2020 Dynasty/Fantasy Week 14 Game Analysis: Rams 24, Patriots 3
I take notes during the live watch. I re-watch the game on tape looking for hidden clues to report on. Here are my notes/takes on what I saw and how it related to FF 2020. I write anywhere from 1,000-3,000+ words on each game, and I must move fast to get to all of them through the week…so, please forgive any typos/grammar.
*Written before the Sunday games kicked off*
I’ll stick to, and pat myself on the back for, my analysis of the Rams the last few weeks as the reason no detailed game notes (on the teams themselves) are needed for what happened here. I have been saying for weeks that the Rams have the best defense in football – an emergence, upswing to becoming ‘that’ defense…there’s always one each year, it seems, and sometimes they need some time to reveal themselves as the season goes – but one eventually arrives…and that defense, the most dominant defense in the NFL, is one that can carry a team to the Super Bowl. It’s happening with the Rams.
I’ve also promoted (going into Week 14) that there are three elite teams in the NFL currently, and two of them are totally undersold/undervalued by the football analysts…it’s the Bills and the Rams (KC being the other of the top three).
The Rams win decisively on cable television…and yet the analyst story is – Should Cam be benched? Are the Patriots really not going to make the playoffs? Why did the Patriots lose? Do the Patriots regret ditching Tom Brady? Super Bowl redemption for the Rams, from that time the Patriots beat them in the Super Bowl!
The story this week, nationally, will never be – The Rams are the only real NFC threat to the Kansas City Chiefs and are possibly better than the Chiefs because of their defense, and Jared Goff is a really good quarterback. The football media does NOT believe in Goff so therefore they will NOT believe in the Rams. And their way of dealing with it is – ignoring it. It’s not even on purpose – football analysts live in an alternate reality where their pre-programming/coding in their minds dismisses anything Rams, mostly because of what they were told/decided about Goff three+ years ago.
It sounds insane, but I’ve been doing this for 10+ years – it’s real, it is why teams are run so poorly and make such stupid mistakes over and over and over…most NFL people (players, coaches, execs…and the fired/retired ones turned ‘analysts’) have a hive mind/set narratives and never put in the work (or are allowed) to question/test/explore alternatives. To me, the analysts of this business/the NFL don’t put in the work that I do...or what many serious fantasy players and/or handicappers do – the studying, searching, the poking and prodding…doing so for profit in handicapping and fantasy, not for ‘love of the game’.
The research, the questioning, the counter thinking -- It’s life and death for my existence. I have to (try and) know what’s really going on. National Football analysts are paid to be safe mouthpieces and not offer any opinion that doesn’t agree with the ‘hive’. Professionally, it’s best for them not to be wrong alone on any radical thinking items. Plus, the hate mail you get is taxing when you criticize someone’s team or favorite player -- you;re like a heretic in a religion. Analysts are paid to be/it’s better for their careers to just shine a fawning light on stars being stars…i.e. the ‘amazing’ analysis of: “I really like this kid” (or worse “They/the coaches really like this kid”) and everyone on the major networks trying to one up each other on how good Aaron Donald is in their pregame segments. How is that analysis? We all know Aaron Donald and Patrick Mahomes are great…you don’t need to explain why by showing me two cool plays of theirs and hyperventilating over it for 7-11 minutes in a segment or roundtable discussion. Tell me on-field things I don’t know. The mainstream analysts are all ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ together on players/scouting/teams, so no one gets criticized – because if it’s ultimately wrong, they’ll ignore it or have an underlying tone of…hey, EVERYBODY thought that way…so, what am I to do?
They paint their face and perform an act/a routine for us…a bunch of ‘tricks’ that are not ‘amazing’, just cheap deception/diversions – they think we’re simpletons and that we’ll clap and bark like seals at their dazzling never-ending handkerchief up the sleeve gag…or flowers out of the top of the magic wand surprise. Next week, watch them pull a quarter out of your ear.
The NFL has production meetings and marketing strategies that comes up with stupid ‘Super Fan’ contests to encourage ridiculous loyalty to a jersey or territory. It seems to work…look at the TV ratings. When the NFL thinks of their audience demo in order to design production, pregame shows, and what ‘hard hitting analysis’ to give to them…this is the thought bubble above Roger Goodell’s head on what he sees among the NFL audience: https://youtu.be/8S_0MWqOkCE
Bill Simmons and Colin Cowherd (among others) were removed from ESPN because they didn’t drink the Kool Aid from the NFL. They rightfully questioned things, offered alternative opinions (whether right/wrong, good/bad). The NFL doesn’t want that. They want stupid, blind loyalists watching and analyzing…thus Michael Irvin, Steve Mariucci, Kurt Warner, and Rich Eisen (nice guy, but he knows his role for the cause) are long-time anchors/stalwarts of the NFL’s own network shows (yes, the NFL has its own network to cover itself…like Communist countries have). The NFL establishment doesn’t want a Pat McAfee (they’ll not suffer him for long…I think they’re trying to see if he will bend to their will for towards them)…instead they give us Booger McFarland and Jason Witten…and coming soon – useful, milquetoast Drew Brees and Greg Olsen.
