The Playbook: Your ultimate fantasy football and props-betting guide for Super Bowl LVI

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Welcome to the Fantasy Football Playbook — Super Bowl Player Props Edition!

This will be your guide to for this week’s Super Bowl LVI matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, featuring score projections, over/unders, win probabilities and, of course, player prop picks and analysis. This guide should help you with all sorts of decision-making, including sit/start decisions and lineup choices for DFS and playoff leagues.

For a closer look at this week’s top WR vs. CB matchups, check out this week’s shadow report cheat sheet.


Rams (-4.5, 48.5) vs. Bengals

Over/Under: 45.3
Win probability: Rams 62%

Super Bowl LVI features a showdown between the 15-5 Rams and 13-7 Bengals. The game will be played at the Rams’ home field — SoFi Stadium — though the Bengals are the home team for record-keeping purposes.

When the Rams have the ball:

Los Angeles operates a balanced offense in most categories, slotting near midpack in pace (40.3 seconds), drives per game (5.9) and pass rate (60.2%). Coach and playcaller Sean McVay called one of the league’s pass-heaviest offenses during the first half of the season, but he has settled into a balanced attack since the Week 11 bye. Overall, the offense has been effective, as it’s ninth in EPA per drive (0.47) and sixth in touchdowns (3.0 per game). McVay leaned heavily on the run near the goal line during the Jared Goff era, but that has changed drastically with Matthew Stafford under center. The Rams have scored a league-high 80% of their touchdowns through the air.

Los Angeles’ offensive scheme is built on “11” personnel. The Rams have had three or more receivers on the field an NFL-high 86% of the time, aligning in “11” (3 WRs, 1 RB, 1 TE) a league-high 85% of the time. The Rams rarely substitute out their top talent at each position, so each of Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson could see the field as often as 90% of snaps this week. Tyler Higbee is an every-down tight end, but a sprained MCL puts him in doubt for the Super Bowl. If he’s sidelined, Kendall Blanton is the next man up. Cam Akers is the lead back, but Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson (expected to be activated from IR) figure to mix in for some backfield work in the Super Bowl. Headlined by tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein, the Rams’ offensive line is one of the league’s best.

The Bengals run a balanced 4-3 defensive scheme with a lean toward more zone during the second half of the season. Their scheme is heavy on Cover-3 (24.7%) and Man-1 (29.6%) with a touch of Tampa-2 (league-high 6.2%). The Bengals don’t blitz very often (19.9% rate is fifth-lowest), and that includes a 16.8% rate during the playoffs. D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill are a solid defensive tackle pairing, with Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson forming a disruptive duo on the edge. Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt are the two off-ball linebackers you’ll see throughout the game. Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple are the perimeter corners, and slot man Mike Hilton will likely be an every-down player this week. Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell form a stellar safety duo.

When the Bengals have the ball:

Cincinnati operates a slow-moving, but productive, splash-play offense. The Bengals rank 29th in pace of play (42.0 seconds) and 26th in plays per drive (5.6) but sit ninth in touchdowns (2.9 per game) and 14th in EPA per drive (0.28). They throw the ball a ton, ranking 10th in game-script-adjusted pass rate during the entire season, but they are first since Week 16.

Cincinnati has had at least three wide receivers on the field 79% of the time, which is the league’s second-highest rate behind only the Rams. That is nothing new for coach Zac Taylor’s scheme, but it’s also completely logical with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd on the roster. The trio will be on the field for majority of the Bengals’ offensive snaps Sunday. C.J. Uzomah is the primary tight end, but he is questionable with a knee injury. If he’s out, Drew Sample will step into an every-down role. Joe Mixon is the feature back, though Samaje Perine could see 12-15 snaps in passing situations. The Bengals’ offensive line is a massive problem area, with LT Jonah Williams the only standout and major question marks on the right side.

The Rams’ 3-4 defense has been in zone coverage 67.4% of the time this season, which is the league’s third-highest rate. They mix in plenty of Cover-3 (27.9%) and Man-1 (23.6%), but where they really stand out is their heavy use of Cover 4 (league-high 22.4%). The Rams’ scheme is unique in that it shows two-high safeties 69.4% of the time pre-snap (by far highest in the league) but ends up in two-high 46% of the time (10th highest). Los Angeles blitzes 27.8% of the time, which ranks 13th, though that mark is a bit higher during the playoffs (31.7%). Same as on offense, the Rams have quite a few near-every-down defensive players. DTs Aaron Donald and Greg Gaines, edge rushers Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, perimeter CBs Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams and top off-ball LB Troy Reeder will rarely (if ever) leave the field. David Long recently overtook Donte Deayon as the slot/nickel, and he’ll be busy against Boyd in this game. The safety position will depend on the health of Taylor Rapp, who has missed three straight games with a concussion. Nick Scott and Eric Weddle will be full-timers if Rapp is out.

Props

Joe Burrow over 273.5 passing yards (-115), under 11.5 rushing yards (-130), over 0.5 INTs (-125)

The Rams’ defense doesn’t allow many passing TDs, but it sure surrenders plenty of passing yards. During the regular season, Los Angeles allowed 4,435 passing yards (ninth most), 7.1 yards per attempt (14th) and a 67% completion rate (ninth). Eight teams have reached 283 pass yards against the Rams, five of which have come during their past 10 games. Burrow has hit 274 yards in nine of 19 games (47%), including nine of his past 16 (56%) and five of his past eight (63%). The upward trend makes sense when you consider the Bengals were run-heavy to open the season but pass-heavy in recent weeks.

