TNF Fantasy Preview: Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raidersby Mike Fanelli December 17, 2020 0 comments
It’s Week 15, and that means it’s on to the second round of the fantasy playoffs. To kick off the week, we have a matchup between AFC West division rivals as the 4-9 Los Angeles Chargers travel to Las Vegas to take on the 7-6 Raiders. While this is the last Thursday night game of the season, we have a game on Christmas Day that I will cover similarly, so be sure to be on the lookout for it. However, first, we have to win this week, and setting the perfect lineup is more critical than ever, so let’s dive into it.
Los Angeles Chargers
Quarterback – Justin Herbert
After a nightmare performance against New England Patriots, Hebert bounced back last week, scoring 15.7 fantasy points against the Atlanta Falcons. However, that is far from the 26.5 fantasy points per game Herbert was averaging from Week 5 to Week 11. This week he takes on a Raiders defense that has given up an average of 19.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. They have given up 17.6 or more fantasy points in three of their last four games. Furthermore, in their Week 9 matchup, Herbert threw for 326 passing yards, two touchdowns, and scored 23.4 fantasy points. Herbert is a mid QB1 this week with upside.
Running Back – Austin Ekeler
The Chargers got hit hard by injuries this week as several skill position players are on the injury report, including Ekeler with a quad injury. He was listed as a limited participant on Tuesday’s estimated injury report but should play tonight. If he doesn’t play, the Chargers will turn to the duo of Justin Jackson and Kalen Ballage. Between the two, Ballage would be the better fantasy option as he out-snapped Jackson 23-11 last week. However, both running backs belong on the bench whether Ekeler plays or not.
Assuming Ekeler plays, he is a high-end RB1 against a struggled Raiders run defense. The Raiders are giving up almost 30 fantasy points per game to running backs this season. Furthermore, they have given up an average of 32.8 fantasy points per game and seven total rushing touchdowns to running backs over their last four games. During that span, they have given up at least 94 rushing yards to the position in every contest. Meanwhile, when Ekeler plays at least 50 percent of the snaps and Herbert is under center, he averages 21.7 fantasy points per game. Expect Ekeler to finish the week as a top-five running back.
Last week, Williams played only two snaps before leaving the game with a back injury. However, he and Allen were listed as a limited participant on Tuesday’s estimated injury report and should play tonight. If either misses the game, Tyron Johnson becomes a flex option. Last week he scored 17.5 fantasy points compared to only 1.8 for Jalen Guyton despite playing seven fewer snaps. If both Allen and Williams play, Johnson belongs on the waiver wire.
Entering the season, many in the fantasy community were down on Allen and Williams because of the Chargers’ quarterback situation. Tyrod Taylor‘s play puts a limit on his wide receivers’ fantasy value, and no one knew Herbert would be this good this quickly. However, Allen is the WR5 on the year, averaging 18.7 fantasy points per game. He has scored double-digit fantasy points in every game with Herbert under center, except against the Patriots, scoring only 9.8 fantasy points. Meanwhile, Williams is averaging 11.5 fantasy points per game in the games he has played at least 55 percent of the snaps. Before the Falcons game, Williams was averaging 12.5 fantasy points per game over his past eight contests. Expect both to have impactful fantasy games tonight against the Raiders.
Wide receivers have had plenty of success against the Raiders this season as they are giving up just under 38 fantasy points per game to the position. They have given up at least two receiving touchdowns to the position in three straight games and at least 35.5 fantasy points to wide receivers in 77 percent of their games this year. In their Week 9 matchup, Allen caught nine of his 11 targets for 103 yards, a touchdown, and 25.3 fantasy points. Meanwhile, Williams caught five of his seven targets for 81 yards and 13.1 fantasy points in that game. This week, Allen is a must-start WR1, while Williams is a low-end flex option with upside.
Tight End – Hunter Henry
Henry briefly left last week’s game with an injury but returned to finish the game. He was listed as a limited participant in Tuesday’s estimated injury report with a hip injury but should play tonight. However, if he doesn’t play, Donald Parham is not a suitable fantasy replacement. Henry has been one of the safer fantasy tight ends over the last five weeks. During that span, he averaged 10.6 fantasy points per game, scoring double-digits in all but the Patriots game. However, in the Week 9 matchup against the Raiders, Henry caught four of seven targets for 33 yards and scored only 7.3 fantasy points.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have done a good job slowing down tight ends recently. Over the last seven games, the Raiders are giving up only 6.9 fantasy points per game to tight ends not named Travis Kelce. While Henry’s role and quarterback keep him in the TE1 mix this week, he should be viewed as a low-end TE1 instead of a must-start option.
