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Thursday Night Football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Chargers vs Chiefs Matchups Analysis

justin herbert fantasy football rankings NFL DFS lineup picks

It’s officially the best time of year. Not only do we have the holidays coming up, but we also have NFL playoff implications and more importantly, fantasy playoffs. This year more than most, it seems we NFL fans must’ve made the Nice List because I don’t think we could ask for a better way to end 2021. 

The NFL playoffs are wild. In the AFC, we have 13 of 16 teams with at least six wins and in the playoff hunt. Meanwhile, in the NFC, we have what appears to be a very top-heavy playoff picture with a few underrated teams fighting for that final spot. 

As exciting as the NFL is, we are officially entering the fantasy playoff season. Whether your league starts playoffs this week or next, there isn’t a better matchup to kick off Week 15. The red hot Chiefs' defense travels to the West coast to see if the thunderstorm of Justin Herbert can douse their flames. Fasten your seatbelts, because we are in for a wild Thursday this week. As always, my name is Ellis Johnson and this is the RotoBaller Thursday Night Preview. 

Featured Promo: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off and win big in 2022. Exclusive access to our Draft Kit, new Team Sync platform, premium articles, rankings and projections, 15 lineup tools and Premium DFS tools and cheat sheets. Sign Up Now!

 

Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers - 8:20 pm ET 

Notable Injuries

 

Must-Starts for Fantasy Football Lineups

Justin Herbert (QB, LAC): The aforementioned and unofficial King of the Coast takes on his division rivals to claim the top of the division. Despite my thunderstorm metaphor, Herbert has been on fire. Seriously, this kid can ball. Herbert has been turning heads all season and has worked his way into the Mahomes conversation for dynasty leagues. Despite missing the half a billion-dollar contract, Herbert has done everything he can to make his case. He is the only QB to throw for 30+ touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, and he isn’t stopping yet. He is the QB3 on the season behind Tom Brady and is also third in passing touchdowns. Despite the Chiefs' defense putting on a clinic last week, Herbert makes Derek Carr look more like a golf cart than a car. Start Herbert with confidence this week, and watch one of the league’s best sling it Thursday night. 

Keenan Allen (WR, LAC): What’s a superhero without his trusty sidekick? Building on my love for Herbert, Allen looks to return this week. After missing last week on the COVID list, Allen will be a key piece for this offense against the Chiefs. Despite missing last week, Allen is the WR13 on the season, fifth in receptions, and sixth in targets at the position. Allen is the go-to guy for Herbert and should see a healthy amount of targets in this one. Since the Chiefs' defensive turnaround, they have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to the WR position over the last three weeks (20.3). Start Allen as a locked-in WR1, who I’m calling the Pie Shop* to be open for Allen.

*Pie Shop: An Australian term (often used in Rugby League) to describe who will score a Try (or in this case touchdown) this week.

Austin Ekeler (RB, LAC): Awesome Austin Ekeler is incredible. If it wasn’t for Jonathan Taylor, everyone would be losing their minds over Ekeler’s fantasy season. Currently the RB2 on the season, Ekeler is outsourcing the third-best back by 28 fantasy points. In a classic Ekeler fashion, he is second at the position in receptions, first in receiving yards, and first in receiving touchdowns with seven. However, unlike previous seasons, Ekeler has managed to get it done on the ground as well. With nine rushing touchdowns and averaging 4.5 yards per carry on what is already reaching a career-high 161 rushing attempts, he has been a machine. Ekeler is a phenomenal person, player, and fantasy option. Start him as an elite RB1 against a middling Kansas City rushing defense this week.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams (RB, KC): I’m grouping these two as the matchup analysis applies to both. However, Edwards-Helaire is the must-start while Williams remains a fringe “solid option”. These two backs have coexisted nicely since Edwards-Helaire’s return from injury, despite splitting touches. Edwards-Helaire is the leader, with 36 attempts and eight targets over the last three games. While Williams has maintained efficiency over that span with 12 rushes and nine targets. The Chargers are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs over the last three weeks and the Chiefs should look to establish the run. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is coming off a two-touchdown performance and has had double-digit carries every game since returning from injury. I would start him as a high-end RB2 this week. Meanwhile, Williams will look to take advantage of the matchup and is a solid RB3 this week.

