Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season starts with Thursday Night Football as the Los Angeles Chargers play host to the Kansas City Chiefs. Here’s a break down of the fantasy football starts and sits and DFS plays for Thursday night’s action.
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Over/Under Points Scored: 51
Kansas City Chiefs
QB Patrick Mahomes – Mahomes finished as the QB8 (27 completions, 44 attempts, 260 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 4 carries for 45 yards) and QB9 (27-of-47 ror 302 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 6 carries for 54 yards) in his last two games against the Chargers. He’s got a good shot at producing a similar fantasy finish this week. Mid-tier QB1.
WR Tyreek Hill – Hill has been kept somewhat in check against LA over the last two years, but the Bolts will likely be without stud CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion) and 2018 All-Pro do-it-all S Derwin James (hamstring) which will make slowing the speedster wide receiver extremely difficult. Hill’s a WR1.
WR Byron Pringle – KC’s No. 2 WR draws single-game DFS/redraft WR6 appeal for this one. Rotational WR Josh Gordon is likely out after testing positive for COVID-19.
WR Mecole Hardman – Boom/bust WR7.
WR Demarcus Robinson – Not fantasy relevant.
TE Travis Kelce – LAC has no chance of slowing the KC great without S Derwin James in the lineup. Elite TE1.
Update 12/16/21: Derwin James (hamstring) is expected to play if he makes it through pre-game warmups.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire – LAC have been bad against RBs all year. Their 37.9% run defense NEFF rating is dead last and they’ve allowed 24.3 .5PPR RB PPG, 7th most in the NFL, over the last month–just a 0.6 point improvement on their season-long average. LAC DT Linval Joseph was only able to play on 13% of snaps last week after a brutal 3-week bout with COVID-19. He’s unlikely to be close to 100% this week. Three-time Pro Bowl DE Joey Bosa also only played on 57% of the snaps last week after suffering an ambiguous head injury in Week 13. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a mid-tier RB1.
RB Darrel Williams – Williams has maintained a passing game role in the 2 games since KC’s Week 12 bye. He’s a borderline RB3/4.
Los Angeles Chargers
QB Justin Herbert – Herbert’s 1,277 passing yards and 11 passing touchdowns produced over the last 4 weeks are both No. 1 in the NFL. His 151 QB rushing yards are No. 3 and he’s 1 of just 10 quarterbacks to produce a 2-point conversion as well.
In 3 career games against Kansas City, Herbert has averaged 34 passing attempts, 23.3 completions, 298 passing yards, 2.66 touchdowns, 0.33 interceptions, 4.6 rushing attempts, 14.3 yards, and 0.66 touchdowns. Keep in mind, Herbert’s first game against Kansas City was an emergency start in Week 2 of 2020 after a team doctor punctured starter Tyrod Taylor’s lung pre-game. Herbert went 22-of-33 for 311 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and carried the ball 4 times for 18 yards and 1 rushing touchdown. In the following two, Herbert scored four touchdowns in each one without throwing a single interception. Elite fantasy QB1.
Update 12/16/21: KC stud DL Chris Jones is out due to COVID-19.
WR Keenan Allen – Allen was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve List on Monday of Week 14 and was confirmed to be vaccinated, meaning if he is able to produce two negative PCR tests and have no symptoms, he will play this Thursday. Monitor news to find out if he was struggling with symptoms. As of now, we have no word on that front. Allen’s last two games against KC: 8 receptions on 12 targets for 50 yards and 1 touchdown (Week 2 of 2021) and 7-of-10 for 96 yards (Week 2 of 2020). Between Daniel Sorenson, L’Jarius Sneed, and Rashad Fenton, Kansas City’s attempts to plug the hle in their slot coverage has been abysmal. Confidently expect a top-15 WR finish for Allen with easy WR1 upside.
WR Mike Williams – LAC opted for a dink’n’dunk passing approach in Weeks 9-11 and “Big” Mike Williams suffered for it. Over the following three weeks, LAC dialed up the deep ball and the Chargers won two of the three games with a collective point differential of +20. They’re going to stick to that script. Williams was asked to handle short-area work with Keenan Allen out last week but Williams is a high-end WR2 this week as he’ll return to his field stretching X-receiver job. A finish similar to his Week 3 onslaught against KC (7-of-9 for 122 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 2-point conversion) is within his potential range of outcomes.
WR Jalen Guyton – Guyton handled the downfield role last week and played well, catching 3-of-3 balls for 87 yards and 1 touchdown. He’s a fine DFS single-game option and a redraft WR4.
WR Josh Palmer – Palmer operated as the primary slot receiver with Keenan Allen out last week. The promising rookie caught 5-of-7 targets for 66 yards and 1 touchdown. Like Guyton, Palmer deserves single-game DFS consideration and is a redraft WR4.
TE Jared Cook – LAC has had four different tight ends play on 25% or more of the snaps in each of the last two games. KC’s 11.5 .5PPR TE PPG rank 10th most in the NFL but that kind of positional competition is a nightmare. Cook’s a high-end TE2 for redraft but a good contrarian single-game DFS play.
TE Donald Parham – Fantasy TE2.
RB Austin Ekeler – From this week’s standalone Running Back Rankings piece: “By all accounts, [Ekeler’s] ankle is good to go (heavily taped) and this is a must-win game for the 8-5 Chargers. LAC beat KC, 30-24 in Week 3 but the 9-4 Chiefs are 1st in the AFC West standings. A win on Thursday would give Los Angeles complete control of the division with both teams at 9-5 and Ekeler & Co. owning two head-to-head wins over their divisional foes. Ekeler’s had mixed results as a rusher over their last three contests (11 carries for 55 yards, 7 for 18, and 16 for 93) but he’s eviscerated them through the air (6 receptions on 6 targets for 52 yards and 1 touchdown, 6-of-7 for 33 yards a 1 touchdown, and 4-of-4 for 55 yards). Kansas City has markedly improved in the run-stopping department since Frank Clark returned to the lineup (Week 5) and trading for Melvin Gordon (Week 9) but they’re still very vulnerable to backs in the receiving game. Dating back to Week 9, Kansas City is allowing 9 RB targets per game, 7.4 RB receptions, and 60.6 RB receiving yards. All three marks are second most in the league in their respective categories. Ekeler’s a top-3 RB play in Week 15.”
RB Justin Jackson – Jackson is the primary change of pace back in LA right now and would be featured as both a rusher and receiver were Ekeler to miss time. He must be rostered in 12-team formats. Jackson could be fired up in contrarian DFS lineups. That the Chargers are -4 home favorites aides Jackson’s potential.
RB Joshua Kelley – Kelley would assume lead rushing duties were Ekeler to miss time and should be rostered in 12-team leagues. LAC will continue to spend a lot of time in scoring position.