Thu Nov 14 6:49pm ET
By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a pass against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers waits to take part in a drill during an NFL football practice Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, at Air Force Academy, Colo. The Chargers are training at Air Force, which is at an elevation of 7,200 feet, to prepare for Monday night's game against Kansas City in Mexico City. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Everyone hopes the playing surface at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca will not be the main story of Monday night’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers.
Both coaches said they have received favorable updates about the turf going into the game. Last year’s game between the Chiefs and Rams was moved back to Los Angeles less than a week before the game when the field was deemed unplayable because of rain and the stadium hosting concerts less than a month before the game.
"Everything that I've been told has been positive," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
The teams have taken different approaches to preparing. The Chargers have spent the week at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to get acclimated to the altitude. The Chiefs have kept their same routine with the only adjustment being to hydrate more according to quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
It is an important AFC West matchup for both teams. Kansas City (6-4) won its first four games but has dropped four of its past six, allowing Oakland to get within a half-game of the division lead. Los Angeles (4-6) has struggled for most of the season but remains only two games out.
This is the first of two straight crucial division games for the Chiefs. After their bye week they will host the Raiders on Dec. 1.
“To say you are in control of your own destiny at 4-6 is pretty rare,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said.
Here are other things to watch as the Chargers play an international home game for the second straight season:
Rivers leads the league in passing yards (2,816) but is also third in interceptions (10). He had three last week against Oakland, including a pick-6 that loomed large in what turned out to be a 26-24 loss to the Raiders.
The Chargers were among the league’s better teams in not committing turnovers the past two seasons, but their 16 giveaways this season are tied for seventh in the league. Five have occurred in goal-to-go situations.
“We’ve made some critical mistakes and not being able to overcome them,” Rivers said.
Mahomes returned to the lineup last week after missing two games because of a knee injury. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s loss to Tennessee but said on Thursday that this is the best he has felt since early September.
“I would say going into the Jacksonville game,” he said. “Just not having to worry about the ankle or not have to worry about the knee and just being able to go out there and play football the way that I have been able to play it my whole career so far.”
Los Angeles defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa have been a handful for opposing offensive lines lately. They have combined for nine sacks over the past four games.
Bosa is third in the AFC with 8½ sacks on the season while Ingram has added 4½. Ingram had 1½ sacks against Mahomes in Week 15 last season.
ON THE MEND
Kansas City is beginning to get some of the pieces back on its offensive and defensive lines. Offensive tackles Eric Fisher (groin), Cam Erving (ankle) and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle) have been full participants this week while Mitchell Schartz (knee) is limited. Defensive end Frank Clark (neck) has also been a full participant.
The Chiefs though are likely to be without defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah (pectoral) and Alex Okafor (ankle).
KEEP AN EYE ON
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. He rushed for a season-high 108 yards last week and seems to be regaining his stride after missing the first four games because of a contract dispute. He had 166 scrimmage yards (102 receiving, 64 rushing) the previous time he faced Chiefs, who are ranked 31st in the league in run defense.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. is not a recommended option for Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Smith Jr. actually received more snaps and targets than Kyle Rudolph in a Week 14 victory over the Detroit Lions, but he was only able to muster three catches for 21 yards. He just simply doesn't get enough targets or red-zone looks to be started with confidence this week, and the Chargers Defense being stellar against tight ends certainly doesn't help his outlook. There are likely higher-upside TE2 streamers available for you to use in your fantasy playoff matchup.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) and wide receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) have been ruled out for Week 15 against the Washington Redskins. Howard was limited all week and is probably closer to a return than Agholor, who logged three DNPs this week. With Howard out, Miles Sanders and Boston Scott will lead the backfield against Washington's 27th-ranked run defense. Already thin at wide receiver, the Eagles will start JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, and Robert Davis. The real winners are tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, who will both see more targets against Washington- they've allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph saw his four-game touchdown streak come to and end last week against the Lions, and his outlook for Week 15 isn't looking encouraging. The Chargers Defense has allowed an average of just under four catches per game to tight ends this season and safety Derwin James has made a huge difference since his return in Week 13. Rudolph ranks sixth in red-zone targets among tight ends this season, but his touchdown equity definitely takes a hit with Adam Thielen set to return to action. Owners should prepare for the potential floor game from the touchdown-dependent veteran tight end.
Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson (knee, IR) is setback-free and nearing a return to the field. Johnson hasn't played since tearing his meniscus in Week 7, which he had November surgery to repair. The 22-year-old has practiced the last two weeks, earning the praise of Coach Matt Patricia for his "good energy." With the Lions sitting at 3-9-1, there's no real reason for Johnson to be out there, though the team seems to want him to get game reps before the season ends. If he returns next week, he'll be looking at a timeshare backfield with Bo Scarborough, which will presumably lower both player's fantasy values.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton finds himself in a matchup to avoid on Sunday against the Patriots' league-best passing defense. New England has allowed only 15.4 points a game to opposing quarterbacks, and Dalton hasn't topped 262 yards through the air in his two games since being back under center. He should see a fair amount of garbage time to rack up stats, but the risk greatly outweighs the reward. He might be in play in deep two-quarterback leagues, but owners in other formats should be looking for another option.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd is a risky option on Sunday when he takes on the Patriots top-ranked pass defense, which is allowing only 25 PPR points a game to receivers. Boyd usually sees the lions share of the Bengals' targets; however, he was out-targeted by Alex Erickson last week, and the two were only one target apart in Week 12 against Pittsburgh. With Boyd likely seeing Stephon Gilmore in coverage, it wouldn't be shocking to see Andy Dalton turn to Erickson and John Ross for targets. Boyd could see a bump in volume during garbage time, but you likely don't want to rely on that with fantasy seasons on the line, which makes Boyd more of a low-end WR3 or WR4 in this matchup.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will get a stern test on Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Patriots are tops in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to running backs, only giving up 16 PPR points a game to the position. While Mixon has been trending up of late, he did only see 59% of the team's snaps last week while they trailed the Browns, with Giovani Bernard seeing 40% of snaps. Mixon also hasn't topped four targets per game during his resurgence, so his passing game involvement hasn't grown to a level that would salvage this matchup. With the Bengals figuring to be behind for much of the game, Mixon won't see much value on the ground and could only play 60% of the team's snaps. That makes him a touchdown-dependent low-end RB2 and a player to avoid in DFS.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel is coming off of a two-catch, 25-yard performance against the Falcons in Week 14. Despite this, the 23-year-old has five receiving touchdowns on the year and has the capacity for another against an average Seahawks Defense. Fantasy managers need to understand that there is some risk involved with Samuel in Week 15, but the upside is equally there.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore has been one of the league's most productive wideouts in 2019 and will look continue that trend on Sunday against a Seahawks Defense that has allowed a middle-of-the-pack 35.43 fantasy points to his position. Moore didn't have the best outing in Week 14, finishing with just four catches for 81 yards. Despite this, the 22-year-old has remained relatively consistent and has been targeted at least eight times in 10 games this year, while receiving double-digit looks in seven games. He is a solid option in all formats in Week 15 but should be considered a must-start in PPR formats.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen will attempt to salvage what has been a disappointing season on Sunday against Seattle. With Cam Newton (foot) potentially already having played his last game with the club, the sophomore will look to make his case to remain the signal-caller come next season, with Seattle being the first of the team's final three opponents in 2019. Though the Seahawks are a long way removed from the "Legion of Boom" days, the defensive unit has played well enough to get the job done for a team that is propelled by a high-octane offense. With Allen throwing all 12 over his interceptions on the year throughout his previous seven starts, fantasy owners shouldn't expect much, while realizing that he could have a few solid outings left in the tank for those in need of a fantasy quarterback in Week 15.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has failed to hit the 100-yard mark on the ground in any of his last four games but has stepped things up as a receiver, nonetheless, by collecting 38 of his 48 targets for 330 yards during that same span. The Seahawks have been decent against opposing backs this year, limiting them to just 23.10 fantasy points point per game. Though this may seem discouraging to some degree, McCaffrey is the kind of player who could easily cause that average to rise by the end of Week 15. With the Panthers out of postseason contention, however, the 23-year-old could see a decline in snaps, but while this is a realistic possibility, he has played too well this year to bench. Consider him a must-start despite the risks.