The San Diego Chargers were, at one point this season, one of the positive stories, a surprise 4-3 playoff contender. While they are still theoretically on the fringe of the playoff race, that is more due to the awfulness of the AFC at large than it is a testament to the qualities of the Chargers, who are now 4-6. On Sunday, they travel for a 1 p.m. ET game against the Kansas City Chiefs, who just lost their first game of the season:
Start in every league: Ryan Mathews
Earlier in the season, it looked like the Chargers were leaning more and more heavily on Woodhead over Mathews, but that's turned back around in recent weeks, and Mathews has had double-digit fantasy points in four of the last five games, with 100-plus yards in three of those. The Chiefs are good against running backs, but Mathews still needs to be out there.
Rivers averaged 22 fantasy points a game through the season's first four weeks. Since then, his average fantasy production of just under 15 points would have him in the teens among quarterbacks, and facing the Kansas City defense knocks him down another notch or two. ... As mentioned above, Woodhead rose above Mathews early in the year, but has faded since, not reaching double-digit fantasy points since Week 7. ... Gates has had a nice bounce-back season, though he's only topped seven fantasy points once since Week 4, and no team is tougher against opposing tight ends than the Chiefs. ... Novak has been a good kicker this year -- double digits four times, only three missed kicks all season -- but, again, the Chiefs don't allow a lot of points.
There are reasons to like each of the Chargers' wide receivers, but reasons to tread lightly, as well. Royal has needed touchdowns for his value; Allen has been less productive of late and is injured; Brown just hasn't gotten it going this season. Factor in a tough defense and you have a lot to worry about. ... Green might be on the rise with the Chargers, but you don't want to take a risk like that this week. ... The Chargers' defense is averaging 3.5 points a game. They'll score between four and seven points this week, because every defense facing the Chiefs has done that, but there's no upside.
Start in every league: Jamaal Charles, Ryan Succop
Start if you're desperate: Alex Smith, Dwayne Bowe, Defense/special teams
After being the top running back in football to start the season, Charles has tailed off in recent weeks, with his last two games being his first two of the season outside of double-digit fantasy points. Still, this is Jamaal Charles, and you need a lot more than a two-game slump to move away from him. ... Succop has scored 12 points in two of his last three. A team without a powerful offense can lead to a lot of field goals, so his value should be fine.
Smith's last three games have gone 21 points, 4 points, 22 points. He's the 13th-ranked quarterback on the season, and has topped 20 fantasy points four times. Sure, it's Alex Smith, and he's not spectacular, but against the Chargers, who give up the fourth-most points to opposing quarterbacks, there's potential. ... The Chiefs really seemed to look toward Bowe against Denver, and while that could have just been a one-game thing, he's still the most talented receiver they have. ... The Chiefs' defense only has one sack in three games, has had its two worst games in its last three, and has only had a touchdown in one of its last four games. It's still the No. 1 defense, but the Chargers score points, and this defense isn't the same as it was early in the year.
Avery, McCluster and McGrath are only worth fantasy looks in the deepest of leagues. There's nothing worthy of excitement there.