Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler and Yahoo Sports’ Fantasy Expert Liz Loza discuss Austin’s bout with COVID-19, and his return to the field this week in a must win against the Broncos. We play a game of fantasy over/under with three of the biggest fantasy stars in the league. Last but certainly not least, actor and comedian Joel McHale, best known for Community, and The Soup, joins the show to discuss his fantasy team with Liz, his upcoming championship game against fellow actor James Marsden, and his time as a tight end with the Washington Huskies.
- Well Joe, we've had a lot of great tight ends on this show like Gronk, Travis Kelce, Dawson Knox, and now, yourself.
JOEL MCHALE: So you've had a lot of great tight ends, and I guarantee I am the worst.
LIZ LOZA: What is up, everyone. Welcome to Ekeler's Edge. I'm Liz Loza, and this is, of course, Chargers running back, fantasy football superstar, and quarantine conqueror, Austin Ekeler.
AUSTIN EKELER: What is up, everyone. Yes, I have defeated the COVID. But stay safe, it actually really sucked, but we'll get into that later. But welcome back to another great episode. Championship week's, playoff weeks, it's a good week. Let's get it.
LIZ LOZA: Yes it is a good week, and we have a great show for you. We'll check in with Austin on his health and find out if he's going to be back on the field against the Broncos. It's championship week, as Austin mentioned in most fantasy leagues, so we'll play over/under with three fantasy superstars and actor, comedian, and fantasy football enthusiast, Joel McHale will join the show. OK Austin, let's start with your health. Unfortunately COVID forced you to miss the Chargers loss at the Texans, did you watch that game? And if so, what did you throw at the screen?
AUSTIN EKELER: Definitely a heartbreaker, just seeing the team go down like that especially in our situation where we need all of these wins, and now we're on the outside looking in as far as the playoff picture, but yeah, it's in the past. Look, we got a new game coming up versus the Broncos, so that's what we're looking forward to this weekend, that's what's most important.
LIZ LOZA: Well your boy Justin Jackson showed up really well. It wasn't any fault of his that the squad didn't win.
AUSTIN EKELER: JJ definitely came to play, and if you picked him up last week because I told you to pick him up, you definitely happy at least for like 34 points in PPR league. I mean, I just knew he had that potential.
LIZ LOZA: We're taping this on Tuesday, prior to your game versus Denver. How are you feeling today?
AUSTIN EKELER: Yeah. So you pretty much recovered from COVID, all my symptoms very sore throat, hurting to swallow, some slight headaches, the chills, all the things that you hear about, I was definitely experiencing those. It was terrible. But that was for about five days and finally was cleared to come back in the building on Monday. So back at it, which felt good, but also at the same time, there are other people tested positive, and everything that was going around the league. You know, like 100 guys tested positive across the entire league. So it's been a little concerning because it's like, OK who's going to show up to practice, who are we going to have available. I know it's going to be me, because I just went through it. So I'm back for sure.
LIZ LOZA: How difficult do you think it will be to get your game legs, and potentially, your lungs back?
AUSTIN EKELER: I mean this part in the season I've been running for several months straight. So my conditioning is pretty good. I can tell as I run up the stairs I don't really get tired. So that's my test. That really is a test though, sometimes I just sprint up the stairs I'm like, oh I didn't get tired. I digress, anyway. But this far into the season, I feel like I go back on the field I should be good, should have a smooth transition coming back into practice.
LIZ LOZA: Awesome. I think fantasy managers would be thrilled to hear that. We're going to play a game of over/under with three elite fantasy players, can they finish in style and win a ship for their managers or will they fail to meet expectations? Sound good Austin?
AUSTIN EKELER: Yeah. Talking to elite players so they better be showing up to the plate, let's see what we got.
LIZ LOZA: All right, let's start with fantasy's tight end one, the Raven's Mark Andrews. In week 16 with Journeyman Josh Johnson behind center, Andrews reeled in 8 grabs on 10 targets recording 125 yards and a score. Here is what Scott Pianowski is projecting for Andrews in week 17 at home versus the Rams.
