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Thursday Night Football preview: What to expect fantasy-wise from Chargers at Raiders

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Fantasy preview of Thursday Night Football.

Los Angeles Chargers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Chargers head to Vegas with the hopes of playing spoiler for the playoff-hopeful Raiders. Here’s how both teams look from a fantasy football standpoint heading into tonight’s game.

Chargers

Despite some early-week concern for the health of the Chargers’ pass catching corps, the good Dr. Jesse Morse, at The Fantasy Doctors, has reassured viewers that wide receivers Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (back), tight end Hunter Henry (hip), and dual threat lead back Austin Ekeler (quadriceps) should all be cocked, locked, and ready to rock. Facing a Raiders’ defense that’s top 10 in 2020 passing yards allowed (3,329, 8th-most) and QB FPPG (19.4 - 10th-most), Offensive Rookie of the Year contender, Chargers’ QB Justin Herbert remains firmly in the QB1 ranks this week.

Update, 11:53am PST, 12/17/20: Both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are game-time decisions, with Williams already being ruled as unlikely to play. Should Allen be a “go”, he would retain Top 12 status as a player of caliber is too talented to pass on in such a good match-up. With Williams out though, Tyron Johnson elevates to high-end flex status with a great shot at a good game.

Update 12/17/20: It turns out, Mike Williams is actually active. Start his as high-end flex play.

Keenan Allen, this year’s most targeted receiver (144), retains high-end WR1 valuation ahead of his impending battle with Raiders’ primary slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. 2020 hasn’t been kind to Joyner. PlayerProfiler.com has credited Joyner with 491 yards and four touchdowns allowed while batting down just four passes and recording zero interceptions, despite playing in 11 games this year.

With 2020 1st round draft pick, cornerback Damon Arnette (concussion/neck) likely out after registering back-to-back DNPs this week, Trayvon Mullen, the Raiders’ other primary perimeter corner and back Nevin Lawson will have their hands full. Downfield receiver “Big” Mike Williams (BMW), sidekicked by Tyron Johnson and Jalen Guyton all garner DFS consideration, with Williams as the preferred flex option in season-long leagues. Having allowed 12 gains of 20-yards or more through the air over the last four weeks, BMW is primed for a fun outing. Johnson has played well in recent weeks and could push no. 3 WR Guyton, who turned in a few splash performances earlier on in the season but has been quieter as of late.

Tight end Hunter Henry, who’s a rock-solid top 12 option every week, regardless of the competition, should run free all day. Strong safety Jonathan Abram posted Did Not Participate practice designations on Monday and Tuesday (concussion/knee) making it quite unlikely he’ll play. Henry is a top five at the position play this week.

No. 2 back Kalen Ballage has played over 30% of the team’s snaps in recent weeks but it hasn’t impacted lead back Austin Ekeler’s production all that much. Incredibly, Ekeler is the 11th-most targeted running back in 2020 (51), despite missing six games with a hamstring injury. Facing a Raiders’ front-seven allowing the third-most .5PPR PPG (26). LV’s 5.3 RB receptions per game allowed are 11th-most and their 40.8 RB receiving yards rank 9th-most. This game is tailor-made for Ekeler to pop off. He’s this week’s 3rd-ranked player at the position while Ballage garners RB4/low-end flex viability.

Raiders

Robbed of one-half of its pass rushing duo (Melvin Ingram on Injured Reserve), the Chargers are relying entirely upon defensive end Joey Bosa to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Raiders’ offensive line has helped Derek Carr en route to the seventh-most comfortable time in the pocket (2.5-seconds) this year and at worst, that mark should hold true again this week. On a bizarre note, Los Angeles have allowed both the seventh-fewest passing yards on the year, 2,822, as well as the fifth-most passing touchdowns, 26. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that the connection between Carr and stud tight end Darren Waller, who soundly leads the league in red zone targets with 23, should bear fantasy fruit this week. Carr is a high-end QB2 with easy top 12 upside.

The Raiders’ wide receiver corps suffered a blow when rookie Henry Ruggs was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve List on Tuesday, which rules him out for Thursday’s game. As evidenced by his team-based 3rd-ranked Weighted Opportunity Rating over the last four games (toggle through proper drop-down menus for data here), that’s a hefty workload that’s just been vacated. Nelson Agholor has largely risen to the challenge of being the team’s primary downfield receiver and the Chargers have been getting routinely blasted for long touchdowns in recent weeks. Although he’s always a risk for drops. Agholor is a high-end flex play with easy WR2 upside.

Perimeter receivers Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards have been rotating as short area pass catchers and both are viable DFS options this week.

Slot receiver Hunter Renfrow retains his typical high-floor/low-ceiling flex viability this week with a respectable upside in full-point PPR leagues.

Without the domineering presence of strong safety Derwin James (Injured Reserve), the Chargers have been decently dinged up by opposing tight ends, allowing 10.2 .5PPR PPG to the position. Darren Waller is an ever-week top three option at the position, operating as the team’s clear-cut No. 1 pass catcher. As mentioned above, his red zone relationship with Carr should pay solid dividends this week. He’s a strong candidate for a multi-touchdown performance.

Battling an ankle injury and sharing time with both Devontae Booker and Jalen Richard, it’s tough to trust Josh Jacobs as the RB1 that many drafted him to be. That said, the Chargers have allowed top 15 numbers in the rushing yards (1,560) and touchdowns (13) columns this year. While that can be partially attributed to the near season-long absence of ILB Drue Tranquil, the likely absence of stud ILB Denzel Perryman (back) this week makes matters worse for LA. Although Jacobs is at risk of being game scripted out of a pass-heavy affair, the injury issues for the Chargers can’t be ignored and Jacobs can safely be billed for 15 or more touches, regardless of game flow. Consider Jacobs a high-floor/shaky-ceiling RB2. Booker and Richard don’t poach enough work to be fantasy-relevant themselves.