Kickoff: Sunday, December 13th at 4:25 PM ET
Location: Sofi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Betting Odds: ATL -2.5, 50 Total on Oddsshark
Matt Ryan (Start)
Matt Ryan has been shaky the past few weeks. But if there was a week to start him, it is this one. The Chargers defense is 20th against the pass (per Football Outsiders) and the Total via Oddshark is the fifth highest of the week. There is a strong chance that this game can turn into a shootout. Ryan has also been struggling when either Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley is out, but both are in line to play this week. Ryan is primed for a bounce-back this week.
Todd Gurley (Sit), Ito Smith (Sit)
This is an even better matchup for the running backs, but it does not look like Todd Gurley will be able to capitalize. He returned from injury last week and saw eight carries for 16 yards and one target. Ito Smith ended up running the most routes of the RB group and saw two targets. Gurley has been underwhelming as a runner this year (28th in DYAR per Football Outsiders) and if he is not dominating the snap share, then he has little value other than hoping for a TD.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Julio Jones (Start, WR1), Calvin Ridley (Start, WR1), Hayden Hurst (Start)
Julio Jones returned from injury last week to 10 targets. Jones has been in and out of the lineup all year but when he is active, he has produced. Jones is eighth in DYAR (per Football Outsiders) and is fourth in yards per route run (per PFF). Jones’ presence also helps Calvin Ridley. Ridley feasts on the opposing defense’s second corners. Ridley is 14th in DYAR (per Football Outsiders) and 10th in yards per route run and is another easy start this week. Hayden Hurst is seventh among TEs in targets and 15th in WOPR (per airyards.com). You really can’t ask for too much more at TE.
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert (Start)
Justin Herbert looked like a rookie in over his head last week. Bill Belichick tends to do that to young QBs and it was the first time all year Herbert has looked like that. Herbert dropped from 15th to 23rd in Ben Baldwin’s (of the Athletic) EPA+CPOE composite QB stat after his start against New England. Herbert is in as good of a spot this week as last week was bad. Though the Falcons defense has improved since they fired Dan Quinn, they are still 19th against the pass (per Football Outsiders) and this game has the fifth-highest total of the week. I would be going right back to Herbert this week in the fantasy playoffs and not think twice.
Austin Ekeler (Start, RB1)
Austin Ekeler split the rushing workload with Kalen Ballage evenly last week. We should not expect that to continue as Ekeler is just a superior player. Ekeler is seventh in the NFL in his percentage of runs that gain more yardage than expected (per NextGenStats). The matchup of Ekeler is tough on paper as the Falcons boast the sixth-best run defense (per Football Outsiders), but Ekeler has the passing game trump card. He has seen 16 and nine targets in his first two games back from injury and should see a similar amount this week. Ekeler’s return came at a great time as other RB options are dropping like flies.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Keenan Allen (Start, WR1), Mike Williams (Start, Flex), Hunter Henry (Start)
The switch to Justin Herbert dramatically changed Keenan Allen’s season. Allen is now leading the NFL in targets with 125 and is 13th in WOPR (per airyards.com). Allen, like the rest of the offense, is in a great spot to rebound from his disappointing outing against the Patriots. Mike Williams has been a boom or bust option his entire career and that has not changed with Herbert. If you are looking at your playoff opponent’s lineup and feel like you need some upside to win, Williams should be considered in your flex spot. He has half of Allen’s targets but more air yards (per airyards.com) and should be able to capitalize on them against the Falcon’s defense. Hunter Henry is seventh among TEs in WOPR (per airyards.com) and like Hurst, you can’t ask for much more.
-Frank Costanzo (@FrankQBList on Twitter, Zzzonked92 on Reddit)