Kansas City @ Las Vegas
-Chiefs RT Mike Remmers (knee) will miss this one. Remmers has played only two games this year.
-Chiefts RT Lucas Niang (ribs) is out after injuring his ribs last week. Niang has been filling in for Remmers, playing above average football, but nothing better. Andrew Wylie filled in for Niang when he went down last week, and is without question a downgrade at the position. Wylie played guard last year at a below average level.
-All Raiders injuries are mostly special teamers.
When the Chiefs have the ball: The Chiefs offense has been a story this season, ranking 10th in DVOA and 4th in EPA/play. Pat Mahomes has been uncharacteristically bad -- he ranks 22nd in PFF passing grades while completing 65.2% of his passes (2.7% below expectation) and gaining 7.0 yards per attempt. Everyone thinks the issue is he's turning the ball over too often -- his 10 INTs are 3rd most in the league and already more picks then he threw in all of 2020 and 2019. However, his turnover worthy play percentage (currently 3.0%) is right in line where he's normally at -- he was getting exceptionally lucky with interceptions in previous seasons, and he's getting exceptionally unlucky this year. What sticks out to me is his lack of big time throws -- he's at just 3.1% this seasons, ranking 29th in the league. His rate each of the last three years was 6.7%, 5.4%, and 7.3%. His aggressiveness index -- a stat from Next Gen Stats that tracks how often you throw the ball to a receiver who has a defender within a yard -- is dead last, meaning he's the least aggressive quarterback in the league this year. He finished as the third most aggressive quarterback in each of the last two seasons. Mahomes isn't trusting his receivers, or himself, and is putting the ball in harm's way just as frequently as he always does and isn't generating big plays to off-set it. His offensive line is one of the best in football -- though as noted above they'll have a weakness at RT. A pair of rookies has fixed any issues that they had at the end of last season -- C Creed Humphires is the highest graded center in all of football, and RG Trey Smith, a 6th rounder out of Tennessee, has played exceptionally well. The receiving game is Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill alone, everyone else has been a let down. On the ground, Darrel Williams will get the bulk of the carries. They're going up against a Raiders defense that ranks 14th in DVOA and 12th in EPA/play. The Raiders hate blitzing, their rate of 13.5% is dead last in the league, which works out well since teams have figured out that you simply cannot blitz Mahomes -- he's the least blitzed QB in the league this season. Despite the lack of blitz, the Raiders are still generating pressure, their pressure rate of 27.3% is 6th highest in football. DE Maxx Crosby is up to 50 pressures on the year, most in the league. He's joined by fellow edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue (37 pressures) and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (20) to make up PFF's highest graded pass rush unit. It should make for a fun matchup in the trenches from a pass blocking perspective, but I expect the Chiefs line to dominate in the run game. It's worth noting that Crosby lines up far more often on the left, where he can potentially take advantage of the Chiefs injuries at right tackle. The Raiders are weak at linebacker and safety, but Casey Hayward has been one of the top corners in football, and rookie Nate Hobbs has been one of the best slot corners in the game. The Raiders play a ton of zone, and have a particular affection for cover 3. As such, they tend to be good at limiting big plays while allowing smaller ones -- they're 8th in DVOA against deep passes, but 29th against short passes.
When the Raiders have the ball: The Raiders on offense are 20th in DVOA and 17th in EPA/play. Their mediocrity is not the fault of Derek Carr, who ranks 10th in PFF grades with a 67.3% completion percentage (1.7% above expectation) while gaining 8.3 yards per attempt. His 7.9% big time throw percentage is 3rd best in the league while his 2.5% turnover worthy play percentage is 10th best. He plays behind an offensive line that is downright awful -- every one of them outside of LT Kolton Miller should be ashamed. Carr's favorite targets should be TE extraordinaire Darren Waller and slot man Hunter Renfroe. They also brought in DeSean Jackson to make up for Henry Ruggs's absence (jail). Josh Jacobs will get the bulk of the carries -- he's a solid player, but the lack of help up front has led to a modest rushing attack (16th in DVOA). They're up against a Chiefs defense that ranks 28th in DVOA and 29th in EPA/play. They've put together a couple decent performances the last two games, but a quick glance at the schedule shows they played Jordan Love and the Giants' banged up skill position players. Their pass rush got some improvement at the trade deadline when they brought in Melvin Ingram. Before Ingram's arrival, DT Chris Jones was the only player worth mentioning. Frank Clark is coming off of his best two games of the season, but I'm not holding my breathe. Rashad Fenton is PFF's second highest graded corner and Tyrann Mathieu/Juan Thornhill are a decent safety tandem, but they're weak everywhere else. The Chiefs will have their work cut out for them against the Carr/Waller combo, and their 21st ranking in DVOA against tight ends suggests it won't end well.
Spread: The spread hasn't budged off KC -2.5, and I don't expect it to. The model thinks that spread is perfect. The market is slightly backing the chiefs, with 59% of cash (66% of tickets) going in their direction. Ruling: don't you fucking dare take either side.
Total: The total opened at 53.5 and was bet down to 52.5. Ruling: I think that's a fair number, but I'd lean under. It's a divisional game and the Raiders have always played the Chiefs well defensively, and now that they actually have a few solid players, I'd expect that trend to continue. 69% of tickets are on the under, but just 41% of cash.
Pat Mahomes over 2.5 TDs +170 (DraftKings/Caesars): Good fucking luck convincing me to turn down that juice. Mahomes is projected at 2 touchdowns, but with such a high total and +170 odds, I'm taking it.
Mecole Hardman under 3.5 receptions +110 (Caesars): Hardman is projected right at 3.5. He lines up in the slot 50% of the time, and about 25% each at left and right receiver. That means he'll see plenty of Nate Hobbs and Casey Hayward. I don't see how that could go well for him.
Tyreek Hill over 72.5 receiving yards -115 (Caesars/DraftKings/Bet MGM): Hill's projection is at 84.3, this number is simply too low.
Sorry for the exclusively Chiefs props. I didn't invent value.