In what could be one of the most important fantasy football weeks of the year, managers were hit with the news that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill were added to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Considering how important both these players have been in fantasy this year, the news couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. Are Kelce and Hill playing today against the Steelers, or do fantasy managers need to look elsewhere?
Update 12/26/21: ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Kelce did not clear protocols this morning and is out for today’s game vs. the Steelers. On the plus side, Hill cleared protocols yesterday and will be active for today’s game.
Are Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill playing today vs. the Steelers?
On Monday [December 20], the Chiefs added Kelce to the reserve/COVID-19 list, and Hill followed the next day. Kansas City is currently in the midst of a serious outbreak as their list of impacted players continued to grow throughout the week.
Those players include tight end Blake Bell, linebacker Nick Bolton, cornerback Rashad Fenton, offensive linemen Lucas Niang and Kyle Long, safety Armani Watts, kicker Harrison Butker, and cornerback Charvarius Ward.
However, on Christmas, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Hill cleared COVID-19 protocols. He added that the Chiefs are likely to activate Kelce as well, but he has not been cleared.
Patrick Mahomes on the prospect of playing without Hill and Kelce
When it was first announced that COVID impacted Patrick Mahomes’ top two weapons, the former league MVP shared his thoughts about running an offense without them.
“I mean, those guys have gotten a lot of reps with me just within this offense and this league,” Mahomes said. “Obviously, it’s a really complex defense that we’re facing. They’ve played it a couple of times, even before I was here. So, for me, as long as they’re healthy and they’re safe, and they’ve passed the protocols, and they’re back, we’ll throw them right back into the offense. They’ll be able to take on the roles that they’ve always had.”
Hill and Kelce have been fantasy superstars
Even though Mahomes and the Chiefs offense have struggled more than usual this season, Hill and Kelce have put up impressive numbers. Hill is currently the fourth-best fantasy WR in the NFL, averaging 12.8 points per game in standard formats. He is behind only Cooper Kupp (who is in the midst of an MVP-worthy season), Deebo Samuel, and Justin Jefferson.
The tight end landscape has been quite barren the last few seasons in fantasy. Yet, Kelce has continued to be his dominating self. He is currently TE2 on the season, averaging 10.9 points per game. As per usual, he is in a battle for TE1 with Mark Andrews and George Kittle. There is a significant fall off after those three.
Are there fantasy points to be had against the Steelers?
Pittsburgh’s defense is not the same as it once was. They currently rank 18th in the league against WRs, allowing 21.7 points per game. However, where they have been exceptional this season has been against the TE, allowing only 5.6 fantasy points per game.
Obviously, if both Hill and Kelce are 100% healthy and on the field, you have no choice but to start them. The Chiefs are currently two games up in the AFC West and are hanging onto the top seed in the AFC. Nevertheless, the Titans and Patriots are both close by. Kansas City is in no position to take the foot off the gas and will need this win against the Steelers.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is fighting in the toughest division in the league right now. They are technically last in the AFC North but are only one game behind the division-leading Bengals. With an incredibly tough remaining strength of schedule, Pittsburgh needs to surprise Kansas City and win to keep their playoff hopes alive.