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones did not play well during his first encounter with the Bears Defense back in Week 1, finishing the night with just 39 yards on 13 attempts, while catching only one pass for no gain. However, the 25-year-old is fresh off of a Week 14 outing against the Redskins, where he logged 134 yards and a score to go along with six catches for 58 yards. Though Chicago is a much more formidable opponent, his performance against Washington suggests that the potential for significant production is always there, with his outlook for Week 15 being no different despite the tougher matchup.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams still remains fantasy relevant despite rushing for a subpar 24 yards on seven carries against the Redskins in Week 14. The 24-year-old has demonstrated this season that he can produce on a week-to-week basis, as evident by the five touchdowns he logged in four-straight outings not too long ago. While the matchup against a tough Chicago Defense will likely make fantasy owners apprehensive, he still should have a place in fantasy lineups, especially in deeper formats for those looking for someone with a significant upside in Week 15.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (toe) has been removed from the team's injury report and should be ready to go against the Bears in Week 15. After an up-and-down season from a production standpoint to start the year, coupled with a four-game absence as a result of turf toe, the 26-year-old has picked things up, especially as of late, compiling 31 catches (49 targets) for 307 yards and three touchdowns over his last five outings. He did struggle against Chicago in Week 1, but the upside is always there whenever he is on the field and should be considered a must-start in all formats on Sunday.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a difficult matchup on Sunday against a Bears Defense that limited him to just 203 yards and a touchdown during the Thursday night season opener. The veteran hasn't been consistent, especially as of late, and has logged a touchdown or less in four of his last five games. The 36-year-old has played relatively well against Chicago throughout his tenure in the league, however, maintaining a 66.9 completion percentage to go along with 46 scores and only 10 picks in 22 career meetings. The upside is there for the fantasy managers who won't be scared off by his recent string of shoddy performances and is worth a start in Week 15 in all formats.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs had a great game in a tough matchup last week, beating Darius Slay for six catches and 92 yards in the win. He'll have another tough draw against Casey Hayward and the Los Angeles Chargers Defense in Week 15. They have a great secondary and play a lot of zone coverage, which is not Diggs' strong suit. However, Diggs has shown huge upside this season and he put up strong fantasy numbers despite tough matchups in two of the last three weeks. Having Adam Thielen back to draw attention away only helps his cause, and this game projecting to be close means that the Vikings will likely be forced to the air more. Start Diggs as a WR2 who has some sneaky upside in Week 15.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is as volume-based RB1 in Week 15, as he has been for most of the season. He wasn't listed on the injury report at all on Friday and backup Alexander Mattison (ankle) being out definitely increases his projected workload. Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah will split the backup role, but it's unlikely that they'll see the type of volume that Mattison was getting. The Chargers Defense ranks 23rd in rush DVOA but has been stingy as of late as they've had key players return from injury. In fact, they haven't allowed a back to eclipse 63 total yards in their last three games. Start Cook as an RB1 this week as he's a lock for at least 20 touches and a good bet for a few red zone opportunities.
Despite struggling in Week 14 against the Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette should still be considered a solid RB2 in Week 15 against the Oakland Raiders. Fournette dominates the backfield touches on this Jaguars team and has seen his role as a pass-catcher increase over the past three games. The Raiders Defense hasn't offered too much resistance to opposing backs this year and are also allowing the fourth-most receiving yards to running backs. With D.J. Chark out, expect quarterback Gardner Minshew to rely more on Fournette as a receiving option as well, setting him up for what should be a solid outing.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook should be the team's top weapon on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders with fellow receiver D.J. Chark already ruled out. Westbrook entered the year as the team's number one target, but Chark emerged as a key deep threat and Westbrook dealt with injuries. Now, though, the third-year receiver has a great shot to put up strong fantasy numbers against a Raiders team that's allowing the 13th-most PPR points per game to opposing wide receivers. He's still got risk, especially as he deals with a shoulder issue, but he's the best fantasy option among Jags pass-catchers this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew threw for just 162 yards in his return to the starting role last week, but he should be in line to surpass that when Jacksonville faces the Oakland Raiders in Week 15. Oakland allows the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing passers, and the last time Minshew started against a comparable defense in fantasy points allowed was when he threw for 300 yards against Houston in Week 9. D.J. Chark won't play, which puts a little damper on Minshew's upside, but this is still a plus matchup for the rookie, who should be considered as a solid QB2.