When the Los Angeles Chargers lost running back Melvin Gordon to a knee injury in Week 12, the attention shifted to their backfield ahead of a crucial matchup. The Chargers were on the road the following week for a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with major playoff implications. At the time, a loss to the Steelers would have dropped Philip Rivers and company right in the mix of a crowded AFC Wild Card picture.
Fortunately, even without Gordon, the Chargers were able to get a 33-30 road win over Ben Roethlisberger and company. While Rivers was a big reason for the victory, a lot of praise deserves to fall on rookie running back Justin Jackson as well.
The Chargers gave expected starter Austin Ekeler the heavy workload, but it was Jackson who impressed. The seventh-round pick out of Northwestern took advantage when his number was called, with Ekeler struggling to get going. Although Jackson was out-touched by his backfield mate 18-9, he outproduced him in a big way, totaling 82 yards and one touchdown while Ekeler had just 43 yards.
Following Jackson’s impressive showing, it leaves fantasy football players in a tough spot for what may be the start of their league’s playoffs. So we’re going to take a look at whether the Chargers rookie is a fantasy start or sit in Week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Justin Jackson’s Matchup & Potential Workload
Attempting to nail down what we can expect from Jackson this week is incredibly tough to do. While he was out-touched by Ekeler in a big way last game, he was also massively out-snapped as well. The rookie played 14 total snaps on offense while Ekeler received 49, per Football Outsiders.
Obviously, the fact that Jackson received nine touches on his 14 snaps is positive and bodes well if he gets a boost in workload. That’s hard to predict, though, especially considering the fact that Ekeler is the go-to option on passing downs. The positive news is that both Chargers backs draw a great matchup this week.
The Bengals have struggled in every imaginable way against opposing running backs. They’ve given up the second-most total rushing yards (1,515) and touchdowns (13). Cincinnati is also struggling against pass-catching backs, allowing 66 receptions for 637 yards and six additional scores on the season.
Should You Start or Sit Justin Jackson?
A few things jump out about this situation and actually make last week’s numbers somewhat less concerning than they seem. From the time the Week 13 game against the Steelers was tied at 23 following a punt-return touchdown, Jackson received six of his nine touches over the two-drive span. He also closed out the game as the primary runner while the Chargers set up a game-winning field goal.
It seems that the Chargers falling behind early in the Week 13 road game played a big role in Ekeler dominating the snaps and workload by such a wide margin. In turn, Jackson could be in a great spot against an injury-plagued Bengals team. If his team jumps out to an early lead, his touches are only going to increase and the same goes for his potential to excel as a fantasy option.
I’m interested in Jackson in any 14-team league or larger where you need a running back. Along with that, I’m not opposed to using him in 12-teamers as a flex play either.