Thank you to those of you who did your due diligence and read my previous two articles about my approach. If you have not, you can catch my Showdown approach here and my Sunday approach here. In this way, not much should come as a surprise as I get into the Bills v Rams DFS Thursday Night Football Showdown slate. I don’t want this to be a “picks” article; there are plenty of those on the Interwebs. I want this to be a process article. If you happen to luck into a Mega Millions or Powerball win, congratulations, I am happy for you. For the remaining 99.9% of humanity, results don’t come without a process. Below is mine.
Game Overview – Bills v Rams
Buffalo Bills -2.5
Money Line: Buffalo Bills -135
Bills Key Players Out or Injured: CB Tre’Davious White
Rams Key Players Out or Injured: WR Van Jefferson
Despite being on the road, the Bills come into this matchup as slight favorites. Had they made the Super Bowl last year, they likely would have won.
The Bills Offense
Even though the Bills are favored, some are skeptical as to how the 2022 Bills offense is going to work. Well, let me do you the favor of letting you know. In 2015 and 2016, Buffalo led the NFL in rushing with offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. In 2017 Kromer went West like the Donner Party, but made it to Los Angeles cannibalism-free (I’m fairly sure) to be the Rams O -line coach and run-game coordinator. Remember Todd Gurley? Kromer was there then. Well, Kromer is now back as the Bills’ O-line coach and he is bringing his hybrid zone/power blocking scheme in order to keep defenses off balance. This is very good news for Bills’ RBs. The Bills have also made some nice additions to their O- line to help.
With Daboll gone to the Gmen, should we be concerned about the Bills passing attack? Nope. While the numbers may be less than last year, especially if they start to run more this season, Josh Allen should still create good numbers for his top four pass catchers. Since you asked, those four are Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Dawson Knox, and Isaiah McKenzie. Jameson Crowder and McKenzie battled it out for slot WR duties this preseason, and it looks like McKenzie has initially won.
The Bills Defense
Because this game total is high, and because recency bias suggests the Rams offense is really good, the Bills defense will not be high owned. While I wouldn’t go overboard with them, this situation provides us with our first real opportunity to get different by rostering the Bills Defense. That being said, all-star CB Tre’Davious White will not be in this game to square off against Cooper Kupp. Without White last season, the Bills gave up nearly an extra TD and allowed 40 more pass yards per game.
Buffalo employs a Cover-2 Zone scheme, and Matt Stafford’s bread and butter is man coverage. Out of Buffalo’s remaining 3 corners, their best is slot corner Taron Johnson, ranked 4th overall by Pro Football Focus. The other two, Dane Jackson and rookie Kaiir Elam are not all that great by NFL standards. With no Van Jefferson, I expect the Rams to rotate all their receivers through the slot and out wide, so no WR should be that adversely affected. Even if it’s Kupp in the slot for the majority of the offensive snaps, he’s overcome tough coverage before.
If you’re looking for a good Bills preview, check out the Right Reverend Electric Mayhem’s Buffalo Bills team preview! It sure is full of optimism (he says sarcastically).
The Rams Offense
The talk of the town in fantasy circles these days revolves around the elbow health of Matt Stafford. He has always had issues with his throwing arm, he should be fine. More importantly, and what not many are talking about, are the changes that the Rams offensive line went through since we last saw them play.
During the offseason the Rams lost both Andrew Whitworth (retirement) and Austin Corbett (now with Carolina). Additionally, starting Right Guard Logan Bruss tore his MCL and ACL, ending his season. While this offensive line will probably still be decent as some good pieces are still there, it is largely unproven and will not be as good as last season. Stafford will likely be under more pressure, and that could happen as early as game one vs the Bills and Von Miller. Last year the Bills were the best in generating hurry percentage, and that was without Miller.
The way to attack the Bills is via the run and with deep passing plays. I expect a heavy dose of both Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, which honestly makes rostering either of them tough. Akers will be higher owned, and he costs more, so Henderson could make for a nice low-owned play. If the Bills can indeed generate pressure on Stafford, then it’s quick throws and maybe some INTs. This plays into the Bills defense, and Kupp, Higbee, and Robinson could all benefit in a PPR setting like DraftKings. If the Bills cannot generate pressure, then deep throws to Kupp come into play.
The Rams Defense
On defense, CB Jalen Ramsay had offseason shoulder surgery but is supposedly good to go. I think he spends the most time on Diggs, but there likely won’t be shadow coverage so Diggs is definitely in play. Ramsay has the trust of his coaches to move around the field as well as in and out of zone and man coverages. That makes this tough to predict. Their front four is formidable, so Allen may be pressed for time. However, if he can discern what coverage the Rams are deploying pre snap, then that will make things easier. Slot CB Troy Hill, who was on the Rams from 2016 – 2020, was recently traded back to the Rams and is ranked as the 6th overall slot CB in the league by Pro Football Focus. He has a ton of talent but had a crap year in Cleveland in 2021 and missed the Rams championship run. Could go either way, but I’d bank on him being highly motivated in a system in which he previously had success.
