2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 8: Rams 38, Texans 22 (By Ross Jacobs)
Don't be fooled by the final score being only 16 points. This was as one-sided a beatdown as I've seen this year. The Rams were up 38-0 with 8 minutes left before the Texans scored 22 in a flurry. The first score was a nice drive capped off by a Burkhead TD. Then they got the ball back quickly and hit Brandin Cooks for a 45 yard score. After that they recovered an onside kick and found Brevin Jordan for the final TD.
I'm not sure what the point was of all that activity because there was clearly not enough time to win the game, but the stupidity of NFL coaches knows no bounds. You think they were building morale by scoring garbage time points on a team that doesn't care? Good luck with that. Probably should have thought of morale before you pissed off your star QB so badly that he refused to play for you any longer. I digress.
It's impossible in these situations to take any larger conclusions away. The Texans are not exactly a great measuring stick to find out just how good the Rams might be. LA has been beating down nearly everyone they've played, but when you look at who they've beaten it's not exactly an impressive list outside of whipping the Bucs one week.
I would have said we would find out more about them this upcoming week, but Derrick Henry is suddenly gone from the Titans which completely changes the dynamic.
My best guess is that the Rams are lumped in a group with the Cowboys and Bucs for next best team in the NFC behind the Cardinals. All three have incredible offenses averaging north of 30 points per game, and all three have decent defenses. The Rams seem to have maybe a little bit better defense than the other two but also a slightly worse offense to balance it out. I don't include the Packers in this conversation yet because I think their offense is much worse than the other three (24 ppg which is a full TD worse than the others).
But even though I think the Rams are the 2nd best team in their own division, the Cardinals just took a hit with a Kyler Murray injury. We still don't know the extent of it, but my best guess is he needs a week or two to fully heal. That could be just enough of a crack for the Rams to sneak the division from them. This is going to be a tight race, and the Rams almost certainly have to win the rematch game in December to have a chance. But the stakes are huge as the winner probably gets the 1st or 2nd seed while the loser will be 5th. That makes a huge difference in their Superbowl chances.
--Ok I have to admit something. I had Matt Stafford (21-32 for 305 yards, 3 TD/0 INT) ranked as the 5th best QB on my board for fantasy this year because I figured McVay would set out to prove himself right by throwing the ball all over the lot, and that's been 100% true. It's also why I had Cooper Kupp (7-115-1/9) as my 5th best WR and drafted him on all my teams.
BUT I did not think that Stafford would actually be a great real life QB for this team and propel the Rams to a lot of wins. My admission? He's really, really good. This offense is a joy to watch. They are functioning at an incredible level. RC keeps complaining every week about how Kupp is never covered...well that's because you can't cover him. There are too many threats to be able to double him all the time and the routes he's running chef's kiss*.
There were several times in this game where Stafford threw the ball and Kupp still had his back turned to the line of scrimmage. He would make a move, turn, and the ball was right there in his hands. You can't cover it. There's simply no way, not when Stafford throws it that early. It's the exact same thing that Rodgers does with Davante, and it's the same thing Peyton did with Harrison. This connection is on another level and won't be slowed. The best thing defensive coordinators could try is to jam Kupp at the line, but there are ways to beat that too.
Now this begs the question: was Goff actually the problem? And my answer is...at least partially. Goff definitely doesn't have the arm strength that Stafford can threaten the field with. That lets Stafford operate with more space. But we've seen Goff run high level progressions and route concepts before. He's also been pretty darn good in Detroit despite a horrendous surrounding cast. He didn't just forget how to play football over his last two years in Detroit.
That makes me think that McVay was at least a little to blame for Goff's decline. I think he got frustrated with some things and his confidence in Goff began to decline. As his confidence left, he started trying to micromanage Goff more and more which led to more problems. It's the same thing we saw happen with Trubisky in Chicago and is currently happening to Hurts in Philadelphia. Coaches can and do unintentionally destroy some of these QB's by how they manage them.
It also means that the Lions were indeed wasting a lot of Stafford's ability all these years. Now I'm not saying that Stafford should be included in the elite group with Rodgers, Brady, Russell, and Mahomes (who I'm starting to have some questions about) because it seems like he can't overcome subpar surroundings. He needs a talented offense around him, and he needs a coach that knows how to put all the pieces together. But he's certainly very good, and this offense is firing on all cylinders now.
