In this Dec. 8, 2019 file photo Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Houston. After each of his three touchdown throws in Denver's 38-24 win at Houston, Lock impersonated Buzz Lightyear firing his laser beam. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller, left, breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes grabs the face mask of New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy, right, as he rolls out to pass in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. Mahomes was penalized on the play. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) celebrates a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Drew Lock grew up about 15 miles from Arrowhead Stadium in suburban Kansas City, and his family has bled the red and gold of the Kansas City Chiefs for just about as long as the young quarterback can remember.
They'll be trading in their usual colors for orange and blue on Sunday.
Lock will attempt to continue his dazzling rookie run when he leads the suddenly hot Denver Broncos into the stadium where he once dreamed of playing. His task? Take down the Chiefs, who are coming off a victory in New England that sealed their fourth consecutive AFC West title.
''You think about it,'' Lock said, ''that's my home. I've been there a thousand times. Nothing new about it.''
Except that he'll be the visitor in one of the NFL's hostile environments.
Making it an even more intriguing homecoming, Lock's father Andy played for Chiefs coach Andy Reid when they were both at the University of Missouri. Andy Lock was good enough to warrant some NFL attention before a leg injury near the end of his senior season caused the offensive lineman to go undrafted. He wound up signing with the New York Giants as a free agent, but he never made his mark in the NFL - he wound up becoming a successful restaurateur.
''In his heart he was really a quarterback. I used to joke with him about that,'' Reid said with a grin.
Well, his kid has turned into a heck of a quarterback.
Drew Lock became the first NFL rookie to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in his first road start when he led the Broncos (5-8) to a surprising win over the Texans last weekend. His total of 309 yards was third-best by a rookie in franchise history, giving Denver fans some hope that the organization has at long last found a franchise quarterback.
He's the seventh quarterback to start a game for the Broncos since midway through the 2017 season.
''I don't put ceilings or floors on guys. They can go as high as they want, hopefully not too low,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. ''I think overall he's had a good two-week start to his career.''
The trick now is to carry it into their game against the Chiefs (9-4), who have their own superstar quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and a rapidly improving defense that caused Tom Brady and the Patriots all kinds of trouble.
The task facing Lock is daunting: The Broncos have won just three of the 17 games they have played at Arrowhead Stadium in December. John Elway won one of those games in seven tries, and a long list of other quarterbacks have struggled with the raucous crowd and often-ugly weather - snow showers are in the forecast for Sunday with temps in the 20s.
''I think it was good that we got (Lock) his first start at home so when he got his first start on the road it wasn't his overall first start,'' Fangio said. ''We have to go play another really good team this week. He's going to have to deal with the hometown stuff that you guys and they will want to write about. I feel good where he's at.''
As the Broncos visit the Chiefs, here are the things to know:
Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark has been dealing with a stomach situation the last couple of weeks that the team thought at first was just a virus. He was well enough to play against the Patriots but it flared up again, so the team sought an expert to figure out what is going on. If he's sidelined down the stretch, it would mean the Chiefs lose their best chance of consistent quarterback pressure at a crucial juncture of the season.
SPEAKING OF THE PASS RUSH
The Chiefs finally showed progress under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during a 30-6 rout of Denver in Week 7, when their defense had nine sacks and held the Broncos to just 71 yards rushing. The Broncos need to give Lock more time than they afforded Joe Flacco if they have any hope of moving the ball against Kansas City.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF RUSH
The Chiefs hope to have Damien Williams back from a rib injury this week. He will join a running back corps that has been leaning on veteran LeSean McCoy, rookie Darwin Thompson and journeyman Spencer Ware since losing Darrel Williams to a season-ending injury. None of them have been particularly effective on the ground.
