Los Angeles Chargers (8-6, 7-7 ATS) at Houston Texans (3-11, 6-8), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Chargers Stats and Trends
The Chargers are 6-2 ATS in their last eight road games.
Los Angeles is 4-1 toward overs in its last five games.
Austin Ekeler played through his ankle injury in Week 15, and he played just enough (34% share) to come through for fantasy with 12/59/1 rushing and 4/23 receiving for 18.2 FP. He didn’t play quite enough, though, as he watched from the sideline as Joshua Kelley coughed up the rock on the doorstep of the goal-line on a third-and-goal play. He also watched Justin Jackson shred the Chiefs’ run defense with 13/86 rushing, but Ekeler still finished just two touches off of his season average of 18.2 through the first 14 weeks of the season. He has a potential blow-up spot against a Texans’ run defense that allowed Rashaad Penny to go off for 16/137/2 rushing in Week 14. He landed on the COVID list this week, though, so he’ll need a negative test to take advantage of this spot or else Jackson will lead a committee in Week 16.
Justin Herbert is the second hottest quarterback going right now behind only Aaron Rodgers, racking up 21+ FP and multiple TDs in five straight contests. He has a great chance to keep his momentum rolling in a matchup against the Texans. Houston has given up 20+ FP just once in his last six games, but they haven’t exactly gone against a who’s who of quarterbacks in that stretch (T-Law, Russ, Wentz, Zach Wilson, Tannehill, Brissett).
Keenan Allen returned to the lineup off of his one-game absence for COVID, and he got right back to dominating with 6/78/1 receiving on 10 targets. He’s now posted 15+ FP in seven straight games and he has 5+ catches in 12-of-13 games this season. Tyler Lockett erupted for 5/142/1 receiving on nine targets in this matchup two weeks ago, and they’re giving up the 14th-most FPG (35.1) to WRs this season.
Mike Williams managed just 3/49 receiving last week but he did see his most targets since Week 5 with nine targets. Big Mike has now finished with fewer than eight FP in six of his last nine games since he erupted for four performances of 22+ FP in his first five contests. The Texans are giving up a generous 13.5 YPR to WRs this season, but they limited D.K. Metcalf to 4/43 receiving in this matchup two weeks ago.
Jared Cook dropped a touchdown last week but he had his most receiving yards in a game since Week 9…with 32 yards. The Texans are giving up the eighth-most FPG (14.4) to TEs this season, but they’ve given up just one TD to the position in their last seven contests.
Brolley’s Texans Stats and Trends
The Texans snapped a three-game outright and ATS losing streak last week.
Houston has played over the total in consecutive games after playing under the total in four straight contests.
Davis Mills outdueled #1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, for a victory in Week 15, and the third-round pick has actually looked more like a first-round pick than some of his contemporaries from the 2021 QB class. He completed 19/30 passes for 209 yards (7.0 YPA), two TDs, and one INT in Houston’s victory over the Texans in Week 15. He could earn himself a starting job in 2022 with a strong finishing kick — next year’s QB class is looking weak right now. The Chargers have given up 18+ FP to five of the last six QBs they faced, including 20+ FP performances to Mike Glennon and Ben Roethlisberger.
Brandin Cooks has a fantasy pulse again since rookie Mills once again took over as the team’s starter in Week 14. Cooks has posted 10+ targets, 7+ catches, 100+ yards, and 18+ FP in two consecutive games after hanging 7/102/2 receiving on 10 targets for 29.2 FP against the Jaguars in Week 15. Not only has Mills’ improved play given him a shot in the arm, but the Texans are also now deploying him as the team’s primary slot WR the last two weeks with Nico Collins and Chris Conley manning the perimeter. Cooks has run 51% of his routes from the slot in the last two weeks after sitting at 30% through Houston’s first 12 games of the season. He’ll want to move around a little more this week with Chris Harris limiting WRs to just .93 yards per slot coverage snaps this season. That’s if he plays this week after landing on the COVID list on Wednesday.
Rex Burkhead surprisingly played through a hip injury last week, and he led Houston’s backfield in touches (17), scrimmage yards (47), and snap share (64%) in their victory over the Jaguars in Week 15. The Chargers have tightened up a bit against the run in recent weeks after limiting Clyde Edwards-Helaire to 9/32 rushing and 2/18 receiving last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.5 (11th)
Plays per game: 65.0 (10th)
Pass: 61.9% (13th) | Run: 38.1% (20th)
Pace: 28.8 (19th)
Plays per game: 60.7 (25th)
Pass: 63.7% (10th) | Run: 36.3% (23rd)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Chargers-Texans is Week 16’s COVID du jour with Houston having 20+ players in the league’s protocol. Meanwhile, the Chargers aren’t in a much better spot with 10+ players also in the protocol. This game is certainly a candidate to be moved to Monday or Tuesday after the NFL set a precedent last week moving three games.
Regardless of whether or not Austin Ekeler can test out of the protocol in time to play (fingers crossed!), the Chargers aren’t going to alter their game-plan much here. They are the same team every week – they are going to play aggressively and throw a ton regardless of their opponent. The Chargers are the third-most pass-heavy team when leading (59%) over the last eight weeks. Only the Chiefs (62%) and Bucs (66%) throw more when they are ahead.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
This is a potential huge game for the Charger passing game given the unbelievable number of COVID infections forcing Houston defensive backs to be ruled out for Week 16. With Lonnie Johnson Jr., Terrance Mitchell, and Eric Murray all ruled out, Tavierre Thomas, Desmond King II and Jonathan Owens are currently the only starters left standing in the secondary. There is no point in wasting any time evaluating individual matchups since the remaining defensive back dominoes could fall for Houston prior to Sunday. And keep in mind that Charger RB Austin Ekeler is also on the list, which could increase the necessity for the Chargers to pass the ball.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
So, how about some fantasy football advice right from the horse’s mouth — Austin Ekeler?
“I’m on the COVID list this week, so you better go pick up Justin Jackson.” https://t.co/sDOTPla4be— John Daigle (@notJDaigle) December 24, 2021
Yeah, consider Justin Jackson a borderline RB1 if Ekeler can’t play. Other than that start your Charger studs against an abominable Texan defense.
The Texans have one viable player for fantasy — WR Brandin Cooks — and he’s on the COVID list. Houston is in the midst of a pretty nasty COVID breakout, but will play on Sunday anyway. Fortunately for the Texans, using backups isn’t much different than them using starters.