Los Angeles Rams (8-7, 7-8 ATS) at Baltimore Ravens (8-7, 7-8), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s Rams Stats and Trends
The Rams have posted 28+ points in four of their last five games.
Los Angeles has won and covered in four straight games.
Matthew Stafford is in a get-right spot this week after posting season-worsts in YPA (5.3), passing yards (197), and interceptions (3) in Los Angeles’ 30-point performance against the Vikings last week. Joe Burrow shredded this Ravens’ secondary for 525/4 passing and 11.4 YPA, which was the fourth-most passing yards by a quarterback in a single game. Aaron Rodgers went for 268/3 passing against them in Week 15 and there’s no end to the bleeding in sight with Stafford coming to town. The Ravens also lost one of its top remaining CBs, Anthony Averett, to a rib injury.
Cooper Kupp has plenty to play for in the final two weeks of the season. He needs 231 yards to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record of 1964 set in 2012, and he needs 266 yards to become the first player to reach 2K yards. Kupp also needs 18 receptions to break Michael Thomas’ single-season receptions record of 149 set in 2002. Kupp is averaging 8.8 catches and 115.6 receiving yards per game so he’s just about on pace to break both records. Tyler Boyd posted 3/85/1 receiving on five targets in this matchup last week.
Odell Beckham has scored in four of his last five games after posting 4/37/1 receiving on eight targets last week to bounce back from his one-catch performance in Week 15. Van Jefferson has managed just 3/29 receiving on eight targets in his last two games after running off 14+ FP with a touchdown in three straight contests. OBJ and Jefferson have potential blow-up spots this week against a decimated Ravens’ secondary that just allowed Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase to combine for 19/319/2 receiving on 23 targets last week.
Tyler Higbee posted a pretty standard 5/41 receiving line last week on six targets after missing two contests on the COVID list. He’s still topped 12+ FP once this season, and he’s scored once since Week 5. C.J. Uzomah finished with 5/36 receiving on seven targets in this matchup last week.
Sony Michel will be the man in the Rams’ backfield through the end of the regular season after Darrell Henderson landed on the injured reserve. Jake Funk was the next man up last week but HC Sean McVay said they’d like to work Cam Akers into the mix for the first time this season after he tore his Achilles this off-season. Either way, expect Michel to dominate the work in this backfield for a fourth straight week. He’s averaging 22.3/105.8 rushing per game with two scores in that span. The Ravens are giving up just 3.8 YPC and the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (72.7) to RBs this season.
Brolley’s Ravens Stats and Trends
The Ravens have played over the total in three straight games with their defense allowing 32.0 points per game in that stretch, and their last two games have gone over the total by 16+ points against the Packers and Bengals.
Baltimore is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 home games.
Lamar Jackson is on track to return this week after missing the last two games. He’s been miserable since Week 9, averaging 6.0 YPA with six TDs and eight INTs in his last four full games. He’s at least still averaging 70.5 rushing yards per game in that same span to keep his fantasy production afloat. The Rams have allowed just one touchdown to quarterbacks over their last four games.
Mark Andrews is on an absolute heater the last three week, and it’s primarily come with Tyler Huntley and Josh Johnson at quarterback. He’s finished with 8+ catches, 10+ targets, 115+ yards, and 1+ TDs in each of his last three contests. We’ll see if he can continue his hot play with Lamar reinserted into the lineup. The Rams have given up 4+ catches and 40+ yards to individual TEs in three straight games. Andrews said this week that he wouldn’t be surprised if top CB Jalen Ramsey matches up with him some on Sunday.
Marquise Brown hasn’t reached 60+ receiving yards in six straight games despite seeing 5+ catches in each of those contests. Opponents have been conceding underneath targets to Hollywood with his aDOT plummeting from 15.0 yards through Week 9 to only 8.3 yards in Weeks 10-16 — Keenan Allen’s aDOT sits at 9.0 yards for the season. The Rams are giving up just 12.0 YPR but the sixth-most receiving yards per game (169.1) to WRs.
Rashod Bateman posted only one catch for five yards on two targets in Week 15, but he put up 7/108 receiving on 8 targets in Week 14 and 4/26/1 in Week 16. Most notably from last week, Bateman played on 81% of the snaps compared to just 5% for Sammy Watkins. K.J. Osborn slipped loose for 5/68/1 receiving on seven targets in this matchup last week.