--Because the passing game is functioning so well, it's opening up things for Darrell Henderson (14-90-1) in the run game. He's played 7 games this year and is averaging 15.7 carries, 72.4 yards, 1 TD, 2.3 catches, and 20 yards yards receiving per game (17.5 ppg...the 11th best ppr RB on the year).
--Kupp is on a whole other level, but after him the receivers are a mixed bag. Robert Woods (3-35-1/9, 3-22-1) had another good fantasy day that was saved by his 2 TD's, but he doesn't look like he's clicking with Stafford yet. The connection isn't smooth. Everything else is functioning so well that I think Woods will ultimately finish as a lower WR2 just by circumstance.
--The guy that looks more important to the offense to me is Van Jefferson (3-88-0/6). It's not going to work as well for fantasy as Woods will, but he's more important to the Rams offense. Jefferson is the deep threat and his speed is helping to open everything up because teams know that Stafford can hit him deep at any time (like he did in this game). Coordinators live in fear of getting beat deep so they constantly leave two safeties way back, and of course Kupp just chews that up all day long.
--Another guy got involved here that was a bit of a surprise to see. Rookie Ben Skowronek (3-30-0/3) was in late and taking some passes for decent gains. He's a big guy at 6'3” 220 lbs and moves fairly well for his size. I don't think he's fast enough to really succeed as a WR long term, but if he could somehow add some weight and convert to TE we might have something. Trouble is RC and I aren't sure his frame can handle any more weight. He might be stuck in that tweener WR/TE range and not work out at either position.
--Another week, another bad loss, yet another not bad performance from Davis Mills (29-38 for 310, 2 TD/1 INT). He was put in a horrible situation this year and has responded splendidly. I think I'd rather have him than Mac Jones at this point. He'll be replaced by Tyrod Taylor as soon as he's healthy, but Mills might actually be a decent QB for this team the next 2-3 years if they can rebuild.
--The Houston backfield is tough to figure out this week. They got blown out so quickly that running was all but impossible. My take on it is this: I think David Johnson is the starter and will split 60-40 or so with Phillip Lindsay. Rex Burkhead will be the third back in and probably vulture some TD's (which there won't be much of anyways) and some receiving work, and Scottie Phillips is a distant fourth.
I know they all took similar carries here, but Johnson and Lindsay were pulled from the game once it got out of hand, and Burkhead and Phillips took the remaining touches. Houston will be down nearly every week but probably not getting blown out this badly. DJ, in particular, could be a really sneaky DFS play against a bad Miami run defense this week.
--The Houston passing game is still all Brandin Cooks (6-83-1/6) and it's working for ppr. Ride it if you have it. Nico Collins (4-55-0/4) has developed into the #2 for now. I don't see anything magical emerging from him yet.
--Rookie TE Brevin Jordan (3-41-1/4) made his debut and looked ok in garbage time, nothing special. I'd rather have either of the other two Houston TE's over him as a talent. His TD was the last of the game, and he was left wide open for an easy pitch and catch. He's still the backup to Jordan Akins for now.
--Rookie Ernest Jones (9 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 tfl, 1 pd) got his first full-time start of the year and responded with a nice IDP performance. I didn't see too much after watching him though. Because the Rams got up so early, Houston went into pass-only mode and Jones was able to drift around in coverage and come up for easy tackles. He honestly looked a little lost at times. He moves around well enough. Don't think he's all that different from the guy he replaced, Kenny Young.
--Of course the biggest IDP news here was the trade for Von Miller. It certainly sounds scary on paper. Miller and Aaron Donald attacking the line together with Jalen Ramsey patrolling behind them. That's some serious firepower.
I actually like this move for the Rams. They haven't used their draft picks well anyways and weren't likely to find a Von Miller in the 2nd or 3rd rounds of the draft. They have a Superbowl window right now. Their one big weakness on defense was getting pressure from someone other than Donald, and they fixed that here. Who cares about the salary cap? They'll figure that out later.
Snap Counts of Interest
58 = Cooper Kupp
58 = Robert Woods
56 = Van Jefferson
20 = Ben Skowronek
41 = Darrell Henderson
20 = Sony Michel
54 = Brandin Cooks
39 = Danny Amendola
39 = Nico Collins
25 = Chris Conley
30 = Rex Burkhead
15 = Scottie Phillips
11 = David Johnson
8 = Phillip Lindsay
39 = Jordan Akins
15 = Brevin Jordan