Week 15 kicks off with the Chargers visiting the Raiders in what is expected to be a shootout. On a week full of high-total games, this one currently has the highest at 53.5, and it’s expected to be close with the Raiders favored by 3.5 points. These teams feature capable offenses and mediocre defenses, with the Chargers ranked 22nd in overall defensive DVOA and the Raiders 28th. We should have a fun one to start the week.
On the Chargers’ side, Austin Ekeler is the clear lead back, assuming the role immediately after his return from injury in Week 12. He’s not a 20-carry back (he’s seen 14, 8, and 15 carries in those three games), but his passing game role is absolutely massive with 16, 9, and 9 targets. Ekeler has put up 23.9, 10.8 (in a game in which the Chargers were absolutely stomped by New England and scored ZERO points), and 23.6 Draftkings points and that’s all without even scoring a touchdown. Ekeler’s floor is massive, as is his ceiling here if he can find his way into the end zone. Normally I feel like quarterbacks have the safest floors on a Showdown slate, but it’s hard to argue that Ekeler’s floor isn’t right up there with them. Behind Ekeler, Kalen Ballage ran as the RB2 last week, playing 32% of the snaps while handling seven carries and two targets. Justin Jackson ran behind as the third back with three carries and three targets. As long as Ballage and Jackson are splitting work, neither are viable unless they happen to luck into a touchdown. It’s worth noting that Jackson was the “next man up” earlier in the year when Ekeler went down, before Ballage, so we could see that shift as last week was Jackson’s first game back. Betting on talent and opportunity tells us that Jackson has more upside to his projection, so I prefer him out of the Chargers’ backups.
In the passing game we have Keenan Allen pairing with Ekeler to hog a massive share of the Chargers’ passing game volume. Allen has seen double-digit targets in all of his healthy games but two and his floor is close to Ekeler’s while his ceiling is just as high (as you can see, I prefer Ekeler to Allen). The volume is so significant for these two that they can both definitely hit together and they are the clear strongest skill position plays on the Chargers. Mike Williams left after just a couple of snaps on Sunday and then got in a limited practice today (Tuesday). His status is uncertain, but practicing at all seems to indicate he has a solid chance to play. If he does play, he’s a volatile player in a great matchup as the Chargers’ primary deep weapon who has been seeing reasonable volume. At just $6,200 I have a lot of interest in him in tournaments if he’s active. Should Williams miss, we saw Tyron Johnson step into his role on Sunday and see seven targets. He would basically be “Mike Williams lite” at a slight discount, but I expect he would come in at higher ownership because he just had a big game and he looks cheap and people tend to jump on the injury replacements. He’s definitely a viable play if Williams misses, but I would have less of him than I would of Williams (i.e. if Williams plays I might want 50% of him, if Williams misses I might only use 30% of Tyron). Jalen Guyton has been running as the WR3 all season but seeing almost no targets, with just 40 targets through 13 games. He’s only passed 10 Draftkings points in two weeks when he hauled in a long touchdown. That’s possible, of course, but despite being on the field a ton he falls under the “MME punt” category for me. One interesting angle here is if Williams plays, it’s not impossible that the Chargers see Tyron as having earned more work and replacing Guyton with him; this is pure conjecture on my part (maybe we’ll see something from beat reporters ahead of the game, but I kind of hope not), it’s a risky play, but Tyron’s ownership will be minuscule if Williams plays, making him an intriguing tournament play. Poor Hunter Henry, one of my favorite season-long tight ends, has settled in as a “high floor, low ceiling” option. Henry is averaging a healthy 6.6 targets per game, but he’s only scored three touchdowns on the season and has yet to surpass 15 Draftkings points. He’s a reasonable mid-tier option in a positive matchup but you’re going to need a real outlier outcome for him in order to be a smash play (as in, I doubt I want to use any of him at captain, but he’s a reasonable flex play who should be included in MME player pools). K.J. Hill and Donald Parham are thin MME punt options.
