While it’s difficult to envision exactly what the Chiefs’ outlook for this season was, I’m pretty sure they thought tonight’s game against the Chargers would be important for a different set of reasons. A battle for the top of the AFC West? Understandable. Los Angeles was highly competitive last season, it advanced to the second-round of the playoffs and it boasts a deep roster with a mix of both veteran and young talent. Surely Kansas City would have a bit of a cushion in such a scenario — I mean, it has a healthy Patrick Mahomes ($12,000) — but this contest would be instrumental in locking down that always crucial first-round bye — right?
So, about all that. Mahomes has not been at 100% health, but he did look mostly like himself in his return from a knee ailment in last week’s loss to the Titans. The Chiefs are in a battle for supremacy in the division, yet it’s somehow the upstart Raiders and not the Chargers breathing down their necks, while the Patriots and Ravens pull farther and farther away in the conference standings. Also, just for fun, this evening’s game is in Mexico City.
Seems like a lot to process, yet let’s break it all down from a Showdown perspective.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
Los Angeles Chargers
Though his actual snap counts have stayed pretty consistent the past four weeks, Melvin Gordon ($8,600) has started to look a little more like himself in Los Angeles’ past two games, specifically. It makes sense, right? Almost as if the first couple of contests he appeared in following the end of his holdout represented a sort of faux training camp. Anyway, regardless of how we got there, we clearly are at a place where it’s now OK to trust the former Pro Bowler in DFS. Gordon’s touched the ball 46 times since the beginning of Week 9, a span that’s seen the running back rack up 242 scrimmage yards, three rushing touchdowns and 49.2 DKFP. It honestly shouldn’t be surprising that a massive role in this offense has proven to be beneficial for an RB. The Chargers rank fifth in the NFL in yards gained per drive, and that ability to move the football has translated directly into the team sitting eighth in the league in red zone scoring attempts per game (3.6). That’s given Gordon the opportunity to collect 17 carries inside the opponent’s 20-yard line the past four weeks — more red zone rushing attempts than David Johnson, Alvin Kamara and Le’Veon Bell have mustered for the entire campaign. Add in the fact Kansas City is surrendering an AFC-worst 5.08 adjusted line yards per carry, and you’ve got a smash spot for the Wisconsin product this evening.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for Austin Ekeler ($6,600), who obviously has seen his workload decrease in light of Gordon rounding back into form. The third-year back still is seeing more than 40% of Los Angeles’ offensive snaps on average the past three games, and he remains an incredibly efficient receiving option but unsustainable touchdown expectancy has been keeping Ekeler’s value afloat in recent weeks. In fact, 33.1% of Ekeler’s modest 36.3 DKFP since Week 8 has been based in touchdown receptions, despite the RB garnering a mere two red zone targets within that stretch of time. There’s simply no reason to utilize Ekeler when Gordon’s only $2,000 more expensive on this slate.
Another reason to like Gordon is the Chargers’ likely inclination to run the ball whenever possible. This is not just a response to the Chiefs ranking 31st in rushing defense DVOA or an effort to control the time of possession and limit Kansas City’s explosive offense, but something needed to be done sheerly out of necessity. Los Angeles’ offensive line looked to be in shambles last Thursday following the exit of left tackle Russell Okung, who is listed as doubtful to play this evening, and it proceeded to give up five sacks and numerous pressures to an Oakland defensive line that had struggled for most of 2019. With right tackle Sam Tevi also on the shelf, I’d be expecting the Chiefs to wreck a similar level of havoc, especially considering they came into Week 11 sitting fifth in all of football with 30 sacks and an 8.5% adjusted sack rate.
