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Market Movers: who’s up (and down) as the Chiefs face the Broncos

Let’s identify the bulls and the bears in the Chiefs’ marketplace.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs enter Week 13 coming off a dominant offensive performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — also known as the Tompa Bay Buccaneers — and with some questions about the defensive and offensive lines. Their matchup against the division rival Denver Broncos might just be an opportunity to tune-up for the playoff run.

Here’s how a few Chiefs trending going into Sunday night’s game:

Bulls

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • L’Jarius Sneed: Now having returned to the lineup for a couple of weeks, Sneed has stepped in to fill a need for the Chiefs, playing more inside while Ward and Breeland hold down the outside spots. He’s getting better each week — and playing at a high level. Sneed has just passed Clyde Edwards-Helaire on our ranking list, reflecting his consistent play and high-value position. Look for the Chiefs to use L’Jarius Speed to match up with Broncos’ fast receivers.
  • Sammy Watkins: It’s no coincidence that the Chiefs offense has its best games when Watkins is active. His toughness and nuanced understanding of the position make him a very valuable cog in the machine — whether or not he puts up big numbers. He might just be becoming Playoff Sammy once again. Watch the little things Watkins does to keep the offense moving this week — including moving the chains with tough catches and drawing defenders away from Hill and Kelce.
  • Chris Jones: There’s plenty of talk (and concern) about the Chiefs’ pass rush — and the relative underperformance of the highly-paid duo of Jones and Frank Clark. There have been questions about Jones’s effort and inability to finish. While we acknowledge those struggles, it might just be time to buy low on Jones. The Broncos represent a good opportunity for CJ95 to wreak some real havoc, forcing some bad decisions by Drew Lock.
  • Travis Kelce: This week, Kelce will cross over 1,000 yards for the fifth consecutive year — a remarkable feat for a wide receiver, but a historical achievement for a tight end. This week’s matchup could be an enticing one for Kelce, as it is against a Denver defense with some limitations in the middle of the field.

Others trending in the right direction: Bashaud Breeland, Tershawn Wharton, Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu.

Bears

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
  • Austin Reiter and Andrew Wylie: From their inability to convert on short yardage to Mahomes taking more hits (and scrambling more than he should have to), the team’s interior offensive line been its Achilles heel. But with Martinas Rankin and Stefan Wisniewski getting back in the mix, there could be help on the way. Watch for up-front personnel changes against Denver.
  • Mike Pennel: After coming in to save the Chiefs run defense last season, Pennel has continued to be a strong player in 2020. But Tershawn Wharton’s rise has taken away some of Pennel’s role — and apparently all of Khalen Saunders’. Pennel is still valuable as a reserve, but he might not be the impact defender he was in 2019 — but incredibly, it’s not due to a decline in his play, but rather the meteoric rise of an undrafted free agent. The Chiefs will need their defensive line to be strong against the run versus the Broncos, but it looks like Pennel won’t be doing the bulk of the work.

Others trending in the wrong direction: Khalen Saunders, Ben Niemann

Value (sleeper) pick:

  • Willie Gay, Jr: Last week, Gay logged only one defensive snap in Tampa — so in a sense, there’s only one direction for the athletic rookie linebacker to go. That said, it could easily have been a matchup decision; other linebackers also saw decreased snaps. Based on what we’ve seen from him on the field, buying low on Gay would be a good decision. He’ll continue to grow into his role on the defense — and against a Broncos offense that will be trying to establish the run and use the short middle of the field as their best opportunity to pass, Gay could make some plays.