As of this writeup, the Chiefs (30.75) and Chargers (30.0) are the only teams with a Vegas-implied team total of 30+ (and are two of only three teams with a total north of 26.5) — and while it isn’t apples to apples between the Chargers and Chiefs (the Chiefs will almost certainly pick up more yards even if they finish with the same number of points as the Chargers), the Chargers are basically a two-man show right now, with 63.16% of the touches on their team over the last two weeks flowing through Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler — coming out to 30 touches per game between the two.
At the front end of the week, I assumed it would be a donkey play to roster Ekeler and Allen with their prices so high and their unbelievable production unsustainable over time — with all of this wrapped up in a potential blowout that could lead to curbed touches. And sure, there is definite risk that the Chargers dismantle the Dolphins so thoroughly that they don’t need these two by the end of the third quarter (similar to Amari and Zeke last week). But with the Chargers banged up enough on defense for the Dolphins to have a decent shot at keeping this game respectable (the Chargers are “only” 16 point favorites), and with so much of the offense centered around these two pieces, they actually each have a shot at being underpriced yet again.
Things To Like ::
Ekeler in particular remains a comfortable bet this week, as he has such a big pass game role (at least six receptions in every game so far, with yardage totals through the air of 96 // 67 // 45), and his role near the end zone is as high as any player in football (only two players have more touches than Ekeler inside the 10 so far this year). Much like Zeke last week: it would be difficult for Ekeler to “fail,” and there is enough upside in this matchup (especially with this being Ekeler’s last game in the lead role, and with Anthony Lynn perhaps wanting to send him out with a bang) for him to potentially post one of the better scores on the slate once again.
Keenan is a bit more difficult to project, as he has thrived so far on tight games and massive volume — and it wouldn’t be crazy in this spot to see him drop to nine or 10 targets and post something like a 7-80-0 line. That’s the sort of score you would take from just about any wide receiver as a floor (and Allen’s floor is as high as any wideout on the slate), but at his price, you would need him to hit for more ceiling than that. I like Allen in tourneys this week for his monster role and upside, though I’m still uncertain where I’ll land with him on tighter builds — only because it will be easier for him to be expendable down the stretch of this game than it will be for Ekeler.
Mike Williams is also really intriguing in tourneys (particularly larger-field tourneys), as the Chargers have been trying to get him going — feeding him seven targets last week with a few opportunities in which he just missed connecting on a big play. (Williams currently has the fifth deepest average depth of target in the NFL.) Williams should see a bit more of Xavien Howard than Allen will see, but with the Dolphins having so little in the way of pass rush, Williams will have opportunities to get open downfield. The floor is low, but the ceiling is noteworthy in large-field play.
This is the first week we have really had any reason to talk about the Dolphins offense; and while they’re obviously not worth considering in tighter builds, they are worth considering in large-field play in what is unexpectedly their softest matchup to date against the banged-up Chargers secondary.
We should start with the tight end position (should “get the tight end position out of the way”?), as last week with the Chargers taking on the Texans, we mentioned that the injuries at strong safety for the Chargers would have potential to mess up both their tight end coverage and their communication on the back end. We proceeded to say that ‘the Texans don’t have a tight end to take advantage of this matchup’ — and the Texans went on to paste the Chargers with not one, but two tight ends. The big plays to Fells // Akins were more centered around communication than around “tight end coverage” (i.e., they were busted plays that could easily have gone to another position), but this does bring up Mike Gesicki — who has been truly awful so far in his career, but who has at least as good a shot of hitting in this spot as the Texans tight ends had. (I’ll likely bet on his poor play preventing him from hitting slate-winning upside; but you can make a clear case to go a different direction.)
We can unplug our nose on this side of the ball and also look to Preston Williams, who is the most attractive option as the clear favorite of Josh Rosen. Casey Hayward is questionable at the moment (and there’s a chance the Chargers hold him out for this matchup if he’s at any risk of aggravating his back injury), and even if he plays there’s a chance he locks up with DeVante Parker. But especially if he misses, there’s a decently clear path to a strong game here as the Dolphins fall behind and are forced to the air. Parker is also in the conversation as a deep-tourney play. As always (on both these guys), touchdowns are important; but there is enough ceiling here at a low price and likely low ownership for a conversation to exist.
Outside of these pieces, there is really nothing else on the Dolphins that is more than “guessing and hoping” in your hunt for slate-winning upside.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Ekeler shapes up as a clear Tier 1 this week — on an ugly week for running backs — and while it’s unlikely we get another double-100 outing on the ground against the Dolphins, we should note the same thing we noted last week with the Cowboys, when we said there was potential for it to make sense to play Zeke and Pollard together: there are scenarios in which it could make sense to play Ekeler and Justin Jackson together.
Keenan Allen and Philip Rivers are on the Tier 1 borderline for me (with a Chargers-stomp the big risk that could lead to these two posting disappointing price-considered scores) — and in large-field play, I like Preston Williams as a potential piece that could keep this game close enough for Keenan // Rivers to get the most out of their day. Mike Williams can be used about the same way as Preston Williams (“I know the downfield looks will be there; I’ll hope they connect”), and even DeVante Parker can be considered in deeper tourneys with that thinking (especially if Hayward misses).
Finally: Keenan // Ekeler can be played as a pair, with so much of the action flowing through them. There’s a good chance the Chargers score four or five touchdowns…and if they do, there’s a solid chance that three or four of these touchdowns come through these two guys.