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We’re going to get a lot of stuff wrong, but sifting through usage metrics can help us work through what matters and what doesn’t. That’s the goal of this article: to break down the most actionable takeaways from each week in a concise, numbers-filled format and work through what’s important. From now on, we’ll only focus on teams still alive in the playoffs. Let’s get right to it.

 

Mecole Hardman disappears after costly errors in Divisional Round

One week after running 10 routes against the Bills — just four fewer than Marquez Valdes-Scantling and one fewer than Justin Watson — Hardman’s playing time evaporated in the AFC Championship Game, as he played just one offensive snap and fell behind Richie James in the pecking order. All told, Hardman ran one route, while James ran eight, Watson 26, and MVS led the way with a team-leading 44 routes on 46 Patrick Mahomes dropbacks. Rashee Rice ran 43 routes, one fewer than MVS, but he out-targeted all other Chiefs WRs combined 9-7. Noah Gray was slightly above his seasonal route rate again with 20 routes on 46 dropbacks (43.5% — seasonal rate entering the AFCCG was 41.5%).

Kadarius Toney was ruled out early due to a hip injury and personal reasons; he later took to Instagram to insist he is not hurt and Kansas City is lying about his injury. Regardless, KC has no reason to use him in the Super Bowl, and it seems like they are done with the Hardman experiment too. MVS had been below 50% route participation in Kansas City’s first two playoff games, but his usage vs. the Ravens was a massive display of trust in a guy who’s had a tumultuous season, and he rewarded them with the game-ending dagger reception. Watson’s routes have been fairly disappointing the last two weeks and he’s not a target earner to begin with. Both players are likely in low-usage roles against the 49ers with MVS the preferable option simply because he should have the routes edge. Skyy Moore is also eligible to return but must be activated from injured reserve in time to play.

The last time Kelce had fewer than 71 yards in a playoff game was 2019. The Chiefs have funneled nearly half of their targets to Kelce and Rice over the past month, and that should be the expectation in the most important game of the season. Everyone else (Isiah Pacheco and Gray are two potential exceptions) is simply a change of pace from an otherwise two-headed receiving corps.

 

Isiah Pacheco sees 24 carries despite entering with Q tag (toe)

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