You’d think NFL coverage would be getting smarter, sharper as we go – instead we are getting dumber in NFL analysis. The NFL establishment has so insulated itself and hired certain types of mouthpieces (and banished/flushed others) that the false reality they’ve built…they actually believe it to be real. They’ve duped themselves. The emperor literally has no clothes.
So, you’re never going to get super-sharp NFL analysis or questioning of things (even if wrong in the end). You get sugary hype or just ignoring things they don’t deem worthy/thought were ‘bad’. The Rams fall into the ignored.
The Rams whacking the Patriots…it’s written off as a mild surprise, but it shouldn’t be. The Rams shouldn’t have been ignored as ‘lucky’ when they punched Seattle Week 10 – the post-game story was about how Russell Wilson had a bad game (something to do with ‘cooking’ I’m sure). When the Rams embarrassed Tampa Bay Week 11…the post-game story the next week was all about Brady and Arians aren’t good for each other. When the Rams slammed Arizona Week 13…everyone was like ‘What’s wrong with this Arizona team, and Kyler is too small to be good I guess?” Week 14, the Rams pull down the Patriots pants on live TV and spank them…and post-game everyone is discussing Cam benching for Stidham and lamenting Belichick for letting Brady go.
The story is, and should have been for several weeks…
1) Jared Goff is a very good, solid+ NFL QB (and has been for years).
2) The Rams are arguably the best team in the NFL and if you set a spread of KC v. LAR on a neutral field…it would be pretty even spread internally, as a base for Vegas line setters -- but then it would wind up coming out at KC -3.0, to allow for the public sway -- because the public will have been brainwashed/conditioned to seeing the Rams as lucky if they get to the Super Bowl somehow.
All that to say, getting back to this particular game…
The Patriots really needed this game. It could’ve turned the season. Yet, the Rams came out and humiliated the Patriots from the first play of the game. We don’t have to debate Cam v. Brady v. Stidham here…the Rams would’ve beaten any of them starting. The Rams are just that good, and it’s not an embarrassment for the Patriots to lose to them. The Rams are really, really good.
The Rams have flaws, but all NFL teams do. No team is perfect/going undefeated. The Chiefs can’t hardly handle the Raiders and Broncos in recent weeks. You do realize the Chiefs are within a whisker of having lost every division game they’ve played this year, but one, right? Look at the game log/schedule and you’ll see. The Rams are good but have their flaws but are now (9-4) headed to a Week 16 showdown at Seattle for the NFC West title.
*Rams side note…a faithful FFM member pointed out that on my Survivor picks in my weekly register that I had been listing that I used the Rams (over NYG) Week 4, and thus I mentioned this past week that I couldn’t use the Rams as a Survivor pick ahead. When in reality, in Week 4, I had taken/used the Ravens (over Haskins), and thus still have the Rams as an option.
So, if we get past Seattle v. Jets this week…we got Rams v. Jets to take in Week 15 baby!!!! I remember mapping that out for as many Jets matchups as possible several weeks ago, but I noted the Rams as unusable last week erroneously. So, for those following/using my Survivor picks – we got the Rams coming Week 15 (not BAL or SF as I mentioned we might have to debate).
The Patriots are now (6-7), and would need to win out to get to (9-7)…and that might be good enough to get to the wild card. However, if they did win out, they’d hold tiebreakers over Miami and Las Vegas and Baltimore…which puts them in a great spot if there is a cluster of (9-7) teams.
FYI…I’ve not used New England in Survivor pool yet this season either. You know who they play Week 17?
We’re set up to use…
SEATTLE over Jets Week 14
RAMS over Jets Week 15
Week 16 = ?
PATRIOTS over Jets Week 17
Week 16? Jets play the Browns…I haven’t used the Browns yet either.
First things first, Seattle has to take down NYJ this week.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- As I watched this game live, I was like…I’m never going to hear the end of this from some people, I’m going to get a bunch of ‘see, you were wrong about Cam Akers (29-171-0, 2-23-0/3)’ the rest of the week.
I also got emails Thursday night on from people who picked up Akers as a flyer grab during the week in redraft, just to see…and didn’t start him for this game, and now they’re sullen, lamenting. Hey, there’s a reason why he was unclaimed in your league going into this week – no one was ready to believe, no one saw/had confidence that this was coming. Be happy you grabbed him and have him as an option for next week.
So, what do you want to hear here?
