Kickoff: Sunday, October 16th, 2022, 4:05 pm EST
Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California
Betting Odds: LAR -10.5, 41 o/u total via oddshark.com
Writer: Myles Nelson (@MylesNelsonPL on Twitter)
PJ Walker (Sit)
I’m really wracking my brain for any type of league in which you might consider starting PJ Walker. Maybe a 2 QB, superflex league where you can start up to three quarterbacks? One of those leagues where you want to try and have the lowest score of the week? Walker, for his career, has two passing touchdowns and eight interceptions, with a completion percentage of just 57%. Just don’t do it.
Christian McCaffrey (Start, RB1)
Christian McCaffrey is the lone bright spot in a Carolina offense that has been in the bottom-10 for just about every conceivable team metric, except for rushing yards per attempt (which McCaffrey has something to do with). He has put up at least 13 PPR points in every single game this year, is the 5th ranked RB on the season for total points scored, and in the last game that McCaffrey and PJ Walker started together, McCaffrey had 10 receptions on 10 targets and 161 yards from scrimmage. Even though this Rams defense has been the #1 defense against opposing RBs for fantasy scoring purposes, you still have to roll with McCaffrey.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
DJ Moore (WR3, Flex), Robbie Anderson (Sit)
Let’s start this off by saying that you are taking a massive risk to play DJ Moore this week. PJ Walker could certainly tank this Carolina offense even further than it has been already (hard to believe, but it’s possible), and that would make Moore borderline unstartable. The only thing that is giving me any kind of optimism here is that the Rams have actually not been that great against the pass this year. They have allowed the 4th-most points to opposing WRs this year in PPR scoring, and that has included giving up big games to Drake London (with Marcus Mariota at QB), Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel (with Jimmy Garoppolo at QB). Plus, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup both just had serviceable outings against the Rams in a script where the Cowboys were in the lead the whole game and only threw for 102 yards. The Panthers will be playing from behind, they will be throwing more, and DJ Moore has produced enough that if you are in a bind at wide receiver, you can probably plug your nose and put Moore in there and come away with enough points for him to not have killed you. Robbie Anderson, on the other hand, has not produced anything of note this season, and it’s not like he and Walker have some chemistry dating back to the few times Walker has started for the Panthers. Leave him on the wire and out of your lineup.
Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford (QB2)
If you look at how this season has gone for Matthew Stafford, there’s really little-to-no reason to play him. He’s had one game all season above 15 points, and watching the Rams play you would be hard-pressed to find anything to like in the Rams offense. The offensive line has allowed the third-highest sack percentage, ahead of only the Giants and the Bears, and Stafford has looked remarkably poor under pressure, something we aren’t used to from him. And this is also a bad game-script for him, as the Rams will likely get out to a lead early and then play conservatively like they did against the Cardinals in Week 3 (10-0 lead in the first quarter, and Stafford threw just 25 pass attempts that game).
However, with all that said, this Carolina defense has been pretty average at defending the pass, and they do not pressure the QB well, with the fifth-lowest sack percentage in the league. And probably most damning of all, who are you going to start over him? Our next-ranked QBs in his tier are Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Justin Fields, and Marcus Mariota. Can you really start any of them with confidence over Stafford? If you already have another QB on your roster, perhaps Kirk Cousins or Geno Smith, go ahead and start them over Stafford. But you aren’t likely to find anyone on the wire who’s going to be any better than Stafford.
Darrell Henderson Jr (Start, RB2), Cam Akers (OUT) – Updated 10/15
If this weren’t a split backfield, I would love to be able to recommend starting one of these two running backs. And I can only really throw them in consideration of your last starting spot in your lineup because there’s a good chance there will be a decent number of touches for them, and opportunity is king in fantasy football. Akers has had 12 carries or more in three of the past four weeks, and Henderson has had at least three receptions in three games so far this year. If I could combine those numbers into one running back, well it still wouldn’t be an exciting situation but at least that would be a startable player. A bigger issue, at least in my opinion, is the fact that they hardly get any high-value touches either. Akers and Henderson have combined for just six carries inside the 10-yard line all season long, and just fifteen total carries inside the 20-yard line. That’s three red-zone carries, combined, per game. There just isn’t enough here to get excited about either of them, even in a matchup where the Rams will likely be running the ball consistently.
UPDATE: With the news around Cam Akers missing this week’s game due to what seems to be some team issues, Darrell Henderson looks to get the majority of the work to himself. With Carolina not very good defensively against the run, and now the majority of the work going to Henderson, he should be a high-floor RB2 option for you. Over the past four weeks, Akers and Henderson have combined for an average of 19 touches per game, which also mirrors roughly how many touches Henderson had in Week 1 when he played the majority of the snaps. The effectiveness of the Rams offense is still questionable, but there’s no doubt that the opportunities will be plentiful for Henderson this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Cooper Kupp (Start, WR1), Allen Robinson (Sit), Tyler Higbee (Start, TE1)
I really hope I don’t need to explain to anyone why they should be starting Cooper Kupp. He’s the fifth-highest scorer in PPR leagues, with only quarterbacks in front of him. As for Allen Robinson, I would love to be able to point to some underlying metric as to why he’s still got hope, but the unfortunate reality is that there really is little hope for Robinson. The Rams aren’t designing plays for him, they aren’t targeting him, and he has not been open much at all this season. He’s been out-targeted by Ben Skowronek, which is not where Robinson wants to be. He’s a touchdown-dependent wide receiver, and that’s not someone that I want to start.
Tight end Tyler Higbeemight actually be part of the reason for Allen Robinson’s woes. Higbee has really emerged as the #2 option in this offense, going from someone who historically has seen his targets fluctuate wildly to a consistent member of this offense. Last year, he had just two games all season with 9 targets or more, and this year he has hit that number in four of the five games they have played. And the fact is, these numbers aren’t increased just due to him playing more snaps, or running more routes, but as a result of Stafford and the Rams making a more concerted effort to target Higbee. Last year, Higbee was targeted on 16% of his routes run, and this year that number is up to 25% (for some context on that number, Robinson has been targeted on just 10% of his routes run, whereas Kupp has been targeted on 28% of his routes run). So Higbee’s target-share is now Kupp-esque, which makes him a must-start in PPR leagues and still a good floor option at tight end in other formats.