Melvin Gordon has missed the Chargers’ last two games. In the thrilling Week 13 win over the Steelers on Sunday Night Football at Heinz Field, rookie runner Justin Jackson stole the show with 63 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, scoring a go-ahead 18-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He ran circles around Austin Ekeler that game and figured to earn an increased role for Week 14 against the Bengals. But the Bolts stuck with Ekeler as fantasy analysts jumped ship to the Jackson side. Naturally, Ekeler was the one who had the much better game this time around, totaling 94 yards and a touchdown, scoring from one yard out, while Jackson managed just 35 scoreless yards.
This backfield has been a real quagmire since Gordon went down. And now Ekeler is hurt after aggravating a preexisting neck stinger that has left him with a stiff neck and minimal movement of his head. He also came into team headquarters with concussion symptoms on Monday. The 10-3 Chargers face off with the 11-2 Chiefs in an exciting AFC West showdown Thursday night. With a short week, Ekeler is being classified as “extremely doubtful” to play. Gordon missed practice on Monday, but he was a surprise participant on Tuesday and is calling himself a game-time decision. There’s almost zero chance Gordon is 100 percent healthy due to his knee issue, but the Bolts may be almost forced to play him if they want to have a chance at winning the division. The concern for Gordon owners would be he doesn’t see his customary workload, with Jackson possibly forming the latter part of a 65-35 or 60-40 split. That’s pure guesswork, obviously, at this point. But if Gordon is active, he’s a no-doubt must-play for fantasy footballers in season-long leagues. The 53-point total for Chargers-Chiefs is the second-highest of the week behind only Eagles-Rams on Sunday night.
The Chargers aren’t the only team with injury issues heading into Thursday night. On the opposite side, the Chiefs are dealing with injuries to Tyreek Hill (heel, wrist) and Spencer Ware (shoulder, hamstring), and Ware has been listed as a “did not participate” in practice Monday and Tuesday. Hill was able to be out at practice Tuesday after sitting Monday. Hill should be good to go, but may be less than 100 percent. He’ll still be a WR1. Hill is fifth in the NFL averaging 11.3 targets per game over the last four weeks. Ware is considered day to day after amassing 129 yards against the Ravens. He was able to finish last week’s game, so the expectation is he plays Thursday. If Ware were to sit, Damien Williams would be the preferred fantasy play, but he’s not a true lead back.
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Door Left Open for Conner
Coach Mike Tomlin left the door open for James Conner (ankle) to play this week against the Patriots. Conner was ruled out so early in the week last week, that it’s at least promising he’s yet to be counted out for this one. Ultimately, we expect Conner to miss at least one more game. However, the Steelers are fighting for their playoff lives now after blowing one in Oakland last week. Jaylen Samuels was by no means the problem as Conner’s replacement; Josh Dobbs being forced to play quarterback most of the second half was the much bigger issue. The guy is not an NFL talent. If Conner sits again, Samuels will again be on the fringe of the RB1/2 map after Stevan Ridley did very little in Week 14.
The Vikings fired OC John DeFilippo after Monday night’s embarrassing loss in Seattle where they didn’t score until the final two minutes in a game that was already over. QBs coach Kevin Stefanski will take over play-calling duties in a bounce-back spot at home against the Dolphins. … Kelvin Benjamin isn’t expected to play extended snaps, if any, Thursday night against the Chargers. … DeSean Jackson (thumb) remains unable to squeeze a football. … Keke Coutee (hamstring) was limited on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s tilt with the Jets. … The Raiders cut RB C.J. Anderson after one week with the team. … Eagles placed RB Corey Clement (knee) on injured reserve, ending his season. Boston Scott was signed off the Saints’ practice squad as a replacement. … Colts waived TE Erik Swoope. … Lions placed TE Michael Roberts (shoulder) and DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder) on injured reserve. … Courtland Sutton (thigh) missed practice Tuesday after being hurt in the second half of the Week 14 loss. … Isaiah Crowell (foot) is in a walking boot. Elijah McGuire (ankle) and Trenton Cannon (toe) also didn’t practice Tuesday. … Quincy Enunwa (ankle) did not practice Tuesday. … The Steelers are holding open tryouts for kickers this week after Chris Boswell’s struggles continued last week in a crushing loss to the Raiders.