Championship Matchups


Kickoff Sunday, Jan 30th 3:00pm Eastern

Bengals (
23.75) at

Chiefs (
30.75)

Over/Under 54.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
13th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
10th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
24th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Chiefs Run D
20th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
20th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
23rd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
15th DVOA/7th Yards per pass

slate Overview ::

By hilow >>
  • Pricing is once again almost a non-issue on DraftKings. This is going to lead to extremely chalky builds and heavy chalk on the top-tier players in pricing.
  • I also expect the field to build heavily for the likeliest scenario from each game, meaning heavy emphasis on the pass games from Cincinnati and Kansas City, heavy emphasis on game stacks from the AFC, and low overall exposure to the NFC.
  • COVID has apparently been eradicated across NFL playoff teams. All kidding aside, there shouldn’t be any pandemic concerns for any of the four Championship Round teams.
  • Rotational rookie defensive end Cameron Sample was the only Bengal player to miss practice on Wednesday.
  • Safety and defensive communication leader, Tyrann Mathieu, missed practice on Wednesday with the concussion he endured during the Divisional win. He faces an uphill battle to be ready for the Chiefs.
  • The 49ers are a bit banged up heading into Championship weekend, with left tackle Trent Williams and running backs Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson, Jr. missing practice on Wednesday.
  • Wide receiver Van Jefferson, defensive linemen Greg Gaines, and fill-in offensive linemen Joe Noteboom missed the Rams walkthrough practice on Wednesday, while the league’s top-rated pass-blocking tackle, Andrew Whitworth, returned to a limited participant.

How CINCINNATI Will Try To Win ::

The general theme from the industry surrounding the play-calling tendencies from the Bengals has been to try and fit them into a box. I would argue that the box does not exist. What we’ve seen from this team is a coaching staff that pays particular attention to pre-game matchups, game planning, and analytics, while being open to adjusting during the game to both game flow and any changing dynamics. They become much more predictable with this understanding in place, meaning we should look to their opposition to gain the clearest glimpse into how we should expect them to approach a given game. All of that to say, this isn’t a team that was run-heavy to begin the year, then went through a pass-heavy spurt, only to recycle those trends over the second half of the season. On the contrary, this is a team that takes what their opposition gives them, is capable of leaning on the run against inferior run-stopping units, but is also capable of airing it out with the best of them should it be required. Since their defense is basically middle of the pack across the board in most metrics, and since their offensive line is no world-beater, they have been forced into a pass-balanced approach more often than not this season, but that isn’t necessarily a nod to want or need more than it has been the clearest path to giving them a chance to win games this year. Head coach Zac Taylor earned his first look at head coaching duties through a willing embrace of what gives this organization the best chance at winning football games, and that is exactly what they have done. Whether it be embracing analytics on fourth downs, understanding when to kick the point after and when to go for two, or early-down rush-pass rates, Taylor and his coaching staff are consistently hunting for any edge to be gained. Against a powerful Chiefs squad, expect the level of aggression to be high from the start as the Bengals look to earn a victory, as opposed to trying to back into a trip to the Promised Land. Although the Bengals exhibit aggression almost across the board, one spot they deliberately choose to take their feet off the gas is the pace of play, as they finished the season with bottom-three marks across the board in an attempt to relieve any pressure they can from a middle-of-the-pack defense.

Joe Mixon should be considered closer to a workhorse than he would be to a “lead back” after playing on 60% or more of the offensive snaps in 15 of his 17 fully healthy games this year, and 70% or more in 11 of those. Furthermore, after seeing four or more targets only five times over his first 14 games, he has gone over that mark in each of the previous four games, en route to target totals of six, seven, four, and six since Week 16 of the regular season. 20+ running back opportunities are all but assured here, with valuable pass game work “mixed in.” Behind Mixon, expect Samaje Perine to operate in a pure backup role, most likely seeing only a handful of opportunities on a 15-20% snap rate. The pure rushing matchup yields an elite 4.51 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Chiefs defense that allowed 24.3 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, including the fifth-most targets filtered to the position. 

Ja’Marr Chase’s low 63.3% catch rate is offset by an elite 8.3 average yards after the catch, elite 36.9% share of the team’s available air yards, and elite 2.59 average yards per route run. The big play potential is on par with his counterpart from the other side of this one in Tyreek Hill. Fellow perimeter threat Tee Higgins falls just shy of Chase’s gaudy metrics, putting up a solid 20.4% team target market share, 30.6% of the team’s available air yards, and 2.32 average yards per route run during the regular season. Tyler Boyd’s low 7.7 aDOT and moderate 17.3% team target market share required outlier volume and touchdown efficiency to return a ceiling comparable to those of the aforementioned two wide receivers. Finally, tight end CJ Uzomah has been operating as a borderline every-down tight end for the majority of the season and presents an interesting mismatch down the seam. Of note, this Bengals offense has operated heavily from 11-personnel in games that correlate with a more pass-balanced approach and has mixed in increased heavy personnel groupings in games they are able to lean heavier on the run, so expect 11-personnel to be the percentage solution in a game against the Chiefs. The final piece to this pass game puzzle is the uncertainty of Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has missed practice to start the week as he works through the league’s concussion protocol. His absence would seemingly be a big hit to the back end of their defense as he is the primary facilitator and communicator of their secondary. That is likeliest to translate into increased chances at splash plays against both the perimeter and down the middle of the field, with communication issues likeliest to be the culprit in a heavy zone-based defense.

