The 11-2 Denver Broncos may have locked in a postseason berth, but they're still searching for a bye week and home field advantage. The San Diego Chargers are still in the hunt, but they'll likely need to win out the rest of the season and hope for some tie breakers in their favor. In other words, both teams on Thursday Night Football have enough incentive to make the final Thursday game of the season a good one. The Chargers lost to the Broncos by eight points (28-20) in Week 10. Both quarterbacks have enough desire, and enough weapons, to make Thursday a firefight offensively.
Rivers and Manning may still be in the regular season, but fantasy owners are likely facing playoff implications in Week 15. Fantasy owners will be looking to both sides of the football as they hope to progress into their league's postseason. As usual, we're here to discuss what you can expect from Thursday's game.
Philip Rivers: He didn't exactly ignite fantasy rosters against the Broncos in Week 10. Rivers threw for 218 yards and one touchdown against them in San Diego. The Broncos are one of the more generous teams toward fantasy quarterbacks this season. However, Rivers hasn't put up huge numbers since he last faced Denver, with the exception of his performance against the Kansas City Chiefs. He's a low-end QB1 option this week.
Running backs: Ryan Mathews is quietly having a great season. He hasn't missed a game in 2013, and he's now sitting at 885 rushing yards and four touchdowns, along with 157 receiving yards and a touchdown. If he can pull together 207 more rushing yards this season, it will be a career high. Mathews found the end zone against Denver in Week 10. He's a solid RB2 in all formats. The emergence of Mathews seemed as if it was going to threaten the production of Danny Woodhead. Woodhead is heating up as of late, with 94 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on Sunday. Consider him a flex with PPR upside in a game that is sure to demand plenty of passing attempts.
Wide receviers: Keenan Allen is one of the better WR2 options out there, and he'll look to build upon his two-touchdown performance from Week 14. He only caught four passes for 41 passes the last time he faced the Broncos. He's a must-start option in PPR leagues. Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown will likely see several targets, but Allen is really the only fantasy option fantasy owners should be risking their playoffs on.
Tight ends: There's no doubt that Ladarius Green has shown some upside over the past month. Green had 206 yards and two touchdowns through three weeks before facing the New York Giants on Sunday. He ended up with no catches and zero fantasy production in Week 14. It's always possible for Green to have another big week against Denver. It's just too difficult to recommend gambling on. Sunday's game was a reality check for fantasy owners, and the reality is that there are much safer options for the next few weeks. Antonio Gates is consistently getting several catches a game, but not much else. He's a high-end TE2 against the Broncos, who held him to one catch for 25 yards in Week 10.
Defense/ Special teams: The Chargers have managed at least one interception and one fumble recovery for three straight weeks. However, the Broncos are the last team a fantasy owner wants to test. If there are other options out there, odds are there's a better one worth starting. Find one. The Chargers shouldn't be started even in deeper leagues.
Peyton Manning: If you're in the fantasy playoffs, it's likely that Manning played a big role in getting you there. This isn't the week to bench him, if such a week even exists. Start him with the usual confidence. He threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns against San Diego in November. Enjoy.
Running backs: Knowshon Moreno is listed as probably for Thursday's game. The Chargers have been susceptible to the run as of late, but even if they limit Moreno, he's produced in the passing game all season. Roll with him as an RB1. As the Broncos go through the motions before their inevitable playoff appearance, Montee Ball has seen more playing time. He's primarily being used in the run game, but he's rushed for a total of 234 yards and one touchdown over the past three weeks. He's a low-end flex play for owners that need some production this week.
Wide receviers: Wes Welker is officially out of Thursday's game. That leaves some targets on the table for Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. However, tight end Jacob Tamme may now be entering the mix as a slot receiver during Welker's absence. Still, Thomas is going to be the usual clear cut WR1 against San Diego, which is giving up the fourth most fantasy points to wide receivers. Thomas had a ridiculous seven catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns against the Chargers in November. Decker will be a high-end WR2 against their vulnerable secondary. Start both with confidence.
Tight ends: Julius Thomas could be another player that benefits from the absence of Welker. Thomas has just two games without a touchdown all season, and he wasted no time finding the end zone in his return on Sunday. He's back as an every week TE1. He's an absolute must-start. Jacob Tamme is an intriguing option as a tight end this week. As we mentioned earlier, Tamme is reported to be filling in the slot while Welker is out. In other words, Tamme will be a WR that you can start in your tight end spot, consider him over most TE2 options. In deeper leagues, he can be considered a low-end TE1 after his four catches for 47 yards on Sunday.
Defense/ Special teams: Over the past four weeks, Denver's defense has barely averaged top-20 numbers in fantasy. San Diego is already stingy with opposing defenses. Find a way to get Denver out of your lineup in Week 15, but they'll be an interesting option against the Houston Texans in Week 16.