NFL Conference Championships: Scouting Every Offense, Key Matchups, More

Jan 17, 2019 08:20 PM EST
Credit:

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Michael Thomas, Patrick Mahomes, Todd Gurley

  • We're only one round away from Super Bowl 53 with the Rams-Saints and Patriots-Chiefs conference championships this Sunday.
  • Below are brief breakdowns of all four teams' offenses as well as key matchups to know for fantasy and betting.

Only four teams are still vying for the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta.

The New Orleans Saints host the Los Angeles Rams to kick off Championship Sunday (3:05p.m. ET on FOX) followed by the New England Patriots’ road trip to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs (6:40 p.m. ET on CBS)

While it’s impossible to cover all the applicable storylines and statistics for the two conference championship matchups in one article, we can at least get an early start on what figures to be a great day of high-level football.

What follows are brief breakdowns of each team’s quarterback, backfield and receivers.

Los Angeles Rams

Will the Real Jared Goff Please Stand Up?

The Rams averaged 32.9 points per game this season with the help of sustained excellence from their franchise quarterback.

Still, Goff’s performance without his most-trusted receiver in the lineup has been troubling.

And while the Superdome is basically the Coors Field of fantasy football, road games haven’t been kind to the Rams’ passing game during the Sean McVay era.

Per our FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, Goff has averaged 24.1 DraftKings points per game with a +6.8 Plus/Minus and a 68% Consistency Rating at home compared to 16.9 PPG with a -0.8 Plus/Minus and a 36% Consistency Rating on the road over the past two seasons.

Who Is the Starting Running Back in Los Angeles?

The answer is Todd Gurley. Still, C.J. Anderson was plenty involved during the Rams’ Divisional Round win over the Cowboys.

  • Gurley: 45 snaps (57%) | 16 carries | two targets
  • Anderson: 34 snaps (43%) | 23 carries | one target

The Saints defense (No. 3 in Football Outsiders’ rush DVOA) graded out slightly better than the Cowboys (No. 5) this season, but the entire league has largely been subject to the will of the Rams’ league-best offensive line in adjusted line yards per rush.

Anderson has had an eerily similar start to his Rams career as Gurley and racked up at least 120 rushing yards in three consecutive games. However, the Saints’ high-octane offense theoretically sets up for better game flow for Gurley, who ran 20 routes last week compared to just five for CJA.

Goff Loves to Throw in the Woods (Sorry)

The Rams have continued to funnel their passing offense through their top-three receivers during their post-Kupp life.

  • Robert Woods (73 targets in nine games without Kupp)
  • Brandin Cooks (63)
  • Josh Reynolds (51)
  • Todd Gurley (42; missed two games)
  • Gerald Everett (34)
  • Tyler Higbee (22)

The Saints didn’t ask stud cornerback Marshon Lattimore to shadow during their Week 9 win over the Rams. Cooks will see the most of Lattimore if he again plays the majority of his snaps as the defense’s right cornerback.

Reynolds will square off with Eli Apple on the other side. Reynolds is capable of winning this matchup with volume, but Apple deserves credit for not allowing a single touchdown reception all season.

Apple has been significantly more consistent with the Saints:

This alignment would set Woods up for the most success in the slot against liability P.J. Williams — Pro Football Focus’ No. 109 cornerback out of 119 qualified players.

Additional Notes:

  • The Rams are arguably the healthiest team. They’re virtually 100% good to go with the exceptions of Kupp, backup running back Malcolm Brown (shoulder, IR) and defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee, IR). Monitor our Conference Championship Injury Report for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses.
  • Only the Patriots (26) are implied to score fewer points than the Rams (26.75) per our FantasyLabs NFL Vegas Dashboard.
  • The Rams (No. 3 in situation neutral pace) tend to operate a faster-moving offense than the Saints (No. 31).

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees Is Like Any 40-Year-Old Man: He Prefers to Be Indoors

Good luck slowing down the Saints passing offense without the help of Mother Nature.

The Rams already found out what it feels like to be shredded by Brees and Co. in Week 9, when the Saints quarterback completed 25-of-36 passes (69.4%) for 346 yards (9.6 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns with zero interceptions en route to a 45-35 victory.

Brees has the highest Projected Ceiling and Projected Plus/Minus in our Pro Models among all quarterbacks not named Patrick Mahomes.