Burrow ran for 25 yards last week, but an 11.5 line this week feels like an overreaction. Burrow has reached 12 rush yards in three (16%) of 19 games this season. He required five carries in all three of those games but has had two or fewer carries in nine of his past 13 games. Kyler Murray, Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo have combined for 10 yards on four carries against the Rams so far in the playoffs.

Burrow has thrown at least one interception in 11 of his 19 games (58%) this season, including one each in the past two weeks. The Rams ranked third with 19 INTs during the regular season and have at least one in eight straight games (that includes a total of four in three playoff games).

By the way, though I like Burrow over yards, I’m less inclined to go over on passing TDs. The Rams have allowed 19 passing TDs in 20 games this season and have held eight of their past nine opponents below two passing TDs. Add in some ugly vig (-160 range), and it’s not an attractive bet. The under is actually more intriguing, but considering Burrow has reached two in 68% of his games, I’m only interested if the vig climbs higher than the +130 range.

Tee Higgins over 69.5 receiving yards (-115)

If Burrow is going to throw for over 273 yards, a few Bengals pass-catchers are sure to fill the stat sheet as well. I suspect Higgins will be one of the big beneficiaries of the high-pass-volume attack, and he also has a low-key good matchup. Yes, he’ll align against Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams often in this game, but as noted, the Rams run a ton of zone. That plays to Higgins’ strengths. The second-year receiver has a 53% catch rate and is averaging 7.9 yards per target against Man-1 this season, but he has a 72% catch rate and 10.8 YPT against Cover 2/3/4. Higgins has cleared this line in eight of his past 12 games (78 or more yards in all eight), which includes yardage totals of 96 and 103 the past two weeks (he had nine targets in both). The Rams allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to wide receivers during the regular season, and 18 wideouts have reached 70 yards against them in a game.

Joe Mixon under 64.5 rush yards (-120), YES anytime TD scorer (+115)

Mixon impressed with 88 yards on 21 carries against the Chiefs last week, but he has reached 65 rushing yards in nine of 19 games (47%) this season and has fallen short of the mark in six of his past eight outings. That’s despite averaging a healthy 17 carries per game during the span. I have Mixon projected for 16.3 carries in this game, and if he hits that mark, he’ll be only the fifth back to reach 16 carries against the Rams this season. The Rams aren’t run on often because (a) they’re ahead quite a bit and (b) they’re outstanding at slowing the run. Running backs averaged 3.7 YPC (fourth lowest) against them during the regular season and that doesn’t even count the 126 yards on 41 carries (3.1 YPC) allowed to Arizona, Tampa Bay and San Francisco RBs during three playoff games. My projection is just below this line, but I like the odds of the under hitting enough to go for it.

Though I’m low on yards, getting plus money on an anytime touchdown for Mixon is appealing. Cincinnati’s feature back has scored at least once in 12 of his 19 games (63%) this season, one of which came against a tough Titans run defense in the divisional round. Mixon, who has 16 scores this season, will face a Rams defense that faced the fifth-most carries inside its own 5-yard line during the regular season (21), as well as one that has allowed at least one RB touchdown in 14 of 20 games (70%).

Odell Beckham Jr. under 5.5 receptions (-150)

Beckham has appeared in 17 games this season and has reached six catches three times (18%). Even if we exclude six games with the Browns, he has reached the mark 27% of the time. Of course, two of the three overs have come during his past two games, as he caught six of eight targets against Tampa Bay and nine of 11 against San Francisco. Beckham has been flourishing in the playoffs and perhaps it will continue, but a return to earth is more likely considering that the 11 targets were his most since Week 15 of 2019, the nine catches his most since Week 3 of 2018 and the 113 yards his most since Week 2 in 2019. Beckham’s 79% catch rate over the past two weeks is well above his 56% regular-season rate, so we certainly should expect some regression to the mean in that department. By the way, this marks the first time this season Beckham has a reception prop above 4.5.

Travin Howard under 0.5 sacks (-400)

I get it — that’s some extremely ugly juice and you might not be familiar with Howard — but hear me out. Howard is a 2018 seventh-round pick who has yet to record a single sack in his NFL career. Literally zero sacks. He has appeared in seven games this season as a situational off-ball linebacker, and though his playing time has been up a bit in recent weeks, that was a product of an injury to rookie Ernest Jones. Prior to Jones’ Week 16 injury, Howard hadn’t played a snap since Week 6. Jones returned last week and played 42% of the snaps (a number that figures to rise this week), compared to 48% for Howard. Both play behind every-down LB Troy Reeder. Even when Howard is on the field, he doesn’t rush the passer, having failed to produce a single pass-rush win on 11 pass-rush attempts this season. Howard failing to record a sack is as close to lock as you’ll find, so getting vig in the -400 range is actually extremely attractive.

Notes to know

• Ja’Marr Chase’s reception prop is listed at 5.5, but if that line moves to 6.5, jump on the under. Chase has reached seven catches in only 20% of his games this season, and while he’s good regardless of scheme, he has been more productive vs. man than he has against zone on a per-play basis (as mentioned, the Rams are very zone-heavy).

• I’ve been all over Evan McPherson and Matt Gay props this season, but the books have caught up this week. The overs on made field goals have reached the -150 to -185 range and the points props aren’t any more attractive. It’s not worth it this week.

• Matthew Stafford projects for 2.1 passing TDs and is more likely to throw three (he has done it in 45% of his games) than he is to fall short of two (something he has done 20% of the time). That said, while the vig is ugly and not worth messing with for his over 1.5 passing TDs prop, consider taking a look at the over if it moves to 2.5, as you’ll get juice in the range of +150 to +160. The Bengals are middle of the pack in passing TDs allowed this season and have surrendered three in three games, including last week against the Chiefs.

Source: ESPN


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