Last updated: September 19th at 6:15pm ET
Team Totals: Rams 26, Browns 23
Jared Goff’s increasingly large-sample road struggles combined with Los Angeles’ shaky interior line matched up with Cleveland’s game-wrecking defensive front forewarn of a Sunday night clunker from Goff, who averages 13.5 fewer fantasy points per game and nearly two fewer yards per attempt in away games since the beginning of 2018. New LG Joseph Noteboom and C Brian Allen have been major pass-protection liabilities early on, and RG Austin Blythe (ankle) is in danger of missing Sunday night’s game. The Browns rank second in the NFL in sacks (8) and fifth in QB hits (15) two weeks in. … Although Todd Gurley’s third-quarter four-yard touchdown run saved his Week 2 from disaster, his 63% playing-time percentage was Gurley’s second lowest since 2017, and he drew just five combined targets in Weeks 1-2 after averaging nearly six targets per game over the previous two seasons. Gurley’s usage loss and weakened interior run blocking put a lid on his fantasy ceiling, even if he remains a viable RB2. This week’s matchup is mediocre against a Browns defense that allowed 46/184/1 (4.0 YPC) rushing to Titans and Jets backs in its first two games. No. 2 back Malcolm Brown’s touch counts are 11 and 7, not quite enough for flex-play usage. Rookie Darrell Henderson played two snaps in Week 1 and none in Week 2.
Goff’s target distribution: Cooper Kupp 19; Robert Woods 15; Brandin Cooks 10; Tyler Higbee 8; Gurley and Gerald Everett 5; Brown 1. … Lowered expectations for Goff translate to lower expectations for his pass catchers, although Kupp, Woods, and Cooks are always WR3s at worst. … Despite coming off a torn ACL, Kupp has started like PPR gangbusters on stat lines of 7/46/0 and 5/120/0. Kupp was unfortunately ruled down at the one after appearing to score a highlight-reel 67-yard TD in last week’s win over the Saints. Kupp runs 74% of his routes inside, where slot CB T.J. Carrie is the Browns’ weakest corner. … Woods is playing outside half the time and inside half the time and therefore will also encounter Carrie. Kupp’s return has led to an uneven start for Woods, however; he drew just two targets against New Orleans and ranks third on the Rams in Air Yards (108). … Cooks’ to-date targets are underwhelming, but he leads L.A. in Air Yards (166) and should experience positive regression soon. Browns top CB Denzel Ward has been an early-season disappointment in first-year DC Steve Wilks’ zone scheme, coughing up 123 yards on 12 targets (10.3 YPA). If Ward shadows, Cooks would be his likeliest opponent. … Athletic enigma Everett will be a sneaky tight end play if Higbee (chest) can’t go. As Higbee left last week’s game early, Everett’s snaps skyrocketed from 40% in Week 1 to 72%, drawing four targets. The Browns allowed a big opener to Delanie Walker (5/55/2), then faced the Chris Herndon-less Jets last week.
Lacking timing, rhythm, and consistent footwork behind a leaky line, Baker Mayfield has simply not played well enough for assured QB1 fantasy treatment with Weeks 1-2 results of QB24 and QB16 now facing a Rams defense that held its first two opponents to QB33 (Cam Newton) and QB29 (Saints) outcomes. Season-long leaguers should keep seeking out streamers to play in Mayfield’s place. Injuries to Rashard Higgins (ankle) and David Njoku (broken wrist) further damage Mayfield’s stock. … The Rams are less imposing from a run-defense standpoint after coughing up a combined 38/181/3 (4.76 YPC) rushing line to Panthers and Saints backs. Although Nick Chubb has lost a frustrating amount of snaps to Dontrell Hilliard and D’Ernest Johnson, Chubb did lipstick his Week 2 box score with four catches for 36 yards and enters Week 3 with rock-solid touch counts of 22 and 24. He’s a high-confidence RB1.
Baker’s target distribution: Odell Beckham 21; Jarvis Landry 14; Chubb 8; Njoku 7; Johnson 6; Damion Ratley 5; Higgins 3; Hilliard and Demetrius Harris 2; Taywan Taylor 1. … Matchups never deter Beckham from elite WR1 status; he ranks ninth in the NFL in targets, fourth in receiving yards (232), seventh in Air Yards (263), and seventh in yards after catch (104). Fellow No. 1 WRs Michael Thomas (10/89/0) and D.J. Moore (7/76/0) have each turned in valuable PPR performances against the Rams, even while playing with injured quarterbacks. … Trying to attack stud Rams slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman is rarely a winning proposition, but Landry is popping in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model as Week 3’s No. 5 buy-low receiver and stands to benefit from Njoku’s loss and Higgins’ continued shaky health. Now Mayfield’s clear-cut No. 2 pass option, Landry is an underrated WR3 play against the Rams. … As Higgins injured his ankle in Week 1 and didn’t play in Week 2, one must fear he is dealing with a high ankle sprain. Although it’s notable only for DFS small slates, Ratley was last week’s third receiver with three targets on 61% of the snaps. Taylor (one target, 27%) was No. 4. … In order, the next men up at tight end behind Njoku are blocker Harris, special teamer Pharaoh Brown, and ex-Cardinal Ricky Seals-Jones. Harris has played the most snaps by far (45%) and is the best touchdown-or-bust dart in the group.
Score Prediction: Browns 21, Rams 20