In 2006, the NFL introduced its flexible scheduling concept. It’s weeks like this we should be thankful for that. Instead of having to watch Jon Gruden’s pursed lips march up and down the sideline with no answer for Antonio Brown on Sunday night, we are being treated to a matchup featuring two Super Bowl hopefuls, the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears.
The line for this game is 51.5, tied for second highest of the week, with the Rams currently sitting as 3-point favorites on the road. The implied score for this game is 27-24, Rams.
(Other than cold temperatures throughout the evening, there is no snow or significant wind in the forecast.)
There are no major injuries for the Rams. Their backup running back, Malcolm Brown, was recently ruled out for the season. Other than that, there are no impactful injuries.
The Bears get Mitchell Trubisky back after he missed the last two games with a shoulder injury.
Safety Eddie Jackson sat out Friday’s practice with a shin injury but all signs point to him playing and that his absence from practice was mostly a rest day.
The Rams have only played two games since Cooper Kupp’s season-ending knee injury, with one of those games being the offensive circus on Monday Night Football against Kansas City in Week 11. They don’t appear to have changed their offense much, if at all, following Kupp’s injury. This allows us to still look at historical offensive trends through the season and not just the two games since Kupp went down for the season.
Jared Goff averages 34.5 pass attempts per game. This number has shot up to 39.2 attempts per game over the last five games or 36.75 if you exclude his 49 throws against Kansas City. On the season, the Rams are averaging 28.75 rush attempts per game but only 25.2 attempts per game over the last five games. Are the Rams trending in a more pass-happy direction? It will be an interesting trend to monitor especially considering this week in Chicago is their last cold weather game of the regular season.
Goff faces a stiff test this week against the Bears, who have given up the fourth-fewest DraftKings points per game to quarterbacks over the last four weeks. The Rams QB himself has scored the seventh-most DraftKings points over that same time span. Something has to give. Goff looked like an average quarterback against Detroit last week en route to his second-worst fantasy outing of the year. His worst outing came back in Week 6 against the Broncos, which was the second of three straight road games for the Rams. This week they’ll play their second straight road game, against an even better defense. Goff may be throwing the ball more now than he was earlier in the year, but the Bears have limited quarterback production at an elite level this season. The Bears lead the league in interceptions with at least one in all but one game this season (surprisingly the Jets, led by Sam Darnold, are the only team to not throw a pick against the Bears this year). I would be hard pressed to put Jared Goff in my lineup outside of a pure contrarian play.
What makes the Bears such an interesting defense to plan against for DFS is that they have allowed the fourth-fewest DraftKings points per game to quarterbacks over the last four weeks, but they’ve given up the eight-most points to wide receivers. So, while I’m not inclined to throw Goff in my lineup, I’m not necessarily scared off of using the Rams’ wide receivers. Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are the two main guys here. Woods has seen 20 targets to Cooks’ 18 targets over the last two games and on the season Woods has 99 targets to Cooks’ 90. There is no significant difference between the two in terms of opportunities.
Woods is $300 more expensive than Cooks on DraftKings and I’m not sure why. Woods hasn’t topped 100 yards since Week 6, which was also the last time he topped five receptions. The targets have been there reliably for Woods, as he’s had at least seven targets in all but one game since Week 5. The Kupp injury hasn’t materially increased Woods’ target share as those Kupp looks have mostly gone to Josh Reynolds. Woods runs nearly 50% of his routes out of the slot, which will see him matched up with Bryce Callahan. Callahan has been excellent this year and will be a tough matchup for Woods. All that considered, Woods looks safe for cash-game lineups (he’s had at least 70 yards or a TD every week since Week 2), but I don’t see him being the cornerstone of a winning GPP lineup.
