Greetings Gamers! Here we are… the Big Game is taking place on Sunday and then we can focus on some Way Too Early NFL BestBall Drafts! Fantasy football does not have to have an offseason.
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Los Angeles Rams vs New England Patriots -2.5 / 56.5
Los Angeles Rams 27.0 implied points
Quarterback – Jared Goff will have his work cut out for him as New England head coach Bill Belichick has had two weeks to plan against the plans that Rams head coach Sean McVay is implementing for the Super Bowl.
On the season the Patriots posted the #21 rushing DVOA and the #19 passing DVOA, but once again they seem to be improving every game down the stretch and into the post season. They did allow a combined 626 passing yards and six touchdowns to Philip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes, but the former got there in garbage time and the latter is arguably this year’s MVP.
In his pair of playoff victories, Goff passed for 483 yards, but only one lonely touchdown. He will have his work cut out for him, but will likely be heavily involved in the fantasy production if the Rams are going to trade haymakers with New England in the championship game, indoors with the highly projected point total.
Running Back – Todd Gurley II has been an enigma since Week 13 and his fantasy production has relied heavily on touchdowns as he has been outproduced by late season waiver wire claim C.J. Anderson. Allegedly Gurley is healthy, and he has been practicing in full for most of the last three weeks… but each of us is going to have to make our own decision on his health, involvement and potential production.
In Week 15 on Sunday Night Football in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, it was clear that Gurley was not at full strength, though he did manage two rushing touchdowns (12/48/2) and saw 13 targets for 10/76/0… he then missed Weeks 16 and 17, along with some coach-speak about his status from Sean McVay. He was solid in the Divisional Round against the Dallas Cowboys with 16/115/1 and two targets for 2/3/0, but he was outproduced by C.J. Anderson who toted the rock 23 times for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Next week during the Conference Championship, Gurley had a couple early drops and was replaced/outplayed once again by C.J. Anderson 16/44/0 and one target for 1/5/0 to Gurley’s 4/10/1 and three targets for 1/3/0.
Let us not forget that Todd Gurley has arguably been a top two running back the last couple of seasons and the last month seems more like an aberration than a new reality for the player that led the league in touchdowns this year playing in just 14 games and who was second with 89.4 rushing yards per outing.
C.J. Anderson is in his sixth season after being acquired as a rookie undrafted free agent of the Denver Broncos the year they lost Super Bowl 48 to the Seattle Seahawks 43-8, with Anderson getting two carries at the end of the game sharing the backfield with Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno. Two years later he led the Broncos with 90 yards rushing and a touchdown in Super Bowl 50 as a resergent Orange Crush Defense and Peyton Manning dispatched the Carolina Panthers 24-10.
A lot of DFS gamers have written him off, but how quickly they have forgotten that he had his only 1,000 rushing campaign last season playing in all 16 games for the Broncos with 245/1,007/3 and converting 40 targets into 28/128/1 to boot.
In his four games so far with the Rams he has led the team in rushing each time out topping 120+ yards three times and scoring four total touchdowns. While it is not likely that he will be active in the passing game, he should at the very least spell Todd Gurley throughout the game and there is a chance we see Los Angeles ride whichever back gets off to a good start.
Wide Receiver – in their first two playoff games, New England allowed Sammy Watkins to go for 4/114/0 and Tyrell Williams 5/94/0 along with teammate Keenan Allen getting 2/75/1. During the regular season, they did a good job of limiting opposing wide receivers from having “big” games:
|Week 2||Keelan Cole||7/116/1|
|Week 6||Tyreek Hill||7/142/3|
|Week 9||Marquez Valdes-Scantling||3/101/0|
|Week 10||Corey Davis||7/125/1|
|Week 14||Kenny Stills||8/135/1|
When Cooper Kupp was lost for the season in Week 10 Jared Goff focused most of his attention on his dynamic duo of receivers in Robert Woods who was the leading pass-catcher for Los Angeles with 131 targets for 86/1,219/6 and added 19 carries for 157 yards and another score and Brandin Cooks was right there with 116 targets for 80/1,204/5 and also had 10 carries for 68 yards and a score. The Rams spend a fair amount of time in three-wide receiver sets and that means that Josh Reynolds should be on the field for most of the snaps.
|DAL (77)||Robert Woods||8-6/69/0|
|DAL (73)||Brandin Cooks||6-4/65/0|
|DAL (69)||Josh Reynolds||4-1/19/0|
|DAL (56)||Tyler Higbee||4-2/30/0|
|DAL (33)||Gerald Everett||No Targets|
|NO (69)||Robert Woods||10-6/33/0|
|NO (69)||Brandin Cooks||8-7/107/0|
|NO (52)||Josh Reynolds||7-4/74/0|
|NO (39)||Tyler Higbee||4-4/25/1|
|NO (47)||Gerald Everett||4-2/50/0|
As we can see, there is not much left over for Reynolds and the tight ends to share, but they are all viable options in the large field Big Game contests as differentiation plays in the hopes that we land on the one that lucks into a touchdown.
