Smash or Pass: Rams vs 49ers Fantasy Preview

Dec 21, 2019; Santa Clara, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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The 4-1 Rams take on the 2-3 49ers on Sunday Night Football in a matchup between 2 teams trending in opposite directions. With George Kittle, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and more big-name players taking the field, this game isn’t lacking in star power. Whether you’re playing DFS or season-long fantasy, I’ve got you covered with everything you need to know for this game.

Smash

Jared Goff has historically played well in San Francisco. In his last 3 games in the Bay Area, Goff has thrown for 817 yards, 7 TDs and 1 INT. That’s good for 20.1 FPPG (fantasy points per game). Dating back to Week 13 of last year, Goff has accumulated 16+ fantasy points in 8 of his last 10 games, while scoring 20+ in 6 of those. Goff faces a 49ers defense that is middle of the pack in stopping opposing QBs (16th in FPPG allowed), but they’ve also given up big games to the only 2 decent QBs they’ve faced (Kyler Murray and Ryan Fitzpatrick). Look for Goff to keep up his success with another solid outing.
Projection: 22/29, 289 pass yds, 3 TDs, 3 carries, 12 rush yds, 24.76 fantasy points

George Kittle is a must-start every week, regardless of the matchup. The Rams are 17th in FPPG allowed to TE’s, with 3 TD catches. That stat is a little skewed, as all of them came against the Buffalo Bills. Still, there’s no reason to think Kittle won’t go off on Sunday night. In his last 5 games against the Rams, Kittle has caught 31 passes for 529 yards and 3 TDs, good for a ridiculous 20.4 FPPG. No matter who is under center for San Fran, expect Kittle to get the majority of the targets.
Projection: 9 catches, 11 targets, 109 rec yds, TD, 25.9 fantasy points

Cooper Kupp seems to have regained his form from the first half the 2019 season. Kupp has recorded 5+ catches and 66+ receiving yards in 4 straight games, while scoring 18+ fantasy points in 2 of those. Kupp leads the Rams in both team air yard % and target % with 23.5% and 24.7%, respectively. He is Goff’s favorite target, and if Goff has a good game, he likely will as well.
Projection: 6 catches, 8 targets, 88 rec yds, TD, 20.8 fantasy points


Pass


Deebo Samuel may be the top option at WR for the 49ers, but that doesn’t mean you should start him this week. The Rams have allowed the fewest FPPG to opposing WRs this year, thanks in part to the elite CB duo of Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. Samuel has just 5 catches for 54 yards through 2 games this year, and it’s tough to imagine him breaking out this week. LA has allowed just 1 TD to opposing WRs. It’s possible Samuel could break off a big run on an end around or jet sweep, but don’t bank on it.
Projection: 3 catches, 6 targets, 35 rec yds, 2 carries, 15 rush yds, 9 fantasy points

Darrell Henderson has been frustrating to play for fantasy owners. After scoring 20+ fantasy points in weeks 2-3, Sean McVay chose to barely play Henderson against the Giants, and the former Memphis star recorded just 4.8 points. Then, when everyone was down on him, he scored 21.8 points against Washington. The reason I’m not as high on him this week (despite 20+ points in 3/4 games) is that Cam Akers looks to be fully healthy now. Akers ran it 9 times for 61 yards last week, and McVay thinks he will start on Sunday Night. McVay has praised Akers all season, and it looks like he trusts the rookie the most to lead the backfield. With all the uncertainty, I’d stay away from Rams RBs entirely this week.
Projection: 9 carries, 41 rush yds, 2 catches, 2 targets, 20 rec yds, 8.1 fantasy points

Jimmy Garoppolo may have returned from injury, but he still didn’t look good against Miami. He played poorly in that game and got benched at halftime. While Garoppolo looks healthy in practice, HC Kyle Shanahan says he’ll bench him again if his performance and/or injury continues to look bad. I don’t think we’ll see the same Jimmy G we did last week (arguably the worst game of his career), but I also doubt he has a great game. LA has allowed the 7th fewest FPPG and 8 total touchdowns to QBs this year. 3/8 of those TDs have come on the ground, and Garoppolo isn’t exactly known for his rushing ability.
Projection: 18/34, 216 pass yds, TD, INT, 15 rush yds, 12.14 fantasy points

