We are just two games away from the Super Bowl, and this weekend the four best teams in football will compete to see who will advance to the big game. Although the slate consists of only two contests, they both seem likely to excite. The Saints-Rams game kicks off on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET; Chiefs-Patriots, 6:40 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at the tight end who stands out the most in the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
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Travis Kelce: Kansas City Chiefs (-3.0) vs. New England Patriots, 56.5 Over/Under
- DraftKings: $7,100
- FanDuel: $7,400
UPDATE (Jan. 20): Running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and will play this weekend.
Coming off a seven-reception, 108-yard performance last week, Kelce is in full #ZeusMode. On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, we talked about Kelce as a player who should be prioritized in cash games and guaranteed prize pools.
Since his All-Pro campaign in 2016, Kelce leads all tight ends with 13.1 FanDuel points per game, and he’s provided strong salary-adjusted value with his +2.86 Plus/Minus.
As for the 2018 campaign, Kelce had a historic fantasy season for a tight end.
Although the Chiefs went 3-2 after their Week 12 bye, they are still probably the best team in the AFC, and on a per-game basis they’ve …
- Outscored their implied total by 5.9 points (No. 1 in NFL)
- Exceeded their game total by 7.2 points (No. 1)
In the regular season, the Chiefs ranked first in scoring at 35.3 points per game, and Kelce is a key contributor to their success, ranking top-two among all tight ends with his 150 targets, 103 receptions, 1,336 yards receiving, 1,401 air yards, 552 yards after the catch and 10 touchdowns in the regular season.
Kelce doesn’t have an especially great matchup. The Pats have allowed a middle-of-the-road 10.3 FanDuel points per game to tight ends, and they are second overall with their 93.0 Pro Football Focus coverage grade.
In pass defense against tight ends, the Pats are eighth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA thanks primarily to safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty, who are more than serviceable with their 75.4 and 78.6 PFF coverage grades.
Kelce got the better of the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick when he first faced them in 2014, but since then they have pretty much held him in check.
- 2014, Week 4 (vs. Pats): 19.3 FanDuel points, 8-93-1 receiving on nine targets
- 2016, Divisional Round (at Pats): 5.3 FanDuel points, 6-23-0 receiving on nine targets
- 2017, Week 1 (at Pats): 6.9 FanDuel points, 5-40-0 receiving on seven targets, 1-4-0 rushing
- 2018, Week 6 (at Pats): 8.6 FanDuel points, 5-61-0 receiving on nine targets
The Pats could very well limit Kelce’s production once again.
One notable drawback to rostering Kelce is that he’s at Arrowhead Stadium. While playing at home is normally advantageous, that’s not necessarily the case for Kelce and the Chiefs offense. With head coach Andy Reid (since 2013), no home team has made under bettors more money than the Chiefs have with their 33-17-1 under record (including playoffs), good for an A-graded 28.6% return on investment (per Bet Labs).
The outdoor and raucous Arrowhead Stadium is a hard place to play, especially in cold and windy weather, and it’s not just road teams that have played worse in Kansas City this season.
- Chiefs on road (eight games): 38.3 points per game, 325.3 yards and 3.88 touchdowns passing
- Chiefs at home (nine games): 32.2 points per game, 289.6 yards and 2.11 touchdowns passing
Throughout the Reid era, the Chiefs have been last in the NFL with their offensive home/road differential of -2.96 points.
Although the market is expecting a shootout, we could see fewer points than expected. Over the past 15 seasons, outdoor postseason games have a 53-70-4 over/under record. For comparison, domed postseason games are 28-9. And as of writing the forecast calls for a game-time temperature of 20 degrees.The weather will be such an important factor for this game that you can literally bet on it.
But the over has been a smart contrarian bet in cold games, especially since rematches between non-divisional opponents have trended to the over. The over/under opened at 59.5 points but it dropped to 54.5 because of a frigid forecast in Kansas City. Since then, however, the forecast has improved, and bettors have invested in the over, pushing the total to 56.0.
A high number of points could certainly be scored in this game.
But there is another concern for Kelce: Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) is fully healthy after playing in 93.1% of the offensive snaps last week, and he’s not on the injury report this week. Kelce has exhibited notable Watkins-based splits this season.
- Watkins plays fewer than 80% of snaps (nine games): 16.7 FanDuel points per game, 10.2 targets, 7.3 receptions, 85.8 yards receiving, 0.78 touchdowns
- Watkins plays at least 80% of snaps (eight games): 13.4 FanDuel points per game, 8.5 targets, 5.5 receptions, 84 yards receiving, 0.38 touchdowns
With Watkins on the field, Kelce is likely to see fewer targets than he has over the past couple of months.
Even so, Kelce is unlikely to have a poor game, given his position-high median, ceiling and floor projections in our Models. It’s hard to pay up for a tight end, especially on a small slate, but his median projection is almost double that of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. In cash games at least, sharp players are likely to have Kelce in their lineups.
On Sunday, I will probably look to bet on Kelce’s receiving props. To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 235-119-12, good for a 64% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Kelce has position-high marks with a 99% Bargain Rating, nine Pro Trends and +4.46 Projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 tight end in all our Pro Models.
Conference Championship Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other divisional round positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
Pictured above: Travis Kelce
Photo credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports