XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Week 14 begins with the Raiders visiting the Rams for a 44.5 total game with Las Vegas favored by six. The Raiders are coming off of a win against the poor Chargers (who always find creative ways to lose games), while the Rams are coming off of yet another loss, but one in which they scored 23 points, their third-highest output of the season (lol).
We’ll start with the Rams and their confusing running back usage. After three games in a row of Kyren Williams’ snap counts increasing (27% -> 55% -> 70%) and his touches going up accordingly, Cam Akers came out of nowhere to play by far his highest snap count of the season at 72%. Akers had a season-high 18 running back opportunities (despite running for a miserable 3.5 yards per carry), while Kyren saw just four opportunities on 28% of the snaps. This was a good (but frustrating) reminder that some backfields are less certain than others, and the Rams have done stuff like this to us for years now under Sean McVay. So, who will the lead back be in this one? I have no idea but what I do see is that Akers is the second most expensive Ram on the slate, while Kyren is priced down at $5,400. To me, this is going to be an ownership-based play. I’ll want some of each of them because the matchup is fantastic, and I’ll lean in favor of whoever the lesser-owned guy is. Given the Rams incredibly low-scoring offense, I will definitely have a max two of John Wolford, Akers, and Kyren; and if running either Rams running back at captain, I will exclude the other one. I’m undecided on whether to just have a max one rule for Akers/Kyren in the flex. While I think both being in the optimal lineup is unlikely, I also think they will be paired together so infrequently by the field that it might be a long shot but still a +EV move to allow them both in a flex spot on the same roster.
Ownership updates automatically
Speaking of Wolford, I’m assuming that he’s going to play after being listed as limited on Tuesday. But if he misses, Bryce Perkins is just $6,000 and he has some rushing upside. Perkins would be a lock for cash games and a very strong play in tournaments. In the passing game, the Rams have been running out Ben Skowronek and Van Jefferson as full-time receivers with Brandon Powell and Tutu Atwell splitting the WR3 role, and then either Lance McCutcheon or Austin Trammell rotating in a bit (McCutcheon missed last week with an injury, and I assume he will get those WR4 snaps if he’s healthy for this one). The challenge here is that Wolford has passed for 390 yards in two games (with a 1:3 TD:INT ratio), while Perkins has been even worse with just 100 passing yards in his one start. The upside is that all the Rams pass catchers are cheap, with Jefferson being the most expensive at $6,400. Jefferson has the most upside here with a moderately deep role and is at least a tertiary NFL talent, while Skowronek has played a shorter-yardage role. Of the rotational guys, Atwell has some semblance of ceiling, with three catches of 30+ yards out of his six catches on the year (if one of those long catches goes for a touchdown, he probably outscores the kickers he’s priced right next to). At tight end, Tyler Higbee’s volume has stayed intact with Wolford at QB (13 targets on 62 dropbacks, or right about at a 20% target share), while Perkins didn’t look Higbee’s way once in his 23 dropbacks. This is a massive small sample size alert, of course, but I think Higbee is likely to be a highly popular play, and if you’re willing to take the risk of the small sample continuing if Perkins starts, I think that’s a reasonable risk to take in tournaments on this slate. If Wolford starts, Higbee can be viewed as a strong option with a solid market share of targets and a good red zone role (that has somehow just not translated into a single touchdown all year). TE2 Brycen Hopkins can be included in MME player pools as a thin punt option. This is a matchup of a stoppable force against movable object, as the Rams current passing offense is perhaps the worst in the NFL and the Raiders defense is 31st in overall DVOA and 30th against the pass. You can bet this game to play out any which way, of course, but it seems likely to me that a Rams pass catcher is able to get there given their prices. If Wolford starts, I’d rank the Rams pass catchers as Higbee, Jefferson, Skowronek, Atwell, Powell, McCutcheon, and Hopkins.
I cannot believe I just wrote that much about the Rams offense. Showdown life is funny.