If I go anti-Akers…you won’t be having it. I’ll sound like a loon. I know this because the emails I’m getting already have Akers enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Why? Because people SAW it with their own two eyes on a solo night game…and much of it happened early in the game, so people really SAW it before fading off on this dull 2nd-half. There is nothing more powerful than a rookie having a 100+ yard anything game on a solo night game.
Akers will be 100% started next week in every FF league, guaranteed. And he should be…facing the Jets Week 15 on top of this event. If he were facing the top run defenses Week 15…wouldn’t matter – this game result was seen with human eyes, so it’s now a fact in our subconscious – Akers is the greatest. He’s going to be started everywhere by everybody until further notice.
I believe Akers is a ‘C’ grade NFL talent at best. But talent assessments don’t matter anymore…coaches preference is what rules RB projections. However that it is an RB gets to the juicy touches…that’s all that matters. Debating Akers v. Darrell Henderson is a fun aside, but talent arguments don’t matter. No different than Carson v. Penny from prior years.
Akers is in prime position to be the lead guy for the Rams now – the Rams/Sean McVay has given us hints at it all along, since he was drafted. It’s come to fruition now.
However, it won’t be long before you don’t care as much about Akers. Ty Johnson rushed for 100+ yards this past week…doesn’t matter. Damien Harris rushed for 100 yards on MNF vs. KC Week 4 in his real NFL debut game and everyone went after him off waivers like crazy. He’s run for a couple of 100+ yard games this year. He’ll be on benches and waivers mostly for Week 15. Old news.
The new/fresh news is Cam Akers…so it shall be. For a while.
My take on Akers’ performance, as an art critic of such things? Not that impressed.
What has my attention…29 carries in a game. That is meaningful. That’s ‘message sent’. I’ll come back to that. But looking at Akers actual tape…
I saw a guy running through great holes early in the game because the defense was playing back in prep for a quick passing game and weren’t totally worried about/focused on Akers – and the Rams came out and slammed it down their throat running it. The first two series Akers rushed 9 times for 99 yards with three+ 10+ yard runs. The Patriots then adjusted and for the next three quarters went back to normal for Akers this year – 20 carries for 72 yards…or 3.6 yards per carry, which is more the pace he’s done this year.
So, am I supposed to chase the Akers from the first two series/one quarter/10 offensive points…the 10+ yards per carry version from this game…
Is he more the guy from the next eight series/three quarters/just seven offensive points…the 3.6 yards per carry guy from this game (a pace which is his 2020 norm)?
You saw the 1st-quarter Akers, and it’s impressed into your mind – you wish you started him, you wish you claimed him, you wish you Dynasty Rookie Drafted the guy you saw for one great quarter. Oh, if you only had Cam Akers all your RB issues would be solved.
I saw the guy from the final three quarters…the more quarters of sample size, being the same guy he’s been all year.
I’m not saying he won’t be a fantasy gem next week or the ROS or 2021. I’m just saying – I don’t see a real ‘it’ factor here, and I’ve got a good track record on scouting or de-bunking RBs on what I see (visually/statistically). A couple years ago, Kerryon Johnson was going to take over the world too with his 100+ yard rushing explosion on the Patriots. David Montgomery was set to rule the world after a 27 carry, 135-yard rushing game vs. the Chargers in 2019. Kerryon and Montgomery…guys the mainstream was absolutely sure would be great, but time passed…and no one cares as much now.
I want to see some star power talent with my ‘big game’ and ‘big prospect’ name – and I just don’t see it here with Akers. Never have going back to his Florida State years. Darrell Henderson’s 20 carries for 117 yards and a TD in Week 3…much more impressive, much more ‘it’ factor…and it’s long been forgotten.
All that to say, I’ll get on board the Akers express now.
171 yards rushing…nice. But he got 29 carries…who wouldn’t rush for 100+ yards with that number of carries? There have been 20 RB performances where the RB took 25 or more carries in a game…and 14 of the 20 times it resulted in 100+ yards rushing games (70%). It’s not the yards that has my attention…it’s the carries.
McVay had been hinting at Akers as a lead, but then didn’t really do it several weeks ago. Through Week 12, Akers had not played more than 33% of the snaps in a game and seemed stuck in an RBBC group. Last week/Week 13, Akers played 63% of the snaps…and we started to wonder, but it also could’ve been a blip. 29 carries here…OK, I got the message. 79% of the snaps this game…yes, sir. I understand, Mr. McVay.
Talent + Touches + the coach’s desire = the elite fantasy RBs
Touches + the coach’s desire = I’ll take it for FF and not going to whine about it. I’m not going to chase fairy tales. Gimme James Conner, David Montgomery, James Robinson, Chris Carson, and Cam Akers…and you can have Jaylen Samuels, Ryan Nall, Rashaad Penny, Darrell Henderson.
