Thursday Night Debate: Chargers vs. Chiefs

Erik Smith and Matthew Bevins break down starting options in week 15's Thursday night game between the Chargers and Chiefs, and debate Chris Conley and Tyrell Williams as starting options.

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

Week 15 features the Los Angeles Chargers traveling to Kansas City to face the Chiefs in a Thursday night divisional showdown. The Chiefs are favored by three and a half points, and the over/under of 53.5 is the highest total of the week. Erik Smith and Matthew Bevins list the players they would start and sit this week in the second round of the fantasy playoffs, and give you both sides of the debate on their key disagreements.  Decisions are based on PPR scoring.


Chargers @ Chiefs

Matt Erik
QB Patrick Mahomes Start Start
QB Philip Rivers Start Start
RB Melvin Gordon III Start* Start*
RB Spencer Ware Sit Sit
RB Austin Ekeler Sit Sit
RB Damien Williams Start Start
RB Justin Jackson Start Start
RB Charcandrick West Sit Sit
WR Keenan Allen Start Start
WR Tyreek Hill Start Start
WR Mike Williams Sit Sit
WR Sammy Watkins Sit Sit
WR Tyrell Williams Start Sit
WR Demarcus Robinson Sit Sit
WR Chris Conley Start Sit
WR Travis Benjamin Sit Sit
WR Kelvin Benjamin Sit Sit
TE Travis Kelce Start Start
TE Antonio Gates Sit Sit
K Harrison Butker Start Start
K Michael Badgley Start Start
D Chiefs Sit Sit
D Chargers Sit Sit

*Gordon’s injury will need to monitored up until kickoff


Up For Debate

Chris Conley

Start: This is just so weird to me. Growing up, a band that created and shaped my late teenage years was the pop-punk/”emo” band, Saves the Day. The lead singer is/was named Chris Conley. And now, as I move on from the music scene begrudgingly, my fantasy teams have expanded like my music knowledge earlier in life, and I am now looking at picking up the Kansas City Chiefs second wide receiver due to injury, WR Chris Conley, in all my leagues as a deep bench stash/dynasty possibility. Life’s just crazy. So we’re looking at this Thursday night game (which I believe may be the best one of the season), and I’m expecting a total shootout between QB Patrick Mahomes and QB Phillip Rivers. The teams are ailing greatly, however, with WR Tyreek Hill allegedly playing tonight, albeit favoring injuries and potentially being a decoy. Oh, and also, WR Sammy Watkins is still out with an injury as well. RB Kareem Hunt is a free agent after a video was released of an altercation earlier this year, and RB Spencer Ware, a longtime face in the Chiefs backfield, is hampered by an injury and listed as doubtful.

That leaves us with TE Travis Kelce, RB Damien Williams, and Conley. So, with that said, I want the second or at worst third option in an offense run through the potential NFL MVP in Mahomes. Conley was really supposed to be a thing before Tyreek Hill broke out, but was muddied on a team who experienced the breakouts of Hill, and before him, RB Jamaal Charles. Finally getting the opportunity, Conley has for the most part shined. His ascent has come with Watkins descent due to injury and target share. Over the last three weeks, Conley has 18 targets and 12 receptions. There’s value in being the number two wideout in this KC offense, who with Kelce is essentially a third wideout option. -Matthew Bevins


Sit: While Conley’s big role in the offense seems like a new development, Conley has been involved all season, and took over Watkins’ snaps starting in week 10. Conley burst into fantasy relevance during the Chief’s 51-54 loss to the Rams in week 11 with seven catches on eight targets for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Surrounding that game, however, are games with 22, 25, and 13 yards receiving. In fact, Conley’s only game all season with more than 25 receiving yards was that week 11 shootout for the ages. His touchdown scoring potential certainly makes him playable in some situations, and he’s in consideration as a WR3 or a flex, but I wouldn’t feel great about starting him in the fantasy playoffs.

A matchup against the Chargers isn’t an ideal matchup to make things even worse. The Chargers have allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this year, and have really only allowed big games to players like WR Antonio Brown, WR Tyreek Hill, and WR Robert Woods. The best place to attack them is on the ground and through the air to running backs, although the Chargers are solid in those areas as well. I expect Conley to take a backseat to Hill, TE Travis Kelce, and the running backs. He will be a touchdown-dependent fantasy option this week. -Erik Smith


Tyrell Williams

Start: WR Tyrell Williams is not a household name. It’s okay, we can say it. Often applauded as the “sneaky” pickup for weak matchups, he’s actually having a pretty impressive year as the second in receiving command behind WR Keenan Allen, and currently averages a little over 11 yards per reception, which is quite impressive and proves he’s more than just a check down option for Mr. Rivers. In a week with DB Eric Berry (the impressive secondary defender who beat cancer and is now coming back from a ruptured achilles) covering on deep routes, look for the Chargers to capitalize on him dusting off the rust. I expect a shootout in this matchup, and think that helps to favor the best offensive options in San Diego, and Allen and Williams are currently two of the few healthy ones remaining.