Travis Kelce (TE, KC): He’s the best, start him. That seems to be all the analysis necessary for the fantasy freak that is Kelce. Although he is coming off a “down” week, Kelce is still an elite option. Despite being temporarily dethroned by Mark Andrews for the top fantasy spot, Kelce is still 51 points ahead of the third-best TE. He has 22 fewer targets than Kansas City’s target leader Tyreek Hill and is used as the only other receiving option for Patrick Mahomes. I would brush last week off, and watch the best in the league take on defense that is average against the position.

Tyreek Hill (WR, KC): Despite having six games under 10 fantasy points (including each of his last two weeks), Hill is still the fantasy WR5 on the season. As expected, you get massive games with the speedy wideout, followed by middling weeks. However, with nine or more targets in three-quarters of his games this year, his floor is safer than it has been in the past. Ironically, despite the Chiefs looking like they have turned their season around, Hill has failed to top four receptions and double-digit fantasy points in his last two weeks. This may be nothing, but it also might be the team’s new scheme to win. If this trend repeats facing the Chargers, who are the fifth-ranked defense against the position, I might start sweating if I’m relying on him for the fantasy playoffs. Regardless, for this week you are starting him as a WR1 for fantasy. 

 

Solid Options for Fantasy Football Lineups

Patrick Mahomes II (QB, KC): To quote Jay-Z, six “must starts” this week and Mahomes ain’t one. I’m fairly confident that’s how the song goes, at least for this week. Since Week 5, Mahomes has only scored 20+ fantasy points twice. Despite scoring 48 points against the Raiders, last week was not one of those two performances. It hasn’t all been bad for Mahomes though, he is still the QB4 for the season. However, this is mostly due to consistency and not those week-winning performances that are associated with his name. This week, he faces the Chargers, who have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the QB position on the season. However, they have allowed the 10th-most over the last three weeks. Mahomes is still a fantasy QB1 and can have those massive weeks; however, I think he is more of a mid-QB1 than an elite option.

 

Flex Considerations for Fantasy Football Lineups

Mike Williams (WR, LAC): After starting the year on fire, Williams got caught in a thunderstorm. As a Charger, you’d think this would be a good thing. At least it was for Herbert and Allen. However, Williams was not so lucky. Scoring only one touchdown since Week 6, Williams has been the WR34 in that span. Last week without Allen, he had a solid game with six receptions for 61 yards. He always possesses big play and jaw-dropping catch ability which makes him one play away from being a fantasy star every game. However, unless you think Kansas City gets ahead in this game and the Chargers are forced to throw, I only view him as a high upside flex play this week.

 

Consider Sitting for Fantasy Football Lineups

Jalen Guyton (WR, LAC): Despite posting back-to-back 16 point fantasy weeks, it’s hard to trust Guyton with both Allen and Williams in the lineup. As the team’s primary deep shot option, he is a boom or bust, high upside play. Personally, he is not the guy I want to depend on this late in the fantasy season. 

Joshua Palmer (WR, LAC): Despite being a “sit” this week, I want to put this kid on people’s dynasty radar. After declining Williams’ fifth-year option, the Chargers drafted Brampton, Ontario’s own Joshua Palmer in the third round. Since then, he has been praised by the staff and had a very solid rookie season. With Allen out last week, Palmer led the team in targets (seven), with five receptions for 66 yards. He also picked up a 12-yard score to open the game. Although you can’t play him this week, he has displayed chemistry with Herbert, making him a very interesting piece in dynasty leagues and worth monitoring. 

Jared Cook (TE, LAC): In his 13th season, the 34-year-old continues to find himself in this portion of my articles. The big veteran is always a threat to score; however, this season he has shared work with Donald Parham Jr. and been irrelevant for fantasy. So far, he is the TE18 on the season, and unless you are in an 18-team league, I would look elsewhere this week.

 

We’re heating up to close out the season. We hit on both of our picks last week, making us 12-4 against the spread and 11-5 on the Over/Under this season. I think this week is a tougher matchup to predict; however, I like where these lines are. In a key divisional game with two solid defenses, I am glad the big offensive names have kept this Over/Under fairly high. As for the spread, a four-point line is never fun. Both these teams are hot right now but I have to side with the home team and take the points. If none of that made sense to you, don’t worry as here are my picks for this week:

Ellis’ Picks: Chargers +4.0 (12-4), Under 51.5 (11-5)

Career record: Spread (21-13), Over/Under (20-14)



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