Chargers @ Chiefs
In Week 17, most leagues have either wound down or veer more towards the chaotic sense of fantasy sports, where you instead opt for last week’s substitutions on star-led squads, or the remaining players not hoisted atop the injury pile. Suffice it to say, IF you’re in the latter, your Kansas City superstars were not playing for you in the championship this week, so we instead got a good dose of Chad Henne and Darwin Thompson. The Chargers won this one 38-21 on the back of Justin Herbert. How did that happen? Read on to find out.
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert: 22/31, 302 yards, 3 TDs | 3 carries, 11 yards, TD
Justin Herbert is good. Like, really good. Okay, so I’m not telling anyone who’s an avid football fan something they don’t know, but I’d like to state that while this season has been an odd one for so many reasons, Herbert finished the season as the rookie with the most passing touchdowns. That’s damn good. So, while the Chargers will finish the season two games under.500, it’s still quite an achievement that this team will have Herbert leading the charge for years to come.
Herbert spent the game without his trusty sidekick Keenan Allen but also had to contend without a star at the tight end position, Hunter Henry, so this squad was patchworked with bubble gum and popsicle sticks. Herbert didn’t give a care in the world and he finished the game with his 7th of 15 games with a passer rating over 100. He was efficient and effective in the pocket and dusted off old friendships with Mike Williams (if this guy could stay healthy, there’s another superstar in the making), and a new compadre in Donald Parham Jr., who is a sleek and silky smooth tight end in the passing game. Herbert didn’t throw a single pick and he took his time all day.
He has ultimately gifted a nice late Christmas present late in the game on a bomb to Mike Williams, when on a deep pass showcased below, the defender basically slipped trying to keep pace with Williams, for an easy air out. Impressive. The thing that continues to impress me is the ease with which Herbert can throw deep passes with little to no issue. Check out that Mike Williams touchdown below!
Justin Herbert only throws bombs
— PFF (@PFF) January 3, 2021
Justin Jackson: 9 carries, 72 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 32 yards
Austin Ekeler: 7 carries, 18 yards | 7 targets, 6 receptions, 33 yards, TD
Kalen Ballage: 13 carries, 36 yards, TD
The running game got to see a bit of a different look to it as well. Joshua Kelley saw no carries for a second week in a row, where he was a healthy scratch just last week. Austin Ekeler was very ineffective and average in his rushing downs but was saved by being very opportunistic again in the receiving game. Unfortunately, he took a helmet to helmet hit in the middle of the game, saw the inside of the blue tent, and was made a scratch for the remainder of the game. Assumedly, this was a concussion based injury. The backfield then became a mixed bag of Justin Jackson and Kalen Ballage. Jackson ripped off a late eruption rush and ended up falling right around the one-yard line marker. Unfortunately, the Vulture Kalen Ballage entered the game the next down and took the touchdown off his hands. The best healthy back remaining is ultimately Justin Jackson, but he had both short-yardage touchdowns stolen right off his plate, one by Ballage and one by Herbert.
Not much to garner for next season, I’d ultimately be hopeful that Ekeler had a lost season and comes back to regain the hold on the backfield for years to come. Justin Jackson has some ways to make defenders miss, but is far less consistent and not nearly as good a receiving back.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Mike Williams: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 108 yards, TD
Donald Parham Jr.: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 37 yards, TD
Tyron Johnson: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 35 yards
Stephen Anderson: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 52 yards
Jalen Guyton: 4 targets, 0 receptions
Gabe Nabers: 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards
The receiving corps in Los Angeles really didn’t have a lot of their consistent squad, but Herbert was in no way deterred. Mike Williams and Donald Parham Jr. picked up the slack in both routes and receiving touchdowns. Mike Williams will continue to be considered the deep threat resource, but he was a consistent option for Herbert. Parham seemed to be a benefactor in Keenan Allen being out for the week, as he was seeing short-yardage passes and check-down opportunities and looked as smooth as a fresh shaved baby goat on a couple of them.
You’ll continue to see Keenan Allen as the defacto number one here for at least another year or two, but there’s some sneaky talent, and they showcased it in this opportunity window. Mike Williams can be a low WR2 if given the opportunities, and Parham is showing he may deserve a little more opportunity, given the nature of Henry getting hurt so incredibly often. Below, you can see the smooth movements made by Parham to shake his defender and get open in a red zone play call that left Herbert stymied, and finding him on the run!
— QB List (@TheQBlist) January 3, 2021
Kansas City Chiefs
Chad Henne: 23/32, 218 yards, 2 TDs, 1 sack | 2 carries, 0 yards
Chad Henne got the opportunity to start the game this week, as Patrick Mahomes received a much deserved week off going into a playoff bye. The first start for Henne in almost a decade, he actually looked like a reasonable if uninspiring replacement. He finished with more completions than Herbert but fulfilled his duty with mostly short check downs to running backs while avoiding interceptions and deep passes. Henne can manage this team if any issue ever arose with Mahomes in future years. However, it would greatly impact the ability to get the ball downstairs and have defenders on the heels of their feet for potential Mahomes rushing plays.
Given that Henne will never really run you into a fantasy situation, we can move along from this one.
Darwin Thompson: 14 carries, 45 yards, TD | 7 targets, 7 receptions, 65 yards, TD
Anthony Sherman: 1 carry, 6 yards
Darrell Williams: 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards
Darwin Thompson is one of the bright spots for the Chiefs, as he’s often played a bridesmaid role in the Chiefs’ backfield. Just last year, there was potential for Thompson to take over the backfield before Damien Williams came in like a wrecking ball. Just a year removed, and Williams opts out to start the season, but now Clyde Edwards-Helaire has taken over the backfield straight out of the draft. Thompson wanted to show that he has some upside, but also showcase to future suitors. He looked aggressive on rush plays, and also briefly looked to be the best offensive player on the field, as he was ripping off yardage on receiving plays out of the backfield as well. Thompson is ultimately going to end up right back behind Edwards-Helaire (likely as soon as the first game of the playoffs), but with a relatively average season behind him as a rookie, and with Damien Williams’ role or situation unknown for next year, Thompson is making a point he can be a change of pace/excitement back for the Chiefs or another team to come. This was a strong coming-out party for Mr. Thompson.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Byron Pringle: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 52 yards, 1 TD
Demarcus Robinson: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 58 yards
Mecole Hardman: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards
Gehrig Dieter: 2 targets, 1 reception, 10 yards
Deon Yelder: 6 targets, 2 receptions, 6 yards
Why don’t the Chiefs use Byron Pringle more? Totally understand. You have Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. But almost any time Pringle has had the chance to show up and play, he’s shown that once you pop, the fun don’t stop. Pringle caught 66 percent of his targets, ripped off a touchdown reception, and muscled out a passing play where he basically juked his way into an additional 20 yards on a short-yardage drawn up gain play.
The usual suspects aside from Pringle showed up in Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman, but ultimately Pringle was the most exciting and likely to see more looks going into the playoffs. He can play in shorter yardage scenarios and make yardage when need be, which won’t pull much away from playmaking involving either Kelce or Hill. Robinson was targeted seven times on his own, but continues to scale out best as a third in most receiver routes and doesn’t showcase a huge upside in the same vein as Pringle.
In fantasy expectations, I’d most look forward to some bodies changing places for next year. If Sammy Watkins disappears for next year, or some playcalling/personnel adjusts, Pringle could vault himself up into some dynasty discussions. Other than that, not much had changed from this performance, as Henne playcalling likely leaves a lot of these as outliers/rest and relaxation.
— Matthew Bevins (Reddit:TheLongSpring/Twitter:MattQbList)