With all the rescheduling from Thanksgiving and the Wednesday afternoon game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, we haven’t had Thursday night football in two weeks. However, the fantasy playoffs are here, and to kick them off, we have a rematch of Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams. With the fantasy playoffs starting, it’s more critical now than ever to set the perfect lineup. Let’s dive into it.
New England Patriots
Quarterback – Cam Newton
Over the last two weeks, Newton has turned into a glorified running back, as has a total of 153 passing yards. Furthermore, Newton has thrown an average of 18.5 passes the last two weeks compared to 11.5 rushing attempts. With the massive handicap in the passing game, Newton is a rushing touchdown or bust play at quarterback. In the games he has scored a rushing touchdown this season, Newton is averaging 23.3 fantasy points per game compared to 8.6 when he fails to score a rushing touchdown. Meanwhile, the Rams have held quarterbacks under 13 fantasy points in five of their past six games. Newton is a risky mid QB2 this week with lots of uncertainty, and fantasy owners should look elsewhere.
Even though Harris has only two touchdowns this season, he has scored double-digit fantasy points in three of his past four games. Despite Michel’s return last week and his 10 rushing attempts, Harris led the team in rushing attempts and yards against the Los Angeles Chargers. While Michel’s return is a thorn in Harris’ side, the former Alabama star is still the running back to own in this backfield, especially for non-PPR leagues.
While Harris has the role on the ground secured, White is the pass-catching back in New England. Unfortunately, White doesn’t have Tom Brady anymore. With the Patriots’ shift to a power running offense, his fantasy value is limited. White has five or fewer carries in every game this season and has more than four catches in only one of his past four games. In the few games Newton is forced to throw the ball, White has more value, but that is hard to predict, especially given the Patriots’ new power run offense.
Meanwhile, the Rams have given up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs, giving up 20.1 per game. They have held running backs under 80 rushing yards in five of their past six games. Furthermore, the Rams haven’t given up more than 23 fantasy points to the position since Week 2. Between the tough matchup and Newton’s role in the running game, the only Patriot running back you should start this week is Harris, and only as a flex option.
Julian Edelman still plans on playing at some point this season, but it won’t be tonight. With him out of the lineup, Meyers has stepped up as the Patriots’ top weapon in the passing game. However, after a four-week window where he scored double-digit fantasy points in every game, Meyer’s targets have dropped over the past three weeks, scoring an average of 6.8 fantasy points per game. During one of Meyers’ down games, Byrd exploded for six catches for 132 yards and 26.3 fantasy points. However, in the two games since he has a total of five catches and 9.9 fantasy points. Meanwhile, Harry is coming off a 9.5 fantasy point game, thanks to his first touchdown since Week 4.
Of the trio, Meyers is the one to play if you must, but you should avoid all three. The Rams have given up the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season, giving up just under 30 per game. They have held wide receivers to under 30 fantasy points in over half their games this season. Furthermore, the Rams’ cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams might be the best in the league. Combine that with the inconsistencies of the Patriots’ passing attack, and fantasy owners should avoid this group this week.
Tight End – Ryan Izzo
If you combined all the fantasy points scored by a Patriots tight end this season, they have scored 40 fantasy points. Combined, they would be the TE43 for the season. Izzo is the leader of the group, averaging 2.6 fantasy points per game. He has scored more than five fantasy points once this season, scoring 7.9 in Week 11. Even though the Rams gave up 20.1 fantasy points to Dan Arnold last week, don’t get cute. Leave every Patriot tight end on the waiver wire, no matter how deep your league is.
After an impressive 2019 season, the Patriots D/ST has come back down to earth this season, averaging 7.1 fantasy points per game. However, of their 85 fantasy points scored this season, they scored 28 of them (33 percent) in their beat down of the Chargers last week. Before last week’s game, the Patriots D/ST was averaging 5.2 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, opposing D/STs have scored four or fewer fantasy points against the Rams in three of their past four games. Don’t get tricked by their performance last week, the Patriots D/ST is at best a high-end D/ST2 against the Rams.
Los Angeles Rams
Quarterback – Jared Goff
Last week Goff bounced back against the Arizona Cardinals, scoring 24.1 fantasy points, his highest outing since Week 5. It also marked the second time in three weeks that Goff scored over 20 fantasy points. However, fantasy owners should look elsewhere this week as the Patriots are holding quarterbacks to an average of 15.3 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, they have held quarterbacks under eight fantasy points in almost half of their games this season. That includes their last two games, where they gave up a total of 12.3 fantasy points and zero passing touchdowns to Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert. Goff is risky mid QB2 this week that you should avoid except in super-flex leagues.
