This is the front-runner for the most fun game of the weekend and fantasy football matchups are likely to be swung based on who shows up in this spot. The Kansas City Chiefs fantasy evaluation is headlined by the likely return of Travis Kelce, but also if this receiving core can hold onto the ball. The Jacksonville Jaguars fantasy preview centers around the hierarchy in the WR room and whether Calvin Ridley is an elite option.
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
- Spread: Chiefs -3.5
- Total: 51
- Chiefs implied points: 27.5
- Jaguars implied points: 24
Patrick Mahomes: We entered this season thinking that Patrick Mahomes could do everything: star in Subway commercials, win Super Bowls, walk on water, and lead the league in passing sans Tyreek Hill. We learned last Thursday night that he is incapable of something, and that is catching his passes.
Plagued time and time again by dropped passes and missed opportunities, the Kansas City Chiefs struggled to 20 points, and Mahomes hurt those who spent up on him during the draft.
Relax. Not only did he still fire off a pair of touchdown passes despite his teammates’ efforts to prevent that from happening, but he also led this team in rushing with 45 yards. The athleticism is something we’ve seen from No. 15, but he usually saves it for the postseason when the games count more.
With Travis Kelce back in action, there is no reason to think of Mahomes as anything less than a Tier 1 quarterback in another potential shootout spot. Fire him up with the utmost confidence, and if the manager in your league is displaying even a glimpse of concern, please make a reasonable offer now!
Trevor Lawrence: It was a gutsy effort from Trevor Lawrence when these two did battle a season ago (completed 29 of 40 passes for 259 yards, two TDs, and 26 rushing yards), and I’m expecting another fine fantasy day this time around. With Kelce back, is there any doubt that the Chiefs offense will be back to elite form, thus forcing the Jacksonville Jaguars to keep pace through the air?
Last season, Lawrence was asked to air out 35+ attempts eight times, and in those eight games, he averaged 299.9 passing yards and had at least three TD tosses four times. The upside is elite in this spot, while the projectable floor still puts him in the top 12 at the position.
Isiah Pacheco: The season opener wasn’t a thing of beauty (54 total yards), but it wasn’t as bad as the box score indicates. Isiah Pacheco was tackled inside the 5-yard line on a tough run, and if that gains a few more feet, we are viewing his Week 1 very differently. The near score combined with setting a career-high mark in targets (four) are signs that point to better things ahead.
Of course, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon getting the first series last week was less than ideal for us Pacheco truthers, but the promise of a pass-catching role and the near miss in scoring position has me digging in my heels.
Pacheco is again an RB2 for me this week in a spot where the Chiefs should more resemble the dynastic team we’ve seen during the Mahomes era than whatever that was that we saw in the Kelce-less opener.
Jerick McKinnon: There were seven Chiefs with at least three targets last week against the Lions and six that had a carry … McKinnon’s name was absent from both lists. Championship banners hang forever, so what McKinnon did for you down the stretch of last fantasy season isn’t going away, but until there are any signs of the Chiefs actively carving out touches for this specialist, he needs not to be rostered.
Travis Etienne: The offseason concerns about Travis Etienne’s role in this offense seem to have been overblown. The second-year back ran 30 routes (five receptions for 27 yards) and held a 56-15 snap edge over Tank Bigsby, dismissing the thought that this could be a committee situation.
The 18 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown for Etienne was impressive, but let’s get back to that involvement in the passing game. He came out of Clemson with a versatile profile that didn’t present itself last season.
Was the career-high five catches a red herring or a sign of skill development? I’m willing to bet on the latter in this projected shootout, and thus he ranks as a top-15 running back for me against the Chiefs.
Tank Bigsby: The rookie punched in what proved to be the game-winning one-yard touchdown with 5:14 remaining against the Indianapolis Colts, and that was encouraging. The fact that he was on the field at that point in a close game is a good sign of his potential and means he needs to be rostered in all formats, but this offense isn’t built to sustain two RBs. Bigsby makes for good depth and is a way to get a piece of this offense on your roster. Nothing more. Not yet.
Kadarius Toney: He had as many dropped passes that resulted in a pick-six as receiving yards in the opener … that’s hard to do. As bad as the box score was, he was on the field for just three of 13 first-quarter offensive snaps in a week without Kelce.
Kadarius Toney’s calling card isn’t one of volume, and maybe he’ll be more involved as he proves healthy, but the Week 1 showing raised plenty of red flags. On the bright side, his abysmal 2023 debut came in a week in which none of his teammates stepped up as the WR1 in this offense. Bench and hold — for basically all of your K.C. receivers.
Skyy Moore: A catch-less opener didn’t exactly reward patient fantasy managers who were willing to write off a 22-catch rookie campaign, and it looked as bad as the stat line suggests. On the bright side, Skyy Moore celebrated his 23rd birthday on Sunday, and maybe that is the positive mojo he needs.
