Matchup Analysis: Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers

Vegas Prediction

Vegas says: Rams 25, Panthers 24

FBG Projections

TeamRushYardsTDCompAttPass YdTDINT

Rams Rushing offense

Neutral matchup vs. the Panthers defense.

Todd Gurley remains arguably the NFL’s best back, but there’s not much clarity as to how much he’ll be utilized to open the year. Gurley’s arthritic knee has its good weeks and its bad, and he all but vanished during the Rams’ postseason run. Fantasy players are even further in the dark for Week 1. Gurley’s preseason was uneventful, but it’s still not clear how his knee feels at the moment. When on the field, though, he can still be viewed and trusted as one of football’s most dynamic runners. He’s averaged 4.8 yards per carry over the past 2 seasons, topping 100 yards in 13 of 29 games. He’s one of the league’s best short-yardage runners and a true touchdown machine, amassing 30 ground touchdowns over that span. And he’ll continue to run behind a strong front line; there will be new starters at center and left guard, but line coach Aaron Kromer is exceptional at gelling lines quickly. The team has prioritized playmaking depth behind Gurley, with electric rookie Darrell Henderson and veteran Malcolm Brown rounding out the backfield. Both will see scattered opportunity even when Gurley is healthy but face unclear roles for this Sunday. Most likely, Gurley will dominate the ball for as long as he’s able to.

The Carolina run defense tumbled in 2018 from one of the league’s best to a decisively subpar unit. They allowed 4.7 yards per rush, tenth-worst in football. And they saved their worst for last, closing the season with four straight miserable performances. Still, there’s reason for optimism after a crucial, unexpected tweak that came in June. Longtime Tampa Bay disruptor Gerald McCoy was brought in to join an already-stacked front line, one that’s built to penetrate and chase down runs at the point of attack. Dontari Poe is strong on the nose, which will allow McCoy and Kawann Short to make plays. The unit may be unrecognizable without 14-year Panther Thomas Davis, but there shouldn’t be much drop-off on the second level. Luke Kuechly remains an All-Pro presence inside, and Shaq Thompson looks ready for a starting role.

Rams Passing offense

Good matchup vs. the Panthers defense.

Jared Goff closed out a true breakout 2018 with a thud, right down to a Super Bowl performance that will live infamy. Goff hit indeed a wall, but some of that collapse can be blamed on the abrupt loss of Cooper Kupp to an ACL tear in Week 10. With Kupp at full strength, Goff averaged 348 yards and 2.4 touchdowns per game. Without him, those numbers fell to 247 and 1.3. Kupp will again team with Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, both versatile, explosive threats themselves, to form one of the league’s most frightening arsenals. Cooks has topped 1,000 yards in 3 straight seasons (for 3 different teams), while Woods has proven an underrated gem, excelling both in the slot and from outside. Distribution among them may be hard to pin down, as Kupp’s return muddies Woods’ role in the slot. But together, they’ll account for the bulk of Goff’s production. With versatile pieces all over the depth chart, the Rams don’t utilize many four-wide sets. Todd Gurley is one of the league’s most dynamic receivers out of the backfield, with 32.5 career yards per game. But Gurley’s week-to-week health and usage will always be up for debate, especially in Week 1. Tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee are used situationally, though neither has ever shown much dynamism.

Carolina’s pass defense was wildly inconsistent in 2018, giving up the NFL’s seventh-most net yardage per attempt. The shallow secondary struggled in coverage, and the pass rush disappointed majorly, with only 21 sacks coming from the front line. They did, however, pull together to close the year strongly, and they enter 2019 a deeper unit. The pass rush has added veterans Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin, as well as first-rounder Brian Burns, to bring more pressure. Cornerback James Bradberry remains an underrated cover man; he’s beaten from to time on deep balls, but balances that with occasional lockdown play. The team hopes for more consistency from Donte Jackson, who opened his rookie year well but stumbled badly down the stretch. Tre Boston should bring a coverage upgrade on Mike Adams at free safety, though Eric Reid remains a liability against the pass. The biggest question mark is in the slot, and ex-Giant Ross Cockrell can’t perform much worse than Captain Munnerlyn did last year. This unit remains a shaky one, but one with real rebound potential.

Panthers Rushing offense

Good matchup vs. the Rams defense.

For all of their talk about keeping Christian McCaffrey’s workload under control, the team brought in virtually no ground-game competition. Thus, they’ll enter Week 1 with no obvious plan to scale back McCaffrey’s 14 rushes a game. In the short term, that’s a great thing: McCaffrey is an explosive runner both inside and outside, and he’s averaged 4.9 yards per carry over his last 24 games. Still, the team would love for Reggie Bonnafon and/or rookie Jordan Scarlett to take on some of that load. Neither offers much dynamism, but they only need one to emerge as a change-up power component behind McCaffrey. If nothing else, at least the front line has come together nicely over the past two years. Former All-Pro left tackle Daryl Williams is back to full health and leads one of football’s best run-blocking units. Quarterback Cam Newton remains a dangerous runner, though he’s taking off noticeably less often than he did earlier in his career – especially on the goal line. Newly 30 years old, his days of threatening 600 yards and 8 touchdowns look to be over.

