Kickoff: Thursday, December 10th at 8:20 PM ET
Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Betting Odds: NE +5, 45.5 total via Oddsshark
Network: FOX, NFLN
New England Patriots
Cam Newton (Sit, QB2)
Cam Newton is QB18 so far in 2020, which is a disappointment for fantasy managers and Patriots’ fans alike after what we saw in the first two weeks of the season. Would Tom Brady be faring much better in this offense if he were still around? Probably not, but that’s still not an excuse for Cam’s poor mechanics this season. The Rams have allowed the 2nd fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs in 2020, so the matchup simply isn’t any good. Cam is a run-first QB, but I imagine he will struggle to find open running lanes as long as Aaron Donald is barreling towards him. I don’t feel great about a good fantasy day for Cam in this one, so I wouldn’t recommend starting him unless you had no better options out there. If you do, it will likely be a QB2 type of day and not much else.
Damien Harris (Start, Flex), James White (Sit), Sony Michel (Sit)
The Rams have a very good defense, and they’re extra tough against the run. New England has established a lead dog in Damien Harris this season, but Sony Michel cut into his carries in his first action since landing on IR earlier in the year. Will this continue? I hope not. As a Patriots fan who is done and over with the Sony Michel experiment, I want to see Harris run it 25 times per game and see what he can do. His 5.1 yards per carry is 6th best in the league among RBs with 50+ carries on the year, which is fantastic in a Patriots offense that usually doesn’t ask for much out of their running backs besides not fumbling the ball. I don’t think it’s going to be easy for him on Thursday, but a 10 point floor seems reasonable and I’m happy with that in my Flex.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jakobi Meyers (Sit, Flex), Damiere Byrd (Sit), N’Keal Harry (Sit), Gunner Olszewski (Sit)
This is not a pass-first offense, obviously. The pendulum has swung from Jakobi Meyers one week, to Damiere Byrd the next, and most recently Gunner Olzewski as the leading playmakers in this offense not named Cam or Damien. Sure, Gunner did almost all of his work on special teams and in garbage time, but if the Patriots see something in a player they won’t be afraid to get the ball in their hands. And don’t forget about 2nd-year receiver N’Keal Harry, who has seen increased usage in the last few weeks.
When Cam needs to pass, he will, and while it’s likely that one of these guys will put up a decent PPR game, good luck figuring out which one it will be. ProFootballFocus has Byrd lining up opposite of Darious Williams, and Harry having to face off against Jalen Ramsey. Those are both terrible matchups, so if I had to roll the dice with one it would be Meyers.
Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff (Start, QB2)
Surprisingly, the New England defense has given up the 7th most fantasy points to opposing QBs this season. A vast majority of the fantasy points they’ve allowed were in two games (Seattle and Houston), and they also got lit up by Joe Flacco which is still a fluke in my opinion. Otherwise, they held Derek Carr, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Justin Herbert to a combined 40.16 fantasy points, and they also held MVP frontrunner Patrick Mahomes to 20.24 fantasy points, his third-lowest output of the season. The defense is rounding into form just in time for a playoff push, and the defense will need to show up in this one. I think they will, and that’s going to make it tough on Jared Goff this week.
Some of Goff’s best games have been against tough matchups (Washington, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Philly), while some of his worst was in really good matchups (Seattle, Dallas). What gives? Well, they lost to all of the good defenses (besides Washington) when he put up numbers, but beat Seattle and Dallas when they relied more on the running game. That’s what makes this team function. So, in a game that is a good matchup on paper but in reality, probably isn’t, what is he going to do? If I knew I’d tell you, but I’m conservatively ranking him as a QB2 with QB1 upside this week as a result.
Darrell Henderson (Sit, Flex), Cam Akers (Start, Flex), Malcolm Brown (Sit)
Has Cam Akers finally succeeded Darrell Henderson as the lead back in this run-first offense? Yes, Henderson did briefly leave the game last week with a knee injury, but even when he returned it was still the Akers show. We’ve been begging for this switch to happen basically all season and last week was the first true sign that it’s finally coming to fruition. Sure, losing star offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth will hurt this running game going forward, especially against a New England interior defense that has looked better in recent weeks, but the rest of the unit is still good enough to create some open lanes for their backs to scoot through. If I had to choose one of these guys for this week it would be Akers, the hot hand who we’ve all thought was the most talented back all along, and he’s got RB2 upside but a more realistic Flex floor.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Robert Woods (Start, WR2), Cooper Kupp (Start, WR3), Josh Reynolds (Sit), Gerald Everett (Sit), Tyler Higbee (Sit)
The Patriots completely shut down Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, and company last week, but you can chalk that up to Bill Belichick’s successful career against rookie QBs. Jared Goff and the rest of the Rams’ playmakers have experience facing off against a Belichick defense, and the current iteration is not as good as it was when they last played in Super Bowl LIII. New England’s top corner this year has been J.C. Jackson, followed by Jonathan Jones, and then finally Stephon Gilmore, who is the 53rd best cornerback in the league according to ProFootballFocus. Whoever gets stuck on Gilmore Island this week actually has a better chance for success than one would think.
My guess is that Robert Woods will be the one lined up opposite Gilmore, while slot corner Jonathan Jones gets to handle Cooper Kupp and the more physical J.C. Jackson will be on whichever tight end is on the field. It’s not necessarily a recipe for fantasy success, and if this game were on real grass in New England I would probably feel differently, but the speed of this offense is going to give the Patriots fits at times. Goff has been looking at Woods’ way the most in recent weeks and I don’t see that changing here. Expect a solid day out of Woods, a respectable line out of Kupp, and… that’s about it for this receiving corps. Sure, Josh Reynolds or Van Jefferson could go off at any time, but you’re not going to risk that in your fantasy playoffs.
As far as the tight ends go, they continue to split the work evenly between the two of them, so forget about them and don’t even think of starting them.
-Ben Brown (@FelixTheDog23 on Twitter, iamatechnician on Reddit)