How kansas city Will Try To Win ::

The Chiefs playoff games have played out almost exactly as we predicted in the previous Chiefs write-ups with one exception: the backfield. In somewhat of a surprise move, the Chiefs stuck with Jerick McKinnon in a “more than lead back but less than workhorse” role last week following the activation of Clyde Edwards-Helaire from IR. To add to the unknowns this week, Darrel Williams is tentatively expected back from his 1.75-game absence. Overall, expect the Chiefs to continue to place games in Patrick Mahomes’ capable hands after he attempted 83 passes to only 33 combined running back carries over the first two playoff weeks. There is nothing pointing to this heavy emphasis on the pass game changing, particularly considering the Chiefs should be able to find success in any way they choose against a very mediocre top-to-bottom defense, one that has gotten by primarily on scheme over talent this year.

As alluded to above, the Chiefs backfield carries the highest level of uncertainty of any of the four teams playing this weekend, which immediately presents one of the better leverage spots on the short slate (will be discussed more below). On one hand, Jerick McKinnon has looked highly capable as both a rusher and pass-catcher out of the backfield over the previous two weeks. On the other hand, Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned from a stint on the IR in time for the Divisional Round and one could point to his level of conditioning (or lack thereof) as the reason for his low snap rate. On even the other hand (because we have three hands?), Darrel Williams performed admirably over the six-week stretch where he was the lead back for this team, and he arguably possesses the best mix of between the tackles chops and pass game chops of all three backs. Basically, who the hell knows how the split in work will look between these three this week, assuming Williams returns to game action (full practice on Wednesday and limited on Thursday). Even if Williams misses, there is a very real possibility that CEH would be utilized heavier should the Chiefs find themselves in a more positive game script. The matchup on the ground yields an average 4.29 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Bengals defense that allowed 25.4 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields during the regular season, including the fourth-most targets to the position. Again, more on this situation below.

Primary pass-catchers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce continue to operate in “tick below every-down” roles, typically landing in the 75-85% snap rate range on an offense that has developed more consistent secondary options. That last notion is primarily a nod to the leap that Byron Pringle has made during the 2021 season, as he is now on the field the most out of the secondary options, and is moving further away from his early-season status as “Tyreek Hill’s backup.” Mecole Hardman has been relegated to the primary “gadget” player on this offense, while Demarcus Robinson has maintained his low upside, possession-style, part-time role. The Josh Gordon experiment has taken a back seat once the playoffs started, and he was recently released and re-signed to the practice squad. Hill and Kelce maintain their respective statuses as the players most likely to be relied upon late in games, but we’ve seen this team spread the ball through the air over the first three quarters for the better part of the past two months. So, while the optimal way to play Hill or Kelce is in a game stack with Cincinnati pass-catcher bring-backs, that will be the highest combinatorial ownership by a wide margin. Again, more on this situation below. Of note, the Bengals faced the most air yards of any team during the regular season, which makes sense when you consider their low blitz rates (seventh-lowest) and moderate pressure rate. Mahomes should have time to pick this team apart through the air whenever required.


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Likeliest Game Flow :: 

The ultimate game flow, pace, and environment are likely up to the Bengals to decide here as the team with the widest range of potential outcomes. As in, we could see this team come out aggressive through the air against a Chiefs team likely to be without its captain in the secondary (likeliest, in my mind), or we could see the Bengals commit to the run early in the game in an attempt to keep the ball away from Patrick Mahomes and company. Either way, we’re likely to see the Bengals start the game with a slow pace of play and only alter that approach should they fall behind early, leading to a first half with a more standard number of total offensive plays run from scrimmage and a second half with a wide range of potential outcomes as far as pace and total number of plays are concerned. Overall, the likeliest scenario yields a back-and-forth, shootout-style affair with each team highly capable of trying to “outscore” the other, but we would do well to keep all possible game flows and environments in the front of our minds when building, particularly considering the likeliest scenario is sure to be the highest ownership seen from this game (as in, both pass games).

