We have a matchup between two of the most polarizing quarterbacks in the NFL on Thursday Night Football when Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs travel to take on Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers to begin Week 15. The Chiefs come into this game atop the AFC West with a 9-4 record while the Chargers are right behind them with an 8-5 record, so this game is crucial in the AFC playoff picture.
Both teams are dealing with COVID-19 issues this week as both of them have ruled players out for Thursday night’s contest. Kansas City will be without Willie Gay Jr. and Josh Gordon while Chris Jones is doubtful to play. On the other side of the field, Los Angeles is expected to be without standout rookie left tackle, Rashawn Slater. Ahead of Thursday night’s much-anticipated matchup of explosive offenses, here are my favorite captain and flex plays on DraftKings’ showdown slate between the Chiefs and the Chargers.
Captain Spot Considerations
Austin Ekeler ($15,300)
During the Chargers’ last game against the New York Giants in Week 14, in which they won 37-21, Austin Ekeler left early with an ankle injury. Brandon Staley, the head coach of the Chargers, said that it wasn’t anything major and that Ekeler was just a little sore. Ekeler has been given the game-time decision tag for Thursday night’s game, so keep close tabs on his status. Assuming he plays, Ekeler is one of the few running backs in the NFL that’s worth inserting at the captain spot due to his consistent usage in the ground and air attack. Ekeler faces a Chiefs defense that has allowed the 10th most points per game (25.5) to the running back position on DraftKings. Also, Kansas City’s defense has given up the sixth-most receptions per game (6.69) to running backs this season. And with the Chiefs notably without Gay at the linebacker position, they could have a tough time slowing down one of the league’s best dual-threat weapons.
*Note: If Ekeler is ruled out, then Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson would likely split the workload for the Chargers. Just move either Tyreek Hill or Clyde Edwards-Helaire into where I have Ekeler listed, depending on who you prefer between the two (I’d personally side with CEH).
Keenan Allen ($14,100)
While the Chargers are going to be without Slater at left tackle, and they are dealing with other injuries, they are expected to have Keenan Allen available. Allen missed last week’s game versus the Giants due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Upon his return to the offense, Allen should return to his usual role of being the lead target-getter for the Chargers as he leads the team with a 27% target share (8th highest mark among WRs in the NFL). On a full-point PPR site like DraftKings, Allen has one of the safest floors (his lowest output was 10 points in Week 6), so touchdowns are an added bonus that give him an extremely high upside (he has scored 22+ points in 4 games this season). The Chargers could elect to attack Kansas City’s secondary in this game, especially with L’Jarius Sneed ruled out due to personal reasons. I expect Herbert to target Allen early and often following the one-game absence from the Pro Bowl wideout.
Travis Kelce ($12,900)
Some people are going to pay all the way up for Tyreek Hill in this game and I don’t blame them one bit. Hill possesses one of the highest ceilings among any player in the NFL due to his ability to score double-digits points on any given play and his insane volume. But this year has been a bit different for Hill and Kansas City’s offense. Defenses have played a lot of two-high coverages against the Chiefs in hopes to prevent Hill from being effective deep. With teams keying in on slowing down Hill, Travis Kelce is a fantastic option to save some salary from Hill. Even though Kelce has oddly caught three passes for 27 yards in back-to-back weeks, he’s still one of the few elite tight ends in the league. Kelce still has the capability to record 25+ points on any given slate, and it just so happens that the Chargers are one of the worst teams at containing tight ends. Los Angeles, who could be without Derwin James for another week, has surrendered the sixth-most points per game (15.42) to tight ends on DraftKings. For those that look at box scores, Kelce posted 20.4 points versus the Chargers back in Week 3.
Flex Spot Considerations
Mike Williams ($7,400)
While Allen is set to return for the Chargers, Mike Williams was considered questionable earlier in the week with a heel injury. After being limited on Tuesday, Williams logged a full practice on Wednesday, likely meaning that he’ll be available against the Chiefs. Williams has been hot and cold following a blazing start to the season, but the return of Allen should actually help him. Williams didn’t benefit from Allen’s absence in Week 14 as he caught six passes for a pedestrian 61 yards versus the Giants. But with Kansas City having to concern themselves with Allen out of the slot, Williams could see plenty of man-to-man coverage on the outside. Williams exploded for a season-high 36.2 points on DraftKings the last time these two teams met in Week 3. Despite it being unlikely he scores 36.2 points again, this game is at SoFi Stadium instead of Arrowhead, so weather won’t be a concern in this one, which could lend to more opportunities through the air.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($7,000)
The Chiefs came out and clobbered the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 14 by the score of 48-9. In a game where Kansas City posted 48 points, most of the damage was surprisingly done by the running backs and the defense of the Chiefs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire only had 10 carries for 37 yards in Sunday’s blowout, but he found the end zone twice to get him to 19.2 points on DraftKings. Even with Edwards-Helaire sharing the backfield workload with Darrel Williams, he’s used more on the ground, and the Chiefs could elect to utilize Edwards-Helaire more against a weak run defense of the Chargers. Los Angeles is giving up the fifth-most points per game (27.16) to running backs on DraftKings and are allowing the second-most rushing yards per game (119.46) to the position. While Williams could steal some usage in the passing game, Edwards-Helaire should be able to take advantage of the No. 32 ranked rush DVOA defense.
Byron Pringle ($2,600)
For the second straight week in Week 14, Byron Pringle saw the second-most snaps on offense at the wide receiver position, only behind Hill. Pringle has seemingly earned himself more playing time than Mecole Hardman, who has struggled to evolve into a featured wideout for the Chiefs. While the volume for everyone not named Hill or Kelce isn’t consistent, we don’t need much from Pringle at $2,600 for him to make his salary worth it. All we need is a few catches from Pringle, while a touchdown would make him one of the best value plays on Thursday night.
Donald Parham Jr. ($2,400)
Another player I’m taking a flier on for Thursday night’s game is Donald Parham Jr. Both Parham and Jared Cook were limited in practice earlier in the week, but it appears both are prepared to play versus the Chiefs. While Cook is the starting tight end for the Chargers, they run 12 personnel at the sixth-highest rate (27%) in the NFL. That means that Parham sees the field a decent bit, with Stephen Anderson also seeing a few snaps from the tight end position. At 6-foot-8, Parham is an ideal red-zone target for Herbert as he’s caught three touchdowns on the season, two of which came within 10 yards of the end zone. I’ll be rooting for a Parham touchdown once Los Angeles gets anywhere close to the end zone on Thursday night.