On the Raiders’ side, Josh Jacobs unexpectedly played last Sunday but logged a season-low snap count at just 43%. I’m expecting him to play here as he didn’t seem to suffer any kind of in-game setback, and it’s likely that he sees a larger workload than he did on Sunday, but on a short week nothing can be taken for granted. Devonte Booker and Jalen Richard will back him up, with Booker more likely involved on the ground and Richard more as a passing-down specialist, though both are likely to see work in both areas. This is a volatile situation and should be treated as such, unless we get news that Jacobs has been completely cleared and will resume his normal workload, it’s hard to feel confident here in cash and would relegate him to a tournament-only play for me. With that said, Jacobs with an uncertain workload makes for a pretty excellent tournament play if it looks like the field will be scared away from using him.
In the passing game, we can start with the real alpha receiver of the Las Vegas offense, which is tight end Darren Waller. Waller is leading in target volume by a massive margin, 118 on the season to 64 for Nelson Agholor. He’s the safest floor and highest ceiling option of the Raiders’ receiving corps, though this is a lower-volume passing offense that spreads the ball around a lot; Waller has five games with 10+ targets, but eight games under 10. “High floor” is a relative term in this instance. Behind Waller, Nelson Agholor’s role has been expanding as the season has gone on, resulting in 9, 6, 11, and 9 targets in his last four games. That’s WR1 usage, and while there is some volatility here just because it’s Nelson Agholor and it’s a spread offense, he’s too cheap for that WR1 role at $7,400. Henry Ruggs was just placed on COVID list and is out for the game. Hunter Renfrow is the primary slot receiver who has a safe floor but rarely sees sufficient volume to push him towards a ceiling. Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Foster Moreau, and Jason Witten are MME punt plays who's playing time is erratic and who cannot be reasonably expected to see more than one or two targets (leaving Witten the thinnest play of this group, as while he could score a touchdown, he has almost no yardage upside and we know that a 1/8/1 line is unlikely to land a guy in the optimal lineup).
UPDATE: Ruggs was just placed on the Covid list an hour or so after I finished writing this. That likely pushes one of Edwards or Jones into a starting role. I’m honestly not sure which one right now, we’ll have to watch beat reporters and team news to see, but hopefully we’ll have some clarity before the game. I’d guess Edwards as he’s a reasonably talented rookie while Jones has not exactly had an illuminating NFL career to this point, and Edwards has been playing more snaps than Jones of late, but unless we get news one way or another, this is just guesswork.
The most likely way for this game to play out is a classic shootout (with the odds of that going up if Jacobs misses, as the Raiders would likely go pass-heavier from the outset as they did against the Jets in Week 13 when Jacobs was out). We have two good offenses and two mediocre defenses, which should create a nice offensive environment. Here are some other ways the game could play out:
We’ve seen the Raiders go run-heavy at various times throughout the year with Carr being held to 24, 23, and 25 dropbacks in a 3-game stretch that they won handily (including one against the Chargers). The odds of this are boosted if Jacobs is back, but we could see this outcome if the Raiders are able to build a lead quickly while the Chargers struggle early on.
It’s really hard for me to see either team really struggling here. I’d be surprised if either team failed to get to 20+ points. That said, there are outcomes in which one team crushes the other, and in projected shootouts like this it’s common to see 5-1 builds be very low owned.
My cash game pool is the quarterbacks, Ekeler, the kickers, Tyron (if Williams is out), and Booker/Richard (Booker is a “duh” value play if Jacobs misses, but both are viable as cash punt options if Jacobs is in). Waller, Allen, and Agholor are all “fine” cash plays but given the salary on this slate, they’re hard to fit in (unless Jacobs is out and you want to use Booker at captain).
In tournaments, my favorite captains are Ekeler, Mike Williams/Tyron, Agholor, Waller, and Ruggs.
SOME GROUPS TO CONSIDER
At most 1 kicker and at most 1 defense as (almost) always
Pair captain pass catchers with their QBs (or consider boosting the QB if using a captain receiver if you don’t want 100% exposure to this pairing - discussed in further detail in the 2020 update to my Advanced Showdowns course)
If using an RB captain, apply a negative correlation to the opposing defense and kicker (you can see how to do so in my FantasyLabs tutorial video)
At most 1 of Tyron and Guyton (if Williams is active)
At most 1 of Moreau, Witten, Jones, and Edwards
At most 1 of Booker and Richard (if Jacobs is active)
If using Ekeler or Allen at captain, apply a negative boost to the other one (while both can get there together, if one of them is the optimal captain at their high salary, it needs so much of the offense to flow through that player that there is a lower chance of the other one hitting)
WANT MORE XANDAMERE?
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