DFS+ Interpretation ::

CIN @ KC

By LexMiraglia10 >>

Overview:

  • CIN has won 5 of the last 6 vs KC
  • The Mahomes vs CIN matchups: 45-10 KC in 2018 // 34-31 CIN in 2021
  • The loss to CIN in W17 is KC’s only loss in their last 12 games

Patrick Mahomes:

  • After getting through a shaky stretch middle of season, Mahomes has 21 TDs to 2 INT in the past seven games
  • QBs with 2+ TDs vs CIN: Cousins // Rodgers // White // Mayfield // Herbert // JimmyG // Josh Johnson // Mahomes // Keenum
  • Mahomes went for 259:2 in W17 vs CIN, but KC scored just 3 pts in the second half after 28 in the first
  • CIN allowed the 6th most pass yds on the 5th most pass att (263.9 yds/g)
  • Mahomes has cleared that avg in 11 of 17 games (7 of 300+)
  • Mahomes in the Conf Champ: 295:3, 11 (NE) // 294:3, 53:1 (TEN) // 325:3, 5 (BUF)

KC WRs:

  • The final game scores of Hill’s 25+ pt scores since 2020: (35-9), (33-31), (35-31), (27-24), (33-27), (38-24), (33-29), (42-30), (20-17), (41-14), (34-28), (42-36)
  • The current spread of this game is set at (30.75 KC to 23.75 CIN)
  • Hill went for just 6 rec for 40 yds vs CIN
  • CIN allowed the 13th fewest WR DK pts/g
  • CIN allowed the 12th highest rate of explosive passes to WRs
  • AJ Brown just scored on a deep TD last week vs CIN (142 yds on 5 catches)
  • Since 2019 (57 games), the quartet of Watkins, Hardman, Robinson, Pringle has produced just 8 scores of 20+ DK pts, with the biggest coming either during the absence of Hill or with him playing extremely limited snaps
  • 3 of the 8 scores came in the last five games (Hill was limited; Pringle x2, Hardman)
  • WRs in the playoffs so far (yds:TDs)::
  • Hill (57:1 // 148:1) // Hardman (49 // 57:1) // Pringle (37:2 // 29:1) // Robinson (76:0)

Travis Kelce:

  • Since 2020: Kelce has produced 70+ yds in 23/36 games, including 14 100yd games and 25 TDs
  • In 2021, Kelce has scored 17+ DK pts in 10/18 games; 20+ in 7 games
  • Since 2020: DK pts when Hill sub-15 DK pts: 22.5 // 30.6 // 22.8 // 26.9 // 20.4 // 17.7 // 12.5 // 17.8 // 5.7 // 5.7 // 13.4 // 13.4
  • Since 2020: DK pts when Hill 25+ DK pts: 27.9 // 28.9 // 29.9 // 16.2 // 30.6 // 25.6 // 6.3 // 4.7 // 22.9 // 44.1 // 23.6
  • Kelce playoff DK scores with Mahomes (low-high): 7.5 // 12.8 // 19.3 // 21.3 // 23.6 // 28.3 // 28.9 // 28.9 // 43.3 // 46.4
  • CIN allowed the 8th highest yds/att to TEs
  • TEs with 40+ yds vs CIN: Conklin (41) // Hock (73) // Andrews (48) // Waller (116) // Freiermuth (40:1) // Kittle (151:1) // Fant (57), Albert O (58) // Andrews (125:1) // Waller (76)

KC RBs:

  • CIN allowed the 11th most RB DK pts/g
  • CIN allowed the 10th fewest RB rush yds/g but the 6th most RB rec yds/g
  • KC RBs games with 50+ yds: CEH (7) // Williams (9) // McKinnon (3) // Gore (2)
  • McKinnon receiving last three: 3:26:1 // 6:81:1 // 5:54
  • At least one KC RB has 10+ rush att in 15 games (two RBs in 3 games)
  • KC RB TDs as main guy: CEH (6 TDs in 9 g) // Williams (6 TDs in 9 g) // McKinnon (2 TDs in 3 g)
  • Work split last week: McKinnon (10 att, 7 tg) // CEH (7 att, 2 tg)

Joe Burrow:

  • In non-BUF games, KC has allowed 15.7 ppg in 9 home games vs 25.75 ppg in 8 road games
  • BUF scored 38 & 36 points at Arrowhead, the two highest totals KC has given up in all games this year
  • CIN has scored 25.4 pts/g on road (9 g) vs 27.6 pts/g at home (10 g)
  • CIN’s 30+ pt games have come against NYJ, LV, KC, DET, PIT, BAL (x2)
  • 4 of those 7 games have come on the road (NYJ, LV, DET, BAL)
  • Burrow in the playoffs so far: 244:2 // 348:0
  • Burrow has thrown for 270+ in 10/18 games
  • Burrow has 300+ yds in 5 of his last 7 games (DEN & LV only to hold him below)
  • After a horrid start to the season, the only QBs to throw for 270+ yds vs KC in the last 12 games are Burrow (446:4) and Allen (329:4); Mathieu left in 1st Q last week
  • Top QBs passing vs KC: Lamar (239:1:2) // Herbert (281:4 // 236:2:1) // Allen (315:3) // Carr (261:2:1 // 263:1:1) // Dak (216:0:2) // Burrow (446:4) // Allen (329:4)
  • CIN benefited from 3 DPIs and an Illegal Use of Hands in the first matchup, with the DPI’s all coming on 3rd down and the last one on the 4th and 1 in endzone that allowed CIN to end game with field goal as time expired
  • 2 of Burrow’s TDs came on the drives saved by penalties