All season long, this backfield has been a mess to figure out. However, over the last three weeks, Akers has started to take over. He has a touchdown in every game, averaging 13.2 fantasy points per game. He has scored 14 or more fantasy points in each of his past two games and had a career-high 22 touches against the Cardinals last week. Meanwhile, Henderson broke out of his slump last week, scoring 15.4 fantasy points. However, he had only five touches compared to Akers’ 22. If not for a breakaway touchdown run, Henderson would have scored only 5.6 fantasy points. The reality is, Henderson is no longer the running back to own for the Rams.
The veteran Brown has played a critical role for the Rams on the field this season. His experience and trust from the coaching staff earn him snaps in critical moments. However, Brown has scored five touchdowns in three games this season. In those games, he is averaging 18.9 fantasy points per game. By comparison, Brown is averaging only 4.8 fantasy points per game when he fails to reach the end zone. Furthermore, Brown has three straight games with five or fewer touches, scoring under four fantasy points in each one.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are giving up about the league average in fantasy points per game to running backs. However, they have given up an average of 88.5 rushing yards and 26.3 fantasy points to running backs over the last two weeks. They have given up eight rushing touchdowns to running backs over their past seven games. Of the trio, Akers is the only one worth starting, and he is a low-end RB2 with upside.
There are a lot of great wide receiver duos in the league, but Woods and Kupp don’t get enough credit. Both are averaging 14 or more fantasy points per game this season despite having a combined seven receiving touchdowns. Woods has scored 15.5 or more fantasy points in four of his past five games, including three straight, while Kupp has 10 or more fantasy points in five of his past six games. The Rams have only two players with more than 65 targets this season; Woods with 98 and Kupp with 106. They are the focal point of the passing game, as both have nine or more targets in three straight games.
While the Patriots have the perception of shutting down wide receivers, that hasn’t been the case this season. They have given up seven receiving touchdowns to wide receivers over their past five games and given up multiple receiving touchdowns to wide receivers in about half of their games this year. Furthermore, wide receivers are averaging 36 fantasy points per game against the Patriots over their past five games. According to Pro Football Focus, Stephon Gilmore will shadow Woods tonight. While that isn’t ideal, it doesn’t make Woods unplayable. Fantasy owners should view both wide receivers as high-end WR2s, with Kupp having more upside and the safer floor as he is Goff’s go-to guy and won’t have Gilmore covering him.
Entering the season, many, including myself, had high hopes for Higbee. However, he has been a bust, averaging 8.4 fantasy points per game, scoring more than nine fantasy points only twice. Both of those games have come when Higbee found the end zone, making him a touchdown or bust tight end. Meanwhile, Everett hasn’t been much better, scoring more than nine fantasy points three times this season. The problem is, both tight ends are hurting the other’s upside as they each have 44 targets this year. Higbee has never seen more than six in a game, while Everett has seen more than seven only once. For the season, both tight ends rank outside the top-18 and are hard to predict when one will score double-digit fantasy points.
If the uncertainty wasn’t enough for a reason to avoid both, the matchup is far from ideal. The Patriots have given up the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends, giving up only nine per game. They have held tight ends to under 8.5 fantasy points in almost 60 percent of their games this season. The only touchdown the Patriots have given up to a tight end was back in Week 3. Furthermore, the Patriots have held tight ends to a total of 12.9 fantasy points over the last two weeks. Fantasy owners should view Higbee and Everett as risky low-end TE2s and avoid both of them.
Surprisingly, the Rams D/ST is the third-highest scoring D/ST this season, averaging just under nine fantasy points per game. They have been on fire over the last four weeks since their bye, averaging 12 fantasy points per game, scoring at least 13 fantasy points in three of those contests. Meanwhile, D/STs are averaging just under five fantasy points per game against the Patriots this season. However, when the Patriots have faced a good defense, teams have been able to shut them down and average 14.8 fantasy points per game. Between the Patriots’ limited offense and their recent hot streak, the Rams D/ST is a top-five option this week.
Newton: Risky QB2
Harris: Flex Option
Patriots D/ST: High-End D/ST2
Goff: Risky QB2
Akers: Low-End RB2 with Upside
Woods: High-End WR2
Kupp: High-End WR2
Rams D/ST: Top-Five D/ST
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