Game Overview ::
- This is not a good spot for Carolina; but in order to win, they will need to put up points, and that’s what they’ll be looking to do
- This is a great spot for the Chargers, who had a lot of things going for them in Justin Herbert’s first start
- The Chargers should be playing with a lead here, while the Panthers will be hoping to keep the game close enough to steal a win at the end
- There is plenty to consider in this spot in DFS, though there are a number of factors that may make this more of an “isolate and attack” spot than the sort of spot I want to spread across my rosters
How Carolina will try to win ::
This is a brutal spot for the upstart Panthers, with their offensive centerpiece out of action for a cross-country game against a Chargers defense that has held the Bengals to 13 points and the Chiefs to 23. The Chargers have a middling run defense and an elite pass defense, while Carolina’s best weapons are now in the pass game. Joe Brady and Matt Rhule will know that the only way for the Panthers to win this game will be to score points (i.e., the Panthers’ defense is bad enough that the Chargers will find their way onto the scoreboard throughout this game, so the Panthers can’t just hope to shorten this game and wait for something to break their way Adam Gase style), so we should be looking for them to attack with Mike Davis and their three main pieces in the pass game (D.J. Moore // Curtis Samuel // Robby Anderson); but the Chargers are going to continue blitzing at the lowest rate in football, because they’re getting pressure on the quarterback at the fifth highest rate in football — and they are going to make it difficult for Carolina to sustain drives. When it’s all said and done, Carolina will ultimately be hoping something lucky breaks their way here, while doing what they can on offense to try to generate points.
How the Chargers will try to win ::
Justin Herbert got away with some mistakes on Sunday that should have been interceptions — but he also made some “Wow” throws, and he showed plenty of poise while sliding around in collapsing pockets and quickly progressing through his reads. His mobility puts added strain on a defense, and his weapons give him a lot to work with in this spot. In fact, watching this offense at the moment reminds me a bit of watching the Josh Allen Bills down the stretch of 2018, when it was like, “I wonder if most people realize how exciting this offense can be?” The Shane Steichen // Justin Herbert offense was not a training wheels offense. Steichen is featuring plenty of movement and misdirection to strain the defense pre-snap, while building in concepts that strain the defense both horizontally and vertically in-play. Last week, they provided plenty of easy gains for Herbert on running back and wide receiver screens, and they gave Herbert a number of opportunities to make plays downfield (including multiple times when he passed up a covered deep throw for a quick checkdown to the running back). There will be some growing pains for this offense (assuming Herbert continues starting — which will almost certainly be the case when it’s all said and done, regardless of what Anthony Lynn is currently saying), but there will also be some big games in soft matchups. This is a soft matchup.
Furthermore, the Chargers under Steichen are playing at the fourth fastest situation neutral pace in the league. This is highly un-Chargers-like, so I’m not fully ready to lock this in as a trend; but Herbert was regularly snapping the ball with double-digits left on the play clock, and nothing points to that changing this week. The Chargers aren’t going to look to just “shorten up this game and hopefully get out of here with a win.” They’re going to attack here, and they should have success in this matchup. The major concern is simply that an Anthony Lynn offense would typically be the type to slow down if the lead begins to grow — which could dampen the true ceiling here if the Panthers fail to keep pace.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
It’s likeliest that we see the Chargers climb out to a lead here and maintain that lead throughout — though it’s also worth noting that we tend to think in terms of extremes, when the reality rarely plays out as such. In other words: the Chargers should take a lead; but it’s not as if we should expect them to be up 28-3 at halftime and be killing out the clock all game from there. It’s likely we see the Panthers in the second half trying to hold in place (or regain) a one-score deficit in the hopes of something breaking their way at the end, which could leave the Chargers in the fourth quarter turning to a slightly more conservative game plan as they look to prevent collapse.
There isn’t really a tributary in which the Panthers put up a bunch of points with sustained drives and turn this into a shootout (the Chargers’ pass defense is just too good for that to happen — with seven men in coverage and the defensive line getting to the quarterback quickly), but a Herbert turnover that leads to points for the Panthers wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Chargers’ fantasy production, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Panthers could put up 23 points and force the Chargers to aim for 30.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
I didn’t expect to have much interest in this game, and I expected to come in here and hammer it down as a trap. I know Anthony Lynn well enough to not see “soft matchup” and immediately think “smash spot.” But Herbert threw seven passes of 20+ yards last week; and perhaps even more importantly, he was 16 of 20 on his passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, as Steichen gave him open players on creative route combos, or screen plays, or checkdowns — all of which could lead to easy gains. This allowed the Chargers to keep the sticks moving; and along the way, they leaned run-heavy against the soft run defense of the Chiefs. This week, the Chargers are playing a Panthers team that allowed the most running back rushing yards in the NFL a season ago, and that has picked up where they left off with the sixth most RB rush yards and the most RB rush touchdowns allowed already (the Panthers have also given up the sixth most RB receiving yards as a bonus; in fact, in both rush yards and receiving yards allowed to running backs, the Panthers rank right next to the Chargers’ Week 2 opponent, the Chiefs; but where the Chiefs have allowed only one touchdown to running backs, the Panthers have allowed six).
I’m not penciling in Herbert for more than 30 pass attempts (anything over that will be a bonus), but with only five targets so far this year flowing outside the five main pieces for the Chargers, this still provides plenty of targets to work with in DFS.
