn't a huge surprise since it's close to a key number. The public is backing the Cowboys, with 55% of tickets and 63% of cash on Dallas.
When the Cowboys have the ball:
The Cowboys offense is 4th in DVOA and 6th in EPA/play. Dak Prescott sits at 4th in PFF passing grades (87.6) while completing 70.3% of his passes (5.3% above expectation) and completing 8.2 yards per attempt. The offensive line will return to elite status assuming Smith returns -- it's quite insane the drop off between Smith and Steele, and it seems to happen every year. The Cowboys top receivers by projected targets: CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, TE Dalton Schultz, and RB Zeke Elliot. Absent is Amari Cooper, who unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19 after we ran the model. Zeke will handle most of the RB carries with Tony Pollard, objectively the better running back, chipping in. Even without Cooper, it's an elite offense. The Chiefs defense is 30th in DVOA and 29th in EPA/play. They've looked better the last few weeks compared to the defense they trotted out the first 5 weeks of the season, which wasn't worthy of playing in a flag football league. They brought in Melvin Ingram (edge) to assist Chris Jones (inside, mostly) with the pass rush -- Jones no longer must generate pressure quite literally by himself, but it's still a weak front 7 with some God-awful linebackers. Rashad Fenton is PFF's 2nd highest graded corner, and Juan Thornill and Tyriann Mathieu are a solid safety tandem, but L'Jarius Sneed and Charvarius Ward have been weak at corner.
When the Chiefs have the ball:
The Chiefs offense is fixed now, right? After putting up several disappointing performances, Pat Mahomes finally unleashed his inner Pat Mahomes by dropping 5 TDs on the division rival Raiders on Monday Night Football. Mahomes sits at 21st in PFF grades (71.1) while completing 65.8% of his passes (1.9% below expectation) and gaining 7.1 yards per attempt. I've written extensively about Mahomes on this site -- to save regular readers some time, his issue isn't that he's putting the ball in harm's way more often than he always does (INTs rarely tell the entire story), his issue is his lack of big plays. Even with Mahomes's issues, the Chiefs offense is still an efficient monster, ranking 5th in DVOA and 2nd in EPA/play. The only two receivers on the roster are Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. I will write nothing about any others. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a chance to return for the first time since week 5 (knee) -- if he's back, I'd expect him to get roughly a 60/40 split with Darrel Williams. The Cowboys defense is 4th in DVOA and 5th in EPA/play. They're definitely weaker without Lawrence and Gregory, but rookie linebacker Micah Parsons has come on strong -- the Cowboys have been able to successfully use him as both a middle linebacker and edge rusher, a combination that is almost never seen at the NFL level. Edge rusher Dorance Armstrong has also stepped up, generating 4 pressures and a sack last week against the Falcons. CB Trevon Diggs has a league leading 8 interceptions on the season, but he's grading poorly in coverage -- the guy gets beat, but his ball skills at least help him turn those disasters into big plays for the Cowboys defense. On the other side, Anthony Brown has been solid -- QBs have a 75.1 rating when targeting him.