Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
The Rams visit the Browns with a healthy total (after the last two Island games on last Monday and last Thursday, this feels like a shootout) with the Rams installed as short road favorites. The Rams, of course, are a team we love to target because their distribution of volume is so very narrow, while the Browns present the opposite situation. This means we can focus on the Rams side to capture the predictable volume and then mix in the more volatile Browns.
We’ll start by breaking down the Rams because they’re simpler. They run three wide receivers — and really, only three. As any DFS player knows by now, this is the Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp show. (Last week Josh Reynolds saw a whopping three offensive snaps as the fourth receiver.) Volume through the first two weeks has been 19 targets for Kupp, 15 for Woods, and 10 for Cooks. They’re normally a bit closer than that, but expecting Kupp to get a few more targets due to being focused on in the slot is fair (really, it’s just Cooks who looks a little low compared to what we saw last season). Kupp is the safest option but he still has paths to upside through a combination of touchdowns, YAC ability, and sheer volume. Cooks is the big play splash threat, while Woods is in between. Kupp and Woods are safer “normal build” targets, while Cooks is better utilized in builds that suppose the Browns score a lot and the Rams need to be aggressive to keep up.
Note :: Tyler Higbee has now been ruled out. This doesn’t guarantee a pass game role for Gerald Everett, as the Rams are inconsistent and unpredictable in their usage of tight ends, but it does guarantee that he’ll be on the field all the snaps.
At tight end, Tyler Higbee led a timeshare in Week 1 before Gerald Everett outsnapped him two to one in Week 2. At first glance, I would have thought this would be for blocking purposes, but the Rams played the Saints in Week 2 and the Panthers in Week 1 — and the Saints have the stronger pass rush. I’m not sure what’s happening here from a coaching perspective, frankly. I think they’re both viable, but Everett is the more talented receiver, and if we’re looking at a timeshare I’ll always bet on talent.
The Rams’ run game is trickier to dissect. Todd Gurley is no longer being utilized as the bellcow back that he has been in years past as the Rams try to protect his arthritic knee, so he’s playing 65-70% of the snaps now with Malcolm Brown sucking up the rest. Gurley did see 20 touches against the Saints, including four catches, and he did see four red zone touches in Week 2 (after seeing none in Week 1). Brown, however, saw three red zone touches of his own in Week 2. It’s fair to expect that the Rams would like to protect Gurley from too many bruising goal line carries and would like to continue utilizing Brown in there. Gurley is priced not that far below where the old bellcow Gurley would be ($9,600 versus maybe $11 to $11.5k if this game took place early last year), so he’s a bit overpriced for his new role, though his ceiling is certainly still intact. Brown is priced down around the kickers and does not bring a lot of yardage upside to the table, so he almost certainly needs a touchdown in order to matter, but he also should be a shoe-in for a couple of red zone looks and will thus have a decent chance to punch one in.
The Browns are a little trickier to pick apart. The run game, of course, is Nick Chubb as the grinder back (Chubb played 61% of the snaps last week but handled 18 carries and four targets versus just three carries and four targets for D’Ernest Johnson). Johnson should be going back to the third string back with Dontrell Hilliard cleared from the concussion protocol. Chubb is a home underdog but in a reasonable matchup against a Rams team that is totally willing to give up yards on the ground (though tries to tighten up in the red zone), while Hilliard is cheap enough to pay off with a bit of pass game work. In the pass game, Odell Beckham operates as the clear alpha, which is exciting considering the Browns were spreading the ball around more than just about any team in the second half of last season, after Freddie Kitchens took over. ODB, though, has double-digit targets in the first two games — and a floor of eight with plenty of upside for more is clearly in play here. The matchup isn’t fantastic against Aqib Talib and (to a lesser extent) Marcus Peters, but the ceiling is massive. Jarvis Landry is overpriced for a middling target, low aDOT role and would need a broken play or a touchdown to matter, but there are a lot of cheap Browns who can fill up the value plays. Rashard Higgins should be back this week and should step into a two to five target role with some deep shots, while Damion Ratley should see similar snaps to Higgins (just a few behind him). With David Njoku hurt, Demetrius Harris should see most of the play at tight end, and he’s a capable pass catcher at just $1,800. These three cheap Browns all represent reasonable value plays who have a decent shot at outscoring kickers or defenses at lower prices.The Browns’ pass game, however, could be in trouble from the start as their shoddy offensive line tries to hold back the Rams’ ferocious pass rush. Cleveland’s coaching staff is aware of this deficiency, of course, and should have a plan to try and get the ball out quick to mitigate the pass rush, which could in theory lead to more targets for Landry, Harris, and possibly even ODB if they try to scheme their best playmaker the ball in shorter areas of the field. Whether or not the Browns’ O-line can keep Baker Mayfield upright long enough is one of the key matchups of this game (they couldn’t against the Titans, but were able to do so against the Jets). Neither of those teams, though, have the same caliber of pass rush as the Rams.
The way this game is likeliest to play out is a fairly back and forth affair. The Rams will do their thing: a play-action heavy offense that tilts run-heavy early on. The Browns will try to keep up, probably with short passes and running the ball to avoid the Rams’ pass rush. Los Angeles would likely prefer to minimize their reliance on Jared Goff, who has historically struggled (badly) on the road, which could lead to a heavier focus for Gurley and Brown, and could in fact lead to them both being viable plays together on the same roster.
Other ways the game could play out:
- We could see a true shootout. Both of these teams have plenty of offensive firepower, and while Goff’s road struggles and the Browns O-line mitigate the likelihood of this, it’s certainly within the range of outcomes.
- I feel like with all of the big-name receivers in this game people are going to focus on the aerial game…but both teams have great run games as well. Chubb should be highly owned and Gurley won’t be ignored, but I think you won’t see many rosters with both of them (or both of them AND Brown), and all the scoring coming on the ground is certainly a viable outcome here.
- We’ve seen the Rams completely flounder on the road before. If the Browns can score early and force them to put the game in Goff’s hands….bad things could happen. Bad for the Rams, that is.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- At most one of Gurley and Brown (as mentioned above this isn’t a necessary group, but it’s one I’m thinking about and will probably use on at least part of my builds)
- At most one of Ratley and Higgins
— Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns. (Which probably makes this a good place to say congrats to X for grabbing his second(!) top-two tourney finish of the year in the Sunday afternoon Showdowns. Ninth top-two finish since the start of last season. Insane.)
JM’s original note for those building Thursday-to-Monday rosters that include this game ::
- If this game were on the Main Slate, the Rams wide receivers would be in the discussion simply because they always are, and Todd Gurley would once again be someone to consider for the simple fact that he can score three touchdowns even in his new role; but no pieces from the Rams would be on any tighter builds of mine, and I would probably only consider them within game stack scenarios that try to bet on points piling up in this game.
- The Browns would be a little more viable on the main slate. The Rams’ run defense appears to have improved after they focused on this area throughout the offseason, and Chubb does not have the sort of pass game role we would love, with schemed looks designed to get him in space with blockers in front; but Chubb does still carry big-play upside and a secure touchdown-scoring role, making him a guy you can keep in mind if he’s a guy you typically play.
- OBJ does not have a Tier 1 floor at his price, but his ceiling is as high as anyone’s, and with David Njoku out of action, he could see a rise in workload.
- No one else from this game would catch my eye individually, though there is enough offensive firepower in this game that you could load up and hope you catch a shootout. The chances of a shootout are lowered by the fact that this game is on the road for Goff, and by the fact that the Browns’ no-good offensive line will be facing a tough test against the Rams.