Every week, I’ll be writing a comprehensive primer on every NFL matchup and all of the relevant players, matchups, pace and playcalling notes, and injuries. It covers everything you need to know when setting your lineups. But since that article is massive and requires a full pot of coffee, we’re also going to offer these more focused matchup overviews.
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Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
*Our team-specific injury news desk and inactive player pages are linked below*
Los Angeles – Injury Reports
Kansas City – Injury Reports
Justin Herbert: Last year against the Chiefs’ Justin Herbert was much better for fantasy (QB5, QB2) than in real life. He logged two top-five performances on the strength of fourth passing scores in one game and a rushing touchdown in the other. Herbert, through the air, was ok completing 63.1% of his passes (averaging 258.5 passing yards), but with only 6.8 yards per attempt to show for it. Despite destroying Kyler Murray in Week 1, this isn’t a pass defense to fear. Last year the Chiefs gave up the eighth-highest adjusted completion rate while sitting at ninth in yards per attempt and fourth in deep passing yards. The one issue Herbert could have is if the Chiefs’ pass rush can get home. Last year Kansas City was fifth in pressure rate and eighth in blitz rate. Herbert had the 12th-highest completion rate difference when blitzed and the tenth-lowest passer rating against the blitz (minimum 200 dropbacks). The scoring environment is nice, but Herbert could disappoint this week. He’s a mid-range QB1.
Patrick Mahomes: Last year, the Bolts’ pass defense was 13th in yards per attempt and 14th in passing touchdowns allowed. Patrick Mahomes carved them up in their two meetings, completing 63.7% of his passes and averaging 335 passing yards with a 6:3 passing touchdown to interception ratio. In those two games, Mahomes went deep on 11.1% of his passes which isn’t likely to be the attack plan in Week 2. Outside of those games, Mahomes had a 9.7% deep rate last year, down to 7.7% through one game. of the 2022 season. Mahomes should keep things short and let his receivers do that work against a team that allowed the seventh-fewest deep passing yards last year. Mahomes is a top 3-5 fantasy quarterback again this week.
Austin Ekeler: Austin Ekeler wasn’t alone last week in the backfield. Ekeler only played 49% of the Chargers’ snaps which is odd considering he only dropped below 58% of snaps twice during the entire 2021 season. The Bolts have referenced wanting to keep Ekeler fresh by working in other backs. It’s one thing to hear about it and quite another to see it unfold. The biggest concern was Ekler’s 38.2% route per dropback rate. Joshua Kelley and Sony Michel stealing some early down work isn’t a massive concern, but with them eating into his routes, it’s something to watch, and it drops Ekeler into low-end RB1 territory. I don’t want to overreact to a one-week sample of usage, but if we see this continue into Week 2, it could be time to press the silent alarm button.
Austin Ekeler was the RB8 and RB5 last year in his two games against the Chiefs, averaging 16.5 touches and 94.5 total yards. Kansas City is a juicy matchup for Ekeler, provided he gets the job. Last year they allowed the second-highest yards per attempt and ranked 26th in DVOA against receiving backs. They saw the fifth-most running back targets while allowing the fourth-most receptions and third-most receiving yards.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Last week, before the Chiefs achieved the full thrashing of Arizona, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was operating as the lead back with ten touches (Jerrick McKinnon four, Isiah Pacheco two). Edwards-Helaire secured all three of his targets and, in total, turned his ten touches into 74 total yards. His 2.88 yards after contact per attempt in this small sample was strikingly similar to his rookie season (3.03). While the Chargers were eighth in DVOA against running backs through the air last year, they allowed the third-most rushing yards and second-most rushing touchdowns. After allowing Josh Jacobs to run for 5.7 yards per carry last week, they don’t look any different from the team that finished last year 28th in adjusted line yards and second-level yards. CEH is a strong RB2 again in Week 2.
Keenan Allen: Currently I’m projecting him to miss this game, but stay glued to practice reports all week for clarity. Update: Keenan Allen has been ruled out for Week 2.
Mike Williams: Mike Williams flopped in Week 1. There’s no way around it. Despite leading the team with 31 routes, he only saw an 11.8% target share with one air yard. Yes, you read that right. One air yard. His 3.8 aDOT in Week 1 was reminiscent of last year’s start to the season when it was 9.8 through three games. Yes, I know this is more extreme. I’m not ready to press the panic button for a player that will be leaned on by Herbert this week, with Keenan Allen likely out. The talent is still there. Williams was fifth in road wins last year.
