The Los Angeles Chargers can tie the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West on Thursday night, but they’re in line to take on the task without their top two running backs.
The Los Angeles Chargers (10-3) can tie the Kansas City Chiefs for first in the AFC West on Thursday night. But a short week isn’t doing two key players any favors, as Steve Wyche of NFL Network has reported the Chargers are not optimistic running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler will play against the Chiefs.
Gordon has missed the last two games, and he was initially expected to miss a few weeks with a sprained MCL. After head coach Anthony Lynn suggested Ekeler was wearing down a bit, due in part to his work on special teams, he suffered a stinger on an onside kick against the Bengals on Sunday and then entered concussion protocol on Monday. The wisdom of continuing to use Ekeler on special teams with Gordon out can be questioned.
As Gordon and Ekeler trend toward being out Thursday night, rookie Justin Jackson is set to take over as the Chargers’ lead back with fellow rookie Detrez Newsome as his backup. Fantasy owners take note–Jackson is currently available in 46 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 56.9 percent of ESPN leagues.
In the two games before last week Jackson had 120 rushing yards on 15 carries in an expanded role, then he had seven carries against Cincinnati. For what it’s worth he showed he could be a workhorse in college at Northwestern, as a four-year starter with at least 245 carries in each season.
Opposing teams often have to abandon the ground game against them, but the Chiefs are 25th in the league against the run (127.8 yards per game) while allowing a tied for league-worst 5.1 yards per carry. In a tough road game running the ball and time of possession will be essential for the Chargers, and even with Jackson leading the way they are in line to have success in the most important game of their season.