Los Angeles Chargers (6-5, 5-6 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-4, 6-5), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Chargers Stats and Trends
The Chargers are 1-5 ATS in their last six games, and they have an ugly cover margin of -9.8 points in that span
Los Angeles is 4-1 toward unders in its last five road games.
Austin Ekeler has reached 21+ FP in seven of his 11 games this season. He managed just 12/31 rushing against the Broncos last week, which gives him 12 or fewer carries in five of his last six contests, but he came through with 6/68/1 receiving. He now has seven receiving TDs and seven rushing TDs so he has an outside shot to become the first player with double-digit TDs as a runner and as a receiver. Chuck Foreman (1975) and Marshall Faulk (2001) each reached 9 receiving TDs with double-digit rushing TDs. The Bengals are giving up 129.8 scrimmage yards per game to RBs this season.
Justin Herbert has thrown for multiple TDs in four of his five games since their Week 7 bye, but he’s also six INTs in that span after throwing four INTs in his first six games. He’s also run for 126 yards on 13 carries in the last two games after managing just 117/2 rushing on 30 carries through his first nine games. The Bengals are giving up the third-fewest passing TDs per game (1.3) and the seventh-fewest FPG (17.3) to QBs.
Keenan Allen has scored just two touchdowns this season despite registering 81 catches, 895 yards, and 116 targets this season. He’s seen ridiculous volume since their Week 7 bye with 10+ targets in five straight games and the league’s second-highest target share (31%) in that span, and he’s turned those looks into 15+ FP in each of those contests. The Bengals are giving up the seventh-most catches per game (13.4) to WRs.
Mike Williams continues to mostly disappoint since his hot start to the season, posting fewer than eight FP in six of his last eight contests. He finished with just 4/39 receiving last week despite seeing a six-week high eight targets against the Broncos. Chase Claypool went for 3/82 receiving on eight targets in this matchup last week.
Jared Cook has finished with fewer than 30 receiving yards in eight of his 11 games this season, but he found the end zone for the third time last week. Pat Freiermuth (4/40/1 receiving) and Darren Waller (7/116) have gone off in this matchup since the Bengals came out of their Week 10 bye.
Brolley’s Bengals Stats and Trends
The Bengals completely wiped out fellow AFC playoff contenders in the Raiders (32-13) and Steelers (41-10) in the last two weeks with an average cover margin of +22.0 points, and they now rank fifth in the league in point differential at +83.
Cincinnati is 4-1 toward overs in its last five games.
Joe Mixon has rolled up 58/288/4 rushing on 5.0 YPC in his first two games since their bye. He now has 24+ FP in four consecutive games and in five of his last six games, and he’s scored in each of his last eight games with 12 TDs overall in that span. He has a great chance to keep his momentum going against a Chargers’ defense that’s giving up a league-high 119.9 rushing yards per game to RBs.
Joe Burrow has fallen below 18 FP in three straight games and he’s thrown for just two TDs in that span after throwing for 2+ TDs in each of his first eight games. He’s also thrown it just 53 times in two games out of their bye with Mixon going nuts. Los Angeles’ defense has given up 24+ points in seven straight games and they’re allowing 31.3 points per game in that span after the Steelers and Broncos came to life against them.
Ja’Marr Chase ran hot early in the season thanks to his 68.6% catch rate, his 21.5 YPR average, and his six touchdowns through the first seven of the weeks. Regression has set in hard since Week 8. He’s catching just 48.4% of his passes for 10.1 YPR over his last four contests, and his two touchdowns in that span have kept him from bottoming out too much. He posted season-lows in FP (6.9) and targets (3) against the Steelers in Week 12, and he’s seen just nine targets in his last two games with the Bengals committing to the run. Chase is better than his numbers suggest since Week 8, and he’s not the all-time best WR (just yet) like his numbers would tell you from the first seven weeks of the season. Lead WRs Diontae Johnson (7/101/1 receiving), Justin Jefferson (9/143), and DeVonta Smith (5/116/1) each went off in Weeks 9-11 in this matchup.