Cooks is the wide receiver that I’m excited about this week. Prior to last week in Detroit, he had recorded three straight 100-yard games. He’s also been the Rams’ target leader over the last four games. The Bears defense is pretty strong across the board but if there is a “weak” spot, it’s the cornerbacks, specifically Prince Amukamara. Cooks seems likely to draw a decent amount of Amukamara coverage, which gives him the best chance to beat the Bears D for a big play or two. Even if Cooks doesn’t draw Amukamara all night, I trust Sean McVay to scheme up enough opportunities for Cooks to avoid the superior cornerback, Kyle Fuller, and make plays.
When Woods or Cooks aren’t getting looks, Reynolds will be the receiver of choice. He’s garnered 13 targets over the last two weeks. When Reynolds is on the field he sees most of his snaps on the outside. This will see him matched up with either Kyle Fuller (not good) or Prince Amukamara (exploitable). Once again we have to put some trust in Sean McVay to scheme opportunities for his guys. Reynolds will have at least a 3-inch height advantage on any of the Bears’ top three cornerbacks. Despite only having picked up significant playing time over the last two weeks and only securing 15 receptions on the season, Reynolds has six red-zone receptions on eight red-zone targets. I’m banking on Reynolds’ pure athletic ability and McVay’s schemes to help Reynolds get in the end zone Sunday night.
Todd Gurley has been nearly unstoppable this year. Ironically, the only game he didn’t put up RB1 numbers was the Monday night shootout against Kansas City. The Bears present a tall task for all players but lately have not been as challenging for running backs. The Bears have given up the 12th-most DraftKings to running backs over the last four weeks despite giving up the eighth-fewest on the season. Running backs catching the ball out of the backfield that have given them trouble. Starting in Week 9, the Bears have given up 7, 12, 4, 8 and 3 receptions to running backs. Gurley has had at least three receptions in all but one game this year. Outside of the Kansas City game he’s also had at least 20 opportunities (carries + targets) in every game this year. Gurley is going to get his touches and the Bears haven’t been slowing down running backs like they were at the beginning of the year. I am comfortable playing Gurley and may even throw him in the Captain/MVP spot.
The tight ends for the Rams are probably the most difficult of the positions to get a grasp on. Tyler Higbee is a monster of a man at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds. He’s seen more targets than Gerald Everett in each of the last three games, but has only found the end zone once during that span while Everett has scored three times. Everett is smaller but faster, and in today’s NFL speed is king. The problem for both of these guys is that the Bears have not been a friendly defense for tight ends to go against. Between Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson at safety and Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan and Leonard Floyd at linebacker, it’s tough for tight ends to find room to work against Chicago. The Bears haven’t given up double-digit fantasy points to a tight end since Week 6. I think Higbee and Everett are easy fades this week given the poor matchup and that the Rams’ tight ends fall behind all three wide receivers and Gurley for targets.
The Bears welcome back Mitchell Trubisky this week after Chase Daniel filled in admirably the last two games. Trubisky walks into a tasty matchup this week against a Rams defense that has given up the second-most DraftKings points to quarterbacks over the last four weeks. That number is somewhat misleading considering three of those four quarterbacks were Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Last week, the Rams sacked Matthew Stafford four times and picked him off once while limiting him to just 245 yards and one touchdown. Outside of Trubisky’s Week 9 game at Buffalo, he’s been rolling since his 6-TD performance against Tampa Bay Week 4. Further, the Bears only have two non-Trubisky rushing touchdowns over the last four games, with one of those being by Akeem Hicks. If the Bears are going to score, Trubisky is going to be the catalyst. However, it should be noted that in Week 13 when the Rams played the Lions, the Rams’ defense looked much improved with Aqib Talib back on the field. Talib only played 40% of the snaps, but being able to put him on Kenny Golladay allowed the rest of the defense to play more aggressively. In his first game back from the shoulder injury and with the Rams’ defense improving, I’ll pass on Trubisky this week.
The Rams can be beaten by wide receivers. They’ve given up the fifth-most DraftKings points to wide receivers over the past four weeks. Some of that is skewed by Tyreek Hill’s 10-catch, 215-yard, two-TD performance against them, but Chris Conley, Tyler Lockett, Michael Thomas, Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Davante Adams have all scored double-digit fantasy points against the Rams since Week 8. The Bears have three wide receivers worth considering in this matchup.
