Kickoff: Thursday, September 15th, 2021, 8:15p Est
Location: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
Betting Odds: KC -3.5, 54.5 o/u total via oddhsark.com
Network: Amazon Prime
Writer: Dustin Ludke (@TheDunit13 on Twitter)
Los Angles Chargers
Justin Herbert (Start QB1)
Justin Herbert is one of the best passers in the game and showed that in week one. He posted 279 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. He had 34 passing attempts in a close game against the Raiders. Now he goes against the Chiefs, who PFF graded out at 78.4 compared to the Raiders at 55.1 in coverage. Herbert will be without his main weapon in Keenan Allen but 11 different players saw a target in week one. You can trust Herbert to be slinging the ball around in a game that is projected to be a high-scoring affair. The two teams will be playing for the early division lead. There is no doubt that Herbert is a QB1.
Austin Ekeler (Start, RB2), Sony Michel (Sit) Joshua Kelley (Sit, Flex)
The rumors and reports that the Chargers might want to save Austin Ekeler early in the season might hold some truth to them. Ekeler only saw 14 carries in week one against the Raiders. Sony Michel came in and saw 7 rushing attempts while Joshua Kelley got 4. The team was held to 76 total rushing yards, a far cry from the 108 they averaged in 2021. They get a slightly better matchup in week two against the Chiefs. Ekeler will still be the lead back. He has enough opportunities, between the run and pass to be an RB2. Ekeler saw four targets in week one. Sony Michel is an interesting name to monitor. He has played well in the past and despite being bounced from team to team saw the only two red zone carries for the Chargers last week. He didn’t see any passing game work which could limit his upside in this high-powered offense. He will also have to improve on his 1.71 yards per carrying if he wants to hold off Kelley for the true backup role.
Kelley had a good mix of both runs and passes but not enough of either to make him fantasy relevant just yet. If the Chargers do want to save Ekeler some wear and tear for later in the season Kelley could emerge as the guy to own as a potential stand-alone value player. In a game that is projected to be higher scoring, I expect the passing work to be the deciding factor for the running backs. I would start Ekeler as an RB2 and keep Kelley on my bench but monitor his touches. Sony should be benched even if he might steal a goal-line touchdown.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Keenan Allen (OUT), Mike Williams (Start WR2), Josh Palmer (Start, Flex) Gerald Everett (Start, TE1) DeAndre Carter (Sit)
It seemed like everyone on the chargers had 4 targets in week one. Keenan Allen leads the way in yards with 66 but he is now out for at least week 2 if not longer. Most of the fantasy community knows that Mike Williams only caught 2 of his 4 targets and was mostly invisible for the game. It doesn’t look to get any better for the potential breakout star. He could draw coverage from L’Jarius Sneed who PFF ranked at 90.2 in coverage. If Williams gets locked down expect Josh Palmer to see a vast increase in targets. I would still start Williams in hope that a touchdown comes his way since he is 6’4” or Sneed stays in his slot role more and locks down.
I expect DeAndre Carter to be on the field in three wideout sets. He isn’t worth starting right now but is a name to watch on waivers if Allen misses more time. One of the biggest benefactors from Allen missing the game is tight end Gerald Everett. The newly acquired tight end saw his 4 targets and brought in 3 of them for 54 yards and a score. He was on the field for 25 passing plays and ran a route on almost all of them. He outpaced backup tight end Tre’ McKitty in passing snaps 25 to 18. Donald Parham missed last week with a hamstring issue and has yet to practice this week. If he does return he will probably slide into the McKitty role. The Chiefs do have good coverage safeties and linebackers, led by Juan Thornhill and Nick Bolton. Everett could see one or both in times on coverage but after his week one performance he should still be started with confidence.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes (Start, QB1)
Well, Patrick Mahomes put his doubters to shame in week 1. He led the league in passing yards with 360 and threw 5 touchdowns, leading his team to a dominating victory over the Cardinals. He now gets a chance to secure first place in the AFC west with a game at home against the Chargers. Despite losing Tyreek Hill in the offseason and a new cast of receivers, Mahomes still completed 76.9% of his passes and finished with a 144.2 QBR. He is a must-start and there should have never been a doubt. It’s a premier matchup on Thursday night that should produce some stellar fantasy points across the board.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Start, RB2), Isiah Pacheco (Sit, Flex) Jerick McKinnon (Sit)
Looking at the box scores, or just fantasy scores, you are probably very happy with Clyde Edwards-Helaire in week one. He had two receiving touchdowns and 74 total yards. Looking at some of the snap breakdowns, it was less than stellar. C.E.H only had seven carries, which was second on the team behind rookie Isiah Pacheco. Edwards-Helaire believers will say that Pacheco took over once the game was well in hand. While that may be true we can glean more information from the snap shares.
Jerick McKinnon played the same number of total snaps as CEH, at 27. 17 of them saw McKinnon run a route compared to 13 for Edwards-Helaire. McKinnon saw one more target than Clyde. Their average depth of target wasn’t great but technically McKinnon was better at -1.5 compared to -3. I’m still starting Edwards-Helaire but will be tempering expectations. It’s a great match-up based on the PFF.com rating of the Charger’s rush defense at 47.7. If the game stays close I expect the 3rd year back to be more involved later in the game. He is a solid RB2. I’m not buying into the hype of Pacheco and McKinnon until I see it for another week.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
JuJu Smith-Schuster (Start, WR2), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Start, Flex), Mecole Hardman (Sit, Flex), Skyy Moore (Sit) Travis Kelce (Start, TE1),
It’s a new look Chiefs passing game, but Travis Kelce still reigns supreme even as a tight end. He leads the team in almost all the receiving categories. He had nine targets and caught eight of them. He posted 121 yards and one touchdown. No one that used an early pick on Kelce will ever think about benching him. Even with a group of top cover linebackers and safeties, Kelce will be able to find openings. In both games against the Chargers last season, Kelce had over 100 yards and got two touchdowns in their second matchup.
After Kelce, former Steeler JuJu Smith-Schuster was next with eight receptions. He saw an average depth or target of 10.3 yards. He isn’t Tyreek Hill, but he still showed that he has the skill we saw in years past. You can fire him up as a WR2 with confidence. The volume was there for him. The lone holdover from last year’s receiving core is Mecole Hardman. He got six targets (third on the team). He continues to be the boom or bust option with an average depth of target at 14.5. He’s not someone I’m trusting even in a shoot-out. Marquez Valdes-Scantling came in with four targets in week one. He played on 34 passing snaps, which tied JuJu, and ran one more route. He is worth playing this week in your flex as the game project is to be a high-scoring affair.
The Chargers were graded at 62.1 in coverage and their top corner, Bryce Callahan will probably see Smith-Schuster most of the game. It should open things up for MVS to get a fair number of targets. He was the only other wide receiver besides JuJu to see a red zone target. The rest went to tight ends. I’m not expecting rookie Skyy Moore to have an impact as he still needs time to get used to the system and the speed of the NFL.