The target share sits low for Williams, and I’m very much aware of this, so this is going to be a great call for your flex option, and for low-cost draft leagues and DFS. But I think there is potential to lock up an easy six to seven points off his production, let alone if he breaks away and hits pay dirt. -Matthew Bevins


Sit: Williams is a wide receiver living off of two weeks of production, which just happened to come in back to back games, causing it to stand out in fantasy owners’ memories. But outside of week six and seven’s combined line of seven catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns, Williams has been a big disappointment. Those 236 receiving yards account for 43% of his yearly total. He has yet to catch five balls in a game all season and has a single game high of 46 yards since that week 7 explosion.

And while the Chiefs defense has had its share of struggles this year, they have only allowed the 11th most fantasy points to the opponent’s wide receivers, with a majority of their fantasy scoring allowed to the running back and tight end positions. Week one saw Williams produce two catches on five targets for eight yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs in the two teams’ previous matchup, managing to have a bench-worthy performance even while scoring a touchdown. Williams can’t be trusted in the playoffs and will need a long touchdown just to have a flex-worthy game. -Erik Smith


Bonus Coverage

Damien Williams

Start: RB Damien Williams has had an arduous and lengthy four years patiently waiting for his opportunity to play in the NFL. Drafted out of Oklahoma, in 2014, he was sitting on the Miami Dolphins roster behind RB Knowshon Moreno and RB Lamar Miller. When Miller scurried to Houston, RB Jay Ajayi took over the mantle. And when Ajayi moved on, RB Kenyan Drake was given the starter’s role. It’s a bit shocking to even say, but while Williams is less of a fast, game-breaking back that the NFL loves, he’s actually a pretty good  back and should have had a chance to start or split carries, if not for being stuck in the mire behind elite/potential top ten running backs in the NFL for the last four years. This year he may just have his chance to start, at least to close out the season, and if he does showcase himself well, Williams could look to be resigned by KC in the offseason, or at least get a chance somewhere else coming off his rookie contract.  

Williams is somewhat of a plodder, a big-bodied back coming in just shy of 225 pounds and under 6 feet, so he’s going to initiate a lot of contact and attempt to break tackles, but he does have the potential to shift gears and break out in open field. I will not mince words, he’s not as talented as some of the players above him on that Miami chain of command, or at least isn’t yet, but I think he’s being given a lukewarm bill of goods if only because there isn’t much professionally to go off of. Just two weeks back, Williams averaged a little under 8 yards on his five carries. In his combine numbers in 2014, Williams ran a 4.45 40, passing out players notably like RB DeVontFreeman, who when healthy is the lead back in Atlanta. Williams is interesting. He’s a solid back, he just needs opportunity. Hell, I could be wrong here, but I’m personally throwing him out as my flex in my dynasty league in a big playoff matchup, and I think you should spend some time thinking about him over some of your bottom half starting running backs in the NFL this week. This matchup may be juicier than a plate of KC ribs.  Matthew Bevins


Justin Jackson

Start: The Chargers backfield finds itself ravaged by injuries, giving RB Justin Jackson an opportunity to take advantage of a Chiefs defense allowing the 2nd most points to fantasy running backs in 2018. The Chiefs have allowed the most receiving yards per game to opposing running backs according to Football Outsiders, and while Jackson doesn’t have a long track record of success in the passing game, he has at least caught all five of his targets this year. The Chiefs are regularly allowing not just one, but two running backs each week to score double-digit fantasy points against them, giving Jackson some potential even if RB Melvin Gordon does play. There’s a chance Gordon misses the game, in which case Jackson is an excellent start in most leagues. Even if Gordon plays, there is a chance of re-injury or a limited workload, giving Jackson a shot at double-digit points in this plus matchup.

The Chiefs have managed to allow ten or more fantasy points to players like RB Jalen Richard, RB Kenneth Dixon, RB Devontae Booker, and RB Alfred Morris just to name a few. And in the first matchup between these two teams, the Chiefs allowed Gordon and Ekeler to combine for 20 carries for 103 yards and a whopping 14 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown, boosting them both above 20 fantasy points. With RB Austin Ekeler already ruled out, the path is clear for Jackson to take advantage of this matchup. -Erik Smith

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