Week 16 and the holidays close out with the Chargers visiting the Colts for a 45.5 total game with Los Angeles favored by 4.5. The Colts are missing their best player with Jonathan Taylor out for the rest of the season, leaving some confusion as to the state of their run game, while the Chargers are fully healthy with all of their primary offensive pieces active. It’s an interesting one to explore, so let’s dig in.
In previous games where Jonathan Taylor missed, Deon Jackson was the main guy and performed pretty well, but last week when Taylor left early, it was Zack Moss who stepped into a big role. Moss logged 67% of the snaps vs. 32% for Jackson, and a whopping 25 running back opportunities (though only one target and a putrid 3.4 yards per carry), while Jackson handled 14 opportunities of his own and ran better at 4.2 yards per carry, but also just one target (which he caught for a touchdown) while losing a fumble. So, what happens this week? Good lord, I don’t know, but given the matchup against a Chargers defense that is 25th in run defense DVOA, there’s a solid chance of a Colts running back landing in the winning lineup. The safe (and probably correct) answer is leaning towards Moss here: he played almost 2x Jackson’s snaps last week, handled almost 2x the opportunities, and is $600 cheaper to boot. That’s probably the right way to lean, but it’s worth noting that Moss played poorly and Jackson acquitted himself fairly well in previous JT absences so don’t be surprised if things swing back Jackson’s way. Given their prices, I’m considering a set of rules to limit (but not completely block) exposure to rosters that pair both of them. See the suggested groups for how I’m thinking about this.
Ownership updates automatically
In the passing game, the Colts are using a four-man rotation at wide receiver, with Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell, and Alec Pierce out there as full-time players while Ashton Dulin mixes in occasionally. Dulin can be used as an MME punt option, while Pittman is the clear alpha with seven games of 9+ targets on the season. At $8,200, that’s an extremely reasonable price for his talent and role (it’s also the cheapest he’s been in Showdown all season). The Parris Campbell career resurgence train has derailed a bit. After a mid-season surge with several games of 9+ targets and good results, Campbell has just 11 targets in the last three games – this could be variance, it could be due to a renewed focus on the run game, or it could be intentional decision-making if the Colts are trying to focus their passing game elsewhere. I don’t think we can really know the answer here. At $5,400, it’s a risk I’m willing to embrace because we’ve seen target spikes and strong results multiple times this season (he’s put up three scores this year that would almost certainly land him in the winning lineup). At $2,800, Pierce is more boom/bust given his deep threat role, but that price is way too cheap for someone who’s going to be out there almost every passing down. The floor is scary (three games of zero points in his last five), but he has four games on the season that would likely have him in the winning lineup. At tight end, the Colts are a bit of a mess with all of Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson (update: Granson has been ruled out), Jelani Woods, and Nikola Kalinic seeing snaps. Kalinic does not have a target on the season so can be relegated to the deepest of MME pools. Alie-Cox has one game of over 5 Draftkings points and can be similarly tossed into the MME punt pool, though given that he at least sees targets somewhat regularly and is on the field a lot, he’s a better punt than Kalinic. Granson has one game over 10 DK points, while Woods appears to be the guy whose role is ascending (he has more points per game than any other Colts tight end despite barely playing to start the year). Complicating this further is that Granson is questionable and has not practiced as of Saturday morning. If he misses, I think that benefits Woods the most and makes him a strong value option, while Alie-Cox at minimum salary would move up from “total MME punt” to “well, his floor should no longer be zero here.” If Granson is in, I’d rank them Woods, Granson, Alie-Cox, and Kalinic. If Granson misses I’d keep the same rankings but would just feel much stronger about Woods overall.
On the Chargers side, we’ll start with Austin Ekeler, who is an absolute badass and deservedly the most expensive skill position player on the slate. However, let’s pick it apart a bit. Ekeler has only seen more than 16 carries in one game this year and is averaging 11.8. He makes his bones via scoring touchdowns (14 on the year) and in the passing game (8.2 targets per game!). But, a lot of that target volume has come in games in which the Chargers were missing at least one of their other primary pieces, and having Keenan Allen back in particular has impacted Ekeler’s volume, as they both run short-area, high efficiency routes. Since Allen has returned, Ekeler has seen target counts of 2, 15, 6, 8, and 3. So, only one game over his season average (though by a lot), and only two games that you’d really feel great about the receiving volume. Ekeler is a strong play with a lot of touchdown equity and a solid floor, but with the Chargers healthy, I’m not sure he’s a “lock him because he’s so clearly the best play on the slate by a huge margin” kind of play that he was earlier in the season. Backing Ekeler up will be Josh Kelley, who has two games of 10+ running back opportunities (that, not coincidentally, coincide with his two games of over 10 DK points). Kelley is up to $5,200, which is kind of spendy for a guy with his role – out of his 10 games, you’d probably have rather played a kicker in eight of them. Kelley needs a lucky touchdown (he has just two on the season) or for something to happen to Ekeler in order to have a strong chance at paying off.
In the passing game, we’ll see Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and Josh Palmer as the primary wide receivers, with DeAndre Carter rotating in a smidge and viable as a punt option. Of the three, Allen is the safest play as he runs routes that generate high catch rates, and he has seen at least seven targets in every healthy game this year, which has resulted in a low of 13.4 Draftkings points. On full slates, I tend to question Allen’s ceiling, but on a Showdown slate, he’s a strong option. Williams is more boom/bust, with five games this year higher than Allen’s best game, and another four of 8.5 or fewer DK points. Williams is of course another strong option – he’s just not as safe as Keenan. At very similar price points, I’ll probably just arrive at roughly equal exposure to both, as I don’t really have a strong take on who’s likeliest to hit. Palmer is interesting, and as I noted last time I wrote up a Chargers game, he can easily be a bit of a forgotten man by the field when everyone else is healthy, but he’s still seeing going to see volume (there is a LOT of volume to go around in this offense). I really like him in tournaments as I expect him to come in at lower ownership than his role justifies. At tight end, we have Gerald Everett and Donald Parham (finally returned last week) as the primary receiving options, with Tre McKitty in a blocking role. I’m not sure that Parham’s return really hurts Everett much, as his snaps didn’t really move when Parham was out, and it’s hard to track target share because there have been so many other moving pieces in the Chargers offense this season. Everett’s volume has gone up and down but I couldn’t say what’s just variance, what’s due to matchup, and what’s due to other injuries (and specifically Parham’s injury). Everett still feels fine – he’s priced close to the kickers and he’s delivered five games this season that would have you feeling good about him for his price. But, there’s nothing that really makes him stand out. Parham down at $400 is a really strong value option, as while he only played 31% of the snaps last week, there’s room for that to grow, and they got him involved when he was out there with three catches on three targets. Parham is also a freak athlete who has significant per-catch upside. At $400, he can find his way into a winning lineup with a modest score on a slate with so many stud options.
The way I see this game as being likeliest to play out is for the Chargers to take control and the Colts to have to play catch-up at some point. The spread feels narrower than it should, but then again, the Chargers have made a habit of underperforming their level of talent for years now. How else could this play out?
In cash games, my player pool consists of Herbert, Ryan, Ekeler, Moss, the kickers, Parham, and then depending on where salary ends up, I’d be fine landing on Allen or Pittman if using Parham allows me to. With Granson out, Woods enters cash game consideration for me as well.
In tournaments, I expect the 3 primary Chargers (Ekeler, Allen, Williams) to be the highest owned captains, and deservedly so. I’ll try to lean differently by being overweight on Moss (and Jackson!), Palmer, and Pittman.