Kickoff: Sunday, October 2nd, 1:00 PM ET
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston Texas
Betting Odds: LAC -5, 44.5 total via PFF.com
Writer: Mario Adamo Jr. (@marioadamojr on Twitter)
Los Angles Chargers
Justin Herbert (Start, QB1)
Justin Herbert was projected by some to be the second-ranked fantasy QB this season and I came very close to putting him as a QB2 this week. Not the second-ranked QB of the week, QB2 as in start someone else over him. Left tackle Rashawn Slater is out for the season and Jamaree Salyer will be starting in his place. Salyer is a sixth-round rookie from Georgia who played left tackle in college, but has only played guard since being drafted and this will be his first game as a starter. Not to mention Herbert himself was playing with obvious rib pain last week, wincing with every hit taken. I’m high on all Chargers’ skill positions this game so it makes sense to be high on Herbert, even as a lower-end QB1.
If you have an option with a great matchup maybe you consider starting them in Herbert’s place, but I foresee this offense putting up numbers to avoid falling to 1-3 and Herbert being at the helm of it all.
Austin Ekeler (RB1), Joshua Kelley (Sit), Sony Michel (Sit)
This is the week Austin Ekeler finds the endzone. I’m confident this is the week. It has to be.
The situation is favorable, he’s going up against a Houston defense that’s allowing an astonishing 202.3 rushing yards per game (ry/g) and giving up a league-worst 24 fantasy points to RBs per game. Ekeler is currently tied with Antonio Gibson as RB12 on the year, and he’s the only member of the top 15 not to break the plane. He led all RBs with 20 total touchdowns (tied with Jonathan Taylor) last year, so it’s not an unfamiliar place for him to be in. He leads all RBs in receptions (21), targets (22), and receiving yards (139). The Houston defense isn’t prepared for a player like Ekeler.
As for concerns about the Chargers taking it easy with Ekeler’s usage, they have to release sitting at 1-2 and they have no future to save Ekeler for if they don’t start using him now. What better opportunity than against the winless Texans.
One last note, the Chargers’ upcoming games are at the Browns (83.6 ry/g) and hosting the Broncos (81.3 ry/g & 0 rushing TDs) so
if when Ekeler goes off, I’m considering selling him at a season-high based on your team’s needs.
Joshua Kelley and Sony Michel both ride the bench this week. Although they each had about 20% snap count last week (21% & 23% respectively) neither are used in a fantasy-relevant way.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Keenan Allen – If Active (Start, WR2), Mike Williams (WR2+), Joshua Palmer (Allen Active WR3, Allen Inactive WR2), DeAndre Carter (Sit), Gerald Everett (Start, TE1)
Let’s start with some good news for the Keenan Allen managers out there.
Some good injury news for the Chargers: WR Keenan Allen is expected to return to practice this week.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 27, 2022
After practicing in a limited fashion last week, it’s good to see Allen is expected to return to practice this week. He missed the last two games for the Chargers though, so keep a close eye on him. Allen only put up 10.6 points in Week 1, but he averaged 16.11 points per game (ppg) last year. If you have a deep bench or snagged a flashy new player off of the waiver wire, feel free to start them instead if you’re worried about Allen’s health, but if he plays for the Chargers he plays for my fantasy team.
Mike Williams is a WR1 or a WR3 type of player, so naturally, I ranked him as a WR2. Following his points pattern of 3, 25.3, and 8.5, he’s in line for a WR1 week. Houston is surprisingly ranked 13th in WR fantasy points given up, allowing only 19 per game. If you’re superstitious, Williams is due for another big game so start him. If you’re not, you should still start him over most guys.
Joshua Palmer is the most fascinating of the WR trio. Like Williams, Palmer also had a dud of a Week 1 with only 3.90 points. Unlike Williams, Palmer followed it up with weeks of 13 & 15.9 respectively. Did Palmer replace Allen for those games or is he emerging as a consistent piece of the Chargers’ offense? If Allen rests another week, I start Palmer over most on-the-fence guys. On the other hand, if Allen does suit up this week, I only start Palmer over guys who have been disappointing this year such as DJ Moore, Allen Robinson, or Jerry Jeudy to name a few.
Gerald Everett had his first dud of the season last week, putting up 4.5 points after two weeks of double-digit points. His snap count is high, 69.3% per game, and he’s seeing 6.7 targets per game, good for seventh among tight ends. In a world of tight ends not named Andrews or Kelce, Everett is high on my list.
DeAndre Carter is the odd man out this week and rides the bench in anything besides deeper leagues.
Davis Mills (Sit, QB2)
Davis Mills is currently QB28 of the year, with Mitchell Tribusky, Geno Smith, Baker Mayfield, and Daniel Jones ahead of him. Even against the surprisingly bad Chargers defense that gives up an average of 22.67 points per game to signal-callers, I would avoid Mills in all but desperate situations. Avoid Mills in anything besides 2 QB leagues and even then you may not have to look hard for better options.
Dameon Pierce (RB2), Rex Burkhead (Sit, Flex)
Dameon Pierce is fresh off an 18.1 point performance and has established himself as the guy in Houston. Though his snap count is closely split with Rex Burkhead (59% vs 41% respectively) Pierce is the one getting all the work. His 22 opportunities (rushing attempts + targets) to Burkhead’s 8 makes it clear who the RB to roster in this backfield is. The Chargers give up 20 points per game to running backs, one of the league’s worst marks, and have been playing sloppy football for most of the year.
The Texans have a very real shot to keep this game close, and I expect Pierce to be heavily involved if that happens. I’m a little hesitant to bump the rookie to RB1 status, but I feel great starting him in all situations and would need to roster a seriously deep backfield to consider sitting him. Keep an eye on Pierce’s health though, he was limited in practice Wednesday with a hip issue.
Burkhead rides my bench in all but deeper leagues, and even there, free agency may be a more appropriate destination for him.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Brandin Cooks (Sit, WR3), Nico Collins (Sit), Chris Moore (Sit), Brevin Jordan (Sit), O.J. Howard (Sit)
If you read my article covering the Texans @ Bears game last week this next part will sound familiar to you.
Let me get the quick ones out of the way first. Don’t start Nico Collins, Chris Moore, or Brevin Jordan under any circumstance. Yes, Moore had a decent 9.3 point outing last week, but I need to see more from him before I’m burning a roster spot. O.J. Howard gets a slight bump with Brevin Jordan missing last week, but even that doesn’t move the needle in anything besides deeper, 2 TE leagues.
Lastly, there’s Brandin Cooks, who I previously declared the only player on the Texans you feel somewhat good about. That title now firmly belongs to Dameon Pierce. So, where does that leave Cooks?
The Chargers give up an average of 26 points per game to WRs, but I don’t have faith in Mills or Cooks to take advantage of the favorable matchup. Working in Cooks’ favor is his target share. He stands alone with 29 targets, good for 49% among Texans’ WRs and 35% among WRs & TEs. The targets matter less if they don’t get results. I look at Cooks as a high-end WR3 that could explode for WR2 production. The favorable matchup provides upside potential, but I’m weighing my options heavily when I consider Cooks.