Fantasy Football Week 14: Thursday Night Football analysis for Rams vs. Raiders

We’re just about to hit the fantasy football playoffs for most leagues. This week could decide if you’re playing for the championship or scrambling to avoid your league’s last-place punishment. Either way, roster decisions have some added pressure on them. And the last few Thursday night games have been a larger source of fantasy goodness.

Our fantasy options may be limited this week, but I’ve got a few players to target for folks looking to make one final push.

Los Angeles tries to bet against Vegas without any future 'RAM'-ifications

I am deeply sorry about the “RAM"-ification pun in the title. One of the hardest parts of writing this piece each week is coming up with an interesting headline. I regret resorting to this level of trickery to catch you off guard.

But, I mean, the Raiders do it, too:

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By that point, Josh Jacobs had already ripped off a 20-yard touchdown run and had 74 yards on the day. The near certainty of his third consecutive game over the century mark created its own gravity at the line of scrimmage.

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Pre-snap, the Chargers have five on the line. After Jacobs tosses the ball back to Derek Carr, there are eight white jerseys within five yards of the line of scrimmage, including safety Derwin James. The offense is so concentrated that defenses tend to focus on one of Vegas’ stars.

But then, the other winds up beating you.

Since losing Hunter Renfrow after Week 9, and Darren Waller already on IR, Jacobs and Davante Adams account for 72.9 percent of the team’s yards. You could add up all the other receiving touchdowns over the last month, and you wouldn’t surpass Adams (5). Jacobs has rushed for 29 first downs. Zamir White is the next closest running back with three.

I’ve got one other guy worth rostering for tonight, but the Rams will need to play more as they did on Sunday to keep Vegas in a passing script:

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Week 13 may have been a greater indictment on Seattle’s defense, but the Rams were functional on offense. They averaged 32.6 yards per drive, Cam Akers found the end zone twice, and we got another look at life without Allen Robinson. I’d feel better about the Rams if Matthew Stafford was still under center. With John Wolford, the drive-killing mistakes are just a snap away.

The LA backup has taken three or more sacks in both starts while throwing at least one pick per game. Tackling was considered optional for most of the day, but Seattle still pressured Wolford on 31.7% of his dropbacks. The disruption caused one of his interceptions on Sunday. The Raiders might be league-average in pressure rate, but Los Angeles will need to lean on their running game again if they hope to get anything going on offense.

Points of Interest in TNF

Josh Jacobs: Top Fantasy RB and … MVP?

Let’s go back to August. It feels like a lifetime ago, but I still remember this:

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To be clear, I’m not pointing the finger at Vic Tafur or calling Old Takes Exposed about any other analyst with a similar opinion. We all had the same thought at the moment. As a result, Jacobs’ draft stock nosedived. He was untouchable at his ADP, and Zamir White was the clear roster target.

Jacobs must’ve read every tweet he saw that night.

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Jacobs is the overall RB2 in PPR scoring coming into tonight. His highlight reels line up with his rushing yards over expected, but there’s an air of unsustainability to his results. We think of exceeding a projected amount as something that will regress to a natural mean. And Jacobs’ RYOE is a prime candidate. But, even without the explosive plays, Jacobs has improved as a runner:

Josh Jacobs rushing metrics for fantasy. (Photo by Chris Allen/Yahoo Sports)
Josh Jacobs rushing metrics for fantasy. (Photo by Chris Allen/Yahoo Sports)

Let’s add some context here, though. First, Vegas’ offensive line is on the upswing. They’re first in adjusted line yards after ending 2022 at the league average. Plus, Jacobs missed multiple games last season. There’s credit (or an excuse) we could assign to either factor. But we’ve always looked at Jacobs as a good running back. Unreliable at times, but good. However, with his current tear, his 2023 ADP will be the subject of many debates.