Allen Robinson started the year off hot, but has cooled lately outside of his Week 10 explosion against the Lions (6/133/2). The Bears have done a nice job spreading the ball around and have been making Tarik Cohen the focal point of the offense at the expense of Robinson’s numbers. Robinson also isn’t seeing very many red-zone targets (two in the last four games). I get the feeling Matt Nagy is realizing his best playmaker is Cohen and his next two might be the receivers not named Allen Robinson. Aqib Talib should be spending a good amount of time on Robinson in this matchup, and that’s a tough spot for any wide receiver. As a result, I’m going to shy away from Robinson this week.
Anthony Miller hasn’t been a target monster but he’s scored in three of the last four games. Miller runs 66% of his routes out of the slot, which gives him a premium matchup this week as he will avoid Talib and face Troy Hill for most of the night. Hill gave up a ton of production to Chris Conley and the Chiefs two weeks ago (eight catches for 157 yards). When Miller goes to the outside he’ll likely face off with Marcus Peters, who struggled in more difficult matchups with Davante Adams and Michael Thomas recently. Miller’s target volume has been limited of late (3, 4, 2 in last three games), but if Trubisky is going to go away from Aqib Talib with his pass attempts, Miller is a likely beneficiary.
The Bears receiver I’m most excited for this week is Taylor Gabriel. He’s seen 9, 8 and 7 targets the last three weeks, and Gabriel plays mostly on the outside, so he should draw Marcus Peters in coverage and have chances to make plays. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 4 but he’s getting more involved in the offense. His snap percentage has risen each of the last four weeks from 76.9% all the way to 93.1% last week. The Rams are going to score and someone is going to have to make plays on Chicago’s side to keep pace. Taylor Gabriel is sixth in the league in target separation and should feast on a weak Rams secondary. I’m making it a priority to get Gabriel into my lineup this week.
Jordan Howard’s usage has been trending down and Tarik Cohen’s has been trending up. The Rams are middle of the pack when it comes to giving up fantasy points to running backs both on the season and over the last four weeks. Cohen really showed out last week with 20 touches for 186 yards. Jordan Howard was still involved getting 17 touches for 80 yards but it’s clear who the more explosive player is. This week against Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald, running Howard between the tackles looks like a poor gameplan. Howard’s involvement in the passing game has dropped tremendously, as he hasn’t had multiple receptions since Week 3. Howard is an easy pass for me this week.
Cohen should once again be a focal point of the offense. He faces a Rams linebacker corps with a lot of speed, which could limit some of Cohen’s big play potential. Mark Barron is a safety converted to linebacker with sub-4.6 speed. The Rams also have speed at the safety position with Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson. Since Week 1, Phillip Lindsay and Kareem Hunt are the only running backs to have topped 40 receiving yards against the Rams. The saving grace for Cohen is that the Rams have given up a receiving touchdown to a running back in three of their last four games. Cohen has been playing brilliantly lately and it’s going to be tough to get away from him, but there are enough red flags here for me to take a contrarian approach and avoid him.
Trey Burton has been non-existent lately, catching 11 passes for 105 yards over his last five games. Fortunately for Burton, tight ends have had success against the Rams since Week 7 (except for Jimmy Graham) with the Rams giving up four double-digit fantasy performances in that span. Ben Watson and Levine Toilolo each had their best fantasy game of the season against the Rams. With the return of Talib limiting Robinson and the expected extra attention on Cohen, Burton might become a key piece of the Bears’ offense this week. The reasons to like Burton also apply to Adam Shaheen, who returned from injury last week to score a touchdown. If you want to build multiple lineups I’d make sure to get exposure to each of these tight ends. I’m going to lean Burton if I have to choose, since he’s posted a few big games this season and despite Shaheen’s touchdown against the Lions, he still only played 29.7% of the snaps and ran just eight routes.