It’s the fantasy semi-finals and it was a heck of a game to kick off Week 15. To make it as dramatic as possible, both teams had issues heading into last night’s matchup.
The Chargers were dealing with injuries to nearly all of their offensive weapons, including RB Austin Ekeler and WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. With only TE Hunter Henry and WRs Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson available as receivers, what were fantasy managers supposed to do with QB Justin Herbert?
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and had numerous, key injuries to their defensive players that left the opportunity wide open for the Chargers to take advantage. That, of course, opened up the possibility that QB Derek Carr would need to play lights out for a win to keep the Raiders’ playoff hopes alive. RB Josh Jacobs was poised for a bounce-back game after some questionable shenanigans and a poor showing in Week 14.
What could go wrong?
Of course, because it’s the semi-finals and it’s a Thursday, nothing happened the way it should have.
Fantasy “Just Kidding”
I say this to make light of Jacobs’ fantasy trolling last week, but it was aptly fitting for last night’s fantasy performances.
First, let’s start with less brevity. Carr was a popular QB streamer heading into this matchup but he pulled his groin in the first quarter in the red zone while debating whether to throw the ball away or run for a first down or touchdown. As soon as he pulled up holding said body part, managers knew that his night was done. Carr is as tough as they come and the injury only spelled disaster for the Raiders' fantasy pieces.
Or so we thought.
Enter, Marcus Mariota. The second overall draft pick of 2015 and pride of Oregon (remember that Justin Herbert is also an Oregon Duck) took over for Carr to start the second quarter. His opening drive consisted of a strike to WR Foster Moreau and a dime drop to TE Darren Waller for a touchdown.
Aside from managers who streamed Carr, the sun began to shine again on the finals’ horizon. I will be 100% honest that he took me by surprise. Mariota used his legs, was poised under pressure, and got himself out of sticky situations when the pocket collapsed. A part of me wondered at the longevity of Carr’s future as I watched Mariota create offensive magic.
The game promised fantasy points, although it wasn’t exactly the players we had anticipated. For real football, it was an exciting game. For fantasy managers, it was an antacid-inducing evening made worse (or better) by going into overtime.
Obviously, anyone who streamed Carr is unhappy after only scoring 2.12 points before getting injured. I am sorry for the hole you will have to climb out of over the weekend. It was probably difficult watching Mariota score 25.84 points on 226 passing yards and a touchdown as well as rushing for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Jacobs leads our RB room for the time being with 20.4 on 76 rushing yards and a touchdown. He was also involved in the passing game with three receptions for 38 yards, possibly redeeming himself in the eyes of managers if they chose to start him.
Unfortunately, WR Hunter Renfrow went down early with a concussion after scoring only 1.4 points. Zay Jones was the target of Mariota’s lone interception and logged only 1.9 points. Nelson Agholor, the upside player for many teams, had his opportunities but could only muster four receptions for 49 yards and 8.9 points.
TE Darren Waller, on the other hand, is really, really good at football. It doesn’t matter who is in at quarterback, Waller will find a way to get the job done. He scored a whopping 30 points in PPR on nine receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown.
If you lamented over whether to start Chargers Allen or Williams and saw they were “healthy” before game time, again, I am sorry.
Despite desperate hopes to the contrary, the "source" appeared to be spot on. Allen saw only three targets and had one reception for 17 yards, totaling 2.6 points in PPR. He was absent most of the second half while Williams wasn’t much better with two receptions for 22 yards and 4.2 points. Both were held to under 24 and 28 snaps respectively.
However, where Allen and Williams failed to score fantasy points, those who took the risk on Guyton and Johnson were heavily rewarded. Guyton hauled in four of his six targets for 91 yards and 13.5 points while Johnson caught three of his five targets for 61 yards and a touchdown and finished with 15.1 points.
Henry also capitalized on Allen and William’s lack of playing time with a season-high 17.5 points on five receptions, 65 yards, and a touchdown.
The QB in charge of throwing all of these passes and touchdowns had himself a fine day as well, rewarding managers who kept the faith. Herbert finished with 27.96 points on 314 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 14 rushing yards, and the game-winning rushing touchdown.
Despite having the “questionable” tag, Ekeler’s designation was likely due to much needed (and well earned) rest but would be 100% at game time. However, that didn’t look completely true during the game. Even though he didn’t find the end zone, he still scored 11.9 points on 13 rush attempts for 60 yards. It was RB Kalen Ballage’s backfield in critical downs and red zone looks, even if the points didn’t swing in his favor. He had eight rush attempts for only 11 yards but did score a touchdown to bring his total to 7.1 points he earned the title of “Ekeler’s TD Vulture” for the remainder of the season.
Whichever way your team landed on Thursday night football, Week 15 is far from over. Remember, the Bill-Broncos and Panthers-Packers play Saturday.
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Raiders QB Derek Carr left the game in the first quarter with a groin injury. WR Hunter Renfrow was ruled out early with a concussion. ... Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds did not practice Thursday with an ankle injury. ... Saints WR Michael Thomas did not practice Thursday with an ankle injury. ... Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott was limited at practice Thursday with a lingering calf injury. ... Panthers WR Christian McCaffrey did not practice again Thursday and is considered "doubtful" for this weekend. ... Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones is on the COVID-19 Reserve List. ... Washington's Alex Smith did not practice on Thursday with a calf injury.