“Thursday Night Football” is back to kick off another fantasy football week. Week 15 brings an exciting, offensive-minded matchup between the Chiefs and Chargers in Los Angeles (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video). As always, you want to make the right fantasy start ’em, sit ’em decisions — especially during the fantasy football playoffs — by either deploying players who can give you a nice early lead going into the Sunday or avoiding players who are bound to bust in prime time.
Aside from star left tackle Rashawn Slate, the Chargers should be at full strength offensively around quarterback Justin Herbert. Running back Austin Ekeler (ankle), wide receiver Mike Williams (heel), tight end Jared Cook (quad) are a little dinged up, but all expected to play. Also, wide receiver Keenan Allen will return after missing Week 13 vs. the Giants while on the reserve/COVID list.
The Chiefs will have all their principals and peripherals available around quarterback Patrick Mahomes. From the backfield to the receiving corps, they are involving more players. One who won’t go is wide receiver Josh Gordon, who joins stud defensive tackle Chris Jones on the reserve/COVID list, a big break for Herbert.
Here’s breaking down the entire start ’em sit ’em picture for TNF, including a couple DFS lineup suggestions for FanDuel and DraftKings:
Chiefs: Who to start or sit in fantasy football on Thursday night
Start: QB Patrick Mahomes
Believe it or not, Mahomes has had only two top-12 fantasy finishes in the past seven games, and both came at the expense of the reeling Raiders. In the first meeting with the Chargers in Week 3, he threw for 260 yards and three TDs, and his two interceptions were erased by 45 rushing yards.
Mahomes has become a slightly different type of QB to cut through his slump of impatience and forcing things downfield. He’s leaning more on running — his teammates and his own. That said, the Chargers’ offense should force him to put the ball up more here, and playing off his backs for some favorable down-and-distance shots. He should hit 250 yards and two TDs as his floor with a good shot of pushing toward a 300-yard, three-TD ceiling.
Start: RBs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams | Sit: RB Derrick Gore
Edwards-Helaire had just 42 scrimmage yards against the Raiders last week, but he made them count with two short TDs. He rushed for exactly 100 yards and a TD in the first Chargers affair. He’ll get more work here fully healthy, but don’t forget about Williams, who’s been an RB2 the past two weeks with his receiving complementing CEH, who surprisingly isn’t getting much love in that capacity.
Williams should stay involved in passing situations and the Chiefs will be in short scoring position a few times to help CEH. You can’t go with Gore, however, despite his his long TD in garbage time against Vegas.
Start: WR Tyreek Hill | Sit: WRs Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle
Hill caught five-of-seven targets for 56 yards in Week 3, putting him well out of even WR3 range. He barely hit that with four catches for 76 yards against the Raiders last week. His last WR1 finishes came in Week 8 against the Raiders and Week 10 against the Giants. The Chargers present a tough matchup with Michael Davis, Chris Harris Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr.
That said, Hill can erupt at any time, and Kansas City’s rushing success can create some deep shots to him on second- and third-and-short. Hill is overdue for a big game, and Mahomes will call upon him to move around to get open. The Chiefs also can get the ball in his hands in open field so he can make something happen with his quickness after the catch. As it has been the standard with no Gordon, you can’t trust either Hardman or Pringle to do anything you need.
Start: TE Travis Kelce
Kelce used to struggle with the way the Chargers covered him. Not this year. In Week 3, he caught seven-of-11 targets for 104 yards. The Chargers’ poor run defense is tied to their linebacker play. Kelce may be showing some signs of wear, but he will dig deep to go off here when his team needs him most to get back on dominant track.
Sit: Chiefs D/ST
Kansas City dominated the Broncos and Raiders at home. This isn’t not home and the Chargers are a more dangerous division offense than both. You can do much better with a streamer this week.
Start: K Harrison Butker
He remains a Harrison Butt-kicker at the position. Lock and load and gear up for a potential long game-winning field goal.
Chargers: Who to start or sit in fantasy football on Thursday night
Start: QB Justin Herbert
Herbert has been a torrid QB1 the past four weeks, finishing in the top six in each. He’s lighting it up now consistently with multiple TDs and also padding stats with his running. The kid ripped the Chiefs for 284 yards and four scores in Week 3 and has the look of a “league winner” in the fantasy playoffs with the juicy Texans matchup next.
Start: RB Austin Ekeler | Sit: RBs Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley
Ekeler should play through his latest ankle injury. He might see one or two fewer carries than usual, but the Chargers tend to be calculated with his touches to call for them in ideal spots. Ekeler has been so consistent, with six RB1 finishes and five RB2 finishes, living up to his exact value in fantasy drafts. Because of his status, you can’t trust L.A.’s two backup backs at all.
Start: WR Keenan Allen
Allen was rolling big-time with Herbert until he couldn’t play against the Giants because of COVID. The rest is probably good for an older player to reheat as a key target all over the field with big volume, and he’s even scoring well again.
Start: WR Mike Williams | Sit: WR Jalen Guyton
Williams has been awesome for much of the season, even with a little second-half fade. He’s a no-brainer play as an upside WR3 behind Allen’s WR1/2 status every week. Guyton has had two big weeks in a row as the dynamic No. 3, first with Allen and then without him. He’s more of a reach dart throw if you’re desperate and a good DFS pivot, but he shouldn’t have much starting consideration in most leagues.
Start: TE Jared Cook
Cook’s low-end TE1 value comes down to scoring a TD. The Chiefs have had trouble covering the tight end all season, although they’ve gotten better of late with their linebackers and safeties. If you know Cook is boom-or-bust based on that — as a lot of tight ends are — then he’s a viable option unless you have an elite TE.
Sit: Chargers D/ST
The Chargers have had two consecutive strong weeks against the Bengals and Giants. They cool off here against Mahomes and the Chiefs, who have cleaned up their turnover and pressure mess from their midseason slump.
Start: K Dustin Hopkins
The other “D Hop” has been pretty good as a K1 this season. With multiple teams, he’s scored as much as the Bills’ Tyler Bass.
Chiefs vs. Chargers: FanDuel single-game lineup
- MVP (1.5X): QB Justin Herbert $16,500
- AnyFLEX: TE Travis Kelce $12,500
- AnyFLEX: WR Keenan Allen $12,000
- AnyFLEX: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire $11,000
- AnyFLEX: TE Jared Cook $7,500
The Chiefs’ running game needs to be used here in some fashion, and it should be a big rebound game for Kelce, too. Herbert and Allen creates a nice stack, and Cook can pay off with a TD.
Chiefs vs. Chargers: DraftKings Showdown lineup
- Captain (1.5X): QB Justin Herbert $16,200
- FLEX: RB Austin Ekeler $10,200
- FLEX: TE Travis Kelce $8,600
- FLEX: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire $7,000
- FLEX: WR Jalen Guyton $4,800
- FLEX: RB Darrel Williams $3,200
There’s similar thinking here except doubling down on the Chiefs’ running backs, getting Ekeler in there and taking a shot on Guyton staying hot despite Allen and Williams both playing. Herbert, Kelce and CEH are our core players either way.