Kickoff: Thursday, December 17 at 8:20 PM ET
Location: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
Betting Odds: LV -3, 53 Total via Oddsshark
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert (Start, QB1)
A weekly QB1 since his rise to being a starter early in the year, Justin Herbert has hit some road bumps in his last three starts, most notably his simply average game against the Falcons last week. Also of note is that the Falcons have been playing improved defense recently despite their low rank from a terrible first 10 games. While some are shaky to start Herbert, he is a quarterback that has the talent and the weapons to have the ceiling that most of the other back-end QB1’s will be giving you week to week. I have him as my QB9 behind Kyler Murray this week. He finally got back in his multi-touchdown groove this past week and has his check-down master back with him as a safety blanket. Some may say that this is limiting his ability to throw downfield with the comfort of Ekeler as a check-down, but last week’s uptick in yardage and scores was a good sign headed into a potential shootout.
Austin Ekeler (Start, RB1)
For managers that were fortunate enough to make the playoffs with Austin Ekeler in your IR spot, congratulations. You have a high-end weekly RB1 who has piled up 34 targets over his past three games. That is an insane volume from a running back and something that surely would have helped more of his owners get into the playoffs had he not had the brutal injury early in the year in Week 4. Now fully healthy and with the backfield to himself, you can expect big things against a terrible Las Vegas running defense. Ekeler is more of a threat through the air, but this could be the week we also see him eclipse the century mark on the ground. He is pushing for the top 4 at the position this week in PPR leagues.
Keenan Allen (Start, WR1), Mike Williams (Sit), Hunter Henry (Start, TE1/2)
This season there have been two guys that you have counted on since Ekeler went down in this offense and those people are Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry. Allen has been a monster all season, already racking up 99/975/8 on the season which puts him on pace to easily surpass last season’s 104/1199/6 totals. Owners who took a risk on a Tyrod Taylor led offense got an early Christmas gift when Herbert took over. While he took a one-week hiatus from double digits in Week 13 (9.8), he was back with 20.2 in Week 14. Pretty spectacular that he has only seen single digits twice, once under Herbert. While the matchup is neither good nor bad, Keenan is the best route runner in football and is set to see his usual WR1 numbers, even if he isn’t a widely discussed player every week. He just gets the job done. Hunter Henry hasn’t been blowing the doors off the position like Travis Kelce or the guy we will talk about below, he has still been consistent at a position that lacks consistency. This leads him to be in the pack of about 8 low-end TE1’s that could be interchanged weekly. Averaging 6-7 targets a game, Henry should be involved again as a near-lock for 8-10 points, which is more than you can say for a lot of guys at the position. Mike Williams is slated to play, but in the playoff semi-finals in most leagues, that isn’t a risk you are taking at this juncture.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr (Sit)
7.16, 27.6, 0.6, 37.74, 27.84. What do these numbers tell us? To me, it is signs of an inconsistent quarterback (6 points/TD) that you probably don’t want to be counting on to have a boom week versus a severe bust week like his two low totals tell you. He was a popular sleeper after his game against KC in Week 11, only to put up less than one point against the league’s worst Falcons pass defense. It is playoff time and you didn’t make it here on the back of Derek Carr. There are better options and I would be highly surprised if he is on any playoff rosters as more than a backup.
Josh Jacobs (Start, RB2)
What a troll. Pregame on Sunday, Josh Jacobs took to Instagram to say that he is “not playing today.” This led to a lot of experts scrambling and owners benching him. Well, he was just being a troll and ended up playing. It shows the impact a player can have on a community with a simple joke, positive or negative. Regardless, he is playing this week and hasn’t been the every week RB1 that owners hoped for at his draft price. With that being said, he should approach 15-18 touches which put him in a solid RB2 category in the semifinals of the playoffs for owners. Last time against this defense, he put up 129 scoreless yards but had no catches. That is rare and we should see some passing game volume, but don’t expect a huge upside, he has become a floor play.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Nelson Agholor (Start, WR2), Henry Ruggs (OUT, Covid), Darren Waller (Start, TE1)
Henry Ruggs was placed on the Covid list and so it is now the Nelson Agholor show for the Raiders. The reason he is the only suggested start listed is that we are in the semi-finals of the playoffs and therefore the only one worth looking at from the wide receiver position. Having some nice games this season when given the opportunity, he is fresh off 5/100/1 and should see plenty of volumes to warrant WR2 production this week, and you are probably starting him as a Flex which is a bonus. If you need help with someone like Ronald Jones banged up, then you could do much worse than Agholor this week. Darren Waller is a beast. He put up 45 points two weeks ago and that just goes to show you the kind of upside this guy brings. While most owners are scrambling for 10 points week to week with no upside, Waller brings game-winning upside and upwards of ten targets on any given week. He is a lock top-2 option at the position and shouldn’t be considered sitting.
-Matt Dean (@MattDeanQBList on Twitter, mdean8 on Reddit)