Devonta Freeman found the end zone last week but he’s otherwise vanished the last two weeks. He posted a combined 12/39/1 rushing and 3/5 receiving while playing 56% of the snaps in both games, which came with Lamar out of the lineup. The Rams limited Alexander Mattison to 13/41/1 rushing and 3/29 receiving last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 25.6 (10th)
Plays per game: 63.0 (17th)
Pass: 65.5% (3rd) | Run: 34.5% (30th)
Pace: 25.6 (9th)
Plays per game: 71.8 (1st)
Pass: 61.6% (12th) | Run: 38.4% (21st)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Even though Matthew Stafford is coming off his worst game as a Ram, this is an eruption spot for their passing attack as a whole given how badly beat up the Ravens secondary is. HC Sean McVay is going to dial up an extremely pass-heavy attack here – which plays right into their strengths. Over the last eight weeks, the Rams are first in pass rate when trailing, third in pass rate when leading, and sixth when the game is within a score. Cooper Kupp’s league-winning season should end with a bang.
While we wait on whether or not Lamar Jackson can suit up, the fact that at least Tyler Huntley will be under center gives this game plenty of life. Despite Lamar missing essentially three games, this Ravens offense still ranks 16th in plays per game and they are actually second in pass rate over the last three weeks. HC John Harbaugh has done a phenomenal job at keeping this team together despite all of their injuries and staying aggressive. As 5-point underdogs here, the Ravens will likely have to air it out no matter if it’s Jackson or Huntley under center. This is one of the few games on the Week 17 slate that has high-scoring upside and is the No. 2 game in the pace / play model overall.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Darrell Henderson Jr. was just placed on IR with an MCL sprain in his right knee. Cam Akers was listed with full involvement during Wednesday’s walkthrough. If Akers plays and manages to handle anything more than five touches, my mind will be blown. His return to the field would be only a few days in excess of five months since rupturing his Achilles during training camp. Baltimore has provided a significant headache to opposing ground games, limiting them to 85.6 rushing YPG (the fewest) and 3.9 YPC (sixth-fewest).
However, the Ravens’ RB allowances have taken a significant hit since the health of their secondary personnel imploded. They have packaged the 11th-most FPG to RBs during the last four weeks (23.8). And the substantial likelihood that Sony Michel will shoulder a similar workload to the 82/74/11 (percentages of carries/team routes/targets) he took last week, he’ll satisfy the golden rule we must always justify when considering options heading into substantial matchups: is the expected volume at a level high enough to exceed the matchup difficulty? For Michel in Week 17, he will absolutely see that type of volume if he takes anything close to the 28 touches he took last week.
With disappointing results in pass defense during the first half of the season relative to the expectations of a Jalen Ramsey-led defense, an altered role for Ramsey the last five weeks have initiated the process of correcting the team’s metrics. After not doing so in the first 10 games, in three of his last four games, Ramsey has tailed the opposition’s WR1. In shadow coverage over Davante Adams, DK Metcalf, and Justin Jefferson, Ramsey has limited the trio to an average of 3.7 receptions, 30 receiving yards, zero TDs, and 6.7/4.8 FPs on 18 total targets.
Marquise Brown’s numbers were already on a sharp decline with Lamar Jackson dealing with an ankle injury and Tyler Huntley landing on the COVID list last week. Good luck against Jalen Ramsey — even on only a percentage of routes this week — in coverage.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Rams need Matthew Stafford to be better if they’re going to win the Super Bowl. It’s that simple. Fortunately, if you want a matchup that’s going to provide him with ample opportunity, you’re looking at one against a decimated secondary, and he gets LT Andrew Whitworth back from the COVID list, as well.
Here’s Graham from Start/Sit on Stafford:
“Stafford is coming off his worst start of the season, posting season-lows in FP (6.7) and yards (197) while he struggled with mistakes all game long against the Vikings. His poor game is part of a smaller sample trend as of late with lower scores than normal after a hot start. Stafford has now scored fewer than 16 FP in four of his last 7 games after never dipping below 16.5 FP once in his first eight games. Well, this is an ideal bounceback spot in perfect time for championship week against a Ravens secondary that is in shambles. Obviously, Joe Burrow’s gaudy 525-yard performance is burned into everyone’s brains but this secondary was showing signs of cracking even before that. Over the full season, only Washington (22.9) has given up more FPG to QBs than the Ravens (19.8) and this secondary has allowed multiple passing scores five times in their last six games with the lone passer failing to do so being Baker Mayfield. I’m going back to Stafford as a top-5 play for Week 17.”
Here’s how Scott Barrett is approaching these receivers, from Start/Sit:
“Beckham and Van Jefferson can both be started this week, as high-end WR3s, but I strongly prefer Beckham.
Jefferson has seen at least 6 targets in 7 of his last 9 games, averaging 6.1 targets and 10.6 FPG over this span. But twice over the last three weeks he’s failed to hit that mark, and his least productive outings have come over his last two games, where he’s averaged just 3.0 FPG.