CIN WRs:

  • After allowing the 2nd fewest WR DK pts/g in 2019 & 2020, KC allowed 36.7 DK pts/g to WRs and ranked 23rd in def pass DVOA in 2021
  • KC’s final rank in weighted DVOA was 13th, which weighs more heavily the more recent games
  • KC allowed the 10th lowest success rate to WRs
  • WRs vs KC in playoffs: Washington (37:1), Diontae (34:1), Claypool (25), Juju (26) // Davis (201:4), Beasley (60), Sanders (16), Diggs (7)
  • Top WRs vs KC in the last two months: Renfrow (13:117:1) // Keenan (6:78:1) // Diontae (6:51:1; 5:34:1) // Chase (11:266:3) // Patrick (6:95) // Davis (8:201:4)
  • 100-yd WRs vs KC this year: M Brown (113:1) // Williams (122:2) // Smith (122) // AJ Brown (133:2) // Renfrow (117:1) // Chase (266:3) // Davis (201:4)
  • 100-yd games this year: Chase (101, 159, 201, 125, 266, 116, 109) // Higgins (114, 138, 114, 194) // Boyd (118)
  • Only once did two 100-yd games come together (Chase & Higgins in Burrow’s 525 yd passing day vs BAL)
  • Playoffs receiving: Chase (116, 109) // Higgins (10, 96) // Boyd (26:1, 17)
  • Tg with Burrow since W13: Chase (8, 8, 4, 10, 12, 12, 6) // Higgins (14, 7, 3, 13, 5, 4, 9) // Boyd (7, 5, 6, 5, 6, 5, 3)
  • Williams, Edwards, Jeudy, Diontae all led in receiving in first game vs KC
  • Keenan, Renfrow, Patrick, Washington all led in receiving in second game vs KC

CJ Uzomah:

  • TEs with 10+ DK pts vs KC: Njoku (10.6) // Andrews (10.7) // Goedert (16.6), Ertz (12) // Knox (23.7) // RSJ (15.8) // Pruitt (10.7) // Engram (10.5) // Schultz (11.3)
  • KC allowed the 9th highest success rate to TEs
  • Uzomah tg with Burrow since W13: 6, 6, 4, 7, 6, 6, 8
  • Uzomah in that span: 20 // 56 // 18 // 36 // 32 (KC) // 64:1 // 71
  • Playoff rec yds: Chase (225) // Uzomah (135) // Higgins (106) // Mixon (79) // Boyd (43)

Joe Mixon:

  • KC ranked 20th in def rush DVOA
  • RBs with 80+ rush yds vs KC: Chubb (83:2) // Henry (86) // J Williams (102) // Jackson (86)
  • Mixon has 5 games of 80+ rush yds, but none since W12 (65 is highest since)
  • Mixon went for 12 att for 46 yds vs KC (CIN was down 28-14)
  • KC allowed the 4th highest success rate & 5th highest yds/att on RB tg
  • RBs with 40+ rec yds vs KC: Ekeler (52:1) // Gainwell (58) // Moss (55) // McKissic (65) // Booker (65) // Dillon (44) // J Williams (76:1) // Jacobs (46)
  • Mixon has 6 games of 40+ rec yds (59, 58, 46, 70, 40, 51)
  • Mixon’s last four receiving: 6:70:1 // 7:40 (KC) // 4:28 // 6:51

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 30th 6:30pm Eastern

49ers (
21.5) at

Rams (
25)

Over/Under 46.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
49ers Run D
2nd DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
12th DVOA/25th Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
16th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
7th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Rams Run D
5th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
5th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
6th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
5th DVOA/12th Yards per pass

slate Overview ::

By hilow>>
  • Pricing is once again almost a non-issue on DraftKings. This is going to lead to extremely chalky builds and heavy chalk on the top-tier players in pricing.
  • I also expect the field to build heavily for the likeliest scenario from each game, meaning heavy emphasis on the pass games from Cincinnati and Kansas City, heavy emphasis on game stacks from the AFC, and low overall exposure to the NFC.
  • COVID has apparently been eradicated across NFL playoff teams. All kidding aside, there shouldn’t be any pandemic concerns for any of the four Championship Round teams.
  • Rotational rookie defensive end Cameron Sample was the only Bengal player to miss practice on Wednesday.
  • Safety and defensive communication leader, Tyrann Mathieu, missed practice on Wednesday with the concussion he endured during the Divisional win. He faces an uphill battle to be ready for the Chiefs.
  • The 49ers are a bit banged up heading into Championship weekend, with left tackle Trent Williams and running backs Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson, Jr. missing practice on Wednesday.
  • Wide receiver Van Jefferson, defensive linemen Greg Gaines, and fill-in offensive linemen Joe Noteboom missed the Rams walkthrough practice on Wednesday, while the league’s top-rated pass-blocking tackle, Andrew Whitworth, returned to a limited participant.

