Tyrann Mathieu remains in the concussion protocol after getting hit in the head in the first quarter of Sunday’s playoff game. How could Mathieu’s injury impact the Chiefs’ defense, and what effect might his presence or absence have on the Bengals’ fantasy football prospects this coming Sunday?
Tyrann Mathieu: Elite NFL safety
PFN NFL Analyst Dalton Miller said it best when he ranked Mathieu as the No. 2 NFL safety last spring, calling him “one of the best players in the league. His versatility as a defensive back is, and always has been, his calling card. The do-it-all defensive back tackles well, covers well, and is a playmaker in the secondary.”
A 2013 third-round pick for Arizona, Mathieu signed a one-year deal with Houston in 2018. The Texans tried to retain him, while he also drew strong interest from the Ravens and Buccaneers (whose GM, head coach, and defensive coordinator Mathieu played for in Arizona). But the Chiefs made a three-year offer he couldn’t refuse, making him the league’s highest-paid safety.
Nearly three years later, he’s still one of the league’s highest-paid safeties, and he has the highest cap hit of anyone at his position. A free agent after this season, the 30-year-old Mathieu is hoping to add a second Super Bowl ring to his résumé alongside his 26 career interceptions.
AFC Conference Championship game outlook
The recently durable Mathieu has missed only two games in the past five years. But the timing of his latest injury couldn’t be worse, as he exited last weekend’s playoff victory over the Bills after taking a knee to the head on Buffalo’s opening drive. He’s currently in the concussion protocol, though head coach Andy Reid said on Monday that Mathieu “does feel good.”
Mathieu’s presence this coming Sunday will be critically important against a Bengals offense averaging 426 passing yards and 3.3 TD passes in Joe Burrow’s last four starts. His presence would slightly lower fantasy and DFS outlooks for Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins. Of course, his absence would be a boon for a Bengals team that might need to throw a lot to keep pace with the Chiefs’ high-flying offense.