The Rams run defense remained exceptionally shaky in 2018, giving up a league-high 5.1 yards per rush overall. Amazingly, none of the four 100-yard rushers they allowed needed even 20 attempts to hit the mark. This again looks like a unit designed to penetrate at the line, but without much strong backing on the second level. Cory Littleton emerged as a dependable defensive leader last year, but pass-rush specialists Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews won’t provide much help against the run. It’s never ideal for a team’s safeties to be such critical pieces in run defense, but Josh Johnson and Eric Weddle will spend ample time both in the box and chasing runs through it. Of course, so many deficiencies are papered over with a talent like Aaron Donald up front. For all of this unit’s issue last season, it did manage to lock down Ezekiel Elliott (20 carries for 47 yards), Alvin Kamara (8 for 15), and Mark Ingram (9 for 31) in the postseason.

Panthers Passing offense

Tough matchup vs. the Rams defense.

Cam Newton seems to have avoided serious injury to his foot, and he’ll be under center for Week 1. More importantly, it looks as though he’s worked through last season’s shoulder woes and January surgery. Camp onlookers raved about his conditioning and deep ball, which would mean more playmaking opportunity for explosive receiver duo D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. Moore began earning heavy usage in Week 8 of his rookie year and closed out on a 67-catch, 955-yard pace. There were a few miscues along the way, but Moore proved a dynamic threat both down the field and underneath. There’s no question he boasts real WR1 traits, and he’ll show them off more with Devin Funchess out of town. Samuel enjoyed a breakout of his own down the 2018 stretch, topping 70 yards in 3 of the final 6 games. A dizzying open-field athlete with 4,31 speed, Samuel is healthy and being counted on for slot and playmaking duties underneath. There’s not much opportunity behind them at wideout, with Christian McCaffrey (107 receptions last year) and two quality tight ends in play. McCaffrey is the team’s most dynamic weapon with the ball in his hands, and even with Moore and Samuel on the rise, he’ll easily pace the team in opportunity. The real question is whether 34-year-old Greg Olsen can stay healthy for anywhere close to 16 games. He could gradually lose snaps to impressive second-year man Ian Thomas.

Last year’s Rams boasted a pass defense built on big names and aggressive styles, but it waned in consistency and finished a below-average unit. They somehow allowed 14 different receivers to notch 90 yards or more, with 3 of them topping 180. The deep ball was a clear vulnerability, despite a star-studded trio of cornerbacks. The good news for the Rams is that they get a healthy Aqib Talib who was fantastic on the right side, and Nickell Robey-Coleman was a shutdown force in the slot. But Marcus Peters struggled mightily through most of the season on the left. He improved as the season wore on, but remains a feast-or-famine cover man whose aggressiveness will always win or lose in grand fashion. 34-year-old Eric Weddle will step into the full-time free safety role, which may provide a small upgrade from Lamarcus Joyner. All told, this is one of football’s deepest and most talented units.

Jared Goff (FanDuel: $7800, DraftKings: $6200)

1PROJ-Dodds23352781.80.825020.820.820.8 (H=49)20.8 (H=61)
1PROJ-Tremblay24372941.71.1380.121.821.821.8 (H=53)21.8 (H=67)
1PROJ-Bloom22302591.40.6110181818 (H=38)18 (H=48)

Darrell Henderson (FanDuel: $5400, DraftKings: $4800)

1PROJ-Dodds6280.21.6150. (H=10)7.7 (H=14)
1PROJ-Tremblay6250.21.2904.65.85.2 (H=6)5.8 (H=8)
1PROJ-Bloom4170.12.0250. (H=9)7.4 (H=13)

Malcolm Brown (FanDuel: $4900, DraftKings: $3800)

1PROJ-Dodds5220.10.22033.23.1 (H=2)3.2 (H=3)
1PROJ-Tremblay4170.10.6402.73.33 (H=2)3.3 (H=4)
1PROJ-Bloom8310.20.0004.34.34.3 (H=5)4.3 (H=6)

John Kelly (FanDuel: $4500, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds0000.000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)
1PROJ-Tremblay0000.000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)

Robert Woods (FanDuel: $7000, DraftKings: $6400)

1PROJ-Dodds4.6620.4140913.611.3 (H=19)13.6 (H=28)
1PROJ-Tremblay4.5640.31608.813.311.1 (H=18)13.3 (H=27)
1PROJ-Bloom5.0580.31508.113.110.6 (H=17)13.1 (H=26)

Cooper Kupp (FanDuel: $6800, DraftKings: $5700)

1PROJ-Dodds4.6570.40008.112.710.4 (H=16)12.7 (H=28)
1PROJ-Tremblay4.2580.40208.412.610.5 (H=17)12.6 (H=28)
1PROJ-Bloom6.0670.40009.115.112.1 (H=22)15.1 (H=38)

Josh Reynolds (FanDuel: $4900, DraftKings: $3300)

