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Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown: Week 5 Washington Football Team vs. Los Angeles Rams

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Washington is 1-3 and yet somehow remains just out of first place in their division. Coach Ron Rivera is making the change to Kyle Allen at quarterback, but will it be enough to keep up with the 3-1 Rams? For the 2020 NFL season, Matt Savoca will be providing his weekly NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown column, going through every single game and offensive and defensive matchup, every week of the season. For your viewing convenience, we have broken up the matchups breakdown into several single columns, each one covering a single game. You can find links to every game right here. We have 12 games on tap for Week 5 NFL DFS and NFL Fantasy Football, so let’s dive in. The entire matchups article will be available in podcast form, every Friday afternoon on the Awesemo Podcast Network. Let’s get into the Washington – Rams NFL DFS picks for your NFL DFS lineups.

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Washington Football Team (19.25) at Los Angeles Rams (27.25) – 1:00 ET

Washington Passing Game

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to fantasy gamers that Washington will be a massive road underdog this weekend when they travel to Los Angeles to face the 3-1 Rams. In Week 4, Washington found itself down 14 points before anyone could blink, and Dwayne Haskins, stymied by conservative play calling (Washington ranks bottom third in air yards per second and true neutral early-down pass rate) and abysmal accuracy (35th in completion percentage over expectation), has now played himself out of the starting role. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Washington is choosing to take a look at Kyle Allen as their starter this week. It’s very possible Allen, even with similar efficiency, will outproduce Haskins, who seemingly refused to take deep shots either, ranking 34th in average depth of target and further siphoning fantasy value from a team that seems nearly devoid of it to begin with. Allen wasn’t spectacular in the same statistic a year ago, but he was at least in line with league averages.

And yet, through the continuing quarterback turmoil, Terry McLaurin keeps on producing. McLaurin’s 10 catches Sunday were a career high, punctuated by a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch for 37 yards late in the fourth quarter. That reception was one of only two plays that Washington had all game that generated 3-plus expected points added, compared to the Ravens’ 8. In Week 5 he’ll undoubtedly be hounded by the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey, who continues to grade out as an excellent cornerback via PFF, tied for 16th among all cornerbacks in coverage rating. McLaurin, an emerging superstar on a sputtering offense, ranks eighth in corresponding receiving grade, for what it’s worth. This should be one of the best one-on-one battles on the slate but likely won’t create meaningful drama nor fantasy production due to quarterback play. If only a more accurate, aggressive signal-caller were at the helm of the Washington offense. McLaurin, and we fantasy gamers, can only control so much.

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It was the quietest game of the season for the underproducing (relative to opportunity) tight end Logan Thomas, who saw only four targets Sunday after seeing seven or more in the first three weeks. It’s not unreasonable to believe that the Ravens, who tend to use speedy linebackers capable of bottling up receivers over the middle, were particularly capable of stopping looks to Thomas, but it’s a trend certainly worth monitoring. His true weighted opportunity share still ranks top 10 among all tight ends, despite the lack of production. He’ll continue to be looked upon as a dynamic athlete with atypically high usage for a player priced at $3,500 on DraftKings, a salary allowing for extreme optionality at other lineup positions. This year, the Rams have given up more receiving touchdowns to tight ends than to running backs and wide receivers combined.

With Steven Sims out for Washington, Dontrelle Inman, Antonio Gibson and Isaiah Wright all saw five targets apiece. It was another game of meaningful action for the wide receiver Wright, an undrafted rookie out of Temple, who has now seen five-plus targets and caught four-plus passes, in back-to-back contests. He’s yet to crest 25 yards receiving, however.

Washington Rushing Game

Gibson had his best day as a pro Sunday, racking up 128 total yards and a touchdown, even with Washington trailing for nearly the entire game. His 27.3% opportunity share ranked 21st at the position this week and occurred in spite of receiving specialist J.D. McKissic earning 18% of the team’s targets. Gibson has completely surpassed Peyton Barber as a rushing option (though Barber nearly stole Gibson’s touchdown but instead was stuffed at the goal line). After a fourth straight week outpacing historical trends in PFF’s avoided tackles metric based on total touches, it’s safe to say that Gibson is the future of the running back position in Washington. Should they find themselves in more advantageous game situations (which this week does not appear to be), Gibson could be extremely effective. Until then, however, he’ll be a boom/bust play at $5,000 on DraftKings this weekend, just 26th highest among running backs. It’s far from impossible to envision him returning significant value at his salary.

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Los Angeles Passing Game

Though the Rams continue to rank in the bottom third in pass rate in neutral situations, it appears coach Sean McVay is opening up the offense a bit more for quarterback Jared Goff. Goff now ranks in the top half of the league in air yards per second, an indicator that when Goff chooses to pass on early downs, he’s either choosing downfield throws (he’s not, see below) or utilizing a fast tempo to keep defenses off-balance. He’s still leading the league in passer air conversion ratio (PACR), a general sign of solid decision making. But results-wise, it was an ugly Week 4 as Goff ranked 23rd in QBR and the Rams mustered just 17 points against a Giants defense that ranks bottom 12 in PFF’s coverage rating. Goff still only has one game with an average depth of target beyond six yards, and he ranks 30th in deep passes per game. It’s abundantly clear that the Rams aren’t interested in winning via Goff’s arm. Even if they continue to find ways to effectively utilize their top three receiving options in unique ways, Goff has had two games where the top receiver failed to crack 85 yards, including Week 4, when no one cracked 70 receiving yards.

Cooper Kupp continues to lead the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards, but more interestingly, he’s led the team in air yards share each of the last two weeks. He’s also been by far the most efficient Rams skill player with the ball in his hands, racking up a team-high 6.5 receiving expected points added per game. No other player on the team is north of four. After a 105-yard Week 1, Robert Woods has failed to top 75 yards receiving in each of the last three games. He now trails Kupp in more significantly true weighted opportunity share, ranking 37th overall at the position (compared to Kupp’s 28th). Tyler Higbee hasn’t had more than five targets in a game yet this season (his Week 2, three-touchdown explosion) and failed to top 40 yards receiving for the third time in four games. As the sixth-highest-priced tight end on the main slate, he’ll likely need a touchdown or two to be a value at his salary on DraftKings. Josh Reynolds and Van Jefferson are this offense’s dart-throw tournament plays. Each has one game with five targets, but neither has topped that mark yet, and both have a one-target game thus far as well, indicating an ultra-low ceiling.

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Los Angeles Rushing Game

The running back carousel continues in Los Angeles, and it’s worth continuing to monitor, as the Rams generate the eighth-most expected points per drive in the NFL. Malcolm Brown led the backfield in opportunity share for the second time this season after Darrell Henderson had seemingly wrangled command from Brown in Weeks 2 and 3. Brown’s six targets in Week 4 are particularly encouraging. With rookie Cam Akers (rib), who was the “starting” running back in both games he was healthy, expected back this week, each of the three backfield options will be risky plays in fantasy lineups. Washington’s run defense is far from a strength, ranking 19th in PFF’s rush defense grade and exemplified by Lamar Jackson’s 50-yard touchdown run a week ago. There’s likely fantasy production to be found here. From whom, however, is anybody’s guess.

Prediction: Rams 27, Washington 14.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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