Chargers vs. Rams
The Chargers are not thought of as an elite team, despite the wealth of talent on their roster. They are often labeled as underperformers who crumble under the weight of expectations. Given the recent performances of the Rams, the Chargers could be staring at a 1-2 record come week 4. While the Rams should no doubt be favored, the Chargers are talented enough to pull off this upset. Regardless of the outcome, this will be an immense test for the Chargers and should prove to be a tough matchup on both sides of the ball.
Is Philip Rivers worth starting this week?
Two strong weeks from Philip Rivers have made fantasy owners happy, and rightfully so. Rivers has performed very well, however this will be the first elite defense the Chargers have faced. So, what can we expect from Rivers this week? For one, the Chargers offense is much better than the Raiders or Cardinals which the Rams faced the first two weeks. Based on talent alone, Rivers and the rest of the Chargers offense should perform better than both teams. I am expecting around 2-3 touchdowns from this offense, depending on game flow. This does not leave a lot of room for fantasy production, as expected, but the high usage players may still have good weeks. As for Rivers, it will come down to the play of his offensive line. This line has been atrocious in the run game but has held up okay in pass protection. Mike Pouncey at center has been stellar, which is going to be very important as the Rams interior duo of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh is the best in the league. Rivers success will rely on the interior of his line. If they can manage to slow down these two defensive tackles, Rivers should be able to put up some decent numbers. The rest of the Rams defense is still formidable and given the elite play of Donald among others, it is likely that this is one of the worst weeks Rivers will have. If you have another starting option, you should fade Rivers, however, I would not recommend dropping him for a streamer. His rest of the season outlook is still strong.
Phillip Rivers: 230 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 Int
Can these running backs continue to overcome bad blocking? What should we look for against this solid Rams Defense?
Melvin Gordon has continued his fantasy dominance into the 2018 season. Factoring heavily in both as a receiver and runner makes him extremely consistent. While the Rams overall defense has been very good, their run defense is not as strong. Even considering that, this will still be a very tough matchup for Gordon, especially given the struggles of his offensive line. His production will likely hinge on whether he can find his way into the end zone. Although relying on touchdowns is often foolish, the way the Chargers have used Gordon near the goal line is extremely encouraging. Even when not getting the ball on the ground, Rivers is clearly looking for Gordon to exploit matchups against slower, less athletic linebackers. The Rams strong corners could potentially funnel the ball towards Gordon in the passing game, which should lead to solid PPR production. In any event, nobody is benching Melvin Gordon. The most important aspect of this game will be to monitor how they use him against tougher opponents. Austin Ekeler finds himself in a similar situation. At the moment, he has not been used near the goal line, although he did manage to get more carries than Gordon. Like Gordon, Ekeler’s usage needs to be monitored closely. Against this tough defense and with a low chance of scoring, he should not be in lineups this week.
Melvin Gordon: 15 carries, 45 yards; 4 catches, 30 yards, 1 TD
Austin Ekeler: 5 carries, 20 yards; 3 catches, 35 yards
Tyrell or Mike?
Keenan Allen is the number 1 option, that much is obvious. Behind him, things are still taking shape. In week 1, Tyrell Williams ran 40 routes, Travis Benjamin ran 32 and Mike Williams ran 31. As I elaborated in my week 1 recap, Both Tyrell and Benjamin did not perform well, Mike however looked very good. In week 2, Benjamin did not suit up which had me calling for a Mike Williams breakout. While he did score, he only caught two passes on the day which was disappointing. The bright side? Mike ran only one less route than Tyrell (27 and 26 respectively). Keenan Allen only ran 28! There was not nearly as many pass plays in this game as opposed to week 1. The playing time breakdown is significant because it shows Mike was as involved in this game plan as much as any other player. If Melvin Gordon had not been torturing the Bills linebackers near the goal line, Mike might have snuck into the end zone another time. His season outlook is positive but this week you should stay away. With Travis Benjamin most likely to return, and a pair of great corners in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, Williams could end up with basically nothing. However, his usage trends will be something that needs to be observed, especially around the goal line. Both Benjamin and Tyrell will still be used in this offense, but neither of them have the upside of Mike. This battle for the second receiver will likely continue throughout the season but hopefully, it can be resolved soon enough for one of these players to benefit. This week, outside of Keenan Allen, none of the pass catchers in this offense should be in your lineup.