Play at your own risk

49ers RBs have been hard to trust since Kyle Shanahan took over as HC. One of them has a good outing seemingly every week. The problem is predicting which RB will have success that particular game. Between Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon, and Jeff Wilson, any of them could be “the guy” in a given week. It appears Mostert is back to being the starter, but it’s still hard to tell week to week. The Rams have been decent against opposing RBs (11th in FPPG allowed), but have given up the 8th most catches to opposing RBs. With the 49ers likely playing from behind, one would expect Jimmy G to throw more and check down to his RBs. If you can predict which RB gets the most usage, you could end up having a successful night.

Robert Woods is a key contributor and a true leader for this Rams squad. He’s always been a solid fantasy WR, but never elite due to his lack of scoring. He’s already found the end zone 3 times this year, so perhaps he’s starting to turn the corner in that area. Still, he’s topped the 100-yard mark just twice in 5 career games vs San Francisco. Woods is a high-floor, low-ceiling play on most weeks, and that’s what I think he is for this game. He won’t kill you, but he won’t win you a matchup.

Tyler Higbee has been boom-or-bust so far in 2020. He exploded for 5/54/3 (28.4 points) in Week 2 against the Eagles, but has just 10/112/0 in his other 4 games. Higbee did record 9 catches on 11 targets for 104 yards the last time he faced the 49ers, and he’s due for a big game. Still, it’s hard to trust someone who’s running a route on just 68.3% of dropbacks this year. That mark is dead-last among all TEs in the top 25 of scoring. Additionally, Higbee is facing the #2 fantasy defense against opposing TEs. As I said, he’s boom-or-bust at this point, so good luck if you roll with him this week.


Draft Kings Showdown First Look


For those of you that play Showdown slates on Draft Kings, here’s my lineup and thought process for each player I chose.


Kittle (CAPT) ($15.6k): I gave my reasoning for Kittle earlier. He’s my highest projected scoring player and has always feasted against the Rams. He is the only legitimate weapon in the passing game at the moment, and Jimmy G should look his way plenty.
Brown ($1.6k): I just can’t shake the feeling that Brown will find his way into the end zone on Sunday. Malcolm Brown has 8 career rushing TDs. 4 of those have come on Sunday Night Football. I know Akers coming back will only hurt Brown’s chances of scoring more, but I’m banking on him getting a goal line TD on the opening drive like he always does on SNF. Maybe he also catches a pass or two. If he does that, he gives me great value for his salary.
Goff ($10.8k): If I expect Goff to throw for 3 TDs, he has to be in my lineup, right? Putting a non-mobile QB at captain doesn’t usually win tournaments, so I decided to put him in the flex. He has a decent matchup and always plays well in San Francisco.
Kupp ($9k): Again, it makes sense to play Goff’s top WR if I expect Goff to have a good game. Without Richard Sherman on the opposite side, I look for Kupp to have a nice game.
Mostert ($9.8k): I know I said that you should play Mostert at your own risk, and I’m definitely taking a risk here. It’s possible the Niners feed Mostert regardless of the score. If they’re down, he’ll still get opportunities (carries + targets). If they happen to get up to a nice lead, they’ll get him 20+ touches.
Reynolds ($2.6k): Reynolds is the #4 option at best in the pass game, but he was the top option left on the board for me. Reynolds is 2nd on the team with 21.5% of the air yards, despite acquiring just 11% of the targets. This shows that Goff likes to stretch the field out when it comes to the former Texas A&M Aggie. Maybe he snags a deep touchdown and brings home a ton of value for $2.6k. Reynolds has scored at least 5.5 points in 4 straight games, so his floor is high enough to make me feel good about the price.

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