XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Week 15 draws to a close with the Rams visiting the Packers for a 39.5 total game with Green Bay favored by 7, leaving the poor Rams implied for just 16.25 points (for those keeping track at home, that’s the lowest of any team in Week 15). We also have some modest weather issues here with expected temperatures in the 10-20 degree range, and while temperature doesn’t have a significant impact on scoring, it does affect things when it gets down this low (call it a slight bump down, maybe just a few percent). Fun times.
On the Packers side, we have significant home favorites (good!) facing the 5th ranked run defense by DVOA (eww!). But, the Rams have been slipping of late due to a combination of injuries and an inability to keep their defense off the field, and they’ve given up two 400+ total yard performances recently (to the Chiefs and Seahawks) with 165 and 117 coming on the ground (to the Raiders and Chiefs). This is not a perfect matchup by any means, but it’s a bit less imposing than the season-long DVOA implies. The problem, of course, is that the Packers backfield is frustrating as hell. Aaron Jones has been the 1A to AJ Dillon’s 1B all season, but the workload splits have varied significantly from game to game. As a large home favorite running back who also gets passing game work, I want to play Jones, but he’s only had more than 16 carries twice this season and he’s averaging 12.6 carries and 4.5 targets per game. He’s also priced at $11.2k which is like a bell cow, basically, but he isn’t one. Of course, you have to spend salary somewhere on this slate and there are only three players over $8,800 so he seems fine when viewed through that lens. Just recognize that we’re likely to see a lot of Jones captain lineups, and they’re likely to look somewhat similar, so if you go this route make sure you’re being thoughtful about how to differentiate from the field. Behind Jones, Dillon’s workload has been wildly variant. He had 21 opportunities last week when Jones missed some time due to injury, but in the weeks prior to that, he saw 12, 7, 13, and 15 opportunities. Dillon has had six targets in a game twice this season, but one or fewer targets in another five games. Yeesh. At $6,200, the price is great, and he’s a strong value option, but at least to me, he feels like a tourney-only play.
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In the passing game, the Packers will trot out Allen Lazard and Christian Watson as their primary perimeter receivers, and then it gets muddled. Cobb has been playing about half the snaps in a slot role, but Romeo Doubs is back. Doubs is certain to have a smaller role than he had earlier in the season with the Packers healthier now and Watson smashing, but it’s unclear how this will play out. Sammy Watkins and/or Samori Touri may still get a few rotational snaps here and there, or Doubs may eat up all of those. All three of those guys go into the tourney punt play bucket for me, while Cobb stays just barely out of that bucket (as in, he’s a tourney-only play and I wouldn’t play Cobb in cash, but I think his role and the trust Rodgers has in him makes him better than a pure punt option). As for the main two receivers, Watson really came on in Week 10 with a 4/107/3 game and has put up 21.1 or more Draftkings points in every game since. In those four games, he has 27 targets, 15 catches . . . and 7 receiving touchdowns (plus a rushing touchdown for good measure!). So, he’s getting a touchdown about every other catch. Probably not sustainable, but he’s clearly explosive (a 46 yard rush, a 58 yard catch, and a 63 yard catch in those four games) and he’s clearly trusted by Rodgers for both big plays and in the red zone. Lazard only has 24 targets in that time with zero touchdowns. I think I can safely say I was wrong the last time I wrote up the Packers when I said I thought Watson and Lazard were pretty equivalent; their volume is pretty close but Watson has more per-touch upside and more touchdown equity. At tight end, the Packers are splitting snaps between Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, with a bit of Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis mixing in. Tonyan’s the primary receiving option here but since Watson’s shown up, he only has 10 targets in four games, so he’s basically a touchdown-or-bust tourney option. The other tight ends all get thrown into the MME punt pool.