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What to do with Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler in Week 6 fantasy football

Melvin Gordon is getting closer to a fully-fit, no-rust status. Austin Ekeler has produced as one of the best running backs of the year. We take a look at the Chargers backfield committee’s upside entering Week 6.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler celebrates his touchdown with Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon at StubHub Center in Carson on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. Photo by Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Daily Breeze via Getty Images

Melvin Gordon ended his holdout. Coach Anthony Lynn said he would be eased into the team’s gameplan. Then Week 5 arrived and Gordon logged 16 touches to Austin Ekeler’s 18. So now what should I make from Lynn saying that Gordon will be “more utilized” in Week 6? Following last weekend’s pattern maybe Gordon gets more touches than Philip Rivers passes, who knows. But that scenario, at least for now, seems a little out of hand to me.

Don’t get caught up in Melvin Gordon’s performance in 2018. Yes, he was great and finished the year as the RB8 in PPR-format leagues, but do you know who the best human (Christian McCaffrey is not, just in case) running back has been this season? Austin Ekeler. Believe it or not, Ekeler is averaging 26.7 fantasy points per game, only behind CMC and four quarterbacks — and is actually leading the league in points per touch at 1.4 (McCaffrey follows him at 1.2). Would you flip that for someone who has been holding out for a while and just played his first game in months? I doubt it.

I’m not falling for Gordon’s debut, which was plain bad. The rust was there, no matter what they say. He could only rush for 31 yards on 12 attempts, and although he was targeted six times, his four receptions just went for seven receiving yards. That doesn’t mean Ekeler will keep seeing 16 targets per game, or that he will be able to catch 15 passes for 86 yards as he did in Week 5. Those are record-setting numbers hard to come by. But with such an incredible run from Ekeler through five weeks this should look more like a timeshare than a one-man backfield, no matter Gordon’s name weight.

Fantasy football analysis, Chargers RBs Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler

To make things worse for those owning Gordon, Ekeler, or both of them—that good old handcuffing trick never fails—the matchup against the Steelers isn’t the easiest one for the Chargers tailbacks. Pittsburgh might be a mess on offense, but they have held running backs to 88 or fewer yards from scrimmage this season. In fact, nobody has reached 80 yards rushing in 2019 against them. On the receiving side of things, only one passed the 40-receiving-yards mark (41 and 56) — the Patriots backfield all the way back in Week 1.

Facing a good defense against both the pass and the run, neither Gordon nor Ekeler should be favored — considering the first as the leading rusher and the latter as the leading receiver. It is easy to see the timeshare get closer and closer to a 50/50 split in both passing and rushing plays, but the matchup isn’t that good. The game script might help in giving more chances to the Chargers backfield, tough—Los Angeles is a seven-point favorite and the total is at just 41.5. Both players are good enough to merit a start on their pure talent nonetheless, and I’m inclined to think Gordon’s reputation and longer track record would make him carry the load near the goal line so he could end outscoring Ekeler on this one.

Start/Sit recommendation

Melvin Gordon: Start (RB2)
Austin Ekeler: Start (Flex)