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Thursday Night Football preview: What to expect fantasy-wise from Patriots at Rams

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Fantasy preview of Thursday Night Football.

NFL: New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots and the Rams face-off, for the first time since the 2018/2019 Super Bowl, for Week 14’s Thursday Night Football primetime game. Here’s how both teams look from a fantasy football standpoint heading into tonight’s game.

Patriots

New England heads to Los Angeles for a likely low-scoring affair, making Week 14’s Thursday Night Football one to mostly avoid for season-long purposes. As evidenced by his fantasy box scores, featuring a score as low as -0.2 and as high as 34.6, Patriots QB Cam Newton offers little assurance of a strong outing against a Rams defense that’s allowing just 14.9 PPG to opposing signal callers, 2nd-fewest in the NFL. Ever the threat for a rushing touchdown, Newton’s red zone-carry domination — nearly doubling the next closest Pats ballcarrier — keeps his fantasy ceiling intact though. He’s just a mid-tier QB2 for fantasy football’s final regular season game.

With expected shadow coverage from Rams lock-down cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Patriots’ lone featured receiver, Jakobi Meyers, is not usable this week.

If inclined to chase pure usage indicators, downfield threat Damiere Byrd is still seeing the 2nd-highest Scaled Weighted Opportunity Rating on the team at 54.70 over the last four weeks. Most weeks Byrd simply runs sprints up and down the field though and the Rams aren’t one to give up many long gains.

Wide recevier/punt returner Gunner Olszewski housed his lone target last week against the Chargers, while also finding pay-dirt via the return game on a 70-yarder. That Los Angeles team has allowed 462 punt return yards though, most in the NFL. This week’s Los Angeles team (the Rams) has allowed far fewer, 217 punt return yards, albeit the league’s 8th-highest total. Olszewski could be fired up as a contrarian DFS play but should not be anywhere near a starting lineup in season-long leagues.

Update 12/10/20 2:02pm PST: Per Field Yates, the Patriots have placed tight end Ryan Izzo on Injured Reserve and activated tight end Devin Asiasi off of it. Asiasi is not a good bet for fantasy production.

Wide receivers N’Keal Harry and Donte Moncrief, as well as tight end Ryan Izzo, are not fantasy-relevant players at this time.

Damien Harris continues to play very well but Sony Michel’s encroaching snap share is worrisome. Facing a Rams’ front-seven that’s allowing the 7th-fewest .5PPR PPG (17.8) to opposing backfields and facing moderate backfield competition, Harris is just a high-floor/capped ceiling flex play. Michel is unusable and James White offers mild boom/bust flex viability as a possible outlet vs. the Rams’ fearsome pass rush.

Rams

In two career games against the New England Patriots, Rams QB Jared Goff has produced stat lines of 14/32-161-1-2 and 19/28-229-0-1 with a grand total of -1 rushing yards. Fantasy managers should look elsewhere for a QB start across all forms of fantasy. Goff is this week’s overall QB25.

In the two aforementioned LAR/NE bouts, downfield receiver Brandin Cooks posted the best results, hauling in 8 of 13 balls for 120 scoreless yards. With primary perimeter receiver Robert Woods likely to see much of stud cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s attention this evening, current downfield receiver Josh Reynolds could get something going but his production has been so sporadic that Reynolds should not be employed in season-long formats. Expectations for Robert Woods must be dropped to that of a high-floor/low-ceiling flex option.

Slot receiver Cooper Kupp actually has strong prospects this week as the Pats have been ripped up for a bevvy of slot receiver touchdowns all year (ie. Tyler Lockett - 7/8-67-1, Hunter Renfrow - 6/9-84-1, Jamison Crowder/Braxton Berrios - 3/3-39-1, Willie Snead - 5/7-64-2, Randall Cobb/Keke Coutee - 4/6-17-2). Kupp is a high-end WR2 in Week 14.

Tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett can only be used in contrarian DFS lineups this week. The two continue to nuke each other’s value and the Patriots are allowing just 7.1 .5PPR PPG to opposing tight ends, 4th-fewest in the NFL.

Rookie running back Cam Akers has drastically out-produced his backfield-mates, Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcolm Brown over the last three games and last week he finally separated in the snap column. After an early-week scare, registering a Did Not Participate practice designation on Monday (shoulder), Akers promisingly ramped things up with a Full Participation mark on Wednesday. Akers would typically be considered a Top 12 option, given his recent performances. However, it must be noted that the Patriots have played reasonable defense against opposing running backs and there’s always the possibility that head coach Sean McVay is impressed with an early-game carry by one of Henderson or Brown and opts to ride the supposed “hot hand”. As a result, Akers is dropped to this week’s RB18 ranking. Fantasy managers must understand that Akers is a highly volatile RB2 option who could finish either as a meager flex — or a mid-tier RB1. His recent production gives reason to believe the latter will come true.