Tee Higgins erupted for by far his best game of the season last week, hanging 6/114/1 receiving on eight targets against the Steelers. It was his first touchdown since scoring in the first two games of the year, and he’s finished 13+ FP, 60+ yards, and 4+ catches in four of his last five games. Secondary WR options Chase Claypool (5/93 receiving) and Adam Thielen (5/65) had some success in this matchup in Weeks 10-11.
Tyler Boyd has fallen below eight FP in five of his last seven games after catching both of his targets for 13 yards against the Steelers last week. Jerry Jeudy managed just 2/25 receiving on three targets against Chris Harris and company last week.
C.J. Uzomah has failed to find the end zone in four straight games, and he’s managed just 5/18 receiving on six targets coming out of their Week 10 bye. The Chargers have given up five TDs to TEs in the last three weeks, and they’re giving up a league-high .9 TDs per game to the position.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 25.7 (3rd)
Plays per game: 61.7 (22nd)
Pass: 68.2% (2nd) | Run: 31.8% (31st)
Pace: 29.9 (26th)
Plays per game: 65.0 (9th)
Pass: 58.7% (22nd) | Run: 41.3% (11th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Forecasting how the Chargers offense will perform every week has been like pulling teeth as of late, but we do know their tendencies are very predictable as OC Joe Lombardi has just geared up the pace to a 10 and is relying even more on Justin Herbert. Over the last eight weeks, the Chargers are the sixth-fastest team in seconds per play when trailing (23.5), they are the fastest offense when leading (24.6), and are top-6 in pass rate in all situations (when leading, trailing, and when the game is close).
This play style gives the Chargers and their games massive scoring potential each and every week and we’ve seen that volatility play out with four of their last 7 games shooting out (51, 51, 78, and 89 total points) while the other three were very modest affairs because their offense air-balled against the Ravens, Vikings, and Broncos (those contests combined for 40, 47, and 41 total points).
That said, there is certainly plenty of shootout appeal here because the Bengals are rolling offensively after putting 32 on the Raiders and 41 on the Steelers out of their bye. Cincy has now scored 30+ points five times in their last six games and should tee off on Los Angeles’ run defense with Joe Mixon running wild. We just need the Chargers offense to show up.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
For this analyst’s hard-earned dollars, New England at Buffalo may pit teams with the most guaranteed playoff clout, but Los Angeles at Cincinnati is where it’s at in Week 13. The Chargers have a 40% chance to earn a playoff spot after losing four of their last six. The Bengals’ back-to-back victories over the Raiders and Steelers extends some comfort with 69% playoff odds. They may be down, but they are far from out. And I love the idea of Justin Herbert facing uphill odds, threats of elimination. That said, the INT from last week where he deserves the blame came on a 3rd-and-14 when pressure forced him out of the pocket. Herbert is putting up some outstanding numbers through two seasons in the NFL, but he is far from a finished product. Few veteran QBs ever breach that threshold.
As anticipated with Joe Haden ruled out — last week’s piece offered matchup love even if Haden attempted to play at less than 100% health, Tee Higgins finally provided a statement performance to his season. Dealing his wares across from James Pierre, Higgins collected 4/83/1 of his 6/114/1 total line at the expense of Pierre. And the data suggests another result worthy of our attention is on deck. With ‘21 second-rounder Asante Samuel Jr. ruled out for another game while recovering from a concussion and Ryan Smith previously suffering an ACL tear in Week 9, the Chargers have been forced to feature Tevaughn Campbell at left CB.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
It’s a game tied for the week high over/under projected total, and it should be a good one for fantasy purposes.
Let’s start with the foundation of the Bengals’ offense — RB Joe Mixon. Mixon’s picked up some of the preposterous carry-total upside that Derrick Henry left behind when he got hurt. Here’s Scott Barrett from the XFP Report on a workhorse:
“In Week 12, Mixon led all RBs in XFP (29.6) and ranked 2nd in fantasy points scored (32.3). He earned 28 of 37 carries (5 of 5 inside the 10-zone) and 4 of 7 targets out of the backfield.