How san francisco Will Try To Win ::

Heavy rush rates, a slow pace of play, heavy pre-snap motion and misdirection, increased heavy personnel alignments (12- and 21-personnel), and a short-area-focused pass game that aims to get the ball to playmakers in space (harboring top-level YAC potential) has been the recipe for the Niners for the majority of the last three seasons. Nothing has changed in that regard. What has changed is the various unique opportunities for their primary play-makers built into the fold, which almost entirely revolves around Deebo Samuel and where he is deployed in the formation. Over the past month of play, we’ve seen everything from multiple bodies in the backfield (Deebo + Elijah Mitchell, primarily), to Deebo motioned from the slot in the backfield (similar to an end around or jet sweep motion), to Deebo throwing the football. Considering so much of this offense has been built around the dynamic abilities of one player (Deebo Samuel), any restrictions to that player could be devastating. Why is this important? Well, Deebo took a helmet to the knee late in last week’s Divisional Round win over the Packers and was noticeably distraught as he left the field. That said, he wasn’t listed on the first injury report of the week and appears set for his normal role and usage this weekend. The fact of the matter is that so much of what the Niners have attempted to do on offense to end the season has been built around one player, and there is the ever-present possibility that this offense is forced into one-dimensionality and ineffective play should that one player be limited in any fashion. Enough of the doom and gloom. San Francisco led the league in yards per completion on offense this season, primarily on the backs of unreal yards after catch through Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. Consider this: Deebo Samuel led the league in YAC per reception amongst wide receivers (10.3; of qualified receivers), George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk posted 6.5 and 6.6 average YAC per reception, respectively (both of which were well above average at their respective positions), and even Jauan Jennings got in on the YAC fun with an above-average 4.6 average YAC per reception. Their opponent this week surrendered the third-most YAC during the regular season and blitzed at an above-average rate.

San Francisco operated almost exclusively from 12- and 21-personnel to end the season, with fullback Kyle Juszczyk and blocking tight end Charlie Woerner heavily involved down the stretch and into the postseason. Elijah Mitchell has operated as the clear lead dog of the backfield whenever healthy, while Jeff Wilson, Jr. has operated as the primary change of pace back, and JaMycal Hasty has operated as the primary pass down and hurry-up back. Although both Mitchell and Wilson missed practice on Wednesday, Mitchell’s absence appears to simply be load management while Wilson is attempting to return from an ankle injury that kept him out of last week’s contest. The reality, though, is that this “backfield” is really a two-man affair split between lead-back Elijah Mitchell and dynamic do-it-all wide receiver Deebo Samuel, as Wilson and Hasty have combined for four total touches over the last four games. Expect Mitchell to see his normal 20-30 opportunity workload (dependent on game flow) while Deebo mixes in for his standard eight to 10 carries. The pure rushing matchup is a difficult one, yielding a below-average 4.12 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Rams defense that allowed only 21.7 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields during the regular season.

The biggest change to the offense from the Niners this season was the change in utilization of Deebo Samuel. Before his shift to a more “do-it-all, Swiss Army Knife” weapon, Deebo averaged a robust 10.1 targets per game and no fewer than eight targets in any one game, compared to Week 10 and on, when he averaged just 4.7 targets per game, including only one game of double-digit looks. That shift has opened up additional receiving usage for Brandon Aiyuk (now the de facto “alpha” wide receiver, playing the highest snap rate and seeing the most receiving work on a standard week) and Jauan Jennings, who typically plays around half of the offensive snaps. Although George Kittle would seemingly be a beneficiary as well, his only true outlier target games have come when Deebo Samuel missed this year, as his elite run-blocking chops have been utilized at a heavier rate in conjunction with the shifting dynamics of the offense overall. That said, his elite YAC ability and dynamic role require only an increase in volume for him to become a separator. Keep that in mind when building this week. The low overall expected pass volume keeps all of Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Jauan Jennings in the touchdown-and-efficiency-reliant realm, while Deebo Samuel sees enough rushing work to offset the lower overall pass volume from the offense. As such, the most optimal way to utilize any pass-catcher not named Deebo Samuel from the Niners is to do so in a nod to potential game environments.

How los angeles Will Try To Win ::

The Rams have jumped out to early leads in both of their playoff games thus far, leading 21-0 at the half against the Cardinals and 20-3 at the half against the Buccaneers, which has allowed them to skew their playoff rush-pass rates heavily towards the run (67% playoff rush rate). That said, their Divisional Round contest against Tampa Bay should be considered a more natural representation of how this team likes to try and win games (the Rams were never threatened by the Cardinals). Digging a little deeper into that exploration, and taking us back to last week’s Rams write-up for their game against the Bucs, the biggest takeaway from a macro trend perspective has to do with matchup-adjusted personnel alignment rates. As in, the Rams run their offense almost exclusively from 11-personnel against difficult run defenses and operate more heavy sets (12-personnel) against soft run defenses. This is directly correlated to expected rush-pass rates. Against a San Francisco defense that finished the season as the league’s top-rated run defense over the second half of the season, we should expect Sean McVay and the Rams to approach this contest with an emphasis on 11-personnel and a pass-balanced offense. That said, keep an eye on the expected level of involvement for Van Jefferson, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury. The Rams finished the regular season with the league’s fourth-fastest situation-neutral pace of play, the third-fastest pace of play when trailing, and a moderate 16th-ranked pace of play when leading by seven or more points.

