Kickoff: Sunday, December 5th @ 1:00 PM ET
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Betting Odds: LAC +3, 50.5 total via Oddsshark
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert (Start, Low-end QB1)
Justin Herbert has been pretty boom-or-bust this year. In the last six weeks, Herbert had two games of 31 fantasy points or higher and four games where he scored between 11 and 19.7 points. He also threw seven interceptions over that span. It seems that Herbert’s production will be difficult to predict this week yet again. The Chargers are going up against a tough Bengals defense that’s allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and had a great game against the Steelers in Week 12. On the other hand, Cincinnati is allowing plenty of passing yards (eighth-most in the league), and this game could turn into a bit of a shootout.
I’m placing Herbert near the end of the QB1 tier this week. His inconsistency makes it difficult to say he’s a solid QB1, but there aren’t many other quarterbacks I would genuinely start ahead of him. Fantasy managers will likely need to roll the dice and hope for one of Justin’s impressive performances.
Austin Ekeler (Start, RB1)
Austin Ekeler is the overall RB2 on the season has been incredibly consistent for the most part. Ekeler only has 50 rushing yards or fewer in his last three games, but luckily Austin has been getting it done with a healthy target share. Ekeler is looking great in PPR leagues averaging 7.5 targets, 66.5 receiving yards, and 1.5 receiving touchdowns in his last two games.
The Bengals defense has played well lately, but I still like Austin’s chances for another RB1 performance this week. Cincinnati is allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs. The Bengals are allowing the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game, but with how well Ekeler has done in the passing game lately, I doubt that affects his production much.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Keenan Allen (Start, WR1), Mike Williams (Start-able WR3), Jared Cook (Sit, Low-end TE2)
He’s only found the end zone twice this year, but Keenan Allen has still been pretty darn consistent. The lack of touchdown production has limited his ceiling, but Allen’s 11.6 targets per game over his last five means Keenan has one of the safest floors among all fantasy receivers. As mentioned before, Cincinnati is allowing plenty of receiving yards this year, so I believe Allen can reach WR1 territory if he continues seeing a healthy target share.
Mike Williams has been much less dependable lately. Outside of his 20.7-point performance in Week 11, Williams has 7.9 fantasy points or fewer in his last six games. I believe Mike will need a touchdown to find fantasy relevance this week, and the Bengals’ defense has been playing quite well lately. It will be difficult trusting Williams, but you could certainly do worse in the WR3 tier.
The Bengals have been pretty middle-of-the-road against fantasy tight ends this year, but that won’t be enough to put Jared Cook in the TE1 conversation. He put up 10.5 fantasy points last week, but that was mainly because Cook caught a touchdown with one of his two receptions. It was the first time Cook found the end zone since Week 6. I’m ranking Cook as a low-end TE2 and recommend fantasy managers look elsewhere.
Joe Burrow (Start, Low-end QB1)
Joe Burrow has slowed down a bit over the last three weeks with two single-digit fantasy performances and 16.4 points last week. He’s only thrown two touchdowns over that span. To be fair, Burrow had the second-fewest passing attempts of his season last week as the Bengals opted to run the ball after they took the lead against the Steelers.
I’m placing Burrow just barely inside QB1 territory this week because this match-up could be grueling. The Chargers are allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this year and the fifth-fewest passing yards per game. Plus, the Bengals are favored in this game and could stick with the run if they pull ahead. I don’t feel great about the QB1 ranking, but there aren’t many other quarterbacks I would start ahead of Burrow.
Joe Mixon (Start, RB1)
Joe Mixon has been on a tear lately. He’s averaging over 27 fantasy points per game over his last four. The overall RB3 on the season should continue to be a weekly RB1 option for the rest of the year. The Chargers are allowing the most rushing yards per game and the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs this year. Start Mixon with extreme confidence.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Ja’Marr Chase (Start, Low-end WR1), Tee Higgins (Start-able High-end WR3), Tyler Boyd (Sit), C.J. Uzomah (Sit, Low-end TE2)
He may have slowed down a bit over the last few weeks, but Ja’Marr Chase is still a fantastic fantasy option that shouldn’t be overlooked. He struggled against the Steelers last week, but it was clear Pittsburgh was doing their best to limit the electric rookie receiver. Chase still belongs in the WR1 conversation, but I’m tempering expectations a bit against this defense. The Chargers are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers and the fifth-fewest passing yards per game. I believe Chase can reach WR1 territory, but I’m placing him near the end of that tier.
Tee Higgins put up season-high fantasy numbers last week, but I wouldn’t expect that sort of production from him weekly. Outside his impressive performance last week, Higgins is only averaging 11.7 fantasy points per game this year. He hasn’t been great, and this week’s match-up against a talented Chargers secondary will be challenging, but Higgins should have a safe enough floor to at least put up high-end WR3 numbers.
Tyler Boyd only has two double-digit fantasy performances over his last seven games and hasn’t been consistent enough to trust. He’s best left on the bench for now.
The match-up is enticing for tight ends, but it won’t be enough for me to put C.J. Uzomah in a start-able tier. He’s only averaging 5.1 fantasy points over his past four games. I can’t trust Uzomah in fantasy lineups until I see more consistent production from him.
-Ryan Kruse (@ryanpkruse)