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Can you even play Chargers RB Austin Ekeler this week in fantasy football?

Los Angeles just got demolished by the Raiders and appear poised to miss the playoffs. If the Bills blow the Chargers out, that could be bad for Ekeler. We break it down.

Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers stretches as he warms up prior to an NFL football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

This might be the most Chargers season in recent memory. The franchise struck out on another head coach in Brandon Staley, who was fired after an embarrassing 63-21 loss to the Raiders last week. Chargers QB Justin Herbert is done for the season. WR Mike Williams has been out most of the campaign. WR Keenan Allen missed last week due to injury. Things couldn’t be going worse for the Chargers. People who are equally impacted are managers of RB Austin Ekeler, who was pretty close to a consensus top-5 pick in fantasy going into drafts. Now we find ourselves wondering if we have to bench Ekeler entirely this week. Let’s break it down a bit.

Fantasy football start sit advice: Chargers RB Austin Ekeler

This is going to be one of the tougher calls this week for fantasy football. Take it from someone who has Ekeler on one of their fantasy rosters for a semifinal matchup. On the season, Ekeler is barely a top-25 RB in PPR formats. So he should be viewed widely as one of the bigger busts of the season. He’s failed to reach double-digit fantasy points in four of the past five games. And that’s all while playing plenty of snaps and getting plenty of touches.

Last week in the loss, Ekeler only played 26 snaps (40%) and saw nine touches for a total of four receptions and 38 yards. Luckily, in PPR, that isn’t a complete disaster. It’s not ideal though. A lot of the snap count had to do with the score. The problem there is this week could be more of the same. The Bills are 11.5-point favorites, which means we should see another blowout. Unless the Chargers can somehow keep this game competitive, you’d think Ekeler starts the game, sees around 5-10 touches and may not see much action after that. Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller saw a combined 39 snaps last week. The two combined for 22 touches in the loss. We could see a similar split this week.

That’s a big reason why we need to pause when throwing Ekeler into our lineups. In a perfect world, he gets to double-digit touches and the Chargers don’t completely embarrass themselves again. But the Bills are also in the AFC playoff race and NEED this game. Buffalo can’t afford to falter in this one at all. So that would make things tough on Ekeler either way.

Verdict

I think in PPR formats, Ekeler can still be used as a fringe RB2/FLEX play. ESPN PPR rankings still has Ekeler as an aggregate RB21, which would be startable in a 12-team league. If you’re in a 10-team league, there’s a good chance you have a safer option than Ekeler. Go that route. I always preach not to lose your fantasy matchup on TNF. This is definitely one of those risk-averse scenarios where we’d bench Ekeler and hope it doesn’t bite us.

In deeper leagues, you may not have a choice but to start Ekeler and pray. Especially if it’s standard. You’re probably better off benching him in standard formats given the lack of snaps and spread. It also looks like it’ll be tough to gauge which RB gets touches ahead of Ekeler. You’d think it’d be Kelley but the Chargers didn’t play him much in the blowout, opting for Spiller. It feels insane to think about starting Spiller over Ekeler in a fantasy playoff matchup. But it could be the better option if the Bills are up big early on and Ekeler is benched.

My best advice is try to avoid this situation altogether. If you have better options, explore those. If you can’t bring yourself to play anyone else, roll with Ekeler and hope for the best.