O Captain, My Captain
Sometimes picking a captain in Showdown is quite easy, other times not so much. I like to narrow down my captain pool to two to four players, just so that I can maximize a variety of lineups that feature said captain, and therefore widen my window to a first place finish. Below are my personal captains for the Bills v Rams.
Cooper Kupp – $18,600: captain exposure 30%
This is a hefty price for a captain, but if he goes off for around 30 fantasy points, something he did 50% of the time last season, then it will be worth it. Regardless of the Bills success on defense, Kupp should still be involved. Without CB White to guard him, then that just gets easier. Make sure you stack Kupp with Stafford and/or Akers or Henderson. Optimal lineups that feature WR captains almost always have their QB or RB1 stacked with them.
Josh Allen – $18,000: captain exposure 15%
Normally I am not a QB as captain kind of guy, but when that QB has legs…
then I’m interested. While I don’t think this game shoots out, Allen probably will get his 40 yards rushing, which counts the same as a throwing TD on DraftKings by the way, and he could score on the ground. If he spreads the ball around and no one else has multiple TDs for the Bills, then Allen could easily end up as the optimal captain.
Gabe Davis – $10,800: captain exposure 30%
I am huge on Davis this season. Third year WRs who are very successful in the NFL typically make the jump during this year. Gabe Davis will eventually be WR1 for the Bills in future seasons, and I’d rather be early for that party than late. With Stefon Diggs getting coverage from CB Jalen Ramsay, Davis may indeed have the best WR stat line for Buffalo in this matchup. Stack him with Allen and/or Singletary.
Devin Singletary – $10,500: captain exposure 5%
I’m wading into the waters hesitantly on this play. I expect the Bills to run more now that Kromer is more involved, and this team was already doing that with Singletary down the stretch last year. I am not expecting a shootout here so rostering an RB1 at captain could make sense. The Bills just have so many options including at RB as both Zach Moss and James Cook will likely see the field in this game. Singletary should see most of it, which comes with scoring opportunities as well.
Dawson Knox – $10,200: captain exposure 20%
Normally I would not go to Knox for a captain, but I honestly don’t know how this guy doesn’t score a TD in this game. The NBC broadcast will, at the very least, have an instance where their sideline reporter informs the viewers about the Knox family tragedy over the summer. At most they will have a whole segment about it including an interview with Knox. Then the camera will pan to him on the sidelines, and the broadcasters will bring it up again after he makes his first catch. If they are really soulless, they’ll interview him during the game too. However, when Knox catches that first TD, the potential that that moment is caught on camera during primetime on a national broadcast must have the suits at NBC and NFL headquarters salivating. Additionally, Knox just got a significant contract boost by resigning for the next four years. If Knox catches a second TD, then he’s probably the optimal captain.
There are plenty of other options for captains, and this is probably more captains than I should have. However, there are just a few question marks about both teams at the start of the 2022 season. I feel I currently have a leg up on much of the competition in regard to the Rams potential O-line issues as well as the Bills changes in offense, so I want to exploit it. I don’t expect a huge shootout in this game and Stafford doesn’t run, so he’s out. I’m not captaining either Rams RB because we could see an even 50/50 split between them. Could other players end up as the optimal captain? Of course., but these are the five I’ve personally identified as the most likely, and I’ve had good results over time narrowing down my captain pool in this way. It doesn’t always work out, but over the long run I am in the black with this approach.
Some Other Players in my Pool
- Both QBs. Every one of my lineups will have Stafford or Allen or both.
- Stefon Diggs. Ramsay or no, he’s still WR1 in an exceptional passing offense.
- Allen Robinson. He made a living catching short passes in Chicago until they done forgot about him last year. If Bills can generate pressure, which I think they can, then ARob could be deployed as a multiple reception option or as a means to exploit rookie Kaiir Elam.
- Tyler Higbee. If Bills can generate pressure, then Higbee becomes a quick, trustworthy passing option for Stafford as well.
- Bills DST. Stafford threw two INTs in the Super Bowl against a lesser defense, and he had better linemen protecting him then.
- Isaiah McKenzie. At $2400, this is a gross mis-price for the starting slot WR on the Buffalo Bills. Name recognition probably made DraftKings think that person would Jameson Crowder, but it appears McKenzie won this job in camp and preseason. Cole Beasley had several games catching 7 or more balls, and now that position is McKenzie’s. He was a little banged up but has been practicing in full this week. Just for argument’s sake though, Jameson Crowder will be lower owned.
- Kickers. I’ll only play one per lineup, and I probably won’t go over 15% ownership per kicker, but either of these two kicking four field goals is not out of the realm of possibilities.
- Khalil Shakir. He’s only $200 and has been impressing in camp. He probably doesn’t see many snaps unless someone gets injured, but should something crazy happen like him scoring a long TD, I won’t be with 95% of the country who is saying “WHO?” when he scores.
- With Van Jefferson out, Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell become viable punt plays.
Enjoy Thursday Night Football Between the Bills and Rams!!!
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Just an FYI I am removing Singletary from my captain pool as I’m coming across both lower projections for him and a lower ceiling.
Thanks for the update. Tonight will be interesting.
Very good analysis and thought line ! Thank you.
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