One of the biggest storylines to come from Los Angeles Divisional Round win was the usage from their running back stable. After being eased back into the fold to end the regular season, rookie running back Cam Akers was thrust into a borderline workhorse role against the Bucs, playing a massive 81% of the offensive snaps and handling a robust 27 running back opportunities. Of note, the heavy workload came in a game that saw the rookie put the ball on the ground twice, including a fumble at the one-yard line to end the first half and a fumble in his own territory with under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter (the Bucs would go on to score and tie the game following the second fumble). So, while the usage was elite last week, there remains a good bit of uncertainty regarding his expected usage in the NFC Championship game after the ball security issues exhibited last week. We’ll discuss some of the theory associated with that situation below. Darrell Henderson, Jr. saw his 21-day practice window opened on Friday of last week, creating the possibility that he returns this week, and Sony Michel remains available after a six-week stretch of workhorse usage. The Rams haven’t had a single game all season with three healthy NFL caliber running backs, but we have seen them give one back the majority of the available usage in almost every game this year. As in, there were only three games all season (playoffs included) that the lead back from the Rams saw less than a 70% snap rate. Basically, this is a team that has utilized one running back as a featured contributor to the offense for the majority of the season, which is likely to remain the case (at least to start) this week. As alluded to above, the pure rushing matchup is a difficult one against the Niners, yielding a well below average 4.095 net-adjusted line yards metric against a San Francisco defense that ended the season as a top rush defense. The final piece of the backfield puzzle is the low pass game usage over the course of the season, as the Rams finished ahead of only the Titans in running back target rate.

Considering the above exploration of the tendencies of the Rams, we should expect heavy 11-personnel (like almost 100%) with all of Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, Jr., Van Jefferson (assuming health), and Tyler Higbee playing every (or close to every) offensive snap. We should also expect 35-38 pass attempts as the baseline for the Rams, which all but guarantees double-digit looks for Cooper Kupp, six to eight targets for OBJ, six to eight targets for Higbee, five to six looks for Jefferson, and a handful of looks for the running backs. OBJ has scored six touchdowns in his ten games with the Rams and has a clear red zone connection with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Finally, the combination of head coach Sean McVay and an immobile Stafford has led to a ball-out-quick percentage solution against any disruptive opponents (defenses that generate above-average pressure in the backfield) and more moderate-to-deep-aDOT work against opponents that struggle to generate much pressure. The 49ers blitzed at the fourth-lowest rate this season and generated a below-average 24.1% pressure rate, instead electing to clog the middle of the field and force opponents to beat them on the perimeter through the air. Consider the matchup a slight boost to OBJ and Van Jefferson (from an expected efficiency perspective), neutral for Cooper Kupp, and difficult for tight end Tyler Higbee.


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Likeliest Game Flow :: 

I want to take a slightly different approach to this section for this game, in particular, in an attempt to highlight a few truths. We’ll start with what is known. Both of these defensive units are above average overall, pass funnel in nature, and above average in point suppression (the Rams ranked 12th during the regular season while the 49ers ranked fifth in points allowed per game). The Rams play at a blistering pace in all but positive game scripts while the 49ers were one of the slowest offenses in the league. Finally, we should expect the Rams to run their offense with a focus on the pass game (heavy 11-personnel and laterally-spread), while we should expect the Niners to largely continue their emphasis on heavy sets and smashmouth football (pre-snap motion, inflated rush rates, heavy 12- and 21-personnel usage, and a slow pace of play). All of this comes together to form a game environment that is likeliest to start rather slow and boring, with the Rams the likeliest to establish control from game flow and game environment perspectives, forcing San Francisco into increased aggression and pace as the game moves on. That said, based on the offensive and defensive tendencies exhibited from both sides, there is a very real possibility this game quickly moves to either game environment extreme. What I mean by that is this:

  • The 49ers have shown that they will stick to their game plan for as long as they possibly can, which typically has meant for as long as the game remains within two scores.
  • The Rams have shown a knack for fast starts and early scoring. They also are likeliest to heavily attack the relative deficiencies of the Niners defense (perimeter passing and anything Cooper Kupp). They are also well-equipped to handle the likeliest plan of attack from the Niners.
  • These two truths could very well lead to a situation where the Rams get up big early and force the Niners into desperation mode far sooner than they would otherwise like, creating the potential for this game to far exceed its relatively modest game total.
  • On the other side of that discussion, the Rams blew out only four opponents this year: the Bears, the Giants, the Texans, and the Jaguars. Put another way, through both poor execution with a lead and more conservative game management, the Rams simply weren’t capable of running away from good teams this year. We saw as much last week, when they allowed the Bucs to score 24 unanswered points before they escaped with a narrow, last-second victory. This could foster a game environment that plays to a relative slugfest, where the Niners are able to dictate the pace, flow, and environment.

