Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson Fantasy Outlook vs. Bengals with Melvin Gordon Out

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 7, 2018

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is out for his team's Sunday matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals with an MCL sprain that the Bolts have given a "week-to-week" designation.

Gordon, who has missed two games this year, will be replaced by Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson if previous results are any indication.

From a fantasy football perspective, the question is whether it's worth rostering either of them in your Week 14 lineups. The answer is yes given their potential workload and matchup.

Ekeler hasn't seen much success in two games sans Gordon. He's rushed 25 times for 64 yards and caught 10 passes for 48 yards. Still, the usage is encouraging with an average of 15 touches per game.

Jackson only had two carries for three yards during Gordon's first absence, but his usage increased last Sunday versus the Pittsburgh Steelers thanks to eight carries for 63 yards and a 19-yard reception.

Both running backs are set up for success on Sunday against a reeling Bengals team that has lost six of seven games. Cincinnati has allowed a league-high 30.9 points per game and hasn't given up fewer than 24 points since Week 5.

The Bengals run defense has also collapsed, as it has allowed 218 or more rushing yards in three of its past four games. For the season, Cincinnati has given up 4.9 yards per carry, which is the NFL's ninth-worst mark.

OddsShark lists the Chargers as 14-point favorites with a 47.5-point over/under total, giving the Bolts an implied team total of 30.75 points. If the game script sets up how the spread and over/under imply, then the running game should be prominent in this one.

The key is deciphering just how much time each player will get. Ekeler will likely get the majority of looks if Sunday is any indication, with the second-year pro on the field for 78 percent of his team's offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference.

Jackson took hold of 22 percent of the snaps in Ekeler's place, but if you think the Chargers-Bengals game will be a blowout, then the rookie from Northwestern could see some increased run down the stretch to spell the starting Ekeler. That would certainly increase Jackson's Week 14 fantasy value.

Ekeler is ranked as the 17th-best running back in full point-per-reception leagues by 38 aggregated sources, according to FantasyPros. That number only dips to No. 20 in standard leagues, so Ekeler is a safe bet as your second running back or flex option in Week 14.

Interestingly, Jackson isn't far behind, ranking No. 24 in PPR and No. 26 in standard. He's more of a risk to start at your second running back, but pretty much everything is falling in his favor leading into Sunday. Give him a chance in your lineups.

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