Here it is, the NFL’s season finale in Atlanta as the stalwart Patriots go against the upstart Rams in a rematch of the first Super Bowl of the Brady-Belichick regime. The Rams have changed coaches, lineups, and approaches numerous times since that loss to the embryonic New England unit while the Patriots have kept the same core together and are on the cusp of yet another Super Bowl win in an interesting bit of symmetry. Can Jared Goff do the unthinkable and hand the Pats their second straight Super Bowl loss as a favorite? Or will Brady and company do what they always seem to and stomp out the hopes of a young and exciting team trying to revolutionize the game?
There are a lot of angles to consider but as always for Showdown slates in particular, it’s all about the game script. If you think a QB falters but the team still reaches its Vegas total, that’s an opportunity to load up on the run game while rostering just one pass catcher. If a QB thrives, he’s likely creating value for a couple of different guys as receivers and thus you’d want his targets. If you view one team as likely to fall short of their Vegas total, it might be wise to go with the opposing defense or, at the very least, pivot away from the options who may contribute to that scoring shortfall. If you think the game goes significantly under, it’s an interesting spot for the lower owned kickers and defenses. Showdown lineups are about the game script and correlations you have matching up as best as possible in your build so think about how each piece connects to each other, and serves as a pivot to ownership of likely popular plays, and that’ll be your best chance to be in the mix for the giant tournaments for the big game on DraftKings, FanDuel, and elsewhere.
New England Patriots (29.3 implied points) at Los Angeles Rams (27.3 implied points)
–Tom Brady is going to be close to a must play for me in any Showdown lineups I build. Brady threw for 505 yards and three TDs vs a far more intimidating Eagles D last year, 466 yards with two TDs and one pick in their comeback vs Atlanta, ultimately I find it hard to believe the Rams’ D is capable of thwarting Brady based on what we’ve seen of them this year. He’s older, the Rams have talent on paper, it doesn’t matter to me, I think you’re only not playing Brady for the sake of contrarianism but I find it hard to imagine he doesn’t have a solid day worth rostering
–Julian Edelman is the highest priced player on the slate and with him getting 10 and over targets so far these playoffs, I don’t see a reason to doubt him here. He will be popular so a pivot to say Chris Hogan (5 and 7 targets in the playoffs so far) or Phillip Dorsett (5 and 3 targets thus far) can make sense from an ownership perspective. But Edelman seems likely to pick up a ton of targets here and I’m more inclined to play it straight and hope to differentiate elsewhere
–Rob Gronkowski picked up 11 targets vs Kansas City after a dud vs the tough TE defense of the Chargers and he’s certainly a bit interesting in what’s rumored to be his final game ever. The Chiefs D was very hospitable to TEs while the Rams limit TE production by 22.1% according to DVOA so it does seem like it might be a tougher spot for him. You likely need a touchdown for him to have a big enough day and while I’ll have some exposure, he’s far from a sure thing
–Sony Michel has had 24 and 29 carries in his last two games for New England and I find it hard to look away from him with the Rams one of the worst teams in the league vs the rush this year with 5.1 yards allowed per attempt. The Rams limited the Cowboys’ elite rushing attack in their first playoff game but with Brady at QB, the threat of him carving them up in the air should give Michel enough room to operate. I wouldn’t call him must-play but Michel is close to it in lineup builds where the Rams don’t pick up a big lead early
–James White is also very in play, possibly alongside Michel. White’s overall lack of involvement vs Kansas City may scare some people off of him but it wasn’t a necessity there like it may be in this matchup. The Rams have defended pass catching RBs well, an 18.1% decrease in production this year, but White could see a lot of value if that’s how Bill Belichick opts to attack the Rams (with the risk that Rex Burkhead ends up seizing more of a role for reasons unclear to anyone as he did versus Kansas City)
–Jared Goff is the ultimate high risk high reward play for the Rams. There’s a decent probability he isn’t ready for the brightest lights and gets eaten alive by the excellent gameplanning of the Patriots. But the unheralded QBs have had success vs these Patriots in the Super Bowl so it’s not crazy he has a big day either. I’m inclined to roll with some Goff here and hope that he becomes lower owned as people assume the Pats D limits him
–Brandin Cooks would be my preferred target with how the Patriots have allowed teams to throw deep on them all year with 9.4 air yards per target but the target load for Robert Woods is hard to avoid with him leading the team in targets both weeks of the playoffs. Cooks has more explosive upside here but Woods is likely a safer play. Josh Reynolds is obviously far behind these two in my WR interests (and he has the worst DVOA matchup, a 17.4% decrease in production to WR3s according to Football Outsiders) but I’ll have a few lineups with him because the defensive attention will certainly go more so to Cooks and Woods
-Neither Gerald Everett nor Tyler Higbee interest me too much on the surface but it’s a Super Bowl and weird things happen so having them in a lineup or two makes sense. Higbee has gotten more targets in the playoffs while Everett could pose some problems for the Pats’ secondary if the Rams get behind
-One way the Rams could attack the Patriots would be to spread them out and run heavily and that might offer a logical pivot away from Goff. Todd Gurley had the quietest NFC Championship game anyone could expect while CJ Anderson also struggled despite getting more touches. The Pats allow 4.9 yards per rush on the year so these guys should find it easier to get going than vs that stout Saints D. It’s not impossible to imagine leaning heavily on Gurley and Anderson both in the hopes of opening things up for Goff and limiting his risk. I’d favor Gurley over Anderson with the hopes that the week off gets him close to full health but both guys should be in play with what we’ve seen this postseason
-Both Stephen Gostkowski and Greg Zeurlein are in play for me and they should find themselves decently owned with both likely to pop up on optimizers. These are two red zone defenses who can stiffen up and with a Super Bowl environment, I would expect some of those early drives to peter out and result in field goals. I’d lightly favor Zeurlein but will definitely have both in some lineups (just remember that field goals = less opportunity for QBs and position players because of the touchdown left behind)
-It seems obvious that the Patriots D is the preferred one of the two given Goff’s higher probability of getting hit and turning things over. The Rams D is likely to be highly contrarian and immediately differentiate your lineup so that’s the logic to go there even though it’s not a great spot for them on paper. The defenses may be a little overowned given people trying to be contrarian on a Showdown slate relative to the 56 point over under but all you need is one defensive TD from either to go from bad play to very viable and playing the under is almost certain to be a less likely approach from the majority of people in large scale tournaments