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Fantasy Football Picks: Patriots vs. Rams DraftKings NFL DFS TNF Showdown Strategy

Garion Thorne preps you for Thursday’s 8:20 p.m. ET contest between the Patriots and the Rams with game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

I’m not sure if I’d go so far as to say tonight’s matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams is ironic; but in a year’s that’s seen the former struggle for basically the first time in two decades, it’s fitting to see them meet the franchise that “started” the Patriots’ dynasty. Thursday’s contest is a rematch of both Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl LIII, with New England having won both of those high profile games. Still, I wouldn’t begin conjuring images of the “Greatest Show on Turf” or peak Tom Brady, as this evening’s festivities don’t project to be all that pretty from an offensive perspective.

What does that mean for Showdown? Let’s break it all down.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $2.25M Thursday Millionaire [$1M to 1st] (NE vs LAR)



SHOWDOWN STRATEGY

Captain’s Picks

Editor’s Note: Patriots QB Cam Newton (abdomen) is active for tonight’s game vs. the Rams.

Cam Newton ($15,900 CP) - While Newton is technically listed as questionable for tonight’s game with an abdomen issue, I’d expect the former MVP to play through the injury as he did in last week’s win over the Chargers. Here’s the thing about Newton’s fantasy value in 2020: It’s never aesthetically pleasing, but the QB tends to find a way to get things done. Newton’s registered at least 19.0 DKFP in seven of his 11 starts this season, despite the Patriots lacking many true weapons at the skill positions and the team running the ball on a whopping 52.5% of their plays. Honestly, you can chalk up any success to Newton’s ability to cosplay as a bulldozer. No quarterback has scored as many rushing touchdowns as Newton’s 11, which is the main reason he comes into Week 14 averaging the fourth-most fantasy points per drop back (0.64) in the NFL. New England continues to be a difficult squad to project on a week-to-week basis, but Newton serving as the team’s No. 1 rushing option in the red zone seems to be set in stone. That’s a crucial element to this slate.

Cam Akers ($12,000 CP) - To be perfectly honest, I’m terrified of this Rams backfield, but this also doesn’t seem like the kind of matchup where I’d be comfortable leaning on Jared Goff ($11,000) — especially with how he performed against Bill Belichick disciple Brian Flores back in Week 8. Plus, at the end of the day, the Patriots are a team you want to run against. New England enters this matchup ranking sixth-worst in rush defense DVOA, as the unit has surrendered an ugly 4.70 adjusted line yards per opponent carry so far in 2020. So, while Darrell Henderson ($7,400) and Malcolm Brown ($2,400) still exist, it’s Akers who is coming off setting career-highs in rushing attempts (21), scrimmage yards (94) and snap share (63%) in Los Angeles’ 38-28 victory over Arizona. If the rookie sees anything close to the same amount of volume on Thursday, he’ll be a steal at this price point.


FLEX Plays

Cooper Kupp ($9,600) - As I mentioned above, I’m not exactly sold on the Rams’ passing attack being all that effective in this matchup. However, while that trepidation will refrain me from using Kupp as a Captain on this slate, I’m still fine to get some exposure to the WR in a FLEX spot. The logic here is pretty simple. With decorated corners Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson on the boundaries, the “weakness” in the Patriots’ secondary is slot CB Jonathan Jones, who has been targeted on a notable 22% of the routes he’s covered this season. Los Angeles does vary its offensive alignments, but the team has also seen Kupp line up in the slot on a massive 61% of his routes. Without question, he is the wideout that will be given the most opportunity to exploit this matchup. I mean, not to keep forcing this comparison, but, against a similarly structured defense in Miami, Kupp finished with 20 targets and 25.0 DKFP. I doubt we see quite that level of involvement again, yet that’s the power of the funnel effect.

Patriots D/ST ($4,200) - I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that New England won’t post consecutive shutouts in the span of five days, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t still a good spot to use the defense. Really, your level of interest in Patriots D/ST as a viable DFS asset correlates directly to how you feel about the aforementioned Goff going up against another Belichick defense. I, for one, am not overly enthused by the idea. This also isn’t just about a single team having Goff’s number, the former first-overall pick fits the archetype of a quarterback that can implode on any given evening. Heck, Goff’s managed to turn the ball over 10 times in his past five starts and that doesn’t include a fumble he had against the Buccaneers in Week 11 that he was able to recover. Simply put, the presence of Goff creates a high ceiling for whatever defense he happens to be facing that week.

Damiere Byrd ($800) - In a vacuum, I’m not thrilled about Byrd’s matchup on Thursday. Regardless of which side of the field he lines up on, the wideout will be at a disadvantage, as Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams make up arguably the best cornerback duo in football. However, we don’t play fantasy in a vacuum, and Byrd’s price tag is absolutely ridiculous. The 27-year-old not only leads all Patriots in targets (59) and receiving yards (518) in 2020, but he’s logged at least 72% of the team’s offensive snaps in every single game so far this season. Truly, Byrd only needs a couple of receptions at this salary to bring back legitimate value, which is not out of the question considering he’s registered multiple catches in nine of New England’s 12 games. This is an obvious overcorrection to Newton throwing for just 69 yards in a blowout script this past Sunday.


Fades

Jared Goff ($11,000) - I think everyone saw this coming, right? Clearly there’s something to be said for overwhelming volume — Goff’s thrown the ball at least 30 times in all but one start in 2020 — but I can’t see myself paying $11K for a flawed QB in a difficult matchup. I mean, even Sean McVay doesn’t really trust Goff, as evidenced by the quarterback averaging a microscopic 3.5 air yards per attempt in last week’s win over Arizona. That’s just not a sustainable path to DFS success, especially when squaring off with a unit as good as New England’s. To wit, the Patriots have conceded 300 passing yards to a QB two times since the beginning of 2019. This season, when Goff doesn’t hit the 300-yard bonus, he’s producing a mere 14.3 DKFP per game. I think I’ll pass.


THE OUTCOME

To be completely honest, I don’t really have all that strong a take on which team will win tonight’s contest. However, I do like it to be low-scoring. The last four Patriots games have all gone under, while the Rams’ past five home games have shared a similar fate. Essentially, these are two squads with great defenses and incredibly inconsistent offenses. To me, that signals there won’t be many trips to the end zone on Thursday night.

Final Score: New England 20, Los Angeles 17

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $2.25M Thursday Millionaire [$1M to 1st] (NE vs LAR)


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