DFS+ Interpretation ::

By Dwprix >>

WKs 10 & 18 Matchups:

  • WK10: SF 31 LAR 10
  • SF built a 31-7 lead by the 4th qtr & won 31-10
  • SF rush: (31:135:1TD) // SF pass (23:32:316:1TD)
  • LAR rush: (27:64) // Rec: (21:32:238:3TDs:2INTs)
  • WK18: SF 27 LAR 24 OT
  • LAR led 17-0 before SF scored 17 unanswered
  • LAR scored and w/ 1:27 left, SF drove the length of the field after a big throw & catch to Deebo (this was a season saving throw my Garoppolo & one of the best throws I saw him make all season)
  • SF made a FG & picked off Stafford to end the game in OT
  • Sean McVay was 43-0 when leading at half prior to the WK18 matchup
  • Trent Williams (Q) missed WK18’s matchup (PFF’s highest graded run blocker)

Overview:

  • 46.5 total, LAR -3.5
  • SF has won 6 straight vs LAR: 2021 (27-24, 31-10) // 2020 (23-20, 24-16) // 2019 (34-31, 20-7)
  • They haven’t played in the playoffs since 1989 
  • SF is 8-3 on the road this season
  • LAR’s are 6-3 at home
  • Including the postseason, the Rams are PFFs highest overall graded team 
  • 49ers are 2nd
  • SF is 6-5 vs playoff teams after its two playoff wins
  • LAR’s are 5-5 vs playoff teams 
  • SF avgs 24.4 pts/g (14th) // LAR’s allow 21.6 (T-12th least)
  • LAR’s avg 27.6 pts/g (6th) // SF allows 20.6 (5th least)
  • SF led the league in RZ TD scoring % in the reg season (66.7%)
  • Over the past 3, they’ve scored a TD on 37.5% of RZ trips
  • Last week they went 0-3
  • It took them 5 series before they got into the RZ last week
  • LAR’s were T-15th in RZ TD scoring % (60.0%)
  • They’ve scored a TD 61.5% of the time over their last 3

Matthew Stafford:

  • 1st Matchup: (26:41:243:1TD:2INTs, 11.8 DK pts) (2nd lowest DK pt total of season)
  • 2nd Matchup: (21:32:238:3TDs:2INTs, 19.5 DK pts) (5th lowest DK total)
  • Stafford scored 5.19x last week but that was only the 3rd highest QB (Mahomes-5.89x, Allen-5.40x)
  • He’s thrown for 300+ twice in the past 4: (366, 202, 238, 309)
  • $6.3k is the 3rd highest priced QB this week (Mahomes-$7.4k, Burrow-$6.6k)
  • Last week was the third time he’s scored 30+ DK pts & was the 2nd time vs TB (WK3 @ TB-32.5, WK7 vs DET-30.2)
  • LAR’s were PFF’s #2 graded pass blocking team this season
  • They allow 1.8 sacks/g (T-4th least)
  • SF avgs 3.1/g (2nd most)
  • They have 3 games in a row with 5 sacks (WK18 was vs LAR)
  • Andrew Whitworth (missed last week, Q this week) had his highest & 4th highest PFF graded games of the season vs SF
  • He’s PFF’s highest graded pass blocking tackle
  • SF allows 18.6 DK pts/g to QBs (T-13th least)

Cooper Kupp:

  • WK 10: (11:122, 26.2 DK pts) 
  • WK18: (7:118:1TD, 29.6 DK pts)
  • Kupp has 7 games w/ 30+ DK pts (35.3, 37.7, 34.3, 40.6, 37.0, 30.6, 39.8)
  • His tgts have been down (11, 7, 7, 7) but he’s scored 1TD in 4 straight
  • $8.8k is $1.6k more than the 2nd highest priced WR (Deebo-$7.2k)
  • Kupp has 14 RZ tgts over the past 6 (9 rec, 5 TDs)

LAR receiving:

  • Tgts last 4: OBJ (6, 4, 5, 7) // Jefferson (3, 1, 3, 5) // Higbee (7, 4, 8, 9) 
  • HIgbee scored 23.5 DK pts WK18 (6:55:2TDs)
  • This was the 2nd highest DK score by a TE vs SF all season (Hockenson, WK1, 25.7 DK pts)
  • WK10 he had 11.0 DK pts w/ a TD (3:20:1TD, 5 tgts)
  • OBJ has 6 TDs in 10 games with LAR
  • DK pts w/ LAR (no 20+ pt games): (12.9, 17.0, 3.8, 14.9, 13.7, 1.7, 19.7, 10.8, 19.1, 3.8)
  • Van Jefferson hasn’t scored in 6 games 
  • He has 4 RZ tgts in those 6
  • OBJ has 7 RZ tgts in the same 6: (5 rec, 3 TDs)
  • Tgts last 4: OBJ (6, 4, 5, 7) // Jefferson (3, 1, 3, 5) // Higbee (7, 4, 8, 9) 
  • SF allows 36.9 DK pts/g to WRs (10th most) & 9.4 DK pts/g to TEs (7th least)

