By Matt Savoca, 4for4
Special to Yahoo Sports
Yahoo is expanding its daily fantasy football options in 2021 with a single-game offering. Yahoo has a roster construction of one "Superstar" that scores at a 1.5 multiplier, while the remaining four FLEX roster spots accumulate points at the normal rate. This is half-point PPR scoring and the "Superstar" salary does not change from the Utility. All scoring and rules can be found here.
The new format started off with a bang this past Thursday with a fantastic opening night affair in Tampa Bay. Next up is the first Sunday Night Football matchup of the season between the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams.
Depending on the type of contest we’re creating rosters for, we’ll need to adjust our player selection strategy. If playing in a tournament with a huge amount of contestants, it will be vitally important to play something other than the optimal lineup based on projections. Differentiating yourself from the rest of the field is equally valuable. Once we understand the type of roster we need to be building for the specific contest you’re trying to take down, we can then focus on player selection, working to identify combinations of players that could all hit their respective ceilings together, based on specific game environments. Slow, run-oriented defensive battles often allow very different players to hit their ceiling score compared to when a game is fast-paced and pass-happy.
Vegas Total and Spread
The Rams are 8.5-point favorites at home, and the total is 46.5 points. The Rams have an implied total of 27, the Bears has an implied total of a rather low 18.5 points. The game total has increased from an opening total of 45 (and then briefly moving down to 44), before eventually settling at 46.5.
No concerns. Los Angeles’ SoFi stadium has a roof.
Potential Game Flow Scenarios
It’s no secret that the most likely game flow involves the new-look Rams offense, helmed by quarterback Matthew Stafford ($28), dominate this contest from start to finish. The Bears’ defense ($12) will have its hands full from the get-go with Stafford likely opening up the Rams’ playbook, opting for more deep shots than his predecessor Jared Goff. Not unlike previous seasons, wide receivers Robert Woods ($20) and Cooper Kupp ($18) are likely to see the largest share of targets, and even against a Chicago secondary that ranked top-10 in adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to wide receivers a season ago, have an extremely high ceiling in this matchup. The Bears have no cornerbacks who graded inside the to-50 players at the position last season, and the Rams’ passing attack will look to exploit new starter Kindle Vildor. The 2020 fifth-round draft pick has a tall task of trying to replace two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Fuller. Look for Stafford to try and pick on that matchup early on.
If the Rams are able to move the ball effectively through the air, they’re likely going to be ahead, which should create plenty of quality opportunities (targets and goal-line carries) for the Rams’ backfield. Darrell Henderson ($18) is expected to lead the running backs in touches, with 4for4 projecting 60% going Henderson’s way, and the remaining 40% being split by Sony Michel ($18) and Jake Funk ($10). Henderson, as a home favorite on a team with a decently high implied total, fits the bill of running back to target, but it should be noted that it’s fairly unlikely the Henderson sees more than 70% of the touches, the other backs are certain to get looks, especially if the game gets out of hand early.
Rounding out the Rams’ offensive attack is tight end Tyler Higbee ($16), who has seen four or more targets in eight of his last 10 games and veteran deep threat DeSean Jackson ($12), who, when healthy, still possess the ability to score from any part of the field, and can hit his ceiling with just a few targets. The Rams are also likely to mix in second-year receiver Van Jefferson, who struggled to earn playing time early in the season but contributed later in 2020, seeing five targets in Week 13 and eight targets in Week 17. The Rams’ coaching staff has talked up Jefferson this offseason, but only time will tell if that translates to consistent production in 2021. Rookie slot-speedster Tutu Atwell, selected 57th overall in the 2021 draft, should also see playing time. The 5-foot-9, 155-pound hybrid player could be used in a gadget role and get a few designed looks, but he’s unlikely to significantly contribute from day one.
The Bears traded up in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft for Justin Fields ($20), a five-star recruit and one of the best NCAA quarterbacks in recent memory, who inexplicably fell outside of the top-10 picks. It was a draft-day steal for the organization, but Fields will have to wait in the wings, as coach Matt Nagy has decided to go with veteran Andy Dalton ($27) under center to begin the season. Dalton is a limited passer at this point in his career, meaning Chicago will likely attempt to control the tempo of the game with their ground attack, which suggests David Montgomery ($19) could be in for a huge workload. 4for4 projects Montgomery for the most touches of any player in this contest. And while the Rams’ Defense ($19) was one of the most formidable units in the league a season ago, they were closer to league average in aFPA to the position last season. Montgomery will be spelled by former Chiefs’ running back Damien Williams ($15), who opted out of the 2020 season, but now returns as a high-quality backup for the Bears, but Montgomery should still see a large majority of the snaps.