Everyone who started Skyy Moore 😭 pic.twitter.com/KOQWitEqSk
— ESPN Fantasy Sports (@ESPNFantasy) September 8, 2023
There’s no world in which you’re considering Moore this week, and if you want to move on, I’d understand. But did you draft him thinking he was going to rattle off 17 viable games? My guess is no, so I’d refrain from making too many roster decisions after a single game, especially when the fulcrum of the offense didn’t have pads on.
Rashee Rice: The rookie led the Chiefs in target last week and hauled in a touchdown pass, giving him the inside track to be Mahomes’ receiver of choice. For now. Will that last? Probably not. I don’t think any receiver on this roster is consistently going to be fantasy viable, but Rashee Rice holds something in his NFL résumé that neither Toney nor Moore does: We’ve yet to be let down by him.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: MVS made a nice 34-yard catch to extend the successful two-minute drive at the end of the first half last week … and that was the last target he earned. The idea behind Marquez Valdes-Scantling was never that of a high-volume option, but two targets in a game where Kelce sat, every other receiver was putting the ball on the turf, and Mahomes threw 39 passes is as underwhelming as it gets.
The quality of fantasy targets that MVS sees makes him a viable weekly DFS option (he did have an 18-yard TD in this matchup last season), but until he proves capable of earning 5-7 targets a week, he shouldn’t be anywhere near starting lineups.
Calvin Ridley: As it turns out, Calvin Ridley did not forget how to play football after the extended absence. Lawrence made it a point to get him involved (six targets before any other Jaguar had two) and found him in the end zone for a nine-yard TD.
The touchdown came on a Lawrence scramble situation, meaning that Ridley proved not only the ability to find holes but also the ability to communicate non-verbally with his quarterback. You love to see it. I didn’t expect to see something like that from Ridley in September, but now it’s all systems go, and he’s on the WR1 fringe.
Zay Jones: Do you think Lawrence has a top-notch season in his range of outcomes this year? Many of the non-uber athletic quarterbacks in that tier have two viable pass catchers, and Zay Jones certainly seemed to fill that role in Week 1 (18 more snaps and eight more routes run than Christian Kirk).
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Jones caught eight passes against the Chiefs last season, but the fact that none of them gained even 15 yards is a concern. In that game, 66.8% of Lawrence’s passing yards went to his top two receivers, and if that happens again, Jones is going to finish as a top-25 receiver. I’m a little less bullish at WR33, though he is on the Flex radar for teams that are loaded with upside elsewhere and want a nice floor play.
Christian Kirk: Boxscore watchers will cite the fact that Kirk caught 9 of 12 targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs last season, but Week 1 made it clear that his role is not one of a fantasy asset at the moment.
Could that change? Will the slot role increase in value as teams adjust to how they defend Ridley? Those things are certainly possible and are reason enough to keep Kirk rostered, just not in your starting lineup.
Travis Kelce: The All-World tight end missed the Week 1 loss against the Lions after suffering a mid-week injury, but even on that broadcast, there was optimism that he would be ready to roll in this spot. Kelce is a lineup lock, but the fact that the Chiefs, with a fully healthy Mahomes against an iffy Lions secondary, didn’t have a player crack 50 receiving yards in Week 1 tells you what Kelce means to this offense.
He’s Steph Curry in that his being out there creates space and options for everyone else. In theory, you’d expect Kelce’s target-earning prowess to take value away from his teammates, but the opposite was proven true last season in that the attention he draws holds more value than any dip in looks. Fire up Kelce with confidence and bump his teammates up a touch now that he is back on the field.
Evan Engram: Evan Engram is in that middle tier of tight ends that should be started weekly but never counted on for a matchup-changing performance. I have him ranked as TE5 because I trust him to be running routes in a game I think totals over 50 points. He caught five balls for 49 yards against the Colts last week, a stat line that he could replicate in this spot (that was just one fantasy point away from ranking as TE4 for the week).
Who Should You Start in Week 2?
Should You Start Christian Kirk or Michael Thomas?
Our PFN Consensus Rankings have Thomas as the play over Kirk, and I agree with that sentiment. Both play in offenses that I trust, but Thomas has an established role while Kirk is still trying to find his footing in Jacksonville. Do I think better days are ahead for him? I do, but after a Week 1 dud, he’s in the “you need to prove it to me” tier of receiver.
Should You Start Skyy Moore or Puka Nacua?
For the rest of the season, I’d answer, but for Week 2, give me Nacua. We saw him vacuum in targets last week. As long as Cooper Kupp is sidelined, is there any reason to think that changes in a significant way? I think his numbers come back to earth a bit, but not enough to have me playing Drops McGee over him.
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