Keenan Allen: 8 targets, 6 catches, 75 yards, 1 TD
Tyrell Williams: 4 Targets, 3 Catches, 40 yards
Mike Williams: 3 targets, 3 catches, 25 yards
Travis Benjamin: 2 targets, 1 catch, 30 yards
How much trust do you have in this defense?
There is a theme with this preview. I am still high on the Chargers defense, just like I am high on Mike Williams or Philip Rivers, but this week is not a good matchup. The Rams offense has enough playmakers for mastermind head coach Sean McVay to expose any weaknesses the Chargers have. The pass rush should be a strength for this team, but with Joey Bosa still out with his foot injury, Melvin Ingram has to provide pressure singlehandedly. The Rams offensive line, unlike the Chargers, has been absolutely dominant this season. If Ingram can overcome the strong line and apply pressure, the Chargers defense will be much tougher. Even considering that, there are certainly better defensive options available on the waiver wire. If you do decide to stream, you can pick up the chargers again next week. Something to watch for is the continued development of rookies Derwin James and Kyzir White. Derwin has looked strong so far, contributing in coverage, against the run and even as a pass rusher. Kyzir, a converted college safety, has shown very well as a linebacker. As the NFL becomes more pass happy, coverage linebackers become more valuable. If Kyzir and Derwin continue to play well, this defense can be scary.
Is there anything positive for the Chargers fantasy outlook in this game?
Regardless of where you look, this is a tough matchup. None of the Chargers players have a great matchup, the best would be Melvin Gordon mostly in the passing game. Outside of Keenan Allen and Gordon, Chargers players should be riding the pine.
Can they get Todd Gurley II going?
The Rams enter their first “tough” game when they play host to the other Los Angeles team in the Chargers. The matchup to watch or keep in mind is the Rams’ all-world running back, Todd Gurley II versus the linebackers of the Chargers. This is a pretty solid group that includes up and coming rookie Kyzir White out of West Virginia who intercepted Bills’ QB Josh Allen last week. The Chargers’ defense is allowing under 100 yards per game, so far, while, the Rams are averaging about 115 yards rushing. Something has to give, you’d think. I’d give the edge to Gurley, but he was held in check by the Cardinals and then was hampered by cramps a week ago. I’d expect him to surpass 100 yards from scrimmage, with about 80 yards rushing, 35 yards receiving and a touchdown. If he gets three again…well, that’ll be a game from Hell for the Chargers. [Rams C John Sullivan is Questionable for the game, which obviously would be a huge factor]
Who will lead the team in receiving, this time?
On such a balanced attack, multiple Rams receivers will get to touch the ball. So far, it’s been the WR Brandin Cooks-show, who’s been averaging 123 yards per game. Can he sustain that rate? Probably not, but he has clearly shown to be a clear upgrade from WR Sammy Watkins. Cooper Kupp has been as rock-solid as he’s been since his first snap last year. WR Robert Woods has quietly been one of the smartest additions for them in years, being that third option that really doesn’t have a steep drop off from the former two wideouts. With CB Casey Hayward, Jr. likely shadowing Cooks, I’d give the edge to Cooper Kupp in targets, finishing with 8 receptions and a touchdown. If you own Cooks, start him. High leverage situations usually call for playmakers and Cooks should answer the call with a score of his own, but I just see Kupp getting more separation on his routes from the slot.
Can the defense keep Rivers and Co. from keeping up?
I refuse to be the guy who doubts this Rams’ defense. Until they give up 350 yards to a passer and get completely ran over, I won’t be riding the regression train anytime soon. QB Philip Rivers isn’t mobile and DT Aaron Donald is the most disruptive interior defender in the league. The result: a couple of sacks and a hell of a lot more rushed throws. Sure, Rivers has weapons, but will he have enough time to go through progressions? Fat chance.