Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Sunday night gives us an exciting game, at least by the standards of this weekend: the Seahawks visit the Rams with a total of 47 and the Rams favored by 1.0. This should be a close game with some potential for offensive fireworks, especially if the Rams offense can deliver a competent performance that forces the Seahawks to keep up.
We’ll start with the Rams, as they’re the ones who will really be driving the tempo of this game. Seattle is a middling defense all around and stronger against the pass than the run by DVOA, but since they put up points they tend to see a lot of pass volume (and their personnel really should be stronger against the run than they have been, so we’ll see if this corrects as the year trundles toward its finish). There’s a lot of coachspeak around Todd Gurley’s role right now, with Sean McVay noting the reason Gurley has seen more volume lately is “Me (McVay) not being an idiot.” Gurley saw 20 touches last week, nine the prior week (in a 6-45 blowout by the Ravens), and 28 the week before that in a competitive game against the Bears. If this game remains competitive, it’s fair to say that Gurley is back to being a 20+ touch back with a decent pass game role, and he just isn’t priced for that level of work at $8,200. The matchup isn’t perfect and his workload has certainly been up and down this year, but if he’s getting 20+, he’s a bargain here. Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson are very low usage backups where you’re just hoping to get lucky with a random touchdown.
In the pass game, as JM has noted, the most attractive targets are the shorter-area guys: Kupp, Woods, and Higbee. Gerald Everett is expected to miss again, which leaves Higbee in sole possession of the tight end role but also massively overpriced at $6,600. Kupp and Woods are more reasonable at $9,200 and $8,600 and the most likely beneficiaries of the Rams passing game, while Cooks has dropped all the way down to $6,000 but will need a long bomb that has just not been coming this season (or an unexpected volume spike). That’s about it for the Rams’ passing game. Josh Reynolds will play a few snaps and get a couple of targets and will need a touchdown to have a reasonable chance of outscoring the kickers, while Johnny Mundt is now the backup tight end and is basically just a blocker (though he did get one target last week, so I suppose you could chase that as a $400 longshot dart throw hoping for a random touchdown). Cooks is an interesting tourney play as he’s likely to go very low owned here, but it’s just hard to trust his role right now, especially with the offense as a whole taking a step back this year.
Seattle, of course, will run the ball at just about every opportunity. They might be the only team in the NFL that can generate enough run volume to support two viable running backs in the same game (Carson had 24 touches last week while Penny had 19). It may not play out that way this time, especially on the road against what has been an elite run defense, and you’ll have to decide if you think both running backs have a reasonable chance of having strong games in this tougher matchup when building your tournament allocations. But, unless the Rams get out to a huge lead quickly, it’s highly likely that one of them is going to have a pretty good game. For my money, given the pricing difference, I’ll take Penny on Draftkings as he also saw five targets to Carson’s two last week while also looking more explosive overall and averaging an extra half yard per carry.
Tyler Lockett completely disappeared last week but still led the receiving corps in snaps at 88% and I’d bet on him resuming the premier role over D.K. Metcalf this week. Metcalf is, of course, highly relevant as well, but against a strong pass defense I’ll lean toward the efficiency of Lockett versus the deep threat of Metcalf. One thing that’s interesting to me from last week is that Josh Gordon’s snap count basically didn’t change from the week prior. I was expecting Gordon to become the dominant WR3 in this offense and that his snaps would increase week to week, and while that still isn’t impossible, it’s odd that they didn’t grow at all. What did happen is that, despite scoring a 60 yard touchdown, David Moore’s snaps dropped in half and Jaron Brown, who didn’t play in Week 12, was back on the field last week. The WR3 situation for Seattle is anything from a three- to four-way timeshare unless something unexpectedly changes, and Gordon, Moore, Malik Turner, and possibly Brown are all in a carousel. None are safe for cash and good luck figuring out which one is going to go off in a tournament. If you want to go here, I’d lean most heavily toward Gordon, then Moore (despite the low snap count last week, Moore is the best of the other three and had a strong season last year). Realistically these guys are all pretty dart-throwy. The guy who isn’t a dart throw is Jacob Hollister, as it seems that Seattle can just rotate through tight ends all season and continue to make the role valuable. Hollister didn’t see a price increase after a Week 13 game that saw him play 81% of the snaps and get eight targets (good for just over a 25% target share!), which makes him objectively underpriced relative to his expected volume. Hollister is my favorite receiver in this showdown on either team.
