Los Angeles Rams (10-4, 7-7 ATS) at Minnesota Vikings (7-7, 8-6), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Rams Stats and Trends
The Rams have covered consecutive games after failing to cover in five straight games before that.
Los Angeles is 6-2-1 toward overs in their last nine games.
Cooper Kupp is three games away from joining the receiving Triple Crown club after posting 9/136/2 receiving against the Seahawks in Week 15. He’s easily pacing the league in receptions (122), receiving yards (1625), and receiving TDs (14). Shocker, but Jerry Rice is the first player to do it in the modern era with 100/1502/13 receiving in 1990, and he also owns the career receiving Triple Crown with 1549/22,895/197 receiving. Sterling Sharpe followed Rice in 1992 with 108/1461/13 receiving, and Steve Smith is the last player to do it 16 years ago with 103/1563/12 receiving in 2005. Kupp will stay hot in the best fantasy WR matchup in the league — Minny is giving up 41.8 FPG to WRs.
Matthew Stafford has thrown for multiple TDs in four straight games (11 overall) since he mustered just two TDs in Weeks 9-10 before their bye. He should keep the good times rolling this week against a Vikings’ defense that gave up three TD passes each to Big Ben and Jared Goff in Weeks 13-14 before giving up 17.9 FP to Justin Fields last week.
Van Jefferson’s three-game run with a touchdown and 14+ FP ended with a thud in Week 15 with just 2/23 receiving on two targets against the Seahawks. He’s now seen just five targets in his last two games, but he’s making the most of his limited opportunities with his 16.3 YPR average and his six TDs. The Vikings are giving up a generous 13.7 YPR and the most receiving yards per game (190.7) to WRs this season.
Odell Beckham had been running hot with TDs and double-digit FP in three consecutive games before turning in just a seven-yard catch on three targets against the Seahawks last week. The Vikings have allowed 10 different WRs to reach double-digit FP over their last four games.
Tyler Higbee has been on the COVID list the last two weeks, which means he hasn’t scored double-digit FP since Week 10. He’s scored 12+ FP just once in a game this season way back in Week 3, and he owns just three TDs in 12 games. The Vikings have given up four TDs to tight ends in their last three games.
Sony Michel staked his claim to be the team’s lead runner moving forward with 18/92 rushing and 2/23 receiving on 73% of the snaps while Darrell Henderson managed just 8/27 scrimmage on a 27% snap share last week. Seven of Henderson’s eight touches came in the first half and HC Sean McVay could continue to use the hot-hand approach moving forward. He clearly decided at halftime that Michel gave them the best chance in the second half in Week 15, but this backfield could still be volatile moving forward. At the very least, Michel is trending up and Hendo is trending down in recent weeks heading into their matchup with the Vikings, who are giving up the 13th-most FPG (23.8) to RBs this season.
Brolley’s Vikings Stats and Trends
The Vikings are 5-2 ATS in their last seven contests.
Minnesota is 4-1 toward overs in its last five games.
Dalvin Cook has handled 28 and 30 touches in two games since he returned from his dislocated shoulder, so he’s right back into his bellcow role despite his injury. He’s managed just 3/19 receiving since he returned after stringing together three consecutive games with 5+ FP in receiving production before his injury. It won’t matter, though, as the unvaccinated Cook will miss this week after landing on the COVID list. Alexander Mattison has accounted for 25+ touches and 120+ scrimmage yards in each of his three starts for Cook with two touchdowns in those contests. James Conner ripped the Rams for 22/125/2 scrimmage two weeks ago, but they’re giving up just 3.7 YPC to RBs this season.
Kirk Cousins turned in his two ugliest performances of the season in Weeks 14-15 in primetime games without Adam Thielen. He completed just 47.3% of his passes for 304 yards while averaging 5.5 YPA the last two games, but he at least extended his run with multiple TDs to seven straight games. The Rams haven’t given up a TD pass in three straight games, and they’re giving up the sixth-fewest FPG (16.8) to QBs.
Justin Jefferson is on an absolute heater since he saw just nine combined targets in Weeks 8-9. He’s scored 13+ FP in seven straight games, and he’s seen 9+ targets in six consecutive contests. He’ll tangle with Jalen Ramsey and company this week, and they just limited D.K. Metcalf to 6/52 receiving on 12 targets last week.
Adam Thielen suffered a high-ankle sprain early in Week 13 and he’s sat out the last two weeks. He nearly played without practicing last Monday night so he has a solid chance of returning this week. With Cousins playing miserably last week, Thielen’s replacement K.J. Osborn managed just 3/21 receiving against the Bears after posting 14+ FP in his first two games with Thielen out of the lineup. Thielen had 10 TDs in his first 11 full games before his Week 13 injury. The Rams are giving up the second-fewest receiving TDs per game (.5) to WRs this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.2 (16th)
Plays per game: 62.4 (20th)
Pass: 65.5% (6th) | Run: 34.5% (27th)
Pace: 27.1 (7th)
Plays per game: 62.8 (19th)
Pass: 56.8% (24th) | Run: 43.2% (9th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Rams might not quite be fully back to their early season ways where they opened up the first eight weeks averaging 30.6 points per game, but they are damn close. Since their Week 12 bye, L.A. has scored on exactly 50% of their possessions – which is the third-highest rate over the last month. They are certainly in the right spot to keep their success rolling, too, because this Vikings secondary is in shambles. Over their last five weeks, no defense has given up more yards per game (300.8) and passing TDs (12) than Minnesota. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp are going to shred this defense no matter how this game plays out. L.A. ranks fourth in pass rate in close games, they are the second-most pass-heavy team when trailing, and they’re fifth when leading.