>> Keenan Allen :: 8 targets // 10 targets
>> Mike Williams :: 9 targets // 4 targets
>> Hunter Henry :: 8 targets // 8 targets
>> Austin Ekeler :: 1 target // 4 targets
>> Joshua Kelley :: 0 targets // 2 targets
Henry is the player I like the most here, as the tight end position is always a tough place to find floor and ceiling. He’s gone for 73 and 83 yards, and the touchdowns will come.
Allen is a strong bet for eight or more looks once again, and his involvement in the screen game last week gives him some opportunities for a big game in spite of his typically shorter-area role (he also was used on multiple downfield looks last week).
Williams saw only four targets last week, but that was more a product of the Chiefs’ ability to take away downfield passing than any decision on the part of the Chargers to limit his usage. I would feel pretty comfortable scooping some of Ekeler’s Week 2 targets back over to Williams, as Ekeler (and Kelley) were hit on some dump-offs after Herbert didn’t like what he saw downfield. This week, in this matchup, it’s likelier that Williams will be given six or seven shots downfield.
Ekeler is becoming a tough sell at his elevated price tag, as he played 56.6% of the snaps last week to 51.8% for Kelley, while touching the ball 20 times to Kelley’s 25. Through two games, Ekeler has 40 touches and Kelley has 37, and Kelley should grab lower ownership at a lower price, making him the slightly sharper play — especially as he has six carries inside the 10 and three inside the five…to only one carry inside the 10 for Ekeler, and zero inside the five. (The “slightly” on the “sharper play” label is due to the disparity in pass game role, where Ekeler is running three times as many routes as Kelley. We want catches and touchdowns from running backs. Ekeler is the much better bet for catches. Kelley is the much better bet for touchdowns. Each player has a high ceiling, but each has a low floor :: Ekeler in a price-considered sense, and Kelley for the fact that he could have a nice day with 18 carries for 90 yards…and that would do very little for you in DFS without a touchdown or (on DK) a 100-yard bonus. This is a good spot for a touchdown or two from Kelley, and both guys can hit for big plays. But neither comes with a safe bottom to his range.)
I’m not quite sure yet how I’ll be playing all this myself. The split workload for the Chargers, plus the lack of locked-in pass game work for the preferred back (Kelley), plus the price tag on Keenan Allen, plus the boom/bust nature of Mike Williams, may all add up to make this a spot I “bet on with an isolated group of rosters on my Roster Block, while avoiding this game elsewhere on my Roster Block.” In other words: making strategic bets around this offense; but otherwise leaving this offense alone. I’ll definitely have some exposure here. I’ll have a slightly better feel by the Player Grid (and a much better feel by any Player Grid updates overnight on Saturday-to-Sunday) of what that exposure will look like.
On the other side of the ball: avoiding players against the Chargers has been highly profitable the last couple years. The risk of a dud against this defense is always relatively high, while the “hits” are rarely big enough to justify the risk. But if wanting to go here, the locked-in workloads on all three receivers can be targeted — with Moore having the best all-around role, Anderson benefitting from usage as a more intermediate receiver in this offense, and Samuel working much closer to the line of scrimmage this year than last year, but likely in line for a couple extra carries with Christian McCaffrey out. Mike Davis, of course, is a “bet on volume” play who should see around 18+ carries and three to five receptions. If betting heavily on the Chargers, it could work to bring back a piece or two from the Panthers. If wanting to test the fates against this Chargers defense, Carolina pieces could also be isolated as one-off plays.
- Up until the 4th quarter of Week 2, the Derwin-less LAC defense essentially shut down the CIN & KC offenses; elite pass rushers with elite secondary players making this a tough defense to attack
- Where the two QBs have found some success is on the ground, with Burrow & Mahomes combining for 100 yds, TD on 14 att vs this defense
- While Teddy is very infrequently a runner, he has 3 games over 30+ rush yds in his career (so he’s shown to not be a total statue)
- Teddy was sacked 5 times vs the tough TB defensive line, and now faces Bosa, Ingram, Joseph, Tillery
- Teddy’s RB targets since 2019 (10, 4, 9, 11, 7, 8)
- Mike Davis appears set to take over for CMC; he scored 15+ DK pts 5 times in 2018 for SEA when he was given some opportunities
- LAC has held Mixon & CEH to a combined 107 yds on 29 att
- DJ Moore & Robby Anderson are the leaders in the CAR passing game, as they have target totals of (9, 13) and (8, 10)
- Their averages through two weeks: Moore (6 rec 87 yds), Anderson (7.5 rec 112 yds)
- Tyreek Hill had 54 of his 99 yds on his deep TD catch
- Moore & Anderson each have 3 targets over 25+ yds in 2020
- Herbert threw for 311 yds, TD, INT and ran for 18 yds, TD in his first start
- In his second start, he will face one of the weakest defenses of 2020 (28th ranked pass efficiency defense through two weeks)
- Herbert’s target distribution: Allen (10), Henry (8), Williams (4), Ekeler (4), Kelley (3)
- Because CAR has been even easier to attack on the ground, the only WR score worth having so far in 2020 was Evans’s 26.4 DK pts
- CAR has already allowed 243 yds, 6 TD on 49 rush att, and the most RB receptions (19) for 127 yds
- LAC has been attacking heavily on the ground, with Ekeler rushing for 177 yds on 35 att and Kelley rushing for 124 yds, TD on 35 att
- After no-showing through the air with Tyrod, Ekeler & Kelley produced 4 rec for 55 yds & 2 rec for 49 yds vs KC
- Ekeler has run 44 routes to Kelley’s 15
- Hunter Henry has increased his yds/g in each of his 3 seasons (31.9, 41.4, 54.3), and has now started 2020 with games of 73 and 83 receiving yds