SCOTT PIANOWSKI: I know the Rams are a difficult defense, but you're going to play Andrews. These produces every Baltimore quarterback, so it doesn't even matter who's under center, I think he's in for another big game in the fantasy finals. You need a forecast, let's go with seven catches, 85 yards, and a touchdown for Mark Andrews in week 17.
LIZ LOZA: So Austin are you taking the over or the under?
AUSTIN EKELER: This is a tough one, just because, you know, the quarterback situation over there, Lamar Jackson being out. But here's the thing, this Mark Andrews guy, he is like the staple of that offense, he's super athletic for how big he is. So I think I'm going to take the over for this, because I think they're going to have to give him the ball.
LIZ LOZA: I am totally with you. I agree that Andrews is the engine that runs much of this offense, particularly if Lamar misses another game. And while he's been on a tear of 100 plus yard outings, he's done all of that without Lamar on the field. So why not, in what we're expecting to be a high scoring game against LA here, I too will take the over. Let's move to the wide receiver position. The Rams Cooper Kupp has been a beast for pretty much the entire season. He leads all wide-outs in virtually every category, he's cleared 100 yards in four straight games, and had fewer than 90 yards just one time all season. Here is what Andy Behrens is projecting for Kupp in week 17 at the Ravens.
ANDY BEHRENS: We are way past caring about the opponent with Cooper Kupp, right? He's just an every week set it and forget it star. But he does get Baltimore this week and they rank dead last against the pass right now. I'm going to give him 11 catches here, 184 yards, and two scores.
AUSTIN EKELER: 184 sheesh. Oh Sheesh. Look, this man is having a legendary season, but man that is up there.
I'm going to take the under, I just think 184 is ridiculous. So that is the reason I'm taking the under, not because he's not a capable player.
LIZ LOZA: Sorry Andy, all these things 184 is quote, "ridiculous". And by the way, so do I. Like I understand that the Ravens secondary has been decimated with injuries and other issues, but nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns, like do I think Cooper Kupp will clear 100 yards? Yeah. Will he clear 125 yards? Sure. Could he flirt with 140 yards? Yeah. But 184, I got to take the under, just to manage expectations too. Onto the backfield and our very own Austin Ekeler, you are fourth in total yards, second in total touchdowns, first in receiving touchdowns and receiving yards, and second in fantasy points. Austin, I was tasked with the running back projections for this week, here is my fearless forecast for you versus Denver. 14 carries for 67 rushing yards and a touchdown, plus 3 catches for 25 receiving yards, that is 92 total yards and a touchdown. So Austin are you taking the over, or the under on my projection?
AUSTIN EKELER: That's solid, that's really solid. I feel like that's like right where I'm in. Like I'm in that range of like maybe flirting with over/under 100 yards, and maybe a score in there, which I've had a streak, so let's keep that streak going. I'm taking the over though, I need to break 100. I need to break 100 especially this week for not just my own team, the Chargers, but also fantasy championship beaks and playoffs. A lot of people depended on me, I missed out last week because I was sitting on my couch. I definitely need to come back and break 100 for myself, that's my own personal goal for this and get in the end zone. I'm taking over.
LIZ LOZA: I don't mind being wrong if you hit the over friend, let's go. We're now excited to be joined by actor, comedian, writer, and producer best known for his work on community and The Soup, he's also a Fantasy Football fanatic, it's none other than Joel McHale. Thanks for joining us Joel.
AUSTIN EKELER: Hey.
JOEL MCHALE: I'm clapping for myself.
AUSTIN EKELER: There you go.
LIZ LOZA: Look at that rousing week 17 intro, come on, bring the energy Joel, let's go.
JOEL MCHALE: I think I clapped, you guys just talked--
--I was like, yeah, let's do it.
AUSTIN EKELER: Well Joel, we've had a lot of great tight ends on this show, like Gronk, Travis Kelce, Dawson Knox, and now, yourself. Yourself walk on at the University of Washington, I see you. All right.
JOEL MCHALE: Yeah. So you've had a lot of great tight ends, and I guarantee I am the worst.
AUSTIN EKELER: Can you tell us a little bit about your football career? I'm interested.