Cam Akers/Sony Michel:

  • SF held LAR to their 2nd & 3rd lowest rushing totals on the season (52 & 64 yds)
  • Snaps last week (of 72): Akers (55) // Michel (14)
  • LAR rushed 30 times for 73 yds last week vs TB (2.43 avg)
  • Snaps in WC (of 60): Akers (32) // Michel (24)
  • TB ranked 12th in rush DVOA
  • LAR rushed 38 times for 140 yds, 1TD in WC vs ARZ
  • ARZ ranked 6th in rush DVOA
  • SF ranks 2nd in rush DVOA
  • SF allows 21.8 DK pts to RBs (10th least)

LAR Defense:

  • $3.2k is the most expensive D on the slate
  • They haven’t allowed 30+ pts since WK 12 vs GB
  • They have 3 INTs & 1 DFR in the playoffs
  • DK pts last 4: (7.0, 16.0, 7.0, 13.0)
  • WK 18 vs SF: 7.0 DK pts (27 pts allowed, 2 sacks, 2 INTs)
  • WK10 @ SF: 1.0 DK pt (31 pts allowed, 1 sack, 0TOs)

Jimmy Garroppolo:

  • WK 10: (15:19:182:2TDs, 15.4 DK pts)
  • WK 18: (23:32:316:1TD:2INTs, 17.7 DK pts)
  • TD:INT ratio in playoffs: (0TDs:2INTs)
  • $5.4k is the cheapest starting QB on the slate by $900
  • Garoppolo hasn’t broke 200+ pass yds the last 2 games (131, 172)
  • WKs 17 & 18 he broke 300 (316, 322)
  • Tom Compton had his worst game of the season last week giving up 2 sacks & 4 pressures (starting & playing RT due to injury, normally a guard)
  • Von Miller has 7 sacks the past 6 games
  • LAR avgs 2.9 sacks/g (T-4th most)
  • SF allows 1.9 (T-9th fewest)
  • SF sacks given up last 4: (4, 0, 2, 0)
  • LAR’s allow 17.5 DK pts to QBs (8th fewest)

Deebo Samuel:

  • WK10: (Rush 5:36:1TD Rec 5:97:1TD, 30.3 DK pts ) 
  • WK18: (Rush 8:45:1TD, Rec 4:95, Pass 1:1:24:1TD 29.0 DK pts) 
  • Deebo has 15 total TDs (9 rush, 6 rec)
  • Rush atts last 4: (10, 10, 8, 7) 
  • These were Samuel’s 3rd & 4th highest scoring DK pt games
  • Samuel rushing last 4: DIV @GB (10:39) // WC @DAL: (10:72:1TD) // WK18 @LAR (8:451TD) // WK17 vs HOU (7:19)
  • Deebo has seen double digit tgts 2 times in the past 13 games: (6, 6, 11, 5, 1, DNP, 4, 2, 5, 9, 9, 11, 9)

SF Receiving:

  • Juan Jennings & Brandon Aiyuk saw 7 tgts WK18 vs LAR: Aiyuk (6:107) // Jennings (6:94:2TDs)
  • Kittle also saw 7: (5:10)
  • Tgts last 4: Samuel (4, 3, 6, 6) // Kittle (6, 3, 7, 2) // Aiyuk (1, 6, 7, 6) // Jennings (2, 5, 7, 2)
  • $3.2k is the cheapest Jennings has been since WK13
  • He had a 2 TD game WK18 vs LAR
  • Aiyuk saw only 1 tgt last week on 19 Garoppolo attempts
  • The previous 3 he saw 6, 7, & 6
  • WK18 he went 6:107 vs LAR, his highest rec yds game of the season
  • $5k is the cheapest Kittle has been all season
  • LAR’s allow 38.4 DK pts/g to WRs (5th most) & 12.1 to TEs (12th fewest)

Elijah Mitchell:

  • 49ers scored & built a 31-7 lead early in the 4th qtr WK10 vs LAR
  • This led to 44 SF rush atts
  • Mitchell WK10: (27:91, 9.1 DK pts)
  • WK18: (21:85, 8.5 DK pts)
  • Mitchell had his lowest rush attempts last week (17) since WK9
  • Previous 6: (27, 21, 21, 22, 27, 27)
  • LAR’s allow 21.7 DK pts/g to RBs (T-7th fewest)

SF Defense:

  • SF last 3 weeks (pts allowed:opponent offensive DVOA:DK pts): @GB (10:2nd:21.0) // @DAL (17:6th:8.0) // @LAR (24:8th:9.0)
  • 5 sacks in 3 straight
  • Haven’t allowed over 28 pts since WK 13 @ SEA
  • 5 TOs in last 5 (4 INTs, 1 DFR)