This is probably one of the biggest games of the season as there are not only fantasy football implications but for both teams heading into Thursday night’s game, they are playing for the division on the line. A win for the Chargers would put them in sole possession of the division as well as owning the tie-breaker over the Chiefs after they beat the division rival earlier this season. If the Chargers can keep up that momentum, they can steal the division from the Chiefs. A Chiefs win would help them continue the display of dominance over the last few weeks in the division after taking out the Raiders and Broncos over the last couple of weeks.
For fantasy managers, the potential for a high-scoring game from two of the better offenses in the NFL presents an opportunity to get a win as the start of the fantasy football playoffs has begun in many fantasy leagues (because if your commissioner was paying attention, they’ve made adjustments to the league like the NFL has by adding another week to the regular season). So let’s take a look at this matchup:
Starting at the top, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes are two of the best quarterbacks in all of fantasy. This is even despite the struggles both have gone through during this season. Mahomes in particular has gotten off to an uncharacteristically awkward start with the interceptions he’s been throwing. Over the first seven games, Mahomes tossed nine interceptions but has since seemingly righted the ship, tossing just three over the last six games. Herbert, on the other hand, has struggled with his own performance issues. Between Weeks 6-10, Herbert posted just one high-performing fantasy game, dropping over 30 fantasy points against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In this matchup, the Chargers have played solid against opposing quarterbacks, allowing the 4th fewest yards to quarterbacks so far this season. Limiting Patrick Mahomes is going to be key if the Chargers want to have a chance of winning this game. Conversely, the Chiefs have struggled against the pass for a large majority of the season, allowing 252 passing yards per game on average, the 7th most in the league. While the advantage seems to be going in the Chargers’ favor, the Chiefs’ defense has been sturdy over the last few games as the Chiefs held their last three opponents under 250 passing yards.
Both quarterbacks rank inside the Top 10 in fantasy right now and I would doubt that this would be a wise move to pivot from either quarterback for an option lesser than those especially at this point of the season in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Herbert and Mahomes are locked to start this game. Just be sure to lock them in and “Hold on to your butts” all Samuel L. Jackson, Jurassic Park style.
Turning to the running backs, Austin Ekeler and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are the starters for their respective teams. The one concern I have is Darrel Williams lurking behind CEH and culturing a touchdown play. CEH scored two touchdowns last week against the Raiders and gets another solid matchup against a Chargers defense that allows the 2nd most rushing yards in the league and 4.7 y/a to opposing running backs. The other concern is the health status of Austin Ekeler. Earlier today, NFL Network’s Taylor Bisciotti reported that there was some concern with Austin Ekeler’s ankle as he injured it in Week 14 and was experiencing soreness ahead of the game.
But if there’s one thing you can love as a fantasy manager, it’s that Ekeler is all in when it comes to letting fantasy managers know what’s going as he posted this on his social media.
Ekeler seems ready to go and if that’s the case, he should be in your lineups. Ekeler is currently the RB2 on the season while averaging 21.3 FPPG in PPR formats. So you’ll want to keep him in your lineups.
At wide receiver, the Chargers get back Keenan Allen from the Covid/Reserve list and should be a lock for fantasy managers. Allen has been averaging 10 targets a game this season and has been cooking in PPR formats as a Top 15 wide receiver on the season. The one puzzling player is Mike Williams, who started hot at the beginning of the season but has been up and down after coming back from a knee injury in the middle of the season. Williams is still playable but expectations should be tempered as you don’t know what you’ll get from him, week to week. Williams, to his credit, is averaging almost eight targets a game (7.6) so he’s got volume on his side, and the Chiefs are giving up 32.6 FPPG to opposing wideouts.
For the Chiefs, you’re going to keep Tyreek Hill in your lineups. Despite the fact that he’s been inconsistent for most of the season, especially over the last three weeks, Hill has game-breaking ability that can go off at any moment. On top of the fact that between him and Travis Kelce are the bonafide weapons of the Chiefs offense, he’s going to be a weekly play. Hill is getting 10 targets a game so the workload is still on his side. So slide him in your lineups and hope for the best but be prepared for the worst if you’re watching the game.
At the tight end position… Ok, let me just ask this. Is it me or does it feel like Travis Kelce has been struggling this season? Yes, he’s the TE2 on the season and he’s been seeing a 22.4% target share in the Chiefs offense this season. Kelce is averaging 12 targets a game this season but it feels like week to week, you’re just not getting enough from him. Opposing defenses have been playing the Chiefs different this season and the big plays that we know the Chiefs for haven’t always been there for the star tight end this year. But is there a better option available this deep into the season? The Chargers are giving up the 8th most fantasy points to the tight end position at 14.75 FPPG.
On the other side, Jared Cook should also continue to be involved in the Chargers offense with the Chiefs giving up 13.95 FPPG (10th most). Cook is seeing about five targets a game so far so if you have a more involved option to pivot to like Mike Gesicki, Cook is someone you’ll have to roll with because there aren’t any better options available.
This game should be one for the ages as two divisional rivals go head to head in one of the better matchups on Thursday Night. I’m taking the Chargers in this one for the upset. The Chiefs are favored in this game but both defenses are strong enough to slow down the other. I think the Chargers make a few more plays than the Chiefs to steal this game away and gain control of the division and the AFC standings. If I had to give a final score… I’ll go with 32-28 Chiefs. Let me know what you think. Who are you taking between the Chiefs and Chargers?