MNF Matchup: Chargers @ ChiefsMonday, October 31, 2011
Monday Night Football
San Diego @ Kansas City
The Chiefs' defense has padded its stats in consecutive matchups with Donovan McNabb, Curtis Painter, and the disastrous Raiders duo of Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer, aided by an early-game injury to Darren McFadden. Kansas City now ranks what would appear to be a somewhat respectable 18th in total defense, 17th against the pass, and 25th versus the run. We just don't know how good this Chiefs defense is because of the pathetic schedule. On San Diego's side, what we do know is that coach Norv Turner divvies up tailback playing time based heavily on practice reps. Mike Tolbert (hamstring, hand) didn't practice this week and is listed as doubtful for Monday night's game. The last time Ryan Mathews received a full workload, he exploded for season highs in touches (25), total yards (149) and touchdowns (2) against these same Chiefs in Week 3. Mathews handled goal-line duties and a comfortable majority of passing-down snaps. It'd only be reasonable to anticipate a healthy dose of Mathews at Arrowhead Stadium, and the 2010 first-round pick has demonstrated dynamic ability when healthy so far in his career. He's the best fantasy play on either side in this game.
Speculation via Chris Wesseling, ESPN's Matt Williamson, and NFL Network's Jason La Canfora this week that Philip Rivers is playing hurt was vehemently disputed by Rivers and the Chargers' coaching staff. If Rivers and Turner are to be believed, the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback should finish fast against one of the league's softest pass-defense schedules, and it will start on Monday night. Rivers has historically lit it up at Arrowhead, in his last three games there completing 74-of-117 passes (63.2%) for 912 yards (7.79 YPA), seven touchdowns, and one interception. Amid the rumors, I personally would consider Rivers a QB2 until he actually plays well in a game. But the matchup isn't prohibitive, and Rivers' track record suggests he'll pick it up. ... Antonio Gates will play Monday night, and his availability alone makes him a top-five fantasy tight end play. It's icing on the cake that Gates has 194 yards and three touchdowns on 12 catches in his last two meetings with the Chiefs. ... Vincent Jackson owners need to shake off last week's 1-15 clunker against Darrelle Revis and use him at Kansas City. Jackson is as healthy as he's been since the season started and might be the best "buy low" in fantasy football right now.
Matt Cassel's three-game hot streak crashed to an end against Oakland in Week 7, completing 50% of his 30 attempts for 161 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. The Chargers rank third in pass defense, so this is a forbidding matchup for a quarterback who isn't any good. ... If San Diego continues the coverage strategy it employed against the Jets last week, Quentin Jammer will be assigned to Dwayne Bowe with rookie Marcus Gilchrist on Steve Breaston. Jammer held Santonio Holmes to 24 yards on two Week 7 catches, while Gilchrist was promoted onto the first-team defense this week after ex-starter Antoine Cason allowed a trio of red-zone touchdowns to Plaxico Burress. I'll never recommend Breaston because I don't believe in him as a player or his offense, but he's got a good-looking matchup. Playing out of his mind in a contract year, Bowe is the No. 6 fantasy receiver and has earned a start every week. Just keep in mind that the Chargers have held Bowe under 14 yards in three of their last four meetings with him.
Last week's snap and touch distribution in the Chiefs' backfield (snaps are first, touches second): Jackie Battle 41, 16; Dexter McCluster 23, 11; Thomas Jones 14, 9. ... Seven of Jones' nine carries against the Raiders occurred after Kansas City built a 28-0 lead. Jones is a non-factor unless the Chiefs are blowing out a team, and that probably won't happen on Monday night. ... Battle has clearly taken over as the team's lead back, and has a favorable Week 8 matchup. Simply unable to field an effective rush defense this season, the Bolts are serving up 4.74 yards per carry and rank 21st versus the run. Last week, they allowed Shonn Greene's best game since Week 4 of 2010, when he had a cupcake matchup with the pre-Marcell Dareus Bills. Battle is a low-end RB2 but high-end flex option. Jones is waiver-wire fodder and McCluster doesn't get the football enough to be trusted.
Score Prediction: Chargers 20, Chiefs 17
Check out Gregg Rosenthal's Chargers - Chiefs fantasy breakdown.