Last year he averaged nine targets against Kansas City with one outstanding game (seven receptions, 122 receiving yards, WR1) and one dud (WR46). Williams ran about 84% of his routes on the outside last week, which means he’ll match up with seventh-round rookie Jaylen Watson and Rashad Fenton. Fenton allowed a 69.2% catch rate and 91.2 passer rating last year. Herbert should take advantage of Williams’ size against the 5’11” 193-pound Fenton.
Joshua Palmer: Joshua Palmer finished second among wideouts in routes run last week (25). He was on the boundary for 60% of his routes which could continue or increase this week if DeAndre Carter resumes the slot role. Palmer was only targeted on 12.0% of his routes which was wretched. Palmer didn’t display the ability to draw targets at a high rate last year (18.1%, 76th) nor be efficient with them (1.31 yards per route run, 83rd), so count me below consensus on Palmer hype entering Week 2. Palmer could have a solid day simply based on volume against Watson and Fenton, but don’t expect a moon shot game. Palmer is a WR4 with upside.
DeAndre Carter: If you’re looking for a deep league or last-second starting candidate with upside, it’s DeAndre Carter. Carter came off the bench last week and ran from the slot on 71.4% of his snaps. He drew a target on 28.5% of his routes. Last year in the four games where he ran 25 or more routes with Washington, he posted yards per route run marks of 1.7 or higher three times (1.77, 1.70, 2.1). If Carter is the primary slot receiver again this week, I love his potential upside against L’Jarius Sneed. Last year Sneed allowed a 75.0% catch rate and 100.5 passer rating in coverage.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Ok. I’ll mention before we get into discussing Juju Smith-Schuster that I was out. All the way out on Smith-Schuster for 2022. If I was wrong about him I’ll own the L happily. Ok now to Smith-Schuster. He was second among the wide receivers in routes (one fewer than Marquez Valdes-Scantling) while leading the group with a 20.5% target share and 54 air yards (2.47 yards per route run). He rotated between the slot (42.9%) and outside. I’m curious if we see his slot rate climb higher this week. When he’s outside he’ll match up with Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. (assuming JC Jackson remains out). Davis allowed a 55.0% catch rate and 97.4 passer rating last year. Samuel gave up a 67.9% catch rate and 101.0 passer rating. Why I think Smith-Schuster’s slot usage could climb is to take advantage of Bryce Callahan. Callahan stands at 5’9″ which would be advantageous from the jump for Smith-Schuster (6’1″). Callahan allowed a 66.7% catch rate and 102.0 passer rating last season.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Marquez Valdes-Scantling was just a guy last week. He only drew a 10.3% target share despite running a route on 80.4% of dropbacks. With only one red zone target and lacking the deep role (zero deep targets), he’s week flex play for Week 2. He’ll run about 65% of his routes against Davis and Samuel.
Michael Hardman: Mecole Hardman is the usage powder keg that could explode in Week 2. Hardman only ran a route on 60.9% of Mahomes’ dropbacks, but the blowout could be responsible for part of this. Hardman was utilized from the slot on 63% of his routes which pins him against Callahan in Week 2. This big-time love for Hardman comes from his high leverage target usage. He was the only wide receiver to see a deep target (two) in Week 1 while also leading the way in red zone targets (three). Unless you’re in a deeper league or dynasty format, you likely won’t have to delve down to Hardman for a flex in Week 2, but if you’re in this spot, the reward could be substantial.
Gerald Everett: Gerald Everett’s Week 1 usage was nice. He ran a route on 67.6% of dropbacks. In a perfect world, would we want that closer to 75%? Sure, but his other peripherals were encouraging. While he only commanded an 11.8% target share, he led the team with two red zone targets and managed 2.35 yards per route run. These are numbers we can definitely live with. The Chiefs were a middle-of-the-road matchup last year, ranking 17th in DVOA and 15th in receptions, and receiving yards allowed to tight ends.
Travis Kelce: Travis Kelce was Travis Kelce in Week 1. He ranked fourth in target share (23.1%), first in receiving yards (121), and tied for first in red zone targets (two) among tight ends. Last season Kelce destroyed the Chargers, and he’s primed to do it again in 2022. He averaged a ridiculous 12 targets, 8.5 receptions, and 147.5 receiving yards against the Bolts finishing as the TE4 and TE1. After allowing Darren Waller to rumble for 79 yards on four catches last week, the Chargers’ defense closely resembles the squad that ranked 23rd in DVOA with the most receiving yards and second-most receiving touchdowns allowed to tight ends last year.
Thursday Night Football DFS Plays
Top shelf captains: Travis Kelce, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Patrick Mahomes, Juju Smith-Schuster
Contrarian captains / Flex plays: Gerald Everett, Mike Williams, DeAndre Carter, Mecole Hardman, Austin Ekeler