The most likely way for this game to play out is a closely fought, back and forth affair that lets Seattle lean on its ground game. Kickers are highly viable here with Hollister the only one down in that price range who has a really strong chance of outscoring them, while the Seahawks defense is interesting as a tournament overweight target in case we get the awful Jared Goff who has shown up so many times this year.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- We could get AwfulGoff™. We’re talking about a QB who has four single-digit Draftkings performances already this year and another that just barely passed 10 points. Would anyone really be surprised if he chokes here?
- Conversely, the Rams could break this game open and take a multi-score lead, which would in turn lead to increased Seahawks passing volume and make the Seattle receivers more of priority plays over the running backs.
My favorite overall captain play here is Cooper Kupp, as he’s been quiet for several games but should resume being a focal point of this offense once more and has a strong matchup. I also really like Gurley, Russ, and even a bit of Hollister.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (even though Russ has rushing ability and that normally means just 1 receiver pairing, he’s become so expensive that it’s unlikely to see him being the optimal captain without dragging 2 or more receivers along with him)
- At most 1 of the Seattle rotational receivers
- Consider limiting combined exposure to Carson and Penny (depending on the optimizer you use for MME you have different options here; you could only use 1 in lineups in which that 1 is the captain, or some tools allow you to apply a negative projection to one in a lineup that includes the other)
JM’s Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::
- If playing the Thursday-to-Monday slate, you get a pair of targetable games added, as the Seahawks are playing the Rams in what should be a fairly competitive game on Sunday night, while the Eagles will have a great matchup against the Giants on Monday night.
- While we know that the Seahawks want to run the ball almost beyond reason (Chris Carson ran the ball 23 times last week and Rashaad Penny ran 15 times, while Russell Wilson contributed only 31 pass attempts in what was a fairly competitive game), the Rams rank third in DVOA against the run, but 12th against the pass, with only 3.7 yards allowed per carry to enemy backs. Obviously, we know that this will still not push the Seahawks to a pass-heavy game plan; but it should open opportunities for Russ to have to win this game.
- The Rams have allowed only two pass catchers to top 100 yards against them (while Chris Godwin is the only player who has gone for over 90 yards and a touchdown in this matchup), making it difficult to bet on Seattle pass catchers beyond “hoping for the best”; but there is a case to be made for Russ as a tourney bet in the type of game environment that often leads to him taking over in the second half. If pairing him with anyone, my target on this ugly slate would likely be Jacob Hollister, who has seen six or more looks in four of his last six games. The matchups are bad across the board for Seattle pass catchers, but tight end is ugly across the board on this slate, making Hollister a name worth keeping in mind for larger-field tourney play.
- Until “Russ taking over” happens (if it happens at all), Seattle’s offense will, of course, flow through the running backs, with Penny seeming to have a legitimate role at this point (46.7% of the snaps last week). Carson remains the lead dog; but especially once price is taken into account, Penny stands out for the chance he sees 14+ looks for what would be the third consecutive game.
- On the Rams side, we saw the expected bounce-back last week in a “best possible” spot; and while Seattle doesn’t provide quite the same boost, they do filter action to the air, which has led to them facing the fifth most wide receiver targets and the third most tight end targets.
- As we expected heading into last week, we should expect the Rams to work from the inside out, focusing on the run first, then the short area passing attack, then the intermediate passing attack, with the deep attack dropping into place only if everything else is working first. Last week, this thought allowed us to avoid Brandin Cooks while targeting Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and Robert Woods, and the same setup is likeliest to benefit us this week.
- When these teams met earlier in the year in Seattle, Jared Goff threw 49 times and piled up 395 passing yards (only one touchdown). That’s a lofty number to expect, but volume should again work in favor of the Rams’ pass attack.
- The Seahawks have allowed six wide receivers, two tight ends, and two running backs to top 90 yards against them through the air (with Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett both on that list). Everett appears set to miss again, while Tyler Higbee should again fill that role. Kupp // Woods // Higbee all set up nicely in this spot. None are Tier 1, but all are among the stronger Tier 3 plays on this ugly slate.
- Todd Gurley is in play deeper down the list as well, while Cooks is a “bet on one long play, or bet on this offense finally expanding outward” option.