Another year, another season where the Chargers’ defense has been hit hard by the injury bug. The Chargers D/ST is averaging only 4.5 fantasy points this season, scoring four or fewer fantasy points in over 60 percent of their games. They have given up 27 or more points in nine of the past 10 games. Meanwhile, D/STs are averaging only 4.5 fantasy points against the Raiders this season, scoring five or fewer in eight of their past 10 contests. This week the Chargers D/ST belongs on your bench, but next week they are a good streaming option against the Denver Broncos.
Las Vegas Raiders
Quarterback – Derek Carr
Aside from that meltdown game against the Falcons in Week 12, Carr has been excellent the last four weeks, scoring 21.5 or more in the other three games. Furthermore, over the past two weeks, Carr has seven total touchdowns and 697 passing yards. Meanwhile, the Chargers are giving up just under 20 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. They have given up two or more passing touchdowns in six of their past eight games, including two to Carr in their Week 9 matchup. The Raiders are fighting for their playoff lives and Carr has played some of the best football of his career recently, so expect that level of play to continue this week with a low-end QB1 finish.
Running Back – Josh Jacobs
Last week Jacobs gave everyone in the fantasy community a heart attack after posting on social media that he wasn’t playing. Instead, he played but only scored 10.4 fantasy points. He is dealing with an ankle injury that has hampered him since Week 12. Before the injury, Jacobs was playing as well as any running back in the league, averaging 17.4 fantasy points per game from Week 8 to Week 11, including 13.8 fantasy points against the Chargers. Meanwhile, the Chargers have done a good job slowing down running backs over the last three weeks, giving up zero rushing touchdowns and an average of 18.6 fantasy points per game. Between his injury and the matchup, Jacobs is a high-end RB2 with limited upside.
When the Raiders selected two wide receivers with their first four draft picks, many thought Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards would star as rookies. However, that hasn’t happened as Edwards has 21.1 total fantasy points for the season while Ruggs is averaging 7.1 fantasy points per game as he’s battled several injuries. Tonight, the Raiders will rely on Agholor and Renfrow as Ruggs was placed on the Covid-19 list and won’t play.
While the rookies haven’t made the impact the Raiders were hoping for, Agholor has been a bright spot for the wide receiver unit this season. He is averaging 11 fantasy points per game, scoring double-digits in seven of his past 10 games. Last week, he had five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts. Meanwhile, Renfrow has been a consistent flex option for deeper PPR leagues. He has scored eight or more fantasy points in seven of his past 11 games. Furthermore, over his last three games, Renfrow is averaging 7.3 targets per game. While Renfrow lacks the explosive upside Agholor has, he is the safe floor play each week.
For tonight’s game, the Chargers have given up the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season, giving up 34.4 per game. However, over their last three games, they have given up an average of 42.9 fantasy points per game and five receiving touchdowns to wide receivers. Even with the Chargers’ recent struggles against wide receivers, this week fantasy owners should view Agholor as a WR3 with upside and Renfrow as safe floor flex in deeper leagues.
Tight End – Darren Waller
Other than Kelce, no tight end is playing as well as Waller this season as he is averaging 6.5 catches for 62.9 yards and 15.8 fantasy points per game. Over the last two weeks, Waller has 20 catches on 27 targets for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and 59.5 fantasy points. Meanwhile, Waller scored 13.2 fantasy points in the Week 9 matchup, and unless you have Kelce on your team and no flex spot, Waller is a must-start tight end this and every week.
Even after firing defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, fantasy owners have no reason to trust the Raiders D/ST. They are the lowest-scoring unit this season, averaging 0.6 fantasy points per game. They scored negative eight fantasy points last week against the Colts. It was the eighth time this season they scored zero or negative fantasy points this season. In their Week 9 matchup, the Raiders D/ST scored one fantasy point, tied for their fourth-highest this season. Leave your D/ST spot empty instead of starting the Raiders D/ST.
Herbert: Mid QB1 with Upside
Ekeler: High-End RB1
Allen: Must Start WR1
Williams: Flex Option with Upside
Henry: Low-End TE1
Chargers D/ST: Avoid
Carr: Low-End QB1
Jacobs: High-End RB2
Agholor: WR3 with Upside
Renfrow: Safe Floor Flex Option in Deeper Leagues
Waller: Must Start Stud
Raiders D/ST: Avoid
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