The Bears' passing attack will flow through Allen Robinson ($17) but he should see plenty of star cornerback Jalen Ramsey across from him. Ramsey was utilized in shadow coverage against number-one receivers for much of the latter part of the Rams’ 2020 season, with Ramsey spending 50%-plus of routes on the opponent’s top wideout in three of the Rams’ last four contests, including the playoffs. This leaves an opportunity for second-year receiver Darnell Mooney, who should see much softer defensive coverage. Mooney earned six or more targets in four of the Bears’ last six regular-season games, and the 4for4 projections suggest Mooney and Robinson could combine for 75% or more of the Bears’ wide receiver touches, making the auxiliary receivers, Damiere Byrd ($10) and Marquise Goodwin ($10), extremely low-probability plays in this contest. 4for4 projects roughly five targets being split between tight ends Cole Kmet ($10) and Jimmy Graham ($10), meaning they will have to find the end zone, likely multiple times, in order to be must-have value plays. For what it’s worth, the Rams were slightly below league-average in aFPA to tight ends a season ago.
Close, low-scoring game
Close, high-scoring game
Blowout for home team
Blowout for away team
Cheap/Unique Stack Options
Cooper Kupp ($18)/Robert Woods ($20)/Rams Defense ($19)
This “onslaught” stack could be viable in a game scenario where the Rams dominate from start to finish, and mostly through the air, funneling a majority of the passing game work through their two primary pass-catchers in the first half to take a commanding lead, allowing their top-ranked pass defense to tee off against an overwhelmed Chicago offensive line. With 4for4 projecting Kupp and Woods to receive nearly 50%-plus of the team’s receptions, by utilizing the pair in an unorthodox WR/DEF stack, we might be able to differentiate ourselves from much of the field even while rostering high-probability plays that are expected to be rostered by a large amount of the field. You’ll likely need to make salary-related concessions at other slots on your roster with this type of build, however.
Low-Salary Volatile Plays
In single-game slates, in order to have a unique lineup that takes down a tournament on its own you almost always need to find a dart-throw player or two, and hope for a ceiling game. Here are few options to consider.
DeSean Jackson ($12)
Though Jackson has only appeared in seven games over the last two seasons, he’s earned seven-plus targets in three of those contests.
Darnell Mooney ($12)
Mooney has been bothered by back problems during the preseason, but practiced in full on Friday and is expected to play a normal workload this week. With the Bears trading Anthony Miller to Houston this offseason, they’re expecting big things from Mooney opposite Allen Robinson. Mooney projects to receive close to 20% of the Bears’ receptions.
Jimmy Graham ($10)
No longer a full-time player, Graham averaged just 12 routes per game on a 44% snap share over the Bears’ final four regular-season games, which makes it all the more impressive that he earned at least three targets in all but one of those contests, and four or more in two of them. When on the field, he’s being targeted frequently, particularly near the end zone. Nearly 30% of his targets came in the red zone during that span.
Matthew Stafford ($28)
We’re aiming to select the player with the highest raw score as our Superstar, and the highest projected player on the slate by a longshot is Stafford. He is in a prime position to start the season off with a ceiling performance against a Bears secondary that’s full of new personnel. He provides the best combination of floor and ceiling, and in cash games, is almost impossibly hard to move away from.
Cooper Kupp ($18)
With nearly an equal probability of being the most-targeted Rams’ receiver as his counterpart Robert Woods, Kupp offers as much of the upside for slightly less salary, making him the preferred option of the duo, if only just by a hair. Kupp should be able to find holes in the Chicago secondary and could see an increase in deep targets with Stafford under center.
Darrell Henderson ($18)
There’s concern from the public that Sony Michel will be overly involved, especially if this game gets out of hand, but it’s generally bad process to avoid starting running backs on home teams that are heavy favorites. Henderson provides a rock-solid floor, and could easily find his way to the end zone multiple times if the Rams command the game offensively, as many expect they will.
Allen Robinson ($17)
One of the strongest Superstar picks if not choosing a quarterback, Robinson can succeed in a variety of game environments. If the Bears are forced into comeback mode, we’ll likely see plenty of short-area targets for Robinson as they look to get back in the game. If the Bears were to surprisingly take a lead in this game, it’s likely due to the fact that Dalton and Robinson have connected for chunk plays. Robinson could see 10-plus targets in this matchup, and fantasy gamers shouldn’t be overly concerned about shadow coverage from Jalen Ramsey. The Bears will move Robinson around the formation to get more advantageous matchups as much as possible.
A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position in middle school, Matt has been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, he loves to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone.
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