Beckham has now out-targeted Jefferson in three straight games, and he’s averaging 6.6 targets and 13.0 FPG (WR22) over his last five games. And he’ll get the best of this drool-inducing matchup, as he runs 79% of his routes from the perimeter, in contrast to Jefferson’s 53% and Cooper Kupp’s 45%.
Baltimore ranks middle-of-the-pack against slot WRs, thanks to the tough coverage of Tavon Young. But they rank worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (25.5). And they’re considerably worse now on the outside than even these numbers imply.
Baltimore lost CB Marlon Humphrey (out for the year) in Week 14, after already losing CB Marcus Peters in training camp. They were forced to start Anthony Averett and Chris Westry on the perimeter, with Young in the slot. But Averett left Sunday’s game with a chest injury and Westry is on the COVID-19 list.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen some monster games from perimeter WRs facing Baltimore: Tee Higgins (43.4 fantasy points), Ja’Marr Chase (19.5), Davante Adams (16.4), and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (20.8). And over their previous four games: Donovan Peoples-Jones (90 yards), Diontae Johnson (30.5 fantasy points), Darnell Mooney (23.1), and Marquise Goodwin (20.4).
Cooper Kupp should have a field day, of course, but there’s still plenty of room for Beckham to hit big.”
It’s a bad matchup for RB Sony Michel, but it’s still impossible to sit him, given Michel has provided the Rams with a stabilizing force in the backfield the last number of weeks, and now Darrell Henderson is on IR with a knee injury. Over the last four weeks, only David Montgomery and Javonte Williams have scored more fantasy points at the RB position than Michel.
By the way, major, major credit to Ram RB Cam Akers (Achilles) for rehabbing like crazy to get to the point where he could even possibly be activated this season, but it doesn’t look like this week will be in the cards.
With Lamar Jackson limping through a limited practice on Wednesday and then being shut down again, it’s looking like Tyler Huntley will start at QB for the Ravens this week — he’s been activated off the COVID list.
Tyler Huntley returned to practice Thursday after being activated off reserve/COVID list.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 30, 2021
Huntley is expected to take first-team reps with Lamar Jackson not practicing.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Huntley might not yet be 100%.
Huntley said he had some "tough symptoms" from COVID-19. "It really hit me (last Friday)." Said he found out he was positive on Christmas Day and "it was a tough weekend for me." He said he's feeling much better now.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) December 31, 2021
Frankly, Huntley has been just fine for fantasy in his own right and has been legit good for the receiving group here. Both WRs Marquise Brown (who missed Thursday practice with an “illness”) and Rashod Bateman are WR3s, but the real king has been TE Mark Andrews.
Mark Andrews said he knows he needs just 15 yards to break Michael Jackson's 1996 receiving record of 1,062 yards.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) December 29, 2021
"That's a big thing. That's something where your name is stapled in. ... That's some thing I'm looking forward to, for sure, to have that." pic.twitter.com/xthpQyeQ6s
Here’s Scott Barrett from The XFP Report on a changing of the guard at the top of the TE position:
“It looks like there’s still a Big-3 at the TE position, only this time the names have changed. Andrews leads all TEs in FPG (18.0), ahead of Travis Kelce (16.9) and George Kittle (15.6). TE4 Rob Gronkowski is 36% off the position-high (13.2 FPG), and TE5 Darren Waller is 39% behind (12.9 FPG).
And Andrews continues to widen the gap. He’s finished as a top-5 fantasy TE in an astounding six of his last seven games. He’s seen at least 8 targets in each of his last nine games. And since Week 5, he averages 10.0 targets, 17.2 XFP/G, and 20.2 FPG. Those numbers lead all TEs over this span, and, among wide receivers, rank 9th-, 10th-, and 4th-best.
Even across the full season, Andrews would rank 7th among all wide receivers in FPG (17.7). There are few fantasy cheat codes as powerful as owning a fantasy TE who is putting up mid-range WR1-levels of production. So, it’s not surprising ESPN is showing Andrews to be the 2nd-most valuable commodity in all of fantasy, behind only Cooper Kupp.
And Lamar Jackson’s absence hasn’t slowed down Andrews at all. In fact, the reverse is true. Andrews has flashed an unreal ceiling this year, posting highs of 44.7, 38.6, 31.5, and 29.5 DK fantasy points. But the latter three scores have all come without Lamar Jackson.
And, so, maybe Andrews owners should be rooting against a quick return for Jackson. Jackson easily ranks worst in PFF pass grade since Week 6 (46.3), and Andrews is averaging 53% more fantasy points per route run without Jackson under center.”