Chargers @ Raiders
“Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished…”
The vanished, of course, was Michael “Money Badger” Badgley — he of the two missed field goals in regulation, either of which would have won the game for the Chargers. Both hooked wide left, with the second attempt barely missing the left upright. It seems that neither Badgley, nor Coach Anthony Lynn, have watched Glengarry Glen Ross in quite a while. The Chargers could all really benefit from re-learning their ABC’s with Alec Baldwin.
For the first 3 and a half quarters, it was a back and forth affair that saw Marcus “Flying Hawaiian” Mariota rack up RB1-like numbers on the ground and Herbert picking apart the hapless Raiders’ pass defense. Then, Badgley missed a kick, Mariota threw an interception to Chris Harris Jr., Badgley missed another kick, and then the Raiders couldn’t even set up a game-winning kick with 5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The game/disaster was mercifully ended in overtime, with Justin Herbert finally converting on a goal line dive into the end zone with 1:29 remaining in the OT period to make it 30-27.
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert: 22/32, 314 yards, 2 TDs, 1 sack | 4 carries, 14 yards, 1 TD
For those of us who were worried about the lack of creativity in the passing game since Austin Ekeler’s return, this game was a nice return to the type of offense that made Herbert such a dynamic fantasy threat early on this season. He averaged 9.8 yards per completion and most importantly did not dump the ball off to Ekeler on every other play. Against the Falcons last week and the Patriots in the week prior, Herbert relied on Ekeler to be the checkdown man; Ekeler saw just 4 targets this week, as Herbert looked elsewhere for completions. Of course, it was easy for Herbert to sit back and pick apart the defense when he was under virtually no pressure for the entire game. The Raiders sacked him just once (although it was a critical sack in the context of the game) and barely touched him otherwise. He was on fire to start the game, completing 9 consecutive passes and finding the end zone.
The Chargers made a commitment to running the ball early and often against a very weak Raiders’ front. They didn’t have Herbert taking too many play-action opportunities, even with the Raiders’ weak secondary and their propensity to key in on the run. However, he was still able to find open receivers and push the ball down the field fairly easily. Herbert particularly victimized Raiders’ CB Trayvon Mullen, who was burned time and again for big gains, including two of the exact same route (on back-to-back plays!) on the Chargers’ final drive of the half. Herbert and the Chargers get the Broncos next week.
Austin Ekeler: 13 carries, 60 yards | 4 targets, 4 receptions, 19 yards
Kalen Ballage: 8 carries, 11 yards, 1 TD
In the last few weeks, the offense went as Ekeler did. Ekeler picked up the short passing gains and racked up the yardage on the ground. Obviously, that was not the case this game, as Ekeler was mostly bottled up, save for a 27-yard burst in the fourth quarter. Raiders’ Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli made certain that even if Herbert and the passing game were finding open man after open man, that Ekeler wouldn’t find room to run. The Chargers — for the most part — were not able to get that push off the line of scrimmage, and Ekeler’s yardage suffered as a result. He was curiously not featured in the red zone in overtime, as the Chargers opted to go with Herbert and Kalen Ballage to try to get the job done. Judging from what we’ve seen in the past few weeks, I would imagine Ekeler will have better days ahead.
Kalen Ballage — better known by his alter ego, Adrian Toomes — was the go-to running back in short yardage situations and in the red zone, punching in one of his opportunities for a TD with just a few minutes remaining in the third quarter. Unfortunately for Ekeler’s fantasy managers, Ballage isn’t going anywhere, as he appears to have succeeded enough in limited action to earn a share of the carries going forward. Ballage has also been stealing away goal line carries week in and week out, capping Ekeler’s upside a little bit. Ballage doesn’t get enough run to warrant fantasy consideration, but at the same time his presence is just enough to prevent Ekeler from truly joining the top tier of fantasy running backs.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jalen Guyton: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 91 yards | 1 carry, 4 yards
Hunter Henry: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 65 yards, 1 TD
Tyron Johnson: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 61 yards, 1 TD
K.J. Hill, Jr.: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 39 yards
Keenan Allen: 3 targets, 1 reception, 17 yards
Mike Williams: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 22 yards
If you were wondering what a Keenan Allen-less offense looked like, for some reason, here it is! My deepest condolences go out to fantasy managers in the playoffs who started Allen this week after hearing that he would indeed suit up. Jalen Guyton took advantage of the target vacuum left by Allen’s absence and picked up a handful of receptions, including the one that set up the game-winning TD in overtime (see below). Guyton didn’t see much when Allen was in, picking up just 1 reception in the first half. In the second half, Guyton saw a variety of targets, including a couple of shorter out routes and some deep routes. He appears to be the main beneficiary if Allen were to be out next week. Tyron Johnson was the one asked to go deep, filling the Mike Williams role when Williams stepped out of the game. He didn’t have to make too many contested catches because of how awful the Raiders’ pass coverage was and compiled a nice fantasy day. In order for Johnson be fantasy relevant, both Williams and Allen would probably have to be out, because Guyton and Johnson would likely split the deep-threat duties if Allen were in.
