NFL Week 15 features a Thursday Night Football matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers starting at 8:20 p.m. ET.
If you’re unfamiliar with the single-game NFL DFS format, it differs a bit on DraftKings and FanDuel. On DraftKings, you have one “captain” spot and five flexes. The captain will score 1.5x fantasy points, but he also costs 1.5x salary. That means if you want to roster Justin Herbert at Captain and take advantage of the scoring boost, you’ll have to pay $17,700 as opposed to $11,800.
FanDuel’s single-game format features one “MVP” spot and four flexes. The MVP also scores 1.5x fantasy points, but he doesn’t cost any additional salary. That takes away a bit of the strategy and makes the goal simple: get your highest-scoring player in the MVP spot.
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Most of the high-priced talent in this game is on the Chargers. They have the three most expensive players on DraftKings and three of the top four on FanDuel. That said, the Raiders actually have the edge in this contest from a Vegas perspective. They’re currently favored by three-points – which is not surprising since they’re the home team – giving them a slight edge in implied team total.
The Chargers injury report will also be crucial heading into this contest. Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams are all listed as questionable, and they are all apparently different degrees of questionable. It sounds like Ekeler is expected to play, while Williams is expected to sit. Allen is a true game-time decision, but he’s expected to be limited even if he is active. That means there should be plenty of value available on the Chargers side.
Herbert is the most expensive option across the industry, and he’s in a potential smash spot. The Raiders have been brutal defensively this season, ranking just 28th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, and Herbert owns an Opponent Plus/Minus of +4.5 on FanDuel. Herbert crushed the Raiders in their first meeting this season, racking up 326 yards with two touchdowns and zero turnovers.
Herbert has hit a bit of a rookie wall recently, posting a negative Plus/Minus in each of his past three starts, but he has still put together a tremendous first season. He’s averaged 7.0 adjusted yards per attempt and compiled 25 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions. Overall, he’s posted an average Plus/Minus of +3.97 over his past 10 games on DraftKings.
Herbert leads all players in our NFL Models in terms of ceiling and median projection, and his $11,800 salary on DraftKings comes with a Bargain Rating of 99%.
Allen is next on the pricing spectrum, and he’s going to be a contrarian target tonight if he does suit up. The report that he will be limited makes him very tough to trust, but he still possesses one of the highest ceilings on the slate. Even if his snaps are down, he should still be Herbert’s favorite target when he’s on the field.
As good as this matchup is for Herbert, it’s even better for Ekeler. The Raiders are dead last in terms of rush defense DVOA this season, so Ekeler should be able to shred them on the ground. He’s not the typical between-the-tackles grinder, but he is coming off 15 rush attempts in his last game. If he gets that many carries again tonight, he could threaten the 100-yard rushing bonus on DraftKings.
Of course, Ekeler really makes his living in the passing game. He’s seen at least nine targets in all three games since returning from injury, which gives him an elite floor and an elite ceiling in this contest. He might be the best play on the slate if he sees his usual workload.
On the Raiders side, Derek Carr is coming off back-to-back huge performances. He finished with 35.74 DraftKings points in a smash spot vs. the Jets and followed that up with 28.84 DraftKings points in a much tougher matchup vs. the Colts. The Chargers are middle of the pack in terms of pass defense this season, so there’s no reason he can’t succeed in this matchup.
He should also benefit from being a home favorite. Quarterbacks tend to thrive in that situation from a fantasy perspective, averaging a Plus/Minus of +1.66 with a comparable implied team total (per the Trends tool). Carr has historically not been as good as the baseline sample as a home favorite, but it’s still an appealing spot.
Carr is simply too cheap at $10,000 on DraftKings, and his projected Plus/Minus is easily the top mark among the studs on tonight’s slate. He makes for a strong Captain choice.
Finally, Darren Waller is an elite stacking partner with Carr. They own a correlation of +0.72, which is incredibly high even for a quarterback and pass-catcher combination. With that in mind, it makes a lot of sense to either play or fade both of these players in the same lineup.