But let’s see if he can continue his streak of 100-yard games tonight. His quad/calf injuries have limited him over the past two weeks. However, Jacobs should be fine without Aaron Donald greeting him at the line of scrimmage. Seattle, without Kenneth Walker for most of the game, was 11th in rushing success rate in Week 13. Jacobs can exploit the Rams’ defensive weakness for another big game tonight.

The future of the Rams’ passing attack

The grim but evident truth is the Rams should turn the page on the 2022 season. Internally, maybe they already have. Most of their stars are on IR, and they’d need a miracle to even get to the playoffs. I’d assume evaluating their receiver talent for the future would be a priority.

Cooper Kupp will be 30 by the start of next season, and Allen Robinson’s best days are behind him. We’ll need to contextualize the results with their quarterback’s limitations. Regardless, they’ve got a few options worth monitoring.

Rams receivers route analysis. (Data courtesy of PFF)
Rams receivers route analysis. (Data courtesy of PFF)

Van Jefferson has battled a knee injury throughout the season but got healthy right when his starting teammates got hurt. He’s run a route on 98.5% of the dropbacks, and over the last two weeks, he’s the most-targeted receiver when the quarterback is under duress. But his 15.6% TPRR indicates he’s getting more cardio work than targets. And the remaining receivers have an easier path to earning looks from Wolford.

Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek and Brandon Powell all have higher slot rates than Jefferson. Skowronek has the most targets on third downs (tied with Jefferson), and Atwell’s 2.22 YPRR leads the team. Now on his third team, Powell slides in as the only other primary receiver with a red-zone target. None of them stick out as clear beneficiaries of the Rams’ misfortune. But they’ll need to see something before they close out the year.

The Raiders will pressure Wolford, and his passes will be inaccurate. We know this. But I’ll still be looking for an ancillary option to emerge, assuming Stafford and the gang return for ’23. Powell is the only free agent after the start of the new year, so let’s hope they find something positive to carry out their injury-riddled title defense.

But Don’t Bench These Guys

OK, I’m being serious this time. We don’t need to overthink tonight’s matchup. I realize I’m saying this mostly to myself after recommending DeVante Parker last week (he had the second-most targets!). Regardless, desperation to get into the playoffs shouldn’t bring you here. Leave Ameer Abdullah and Atwell on the wire.

But if you happen to have either of the following two guys on your bench, they’re worth a spot start tonight.

Mack Hollins

Jacobs’ success doesn’t come without affecting the rest of the offense. The Raiders are 19th in neutral passing rate on early downs over their last three games. Carr has still averaged 34.3 attempts per game over the stretch, but Adams demands 36.0% of the targets. However, Mack Hollins still has a role in the offense.

Hollins and Adams have run the same number of routes (107), but understandably, Adams has the higher target utilization. Regardless, Hollins can be a flex option for Week 14. He’s the only receiver to earn targets out of the slot and is behind only Adams in looks on third downs. He hasn’t had a red-zone target since Week 8, but his steady 23.0% target share is enough to be a floor play tonight.

Cam Akers

The Rams backup quarterbacks aren’t cut out for life at the pro level. Their adjusted completion percentage under pressure aligns with passers like Kyle Allen, Davis Mills and Marcus Mariota. Los Angeles needs another option to keep Maxx Crosby at bay, and Cam Akers may be the solution.

Week 13 Rams RB Usage. (Photo by Chris Allen/Yahoo Sports)
Week 13 Rams RB Usage. (Photo by Chris Allen/Yahoo Sports)

Darrell Henderson has only been gone two games, and Akers had just a 36.4% touch rate in Week 12. His dominant jump to a 72.0% snap share and taking over every scenario except third-down work appears volatile. But a matchup against the Raiders makes Akers a viable fantasy option for TNF.

The Chargers were the first team Las Vegas kept out of the box since Week 8. They’re 18th in rushing success rate over the last six weeks. Given the team's overall dip in efficiency, I’d like to see more passing-game usage for Akers. Regardless, his projected volume is too much to ignore between the injuries and teams on bye in Week 14.

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