Mixon now ranks 5th among all RBs in FPG (19.6), and has finished top-4 at the position in 5 of his last 6 games, averaging 24.7 FPG over this span. He’s on quite the hot streak, and he’s undeniably a mid-range RB1 at worst moving forward (and a possible or probable league-winner down the stretch), but…
His role hasn’t been quite as good as we were promised, which is to say he’s still far more a workhorse than a true bell cow. We were promised an 80% snap share with heavy target volume, but he’s at a 67% snap share and has fewer than 5 receiving yards in 7 of 11 games (63%).
His role really hasn’t changed much at all from 2020, with Samaje Perine serving as the team’s new Giovani Bernard. He’s scoring more fantasy points, yes, but that’s because his gamescript is significantly improved, and the offense as a whole is much more potent (more sustained drives, more scoring opportunities, etc.). Mixon has handled 78% of the team’s carries but just 49% of the targets out of the backfield, which comes out to only 70% of the backfield XFP (9th-most). And, so, with the other RBs siphoning off about 50% of the passing-down work, Mixon is going to continue to be highly-volatile and gamescript dependent on a week-to-week basis.
Now, this doesn’t mean Mixon is due for a massive regression, or that he shouldn’t be viewed as a top-5 RB moving forward. Just that we should expect some volatility week-to-week. Since 2018, Mixon averages 24.4 DK FPG in wins but only 14.4 FPG in losses. And that’s at least a little concerning, because the Bengals face the Ravens (Week 16) and Chiefs (Week 17) in playoff weeks.
But, good news this week! The Bengals are favored to win, albeit just slightly (-3.0), and the on-paper matchup is just about perfect. The Chargers are the league’s top run funnel defense (league-high +5.2% run rate over expectation), ranking 6th-best in passing FPG allowed to QBs (13.9) but 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed to RBs (19.8). They also rank 4th-worst in YPC allowed (4.64) and 8th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+2.6).”
So yeah, start Mixon. One thing that Mixon’s emergence has done is limit the production of the passing game. That’s crimped rookie Ja’Marr Chase. But defenses don’t seem to be focusing on Chase any more, nor does QB Joe Burrow seem to be focusing on him any less. Here’s Graham from Stat-Pack:
Chase has 31 targets over the last four weeks, which is good enough for a 24% target share.
Chase’s target share during his hot start in Weeks 1-7? 24%. Nothing has changed.
It’s just that the Bengals have dominated their last two games on the ground and Burrow has only needed to throw it 29 and 24 times.
The Bengals remaining schedule (vs. Chargers / 49ers / Broncos / Ravens / Chiefs) looks teed up for five highly competitive games and more passing volume.
It should help Chase that the Bengals’ primary slot WR, Tyler Boyd, has a difficult matchup with Chris Harris, who shut down Jerry Jeudy last week.
The Chargers are an utterly boring team to try to get news on every week, and I’m sure that’s just how they like it. They’re also pretty boring from a fantasy standpoint.
The biggest question to ask is “what’s up with Mike Williams?” And while he isn’t on the injury report, it’s fair to wonder if the knee injury he picked up prior to the Chargers’ Week 7 bye has been affecting him.
Williams got hurt in Week 6, the Chargers’ sixth game of the year. Through Week 5, he was the overall WR1. Since Week 8, when the Chargers returned from bye, he is the overall WR34. That doesn’t make him useless, but he’s certainly not the league-winner he looked to be in the first month of the season. Can we quantify the knee’s impact? Graham thinks so. From Stat-Pack:
In his first five games, Mike Williams got 16 targets of 15+ air yards.
Over his last six games, Williams has just 8 deep targets of 15+ air yards.
… which lines up precisely with when Williams first got hurt. Oh, he also has a matchup with Eli Apple this week, one of the NFL’s most surprising CBs of the year this week. He’s a WR3.
Here's a #Bengals stat that will blow your mind:— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) November 30, 2021
According to Pro Football Focus, Eli Apple is the least-targeted starting CB in the NFL since Week 5.
Apple is credited with only 14 targets over that span, which includes his 2 interceptions. What a season so far for #20. pic.twitter.com/IF24SeaZ1h
Keenan Allen on if Herbert throws too hard: "If he throws it too hard, go out there and turn the JUGS machine up and get ready to catch the fastball. He throwing the ball to you, you better catch it. Shit. I want the ball. Throw that motherfucker however you wanna throw it."— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) December 1, 2021