AIRING IT OUT
The biggest bright spot for the Broncos - other than Lock's emergence - has been the play of wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who is 10th in the NFL in yards-per-catch and is closing on 1,000 yards. Sutton has put up those numbers while catching passes from Lock, Flacco and Brandon Allen - not exactly the elite of the elite.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
The Broncos are mathematically still alive in the playoff chase, though realistically they are trying to build some momentum for next season. And while the Chiefs have wrapped up their playoffs spot with a division title, they still harbor hopes of climbing past the Patriots to secure a first-round postseason bye.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had an incredible performance against the Tennessee Titans during their Week 10 matchup. He caught 11 of his 19 targets for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Tennessee. He'll get another chance to run over the same team in the AFC Championship matchup on Sunday. Hill hasn't been able to get over 100 yards receiving in a single game since that matchup. DFS players know that Hill has a chance to be a complete bust, but the fact he destroyed Tennessee the first time is hard to ignore. Hill has given DFS players a lot to think about before Sunday's kickoff.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He hauled in 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round victory. The Tennessee Titans main focus has to be slowing down Kelce. They allowed seven receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown to Kelce earlier in the season. Kelce isn't going to be cheap for DFS contests, but he's proven all season long that he's worth the risk.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been tough to watch all season long. He started off the year with a three touchdown performance, but it was downhill after that. Watkins was only targeted more than five times in a game once over the last five games. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have taken over the passing attack in Kansas City. Watkins was able to haul in five receptions for 39 yards during his regular season matchup against the Titans. DFS players shouldn't expect a better performance out of Watkins this time around.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is set to battle with the Tennessee Titans for the AFC Championship on Sunday. Mahomes is coming off a five touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He's already faced off against the Titans once this season and Mahomes didn't disappoint. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in that game. DFS players should be able to lean on Mahomes to at least be efficient on Sunday. He has a solid chance of being the best quarterback out of the bunch in the division title games.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He rushed 12 times for 47 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards through the air. LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson have been absent from the backfield lately. The Chiefs have been leaning on Williams and it's been paying off. He's been able to find the end zone when he's called upon and piled up 109 yards against the Titans earlier in the season. Fantasy owners are aware that Williams has been up and down this season, but he's red-hot right now. He'll be used in both the rushing and passing attack, so DFS players should give Williams a long look for Sunday's slate.
The Green Bay Packers Defense faces a tough task this weekend in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. In their regular-season meeting, the Packers gave up 37 points and only dropped Jimmy Garoppolo only three times. They also failed to generate any turnovers. Green Bay's defense may need to lend their offense a helping hand by creating a turnover or two to swing the field position game. If Za-Darius and Preston Smith can ramp up the pressure, the Packers will have a good chance of generating a turnover or two and winning the game. It certainly won't be easy, considering how formidable the 49ers offense has been this season.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Graham has back-to-back 49-year receiving performances, but those games came against teams that struggle to defend the tight end position. The 49ers are not one of those teams. They allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends all season and were the league's stingiest pass defense. Maybe Graham makes a play in the red zone. Still, he's a cheaper DFS play but by no means a comfortable one.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (illness) is trending in the right direction to play in the NFC Championship game this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. Even if available, Allison isn't an option in any fantasy format. The 25-year-old hasn't caught more than four passes in a game this season. It sure doesn't seem like he'll eclipse that mark against the league's best defense with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) is currently questionable for the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. There's certainly a risk for injury, considering he re-aggravated the ankle in last week's playoff game. Still, it's hard to ignore the two-game stretch Lazard had to end the season, where he saw 17 targets. That alone makes him worth a gamble, particularly in a must-win game for a Packers team in desperate need of another threat at receiver. Just beware, the matchup isn't ideal. The 49ers allowed only 172 passing yards to the Vikings last week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Adams produced only 43 receiving yards and a score against San Francisco in the regular season but still had 12 targets. The star receiver has seen double-digit targets in nine of 13 games played this year. There's not many receivers that you can virtually pencil in for double-digit targets- but Adams is one of them. If fellow receivers Geronimo Allison (illness) and Allen Lazard (ankle) suit up, they may be limited. Adams could be looking at more work than usual, even in a matchup this difficult.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense enter Championship weekend as the highest-priced fantasy defense. The Niners face the Green Bay Packers, who they demolished 37-8 in Week 12. In that previous contest, the Niners relentlessly harassed future Hall of Famer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, dropping him five times and forcing a fumble. The Packers were a meager one for 15 on third down conversions. The 49ers will need to follow that blueprint again in the critical NFC Championship to emerge victorious. With a higher-intensity contest expected, it could be difficult to splurge on a defense in fantasy compared to other addressable positions.