Minnesota continued their streak of playing in the most bizarre game possible every single week in their 17-9 win over Chicago that was really a blowout. The Vikings played down to an inferior opponent once again last week, but they’ll obviously not be afforded a similar situation here – especially given how bad their defense is.
Overall, this game is an easy green light for a potential shootout and is one of the few matchups on the slate with 55+ total points as the upside. L.A. is obviously in a prime spot with the way they play and how pass-heavy they are, but the Vikings can put up points here too. This offense is humming in the red-zone and they’ve scored a TD on 66% of their RZ possessions over the last eight weeks. In a perfect bit of yin & yang, the Rams red-zone defense has been atrocious as of late. LA is allowing their opponents to score a TD on a league-high 77% of their red-zone possessions.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
How many opportunities will we have to roster a RB with a very high probability of touching the ball 30 times this season? For RBs on the main slate this week, 30 touches have been achieved on only nine occasions. Three by Dalvin Cook, two by Najee Harris, once by D’Andre Swift, and twice by Alexander Mattison. Direct your attention to the fact that, with five total 30-touch examples, the Vikings have fed their featured RBs with that number in 36% of their games this season. And Mattison took 30 touches in two-of-three starts (67%).
The potential return of Adam Thielen might help, but Justin Jefferson will need Thielen to post consistent numbers right out of the gate for Jalen Ramsey to redirect his attention. And the fact that JJets is going to be chasing history in Week 16 will almost guarantee a devoted shadow:
Justin Jefferson is on the brink of @NFL history.— Troy Vincent, Sr. (@TroyVincentSr) December 22, 2021
On #MNF, @JJettas2 reached 2,735 career rec. yards, passing @ProFootballHOF-er @RandyMoss for 2nd most in a player's first 2 seasons in the Super Bowl era.
He needs 21 more yards to pass @obj and set a new record. #Skol pic.twitter.com/FcUmczBSH5
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Rams offense got another weapon last week when Darrell Henderson returned from injury and the COVID list, but Sony Michel remained the lead back.
Here’s Graham from Start/Sit on his approach in this backfield:
“With Darrell Henderson back from his thigh injury and a stint on the COVID list, we got clarity on how HC Sean McVay views his running backs. Sony Michel took control of this backfield on Tuesday and played on 73% of the snaps while Henderson was at 27%. What was especially surprising is how little Henderson played on passing downs. Michel ran 25 routes while Henderson ran just eight. If Henderson has lost the early-down work and passing down snaps to Michel… what does he have left? Michel is running inspired and physically and has clearly carved out the “1A” role in this backfield. Even in this likely high scoring game, Henderson is nothing more than a hail mary FLEX option.”
Anyway… how about this wrinkle?
LA Rams Transactions:— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) December 23, 2021
• Designated for Return RB Cam Akers
I seriously doubt Cam Akers (Achilles) will be ready to play before the end of the regular season, but he gives the Rams some potential options during the playoffs, and some hope to those who have him in keeper/dynasty formats.
Here’s some advice on this Ram passing game — START ‘EM! Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp… and everyone else.
Graham has more:
“Both OBJ and Jefferson flopped on Tuesday while Cooper Kupp (shocker!) dominated once again. However, I’m going back to both Odell Beckham and Van Jefferson as strong WR3 starts here in a likely high-scoring affair with the Vikings. Both Beckham and Jefferson were full-time players last week as the Rams continue using 3-WR sets exclusively as their base offense. While they didn’t get many targets in what ended up being a very methodical, slow-paced game against Seattle last week – playing against the much higher scoring Vikings should provide a longer runway for success. Especially since Minnesota is giving up a whopping 41.6 FPG to opposing WRs over the last five weeks, which is a league-high. This secondary has allowed 10 (!!) different receivers to get over 60 yards against them in this span.”
The Rams did activate TE Tyler Higbee off the COVID list, by the way. He’s a back-end TE1.
The Vikings are the Vikings. The only differences this week is RB Dalvin Cook (COVID — unvaccinated) is out and will be replaced by Alexander Mattison, who is off the COVID list. Mattison has been a slam-dunk RB1 when Cook misses in his career.
Moreover, it looks like Minnesota could be getting WR Adam Thielen (ankle) back this week, alongside Justin Jefferson. That would be welcome news. If Thielen plays, I consider him a TD-dependent WR3 on the likelihood he isn’t 100%.
Mike Zimmer said Adam Thielen was "close" to being able to play vs. Chicago. Team is doing a walk thru today so he won't be going through a normal practice but it sounds like he'll be ready for the Rams game.— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) December 22, 2021
Jefferson, meanwhile, has his hands full with CB Jalen Ramsey. You’re obviously still starting him, but it’ll be a battle to watch.
Justin Jefferson said he's had the Rams game circled for a while because he wants to go against Jalen Ramsey. He called it a "statement game" and a chance to "solidify myself" as a top receiver by playing well against Ramsey.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) December 23, 2021