That doesn’t mean Philip Rivers ($8,800) isn’t viable, however, it does mean his inclusion in your lineups hinges on a particular kind of game script. I truly believe that, in a vacuum, the Chargers would like to hand the ball to Gordon 30 times tonight. Still, that can’t happen if Los Angeles finds itself trailing by a couple of scores, something that’s been known to happen when facing Kansas City. For that reason, and aided by an inviting price point, Rivers can remain a high-floor option on this slate. At the end of the day, the pivot did enter the week leading the NFL in passing yards (2,816) and leading the AFC in drop backs (391). There’s also value in recognizing the clear hierarchy within the Chargers’ receiving corps and, thusly, knowing who to stack with Rivers. Keenan Allen ($8,400) has been targeted on a whopping 26% of his routes so far this season — the fourth-highest mark of any qualified and active WR in Week 11. Besides him, there’s Hunter Henry ($8,200). From Week 6 to Week 10, Henry’s led all tight ends in targets (40), receptions (29), receiving yards (358) and PPR fantasy points (82.8). Apologies to Mike Williams ($5,800), but it’s pretty obvious where Rivers likes to distribute his passes, and you are not one of those places.
Kansas City Chiefs
Considering most of what the Chiefs do on offense is pretty set in stone, let’s begin by talking about the team’s rushing attack. Following a 35-32 loss to Tennessee last Sunday, things appeared to be have simplified themselves in a backfield that has been giving owners headaches for months. Damien Williams ($7,400) had logged 73% of the offensive snaps in back-to-back games, using that time on the field to rack up 38 touches and 38.7 DKFP. To make matters even more streamlined, LeSean McCoy ($5,200), who’s role was nearly non-existent in a Week 9 win over Minnesota, was just inactive for Week 10, leaving no doubts about how the veteran might wriggle his way into the game plan. Obviously Darrel Williams ($4,200) remained a bit of a factor in McCoy’s absence, yet it seemed like we might have the makings of a “bell cow” system developing in Kansas City.
Of course, things are rarely that easy. Damien Williams found himself away from the team for a couple of days in the lead up to Monday Night Football, as the running back was dealing with personal issues. On top of that, Andy Reid stated McCoy’s inactive designation last weekend wasn’t so much an indication of his standing on the depth chart, but more so the NFL’s answer to load management. So, you know, more headaches. Anyway, with reports that Williams travelled with the team to Mexico and is expected to play, I’m putting on the running back blinders. Knowing the Chargers have conceded at least 16.0 PPR points to an opposing RBs in six straight games and have allowed the second-most targets to the position since Week 8, Williams is going to be viable no matter who happens to be in uniform alongside him. I don’t care if McCoy plays, I don’t care if Darwin Thompson ($200) finds himself on the field for a snap, I don’t care if Priest Holmes comes out of retirement; if Williams’ workload this evening is anything like it’s been the past two weeks, he’s a near lock to hit value and he’s got serious Captain’s Pick consideration.
Aside from that, the only lingering question with Kansas City is where you’re going to save salary. I mean, Mahomes has produced 20-plus DKFP in every start he’s finished so far in 2019. Tyreek Hill ($10,600) is coming off an 11-catch performance against the Titans, and his 32% target per route rate is by far the highest in the NFL. You’re going to want to be using these gentlemen in as many lineups as possible. So, that probably means fading Travis Kelce ($9,000). However, that’s an easier pill to swallow when you consider the tight end’s spotty track record against Los Angeles in recent years. In fact, going back to the beginning of 2017, Kelce’s mustered just 15 receptions and 114 yards in four meetings with the Chargers. In defense of Kelce, it’s not like he’s the only person to have had this problem. Los Angeles has been incredibly stout versus TEs this season, conceding a microscopic 3.4 catches per game to the position – the fourth-lowest total in the league. Projecting things out from a fantasy points per-dollar perspective, I’d much rather invest in Sammy Watkins ($6,000) or Demarcus Robinson ($4,400) and use the savings to pay up elsewhere.
This is a tough game to get a sense of. Not only are we dealing with a neutral setting, but the Chargers historically play up and down to their level of competition. They certainly have the talent to beat the Chiefs, yet I feel like their offensive line woes eventually will be too detrimental to overcome. Still, I think they can keep things close, and that opens up both Melvin Gordon ($12,900 CP) and Damien Williams ($11,100 CP) as possible options at 1.5x value. Tyreek Hill ($15,900 CP) is probably my favorite choice as a Captain’s Pick on this slate; however, both running backs open up the opportunity for relatively balanced builds.
Final Score: Kansas City 31, Los Angeles 24
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