San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders both offer solid fantasy value in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Both players were limited to under 45 yards apiece in last weekends Divisional Round blowout but were featured early on when the game was still in question. The rookie Samuel has emerged as a consistent dual threat in the latter half of 2019 and is likelier the safer floor. Sanders, the savvy vet has proven himself as a reliable chain-mover with big-play potential. Against the Packers 10th-best pass defense by DVOA, either option seem primed to pop in Sundays winner-take-all battle.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams will face off with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Williams has been playing second fiddle to Aaron Jones quite a lot recently, as he hasn't seen double-digit carries since Week 13 against the Giants. It's worth noting that Williams played a large role in the regular-season game against the 49ers, which saw him rack up 18 touches. Green Bay very well could utilize Williams in spurts to keep San Francisco guessing, though his recent downtrend in usage makes him hard to trust.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a reasonable DFS bet for Sundays NFC Championship matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Priced as the third-best quarterback, Jimmy G squares off against a strong Packers defensive line that ranked 12th-best in adjusted sack rate during the regular season. Garoppolo was not pressed into service in the Divisional Round blowout win, but will likely be tasked with a tougher test on Sunday. While the Niners have mostly ridden its dominant running game throughout the year, Garoppolo has answered the bell in multiple occasions with three four-touchdown games. With dangerous weapons surrounding him, Garoppolo shouldnt be ruled out in the biggest game of his career to-date.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. The 49ers Defense held Jones to just 38 rushing yards in their regular-season meeting. However, the star back has been playing some seriously good football in his last five games, with 501 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He's also had 20-plus carries in three straight contests. Expect Green Bay to utilize Jones early and often in screens and runs to combat the 49ers mighty pass rush. Even if Jones doesn't pile up over 100 yards, his propensity to find the end zone and role in the passing game make him a safer play this weekend.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on the San Francisco 49ers this weekend with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The 49ers Defense held Rodgers to just 104 passing yards and one touchdown in their regular-season meeting. However, there are a couple things that are different ahead of this matchup. First, tackle Bryan Bulaga will play in this game after being injured in the first quarter against the 49ers previously. Rodgers should have better protection than he had when these teams met. Secondly, Rodgers himself is playing better football than he was during the regular season before this matchup. He has 566 passing yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. There is also the added motivation of denying a Super Bowl berth to the team that could have drafted him. Play Rodgers on Sunday, despite the tough matchup.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is worth a gamble for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Bourne scored the only receiving touchdown for the Niners in the Divisional Round, adding to his 2019 resume as a legitimate red-zone threat. The third-year pro has just 33 catches this year, including the playoffs, but collected six scores. Despite his risks as a zero-floor fantasy option, Bourne has emerged as a trustworthy target in clutch situations.
San Francisco 49ers running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are both bankable DFS options in Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. The two backs combined for 163 rushing yards in the Divisional Round, with Coleman riding a hot hand to two touchdowns. Considered a backup for the latter half of the regular season, Coleman played 46 percent of snaps last Sunday compared to Mosterts 34 percent. While the touch forecast for either back is cloudy, the Niners draw one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Packers ranked 23rd in rushing DVOA during the regular season with the second-worst defensive line in the league, yielding 4.96 adjusted yards per carry. With a likely floor of 10 touches for each Coleman and Mostert, both runners have great opportunities to make a splash.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in Thursdays practice and should be fine for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Kittle scared Niner Nation with soreness on the left ankle he chipped earlier this year, but confirms he feels fabulous. Kittle factored more as a blocker in last Sundays Divisional Round blowout but the Niners passed just 19 times. The All-Pro is an integral piece in all facets of the offense so is worth his premium TE1 price in DFS on Sunday.