Last week was wild. For better or for worse, we experienced a crazy week, capped off by perhaps the game of the year on Monday night with the Ravens narrowly beating the Browns. Some fantasy managers are dejected and checked out this week, as hopes for a championship have been cut in half since last week. For those who are still in the running for a championship, congratulations for now, and good luck going forward. As the fantasy playoffs rage on, we kick off week fifteen with an interesting matchup featuring the Raiders and the Chargers. As always, on Thursday it is more important to avoid a disaster than it is to dig deep for a sleeper.
Las Vegas Raiders
Many people are upset with Josh Jacobs, and rightfully so. After trolling fantasy owners by claiming that he would not be playing Sunday, he in fact did suit up and play, achieving a lackluster stat line. Chances are that managers who benched him fared similarly to those who started him. Regardless of any stunts before gametime, he does have a decent matchup. He may be able to play through his ankle injury, but his inconsistencies this season have been frustrating. Considering where he was drafted, managers do not have much choice in whether to start Jacobs or not, but fortunately this week, the decision should be easier to make. He should be started this week, but expectations should be tempered. He has a low floor and a high ceiling, setting him up for a wide range of potential outcomes.
Editor’s note: After today’s practice, Jacobs no longer carries an injury designation.
With their talented rookie Henry Ruggs III on the COVID-19/Reserve List, the Raiders will have a limited receiving staff for Thursday night. Hunter Renfrow has performed decently this year, but he is an unreliable option in fantasy football, and even without Ruggs, he should be left on the bench. Nelson Agholor has assembled a marginally better season than both Renfrow and Ruggs, but he will not have a favorable matchup this week, with the Chargers secondary likely directing plenty of attention his way. With that being said, he has been targeted thirty-five times in the past four weeks, and that volume will likely continue this week. Agholor may not be the safest option, but he may very well be poised for a good night on Thursday.
Perhaps he won’t manage to duplicate his two-hundred-yard game from Week 13, but Darren Waller is a lock for this game. He should be started in every fantasy league there is. Waller figures to lead the Raiders in targets again this week and he may finish as the top tight end in fantasy for Week 15.
Derek Carr is a confounding player. In Week 12, he put up less than one point against the league’s worst defensive unit. The following game, he threw three touchdowns and rushed for another against the league’s second worst defense. He may be worthy of a look this week in a favorable matchup against the Chargers, but there may be fool’s gold attached. It is always important to check what else is available. He is a fine streaming option, but he should not start in place of a player like Tom Brady.
Daniel Carlson is one of the more consistent kickers this year; he has even outscored his teammate Hunter Renfrow on the season. He should be started again this week, and there should be no hesitation in starting him for the rest of the year.
Las Vegas’ defense has been a tragedy this year. There is only one team in the league that the Raiders could perform well against defensively, and the Raiders already played the Jets in Week 13. Justin Herbert and company will tear the Raiders apart. Avoid them at all costs.
Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler is back, and he hasn’t lost his touch. He will feast this week. Unlike in previous years, only one Chargers running back should be started in fantasy. Expect Austin Ekeler to finish the week among the top seven running backs.
Keenan Allen has returned to form this year after a somewhat disappointing second half of 2019. He will dominate again as he did against the Raiders in Week 9. Mike Williams is an intriguing case, as he has been a mixed bag this season. He certainly gets a fair amount of balls thrown his way, and he is a solid deep threat, but he is far too unreliable for the fantasy playoffs. He’ll be a fun player to watch this week, but it may be more enjoyable if he is left on the bench.
Hunter Henry is a player with plenty of potential, but he hasn’t necessarily been an exciting player to start in fantasy. Fortunately, he is a middle of the pack, “set it and forget it” type of tight end, which many fantasy managers are desperate to have. With a decent matchup this week, he should have a relatively high floor but a low ceiling. Start Hunter Henry, but don’t expect much more than fifty yards.
With the exception of Week 13, Justin Herbert has been the offensive rookie of the year, hands down. He is an incredible athlete, and fantasy owners should always be excited to start him. He may be able to duplicate his two-touchdown performance from last week, and he very well may throw for over three hundred yards on Thursday night. Start Herbert with confidence.
Michael Badgley has been hit or miss this year. He is much too inconsistent to trust in any fantasy lineups. While he has a fine matchup against the Raiders, there are plenty of better options out there.
Los Angeles has a decent defense, and they don’t tend to get blown out. With that being said, their matchup is not quite ideal. There are probably several better streaming options available, but players like Joey Bosa and Linval Joseph know how to put on a show.
Raiders: Start Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, and Daniel Carlson. Strongly consider starting Nelson Agholor. Hesitate before starting Derek Carr. Bench the Raiders’ defense and Hunter Renfrow.
Chargers: Start Austin Ekeler, Justin Herbert, and Keenan Allen. Start Hunter Henry, but temper expectations. Hesitate before starting the Chargers’ defense. Bench Mike Williams and Michael Badgley.