Also, Hunter Henry is back! This marks the second consecutive week with 7+ targets for Henry and he even added a touchdown reception to really make it worthwhile for fantasy owners. Considering Henry hasn’t received a whole lot of red zone looks this year, I’m skeptical of the sudden increase in Henry’s targets in and near that area. Allen is the primary red zone threat and has been that threat all year, so Henry could have also taken some of those targets as the Chargers approached the end zone. One game is too small of a sample size to draw from, so temper your expectations for Henry over the final few weeks of the season. Going forward, Henry is still fantasy relevant, but the lack of TDs can hurt his upside.
Jalen Guyton’s route had the DB on skates ⛸
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 18, 2020
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr: 3/5, 53 yards, 1 sack
Marcus Mariota: 17/28, 226 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT | 9 carries, 88 yards, 1 TD
With Sid from Toy Story sidelined following what appeared to be a left groin strain, the most expensive backup QB in the league filled in admirably, helping the Raiders move the chains with his arm and with his legs. Mariota was playing with some extra motivation, as his contract stipulates that every game in which he plays 60% of the snaps for the Raiders nets him $200k, while a win increases that payout to $325k. Mariota added something to the Raiders’ offense that Carr is not typically known for — extending plays with his legs. Carr has just 141 rushing yards all season, while Mariota tacked on over half of that in one game.
The knock on Mariota while he was with the Titans was that he didn’t have the arm strength necessary to live up to his 2nd-overall pick potential. While Mariota wasn’t exactly chucking the ball downfield with ease like Aaron Rodgers, he certainly didn’t underthrow deep shots either, hitting Darren Waller for a 35-yard touchdown early in the second quarter (see below) and for a 25-yard gain late in the fourth quarter. However, he wasn’t searching for too many deep targets, either, as he opted to fire off short passes to Waller, Josh Jacobs, and Zay Jones. Even if he had the arm strength that evaluators thought he was missing, he didn’t appear willing to showcase it during the game. If Mariota is going to make his mark in fantasy football, it’s probably going to be on the ground. It will be interesting to see what the Raiders decide to do next week as they chase a playoff berth. They will face the Dolphins next Saturday.
Marcus Mariota dropping it in the bucket to Darren Waller for the TD 🎯
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 18, 2020
Josh Jacobs: 26 carries, 76 yards, 1 TD | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 38 yards
Devontae Booker: 3 carries, 12 yards
It certainly wasn’t a performance to write home about for Jacobs today, as he racked up just 2.9 yards per carry and picked up a long of 20 yards. The Raiders’ offensive line appeared overmatched for much of the game, getting little push off of the line of scrimmage, which made it difficult for Jacobs to burst into the second level of the Chargers’ defense. That’s been the story all season for this Raiders’ running game, as they haven’t been able to pick up the chunk yardage and big plays that make for an explosive offense. For what it’s worth, mobile QBs can sometimes help open up running lanes for their backs, as defenses have to compensate for both the QB and the RBs on the ground, so there may be some hope for Jacobs and Co. in the future. Jacobs didn’t even have a bad game, especially for fantasy managers in PPR formats, but without the chunk runs, Jacobs may become more touchdown-dependent to return value.
Devontae Booker and the rest of the Raiders’ rushing attack didn’t see enough action to warrant any fantasy consideration, and judging by the carry distribution, Jacobs is one of the few bell-cow backs left in the league.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Darren Waller: 12 targets, 9 receptions, 150 yards, 1 TD
Nelson Agholor: 8 targets, 4 receptions, 49 yards
Foster Moreau: 1 target, 1 reception, 22 yards
Hunter Renfrow: 2 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards
Well, it appears Waller has rapport with both Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, as the targets kept on coming throughout the game. Unfortunately for the rest of the receiving corps, though, Mariota didn’t spread the ball around that much, with Waller and Agholor accounting for two-thirds of all Raiders targets. Furthermore, with the switch from Carr to Mariota, Agholor appears to have lost the deep threat element that made him a fantasy-viable option heading into today. It didn’t help that he injured his finger midway through the game and had to have the trainers pop it back into place so that he could keep playing. It appears we won’t get the Agholor WR1 campaign we were hoping for. You could see the chemistry Agholor had built up with Carr in the two opening drives, as he picked up 2 receptions and 36 receiving yards with Carr under center. The rest of the Raiders’ receivers can be safely ignored, especially with Mariota under center.
— Adam Sloate (@MrAdster99)