JOEL MCHALE: So I was in a fraternity for two entire months, but it was a football fraternity. And there were some very good players in the fraternity and they said, hey come out for football and that began a two year journey of me trying not to get myself killed on the field, and ultimately I was terrible. I got red-shirted though, and I was behind Ernie conwell and Mark Bruner, and a bunch of other much better athletes. I was like, oh this is how hard you have to work to do anything on the planet. So that is my roundabout way of being on the Husky football team.
AUSTIN EKELER: When did Fantasy Football start playing a part into the picture, when did you start getting into that?
JOEL MCHALE: I mean, now, name dropping again Drake, that has nothing to do with anything. No, I was in the Canadian football, that's what I'm saying.
AUSTIN EKELER: Oh, OK. OK.
JOEL MCHALE: Boy, it started-- all right, this is Joe Russo of the Russo brothers of the Marvel Fame, now, were the executive producers and directed a zillion episodes of community. And for Joe it's a religion, he is into it. And that's how I-- there's a guy named Bob Rowe who was our first AD at community, and he was also into it. And I really didn't know what I was doing, don't really know now. Because I'm like look, if I want to start a player that retired two years ago, it's my prerogative to do that, and because you never know, it's fantasy.
AUSTIN EKELER: You do know in that situation, they're not going to score you very many points. So I mean, how many teams do you have right now?
JOEL MCHALE: Well two. One with Liz, and then one with this other-- with a group that Russo is a part of.
AUSTIN EKELER: And the championship weaken one of them? How are they going?
JOEL MCHALE: I am in the championship with one of them.
LIZ LOZA: Not the one we're in.
AUSTIN EKELER: I was going to say--
JOEL MCHALE: Not ours.
AUSTIN EKELER: What's going on? Like, what happened?
JOEL MCHALE: Not ours.
LIZ LOZA: I got pulled into this because Joel couldn't make the draft. He's very busy, as we've discussed, right?
JOEL MCHALE: Very busy.
LIZ LOZA: I drafted for him and then was like slotted in his co-manager. Made one move, Joel was like, nah. I immediately cut the player I picked off waivers, and I was like, I'm just going to let him roll, I'm just-- I feel like I did my work here.
JOEL MCHALE: Yeah. You never know with me.
AUSTIN EKELER: So the other team then is in the championship?
JOEL MCHALE: Yeah, they're doing OK.
AUSTIN EKELER: Well, they better be. There's like two weeks left.
JOEL MCHALE: Yeah. I'm going up against James Marsden.
LIZ LOZA: James Marsden, as in like the nice guy in every movie?
JOEL MCHALE: No, the other one.
LIZ LOZA: From The Notebook, the one who doesn't get the girl. The like the boring sweet guy?
JOEL MCHALE: I have not seen The Notebook.
LIZ LOZA: What? You're a married man.
AUSTIN EKELER: I haven't seen it either, I figured that too.
JOEL MCHALE: Yeah Austin, what did you think of The Notebook?
AUSTIN EKELER: I was writing in one the other day and it was very helpful.
LIZ LOZA: Oh my gosh, you guys.
JOEL MCHALE: Yeah.
LIZ LOZA: All right. Well, Joel just like took a crap on the University of Washington and Nicholas Sparks, congratulations.
JOEL MCHALE: He's an extremely handsome man and it really-- it's upsetting. So I hope I can meet him.
AUSTIN EKELER: Nice, me too. Me too.
LIZ LOZA: Well, thank you so much for joining us Joel. This has been awesome. We appreciate your time.
JOEL MCHALE: Thank you for having me and allowing me to deflect numerous Fantasy Football questions.
AUSTIN EKELER: Bring that personality out, I like it. Let's go.
JOEL MCHALE: Well, you nice people, thank you for having me.
LIZ LOZA: And that is going to do it for the week 17 edition of Ekeler's Edge.
AUSTIN EKELER: Wow, it's been a journey, but thank you all for coming on. Good luck in championship weekend. Good luck in the playoffs. And we'll catch you next week if you have a game next week, if not, come just tune in. But till then, we'll see you.