With the Chiefs locked into the AFC Playoffs, Andy Reid has decided that Alex Smith will rest for the final week of the regular season. The Chiefs will turn to Patrick Mahomes, the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft, to make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
The Chiefs are pulling the trigger, but will you?
Full disclosure: I’m in a two-week fantasy final, have started Alex Smith for most of the season, and now approach a 54-point deficit heading into the finale. You and I are talking this decision out together.
If you want measurable, Mahomes checks all the boxes. Mahomes is an athletic quarterback that finished his three-year stint at Texas Tech with over 11,000 passing yards and 115 total touchdowns.
During the preseason, Mahomes looked ready to usurp Alex Smith immediately. He completed over 60 percent of his passes, and threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions. Here he is carving up the Titans with both his arms and his legs:
During the regular season, Travis Kelce noted that Mahomes was doing “unbelievable” things in practice. Kelce added that when Mahomes eventually takes the field, everyone will take notice:
“He’s gauging all this stuff and I think when he gets on the field eventually knowing that he is going to get the keys to the car eventually, everyone knows that, and when he does I can’t wait to see just how good he is.”
Alex Smith is a good quarterback and has had arguably the best season of his career, but at this point we’re acutely aware of his strengths and weaknesses. The Chiefs offense uses him effectively, and doesn’t put too much strain on the quarterback. With Mahomes taking tips from Smith all season, I don’t think Mahomes will struggle running the Chiefs offense.
You know what does concern me? This Denver Broncos defense. They don’t have much to play for at 5-10, but they’ve won two of three on the strength of their defense. The Broncos, improbably, have not allowed a 300-yard passer this entire season, and I’m sure they’d like to keep that streak alive to end the regular season.
The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 29-19 in their last meeting, mostly due to five field goals from Harrison Butker. Alex Smith finished with just 202 passing yards in the contest, although he did add 33 yards on four rushes. This won’t be the same Broncos team on Sunday, but it’s worth noting that the Chiefs did drive into scoring territory six times.
The biggest upside for Mahomes is in DFS contests. Because of the late starter swap, Mahomes value won’t change before Sunday. He’s currently priced at $4,700 on DraftKings, a whopping 2K less than the elite quarterbacks. Given Mahomes’ known upside, expect to see plenty of lineups with his name up top.
I think I’m gonna do it. Rushing quarterbacks provide a high basement score, and the Chiefs have no reason not to be aggressive with their playcalling. Mahomes has a rocket arm, the Chiefs have some fast receivers, and I expect to see some deep shots against a hobbled Broncos secondary. I’ve really got nothing to lose. If you were planning on starting Alex Smith, add Mahomes and check around the league to see which other teams are resting their starters. He’s definitely not the worst option for Sunday.