Tight Ends – Tyler Higbee has been on the field for 15 more snaps in the playoffs and he is the better blocker with a more polished college pedigree and size at 6’6″ 255 lbs with Gerald Everett at 6’4′ 240 lbs and the unfortunate accolade of the smallest hand size at the 2016 Senior Bowl (tied with RB Donnel Pumphrey who is 5’8″ – isn’t Wikipedia just full of fun facts!).
During the regular season it was Higbee that lead the way about 2-to-1 in snaps, but after the Cooper Kupp injury the workload was much closer as the Rams did show more two-TE sets. Everett finished the regular season with 51 targets for 33/320/3 and Higbee was at 33 targets for 24/292/2 so it seems to be a function of who is on the field at the right time for any opportunities going to the tight end (aka coin flip time).
Defense/Special Teams – New England allowed just 21 sacks this season which was the third fewest in the league and their 18 combined turnovers was seventh best. We are hoping for a lucky big play for this unit to pay off.
New England Patriots 29.5 implied points
Quarterback – 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017 and now 2018… these are the NFL seasons when Tom Brady and the Patriots have appeared in the Super Bowl during his career… yes, this will be the ninth time he is playing in the Big Game which is just jaw-dropping to think about.
The Rams have been solid on defense with the #6 passing DVOA, but they have shown cracks with the #24 rushing DVOA per Football Outsiders and during the regular season Los Angeles allowed 5.1 yards per carry, the highest in the league. I bring that up in the quarterback section, because I believe it will help keep some of the pressure off Brady if defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald must wait a beat and respect the run, before going after Brady. It will be great to see how master tactician Bill Belichick approaches this potential opportunity for Sony Michel.
Back to Tom Terrific, we know that he will be leaning on WR Julian Edelman, RB James White with shots to TE Rob Gronkowski across the middle and likely a couple shots to WR Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan on double move routes.
Running Back – on DraftKings I will be making James White a priority once again for the full-PPR scoring and the trust that he has earned from Bill Belichick in high-leverage situations. Sony Michel is going against “the worst” rushing defense, but he is a rookie on the biggest stage he has ever set foot on and Rex Burkhead is in the mix as a differentiation play who will see a couple carries and potentially a couple targets. Over the last two rounds of the playoffs, here is how the opportunities and production played out:
|LAC (36)||Sony Michel||24/129/3||1-1/9/0|
|LAC (38)||James White||None||17-15/97/0|
|LAC (11)||Rex Burkhead||4/12/1||1-1/7/0|
|KC (34)||Sony Michel||29/113/2||None|
|KC (33)||James White||6/23/0||6-4/49/0|
|KC (30)||Rex Burkhead||12/41/2||4-4/23/0|
Surprisingly, James White who finished the season with 94/425/5 on the ground and turned 123 targets into 87/751/7 through the air did not have a touchdown. The 15 receptions White had against the Chargers tied Darren Sproles for the all-time single game playoff record for receptions by any pass-catcher and the 14 that he had in Super Bowl 51 is the second highest figure. Speaking of the Big Game matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, we need to recall that White was phenomenal with 6/29/2 on the ground and converting his 16 targets into 14/110/1 as a receiver. He is still my favorite priority, followed by Michel and then Burkhead.
Wide Receiver – it is no surprise that Julian Edelman has been far and away the main wide receiver that Tom Brady has focused on in clutch situations, as this is the ninth season they have played together. Through the first two playoff games, Edelman has tallied 23 targets for 16/247/0 and while he has not scored, he is the key to the Patriots passing attack.
While the volume has not been there as high for Phillip Dorsett he has been solid with 8 targets 5/70/2 and has stretched his streak to three straight games with a touchdown. In the first two playoff games Chris Hogan has seen 12 targets for 12/58/0 and we know after last season and heading into this year it looked like he would be “The Guy” for Brady while Edelman was serving his four-game suspension. While that did not come to pass, he is still a viable option as a differentiation play in the hope he manages to find the end zone for just the fourth time this season.
Tight End – just when we thought the nine-year veteran was going to be relegated to blocking duty and only see looks in the red zone, he was let loose getting a season high 11 targets on his way to 6/79/0 and while he did not have a “Gronk-Smash” performance by any stretch, it was good to see he potentially could still “get there” in the right situation.
Defense/Special Teams – reaching back to Week 15, the Rams have ceded just four sacks, two fumbles and three interceptions over their last five games. We need a return touchdown for the Patriots D/ST to be a viable option.
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Strategy – the contests are massive this week and most of them are also extremely top heavy. On DraftKings if you want to make a “safer” lineup for “cash games” (aka head-to-heads, 3-mans, double-ups, triple-ups, etc.) in the hopes that your opponents make mistakes, you can readily fit in both quarterbacks along with one of their favorite receiving options with just a little creativity. On FanDuel, it is still possible, but you will likely be sacrificing a lot with your last player, so you are probably better off with both quarterbacks, one top receiver and then two mid-tier options who should have potential opportunities heading their way.
