San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Philip Rivers is the universal Sit’em of the week, and there are good reasons for it. For the last two seasons, Rivers faced the Chiefs four times, and he averaged 234.25 passing yards and 58 completion rate with total 2 TD / 5 Int. The Chargers obviously lost all four outings, and they scored 3, 3, 20, and 7 in each. The good news is that the veteran QB finally got his best weapon back healthy for this one. Keenan Allen only played in one of the four matchups, and that was the game they scored 20 points (Allen was targeted team high 10 times). While Allen failed to score, Rivers threw his sole 2 TDs in that game, and we all know 2014 sophomore Allen wasn’t even a true elite. Getting him back in his best form isn’t a trivial addition for Rivers. As daunting as the KC’s front seven is, Allen’s presence at the slot will allow Rivers to get rid of the ball quicker from the pocket, and the Chargers have a lot better chance of moving the chain. It’s not the most exciting matchup for him on paper, but you can still expect him to perform fine.
Alex Smith is never worthy of discussion because we all know what number he is going to put up. Just like all the games he played, he will just be the average for this week once again. The Chiefs are the favorite, so he has even less reasons to throw any long balls, and his favorite short yardage receiver isn’t playing (Jamaal Charles). If Spencer Ware plays as many snaps as they have planned, Smith is unlikely to throw a TD, but he should be very efficient with his completion rate and has very low chance of getting picked.
Keenan Allen isn’t likely to score in this game, but his high target is as solid as rock. Derrick Johnson and the company will furiously attack Rivers throughout the game, so the QB needs to rely heavily on Allen for short yardage gains. He is going to be the centerpiece of the game script, and he provides very high floor for his owners especially in PPR format.
Travis Benjamin, the deep threat weapon, isn’t going to be too useful for this one. KC secondary isn’t extremely scary outside of Marcus Peters, and Benjamin’s tremendous speed can exploit the open field in this matchup. Nevertheless, the Chargers O-line obviously isn’t strong enough to give Rivers enough time to wait for the long-throw plays to develop.
Jeremy Maclin will be the one who catches the TD, if Smith indeed throws one, but we all know better. Smith doesn’t like to throw to his receivers unless he is desperate, and it’s tough to think one of the worst run defenses in the league can make him throw. For those who starts Maclin this week needs to pray for the Chargers to bring their A-game, as the WR1 averaged 95.8 yards in KC’s losses last year (60.9 yards in wins).
Melvin Gordon Jr.’s rookie season was disastrous, and it’s tough to expect anything to change this year. He was one of the preseason darlings of 2016, but half of his production essentially came from one play (Preseason: 13 Att, 81 Yard, 1 TD, 6.2 yd/att. Except his one 39 yard TD run against the Vikings: 12 Att, 42 Yard, 0 TD, 3.5 yd/att). The Chargers didn’t do much to upgrade their O-line other than adding a 30-year-old Center, and seriously, when was the last time a rookie RB bust suddenly explodes in his sophomore year without any change of scenery? Gordon’s rest of the season outlook isn’t the brightest, and he doesn’t hold any chance to make a meaningful production against the Chiefs’ stout run defense.
Danny Woodhead has a better chance of contributing as Rivers needs his short pass catching skill for this matchup, but he is nothing but a desperation play. Last year, he totaled 12 rushing yards (9 att) and 17 receiving yards (8 targets, 4 receptions) in two games against KC, and neither Chargers RB is going to be the playmaker on this Sunday.
Spencer Ware, the one of the most popular Start’ems of the week 1 in any format, shouldn’t be scared about the Chargers defense. His worst enemy in this game wears the same colored uniform. Charcandrick West, who started 9 games in absence of Jamaal Charles in 2015, is reported fully healthy and ready to share the loads. KC is currently hinting an equal share, which is never a good news in Fantasy. West is obviously a preferred option in passing plays, and it’s also not clear whether Ware can presume the goal-line duty. 227lbs Ware has the typical built of GLB, but according to Adam Teicher, in 2015, West took 69 snaps inside the 20 while Ware took 22 (West 27, Ware 11 inside the 10). It’s possible that both backs end up producing respectful numbers considering the ideal running situation, but neither one is going to be a 3-down back, and it significantly limits their upsides. Also, you can never completely ignore Knile Davis, and such enormous KC’s RB depth will cause headaches for the owners throughout the season.
Antonio Gates, despite his age, is one of the favorite targets of Rivers. The veteran QB to TE connection will never disappear before one of them retires, and Rivers did heavily rely on him last time when they visited Arrowhead together (targeted 8 times and garnered team-high 76 yards). The difference this time is the presence of Allen, and Gates will see little less targets for this one. Rivers does need to use his TE for a safe valve to move the chain in this matchup, however, and Gates was responsible for one of the only two TDs that Rivers threw against the KC since 2014, and Allen did play that game.
Travis Kelce, one of the most popular TE picks of 2015 season, was a mild disappointment. While he safely put up elite-like 72 catches 875 yards, he only scored 5 TDs, which was 9th among the TEs. This trend will continue as KC’s conservative offense doesn’t grow enough fruits to feed outside of Maclin. Kelce will see enough targets as the Chargers secondary is much weaker in the middle, but he isn’t going to be the one who catches Smith’s TD in this game since they will heavily involve their RBs in the Red Zone.