Kickoff: Sunday, September 12th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: FedExField, Landover, MD
Betting Odds: LAC -1, 44.5 total via Oddsshark
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert (Start, Low-end QB1)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert finished 2020 as the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and hopes are high for his second year. Herbert is a high floor option, even against this tough Football Team defense. Herbert scored 18 or more fantasy points in all of his starts except one last season and topped 25 in more than half of his games. The Chargers have plenty of options for a quick pass game, and Herbert will throw the ball plenty in this matchup. Even in a difficult matchup to start the year, there is no reason to sit him.
Austin Ekeler (Start, mid-RB1)
Austin Ekeler‘s 2020 season was a disappointment for the star back, as he battled injury for the better part of the year. Ekeler finished as the overall RB27, with seven Top 24 weeks, but on a per-game basis, he was the RB13. When he did play, Herbert peppered him with targets. Against Washington, Ekeler will be back in his role as a primary pass catcher, with some rushing upside. The Football Team allowed a league-average 114 yards per game on the ground, and Ekeler can add enough in the run game to make him a low-end RB1 this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Keenan Allen (Start, WR1), Mike Williams (Start, Flex), Jared Cook (Sit, TE2), Donald Parham (Sit)
There are no questions this week for Keenan Allen and his expected workload. Expect Allen to rack up 10+ targets, against a defense that is susceptible to receivers who are route technicians in the intermediate game. Brandon Aiyuk, Curtis Samuel, and Chris Godwin all had big games to close out last season. Expect plenty of work and a big game from Allen.
Camp reports have been positive for Mike Williams, who is playing a high-value X receiver role in Joe Lombardi’s offense, a role where Michael Thomas thrived. Obviously, the differences are night and day between the two players, but it is positive that Lombardi loves William’s talent. However, this week should be a hold until we get a look at what his role will be. If you must, Williams could be a decent flex play.
One other player we will need to wait on is Jared Cook. Cook is a solid player and fills a huge role in opportunity with the departure of Hunter Henry. Still, Cook is 34 and heading to a new team. He would be a risky Week 1 play but will be valuable once bye weeks start.
Washington Football Team
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Sit, QB2)
Excitement has been building for the Washington Football Team since Ryan Fitzpatrick signed as a free agent in the off-season. Washington struggled with quarterback play for most of the year, and managers see Fitz as a player that can take advantage of the offensive playmakers all over the roster. This week, Fitz is an upside play and a strong start option in 2QB leagues. Fitz runs hot and cools off quickly, but it has been a long time since he’s had options to throw the ball to like this crew. A 25-point game would not surprise us, but he’s behind other top options simply because of his volatility.
Antonio Gibson (Start, Low-end RB1), JD McKissic (Start, Flex)
The buzz around Antonio Gibson has been growing louder all pre-season. Despite carrying the ball just 33 times in college, Gibson came out and gained 795 yards on 170 carries. If Gibson can earn additional work in the passing game, his ceiling is through the roof. This week will be a wait-and-see approach, to see exactly how much work he will earn in 2021. Even without the additional passing game work, Gibson is a low-end RB1 this week against a middle-of-the-road rush defense, in a game where he should see plenty of carries.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Terry McLaurin (Start, WR1), Curtis Samuel (Start, Flex), Logan Thomas (Start, TE1)
One of the more exciting storylines heading into 2021 is Terry McLaurin finally getting a plus quarterback throwing him the ball. Fitz has always favored his number one receiver and has never been afraid to funnel him the ball. McLaurin’s ceiling is through the roof, and he will come out hot against this secondary. According to PFF, the Chargers are a smash matchup for McLaurin this week, Scary Terry projecting an 88% matchup advantage against the Chargers secondary. He is an easy WR1 this week and could finish the day as the week’s best receiver.
Washington’s athletic tight end Logan Thomas enjoyed a career year in 2020, and he looks to build on an overall TE4 performance. Thomas should see Chargers linebacker Kyzir White in coverage for most of the game, which is a neutral matchup. However, Fitz again will target his playmakers and the expected volume will be enough for Thomas to return TE1 numbers for managers this week.
On Wednesday, Curtis Samuel walked off of the practice field after running a route and met with the trainers. Samuel has been held back in camp due to injury for most of the pre-season and his outlook doesn’t look positive for Week 1.
-Marc Salazar (@oldsnake77 on Twitter)