For the large field tournaments, literally anything goes if you are hoping to score a first place finish and only be tied with a handful of entries at the most. Remember that this is entertainment and DEFINITELY stay within your means.
Single Game Ranking (considering projected production, pricing and popularity) Player Props from Pinnacle.com, updated at 1:30pm ET
- James White (he is a phenomenal MVP option on DraftKings for his savings and the full-PPR scoring and he is appropriately priced on FanDuel with his potential “touchdown equity” and in tournaments you will definitely want to pair him with… Props: 17.5 rushing yards, 44.5 receiving yards, 5.5 receptions)
- Tom Brady (this is his ninth appearance in the Big Game and there is not much else to say about the greatest quarterback of all-time and that is coming from a diehard Joe Montana fan Props: 282.5 passing yards, 25.5 completions, 1.5 passing touchdowns)
- Robert Woods (it remains to be seen how Bill Belichick will be deploying Stephon Gilmore and the McCourty Twins against the Rams receivers, but with Woods boasting the most diverse skillset and best hands, he is my first preference Props: 72.5 receiving yards, 5.5 receptions)
- Julian Edelman and Sony Michel (Edelman Props: 79.5 receiving yards, 6.5 receptions gets the nod on DraftKings for the full-PPR upside and Michel Props: 17.5 rushing attempts, 76.5 rushing yards is my preference on FanDuel for his reliance on touchdowns – both fall to the #7 slot on this list on the converse sites, respectively)
- Jared Goff (we have seen him with big games under coach Sean McVay and we have seen him revert to the guy who used to play for Jeff Fisher under withering pressure – while the Patriots are not the most intimidating defense, once again they are firing on all cylinders and they are LOADED with big game experience Props: 285.5 passing yards, 24.5 completions, 1.5 passing touchdowns)
- Brandin Cooks (he can be an absolute game-breaker and the Patriots were #10 in the league allowing 57 receptions of 20+ yards, for perspective Kansas City allowed the most with 65 Props: 75.5 receiving yards, 5.5 receptions)
- Todd Gurley (there are going to be DFS Twitter victory laps if Gurley has a good game “See he was healthy” and if he has a bad game “I told you he was hurt this whole time” so we are going to have to decide for ourselves what we truly believe and approach lineup construction accordingly – Gurley is priced appropriately as the #4 option on both DraftKings and FanDuel so there is not much of a discount for his recent performance… or lack thereof Props: 68.5 rushing yards, 14.5 attempts, 32.5 receiving yards, 3.5 receptions)
- Rob Gronkowski (all it takes is one touchdown catch to have his backers grinning from ear-to-ear Props: 49.5 receiving yards, 3.5 receptions)
- Greg Zuerlein and Stephen Gostkowski (keep in mind that Zuerlein Props: 8.5 points has been limited in practice with a sore foot and could very well be ruled inactive, there are no replacement kickers in the player pool this week – Gostkowski Props: 8.5 pointsof course has vast experience in pressure situations having been the New England kicker for the last 13 seasons)
- Rex Burkhead (three touchdowns in the last two games will have him on everyone’s radar, he can spell both White and Michel and we know that Belichick is not afraid to call his number in the red zone Props: 22.5 rushing yards, 4.5 rushing attempts, 18.5 receiving yards, 2.5 receptions)
- C.J. Anderson and Josh Reynolds (for their savings on FanDuel I would move them above the kickers, on DraftKings they are below the kickers – with the likely lack of volume for this duo, we will need them to reach pay dirt Props: Anderson 42.5 rushing yards, 10.5 attempts, 4.5 receiving yards 0.5 receptions Reynolds 47.5 receiving yards, 3.5 receptions)
- Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan (Dorsett has the recent hot hand, while Hogan has solid history playing with Brady for the last three years – again, we need a touchdown for these guys to pay off and you can use either if you are playing multiple entries, my slight preference is Dorsett Props: 29.5 receiving yards, 2.5 receptions and that will likely be how The Masses lean as well, so Hogan Props: 42.5 receiving yards, 3.5 receptions is a nice direct pivot in a “leverage” gambit)
- Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett (see above for a detailed breakdown Props: Higbee 22.5 receiving yards, 2 receptions, Everett 23.5 receiving yards, 2.5 receptions)
- New England D/ST (Belichik’s bag of tricks will be unleashed, but we still need a return score for this unit to be a DFS game changer Props: 1.5 sacks)
- Los Angeles D/ST (Tom Brady rarely throws interceptions or gets sacked, this unit is a wildcard Props: 1.5 sacks)
- James Develin and Cordarrelle Patterson (a short yardage rushing touchdown from Develin Props: 1.5 rushing+receiving yardsor a special play for Patterson Props: 18.5 receiving yards, 1.5 receptions that results in a score or a kick return would be no surprise with the Keyser Soze of NFL DFS calling the shots)
- JoJo Natson (Rams kick returner along with CB Sam Shields who is not available as an individual player this week)
As always, you can reach out to me in Awesemo.com Premium Slack or on Twitter @EMacDFS if you have any questions.
Good Luck Gamers! ~ EMac