Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Week 9 of the NFL season begins with two teams headed in the wrong direction.
Kansas City, a loser of four games in a row, travels to San Diego to face the Chargers, who started the season with three wins in four weeks, but have lost their last three contests.
Despite the losing streaks, both teams have talent on offense, which makes them interesting from a fantasy point of view.
The visiting Chiefs have as much backfield talent as any team in the league. Jamaal Charles is their most talented running back. From mid-2009 through the end of the 2010 season, Charles amassed 2,435 yards on the ground and 626 receiving yards in 24 games. He lost the majority of his 2011 season to an ACL injury, but was ready to go for the season opener after a year of rehab.
His season to date has been one of high highs and low lows. He demolished the New Orleans Saints with 233 rushing yards and slashed the Baltimore Ravens for 140 yards on the ground, but also produced single-digit yardage totals against the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders.
Charles wasn't given much of a chance to produce last Sunday. His number was called just five times and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has promised he'll be more involved this time around. We'll give the coach the benefit of the doubt and recommend starting Charles despite the Chargers owning the league's second-ranked run defense (79.9 ypg).
Charles' talented running mate, Peyton Hillis, ran well in his return from a month's absence, but we don't think a back who got four carries last week is a viable fantasy option.
Quarterback Matt Cassel returns to the starting lineup and is a much better option for the Chiefs' passing game than Brady Quinn (head injury). Cassel knows how to get the ball to his best receiver, Dwayne Bowe, and both ends of the combination have fantasy value against San Diego's 21st-ranked pass defense (246.6 ypg).
None of the other Chiefs' receivers (Jonathan Baldwin, Dexter McCluster, Steve Breaston) has proven to be fantasy-worthy. The three of them have combined to produce just one double-digit game.
The Kansas City defense is ranked 11th against the pass (222.3 ypg) and 23rd against the run (126.4 ypg). So it figures that San Diego will feature third- year back Ryan Mathews. Mathews has buckets of talent, but frequently lands in the coach's doghouse for fumbling. He's averaged 112 yards from scrimmage over the past three weeks, so let's hope he can hang on to the football and install him in fantasy lineups.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has produced four multi-touchdown games among his 10 touchdown throws, but also nine interceptions. He's averaging just 235.1 ypg, his lowest number in five seasons, and clearly misses Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson.
Malcom Floyd has been solid, but Robert Meachem has failed as Jackson's primary replacement. Even tight end Antonio Gates has come up short of expectations with just one game of more than five fantasy points this season.
The bottom line is that Rivers and Floyd are low-end fantasy values, but neither Meachem nor Gates should be started on a night when the Chargers will concentrate on their running game.
Both field goal kickers are reliable and can be used. The Chiefs' Ryan Succop is 14-of-15 (93.3 percent) this season while Nick Novak is 7-of-8 (87.5 percent) since replacing Nate Kaeding four games ago.