Cam Akers is beloved by his coach on a good offense – I don’t need to worry about his low yards per carry, or underperformance, or lack of ‘wow’. I’ll take coach’s loyalty…to get to the 20+ carries in games, to get to the Fantasy gold.
I love Cam Akers now. Even though he’s the third-best RB on his own team. Does not matter.
What good is it if Jonathan Taylor and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are top talents or in good places, but their coach isn’t enslaved to them in the offense? Worst case their talents will be checkmated, in output, by a lesser-talented Akers or D’Andre Swift’s undying loyalty touch count. Andy Reid loves CEH…he just loves Patrick Mahomes more, as he should.
-- If I were an NFL General Manager and was given the free choice of Cam Akers or Damien Harris (11-50-0. 0-0-0/1)…I take Harris a hundred times out of 100.
If I were a fantasy GM and had to start Akers or Harris next week…I’m starting Akers 101 times out of 100.
Damien Harris has been the better back, on tape and in results all season, compared to Akers – but his coach does not worship him over all things, so we have to take that grain of FF-salt.
Harris got 20+ carries (22) in a game once this year…and rushed for 121 yards against a stout Ravens defense. Ahh, you don’t care. That was so many weeks ago…like four to be exact. Ancient history. And Harris is not a rookie so it’s not all that impressive.
I do have some hope that Harris WILL be the main guy for Belichick in 2021, and I want in on that train…but I would bet more on Akers being the guy in 2021 more than Harris. If Harris is ‘the guy’ in 2021…I want that over Akers. I think Akers will peter out into another RB2 who has random RB1 and RB3 weeks as we go into the future. Harris is showing me consistent RB1 skills upside.
Other Patriots RB notes…
Sony Michel (7-22-0) is working as a kind of a relief back, backup to Harris…and the last two weeks have given him opportunity for touches for Michel because both games were blowouts the Patriots were involved in.
James White (3-16-0, 1-2-0/2) has died since Michel has returned to action…for whatever that’s worth. Could be coincidence or not…again, ‘the blowouts’.
Harris taking lead touches is the constant for the NE backfield in all these blowouts the past two weeks.
-- Is Jared Stidham (5-7 for 27 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) taking over for Cam Newton (9-16 for 119 yards, 0 TD/1 INT)?
Probably not until Week 17.
At this moment, Cam is a liability…but with this current Patriots team, they’re built for Cam to run/play safe and work good defense to win. New England can run the table and get a playoff spot, so Belichick will go with Cam at Miami Week 15.
If the Pats lose Week 15, and are out of the playoffs, Bill will still do his ex-Pat (Brian Flores/MIA) a favor and run Cam out there Week 16 vs. BUF to try and knock off the Bills to help Miami try and win the division. If the Pats beat Miami Week 15…then Week 16 is huge for NE and they’ll go with Cam for sure against the Bills.
Stidham looks like Jimmy Garoppolo 2.0 every time I watch him work. He’s probably going to be the Pats starter in 2021 Week 1, after we go through the media rumoring the Pats to sign or trade for every QB and then rumors of them drafting every QB available in the draft. In the end, I think Stidham is being groomed to be the next Jimmy G. – sadly, the lost year of training with COVID really set the plan back some in 2020.
-- Robert Woods (5-32-0/8) and Cooper Kupp (5-33-1/5) had down FF games, and that’s a testament to the Patriots pass defense, more specifically corners Stephon Gilmore (4 tackles) and J.C. Jackson (2 tackles) playing so well here/this season.
The Patriots CBs are going to crush the Dolphins passing game/Tua Week 15. Not going to be great for the Bills Week 16 either.
-- Rams LB Kenny Young (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT TD return) had himself a game. His best game as a pro. He’s still just a rotational guy right now, but he is talented…but seems to be way back in the LB rotation.
LB Troy Reeder (7 tackles, 1 TFL) has gotten more run than Young has with Micah Kizer out, and Reeder was always getting 10 or more tackles in games as a fill-in starter for Kizer…until this game. ‘Just’ 7 tackles this game. Kizer should be back Week 15 and Young and Reeder are reduced.
-- PK Matt Gay (1/1 FG, 3/3 XP) seemed like he would be inactive for this game when the Rams called up/activated a PK a few hours before kickoff. However, whatever the issue was…the practice squad PK was made inactive for the game, ultimately, and Gay kicked without issue.
Week 15 hosting the Jets indoors/in LA is good. Week 16 at Seattle should be fine too. We’ll see what the weather is there on that one…could be 50s and rain, helping stall drives and settling for FGs…maybe.
Snap Counts of Interest:
55 = Higbee
53 = Everett
50 = Akers
07 = D Henderson
06 = M Brown
27 = J White
22 = D Harris
15 = Michel
31 = Keener
23 = Asiasi