1PROJ-Dodds1.21600001.62.82.2 (H=1)2.8 (H=3)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.5200.10102.74.23.5 (H=3)4.2 (H=7)
1PROJ-Bloom0.000000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)

Gerald Everett (FanDuel: $4900, DraftKings: $2900)

1PROJ-Dodds2.2230. (H=5)5.7 (H=14)
1PROJ-Tremblay2.3220. (H=5)5.7 (H=14)
1PROJ-Bloom2.0270. (H=5)5.3 (H=12)

Tyler Higbee (FanDuel: $4000, DraftKings: $2600)

1PROJ-Dodds1.1120. (H=2)2.9 (H=4)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.5160.12.23.73 (H=3)3.7 (H=7)
1PROJ-Bloom1.0130. (H=2)2.9 (H=4)

Los Angeles Rams (FanDuel: $4400, DraftKings: $3200)

1PROJ-Dodds23.73692.410.600. (H=15)7.7 (H=21)
1PROJ-Tremblay23.753842.31.10.600. (H=18)8.4 (H=24)

Christian McCaffrey (FanDuel: $8900, DraftKings: $8800)

1PROJ-Dodds14700.46.4490.316.122.519.3 (H=37)22.5 (H=49)
1PROJ-Tremblay15760.56.4500.317.423.820.6 (H=42)23.8 (H=55)
1PROJ-Bloom15700.56.0420.3162219 (H=36)22 (H=48)

Mike Davis (FanDuel: $4900, DraftKings: $3500)

1PROJ-Dodds8340.31.0705.96.96.4 (H=10)6.9 (H=16)
1PROJ-Tremblay6270.21.2904.865.4 (H=7)6 (H=12)
1PROJ-Bloom6300.21.0504.75.75.2 (H=7)5.7 (H=11)

Jordan Scarlett (FanDuel: $4700, DraftKings: $3400)

1PROJ-Dodds280.10.0001.41.41.4 (H=0)1.4 (H=1)
1PROJ-Tremblay290.10.3201.721.9 (H=1)2 (H=1)
1PROJ-Bloom1400.0000.40.40.4 (H=0)0.4 (H=0)

Reggie Bonnafon (FanDuel: $4500, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds2600.8501.11.91.5 (H=0)1.9 (H=2)
1PROJ-Tremblay0000.000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)

Trenton Cannon (FanDuel: $4600, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds1401.0701.12.11.7 (H=1)2.2 (H=2)
1PROJ-Tremblay1500.5400.91.41.2 (H=0)1.5 (H=1)

D.J. Moore (FanDuel: $6200, DraftKings: $5500)

1PROJ-Dodds4.1560.41508.512.610.6 (H=19)12.6 (H=29)
1PROJ-Tremblay4.8660.3160913.811.4 (H=21)13.8 (H=34)
1PROJ-Bloom4.0510.31607.511.59.5 (H=15)11.5 (H=24)

Robby Anderson (FanDuel: $6300, DraftKings: $5200)

1PROJ-Dodds3.7500.41207.611.39.5 (H=15)11.3 (H=25)
1PROJ-Tremblay3.1450.30006.39.47.9 (H=11)9.4 (H=18)
1PROJ-Bloom3.0410.30005.98.97.4 (H=10)8.9 (H=16)

Curtis Samuel (FanDuel: $5900, DraftKings: $4200)

1PROJ-Dodds3.6490.31407.110.78.9 (H=14)10.7 (H=28)
1PROJ-Tremblay3.6450.31406.710.38.5 (H=13)10.3 (H=27)
1PROJ-Bloom4.0580.41508.712.710.7 (H=20)12.7 (H=38)

Seth Roberts (FanDuel: $4500, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds1.3180.10002.43.73.1 (H=3)3.7 (H=6)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.9240.10103.154.1 (H=5)5 (H=10)
1PROJ-Bloom0.000000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)

Keith Kirkwood (FanDuel: $4600, DraftKings: $3200)

1PROJ-Dodds1.1120.10001.82.92.4 (H=1)2.9 (H=3)
1PROJ-Tremblay0.690.10001.52.11.8 (H=1)2.1 (H=2)
1PROJ-Bloom1.0110.10001.72.72.2 (H=1)2.7 (H=3)

Ian Thomas (FanDuel: $4600, DraftKings: $2800)

1PROJ-Dodds1.2120.11.832.4 (H=1)3 (H=4)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.5130. (H=2)3.4 (H=5)
1PROJ-Bloom0.000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)

Seth DeValve (FanDuel: $4000, DraftKings: $2500)

1PROJ-Dodds0.9100. (H=1)2.5 (H=3)
1PROJ-Tremblay0.000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)
1PROJ-Bloom1.01101.12.11.6 (H=1)2.1 (H=2)

Joey Slye (FanDuel: $--, DraftKings: $--)


Carolina Panthers (FanDuel: $3500, DraftKings: $2100)

1PROJ-Dodds26.63922.30.90.500. (H=12)5.9 (H=20)
1PROJ-Tremblay26.754082.41.10.500.3777 (H=16)7 (H=27)