Josh Jacobs is the premier midrange play on tonight’s slate, and he could easily be considered a stud. He hasn’t been particularly effective recently, posting a negative Plus/Minus in three straight games, which has caused his salary to drop across the industry.
That makes this matchup vs. the Chargers an awesome buy-low spot. The Chargers have been far worse against the run than the pass this season, ranking just 31st in rush defense DVOA. Jacobs finished with just 13.8 DraftKings points in his first meeting with the Chargers, but he racked up just 14 carries in that contest and played on just 28 snaps. If he sees a bigger workload tonight – which is possible considering that the Raiders are favored – he could be looking at a huge performance.
One thing to keep in mind is that Jacobs is negatively correlated to both Carr and Waller. The Raiders are not the most explosive offense in the league, so there is typically only enough fantasy scoring to satisfy either the run game or the pass game. Ultimately, you should take a stand on how you think the Raiders will move the ball in this contest and correlate your lineups accordingly.
The Chargers aren’t the only team dealing with some key absences tonight. The Raiders will be without Henry Ruggs, which opens up some opportunities for the rest of the wide receivers on the roster.
Nelson Agholor figures to be one of the biggest beneficiaries. He’s been fantasy relevant to begin with this season – thanks mostly to his seven touchdowns – and he should see a boost in snaps without Ruggs. He’s been on the field for between 60 and 67% of the Raiders’ snaps in four of his past five games, so he definitely has room for growth.
On the Chargers’ side, someone is going to have to catch passes if Williams is out and Allen is limited. Hunter Henry and Tyron Johnson stand out as the top two candidates.
This has been an odd season for Henry. He’s always been a productive player in the past when on the field, but injuries have caused him to miss large chunks of the season. Henry has managed to stay healthy this season, but his fantasy production has decreased. He’s posted a negative Plus/Minus in nine of 13 games on DraftKings.
That said, he appears to be trending in the right direction. He’s logged at least eight targets in two of his past three games, and he’s caught at least six passes in both of those contests. Those represent his two best games of the season in terms of catches. That gives him a pretty safe floor considering his salary, and he should be able to hit his ceiling if he finds the end zone.
Johnson isn’t a household name, but he’s coming off the best game of his young career last week. He was on the field for 54 of the Chargers’ 73 offensive snaps, and he responded with six catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. He’s been priced up aggressively for this contest on DraftKings, but he can still pay off his current salary. He’s a much easier play on FanDuel at just $6,500.
- Hunter Renfrow: $4,800 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel – He’s a low-ceiling, high-floor type of play, but he could see a few additional snaps with Ruggs out of the lineup. He’s a much more appealing option on a full-PPR site like DraftKings since that’s where he derives most of his value.
- Defenses and Kickers – These options are always in play on the single-game slate. Neither defense is popping in our Models, but the kickers could both be solid sources of value.
- Jalen Guyton: $2,800 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel – He plays a ton of snaps for the Chargers, but that hasn’t resulted in a ton of fantasy value recently. Still, it’s hard to ignore someone in this price range who is typically on the field for at least 60 plays.
- Kalen Ballage: $2,400 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel – He would become the chalk if Ekeler is a surprise inactive, and he could still potentially provide some value even if Ekeler is in the lineup. The Raiders are that bad in terms of run defense.
- Justin Jackson: $2,000 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel – He returned to the lineup last week but was the clear No. 3 RB for the Chargers. He would need Ekeler to sit to become fantasy relevant.
- Devontae Booker: $1,800 on DraftKings, $8,500 on FanDuel – He’s the Raiders receiving back, so he could provide some value if you think they fall behind in this contest.
- Zay Jones: $800 on DraftKings, $5,500 on FanDuel – Jones still figures to be the Raiders’ No. 4 wideout even with Ruggs out of the lineup, but he’s cheap and could always catch a touchdown.
- Bryan Edwards: $400 on DraftKings, $6,000 on FanDuel – This is the guy you want if you’re going with a pure punt play. Edwards was a third-round draft pick in 2020, and this could be a potential breakout spot for him. His snap count has been on the rise since returning from injury, and he’s the most logical choice to fill Ruggs’ spot in the lineup. That said, he should carry heavy ownership given his salary.