We are just two games away from the Super Bowl, and this weekend the four best teams in football will compete to see who will advance to the big game. Although the slate consists of only two contests, they both seem likely to excite. The Saints-Rams game kicks off on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET; Chiefs-Patriots, 6:40 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at the running back who stands out the most in the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
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Alvin Kamara: New Orleans Saints (-3.0) vs. Los Angeles Rams, 56.5 Over/Under
- DraftKings: $6,500
- FanDuel: $8,100
UPDATE (Jan. 20): Wide receiver Keith Kirkwood (calf) and tight end Ben Watson (illness) are out.
Kamara is so good that his 20-touch, 105-yard performance last week was disappointing. For most backs, that would be a top-quartile game.
But Kamara isn’t most backs. Only Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk has more seasons in NFL history with 700 yards rushing and 700 yards receiving, and Kamara is in only his second year. Since entering the league, Kamara has been a top-five fantasy back with 21.6 DraftKings points per game with an average of 99.7 yards and 0.97 touchdowns from scrimmage.
Nevertheless, Kamara is not without his concerns.
Last year, after Adrian Peterson was traded to the Cardinals in Week 6, Kamara played 14 games with Ingram (including the playoffs). For the first four games of this season, Kamara had the backfield to himself, and then Ingram (suspension) returned in Week 5 to split the backfield once again.
Kamara’s various opportunity and production splits are telling:
- With Ingram (2017, Weeks 6-19, 14 games): 21.7 DraftKings points, 9.0 carries, 5.9 targets, 4.7 receptions, 104.4 yards and 0.93 touchdowns from scrimmage
- Without Ingram (2018, Weeks 1-4, four games): 36.3 DraftKings points, 14.0 carries, 11.8 targets, 8.8 receptions, 152.8 yards and 1.5 touchdowns from scrimmage
- With Ingram (2018, Weeks 5-19, 12 games): 19.4 DraftKings points, 12.8 carries, 5.2 targets, 4.2 receptions, 90.6 yards and 1.0 touchdowns from scrimmage
Without Ingram, Kamara was one of the most productive backs in the league in the first month of the season. With Ingram, Kamara is still great, but in a committee he has a capped upside, and it would be unreasonable to expect him to perform as he did earlier in the year, especially since Kamara’s 2018 fantasy production with Ingram is similar to his 2017 production.
But even in a committee, Kamara has the capacity to go off in any given week, and he leads all backs in our Models with his median, ceiling and floor projections: He’s still the most dynamic playmaker on the No. 1 team in The Action Network Power Rankings.
Plus, although Kamara and Ingram have had a relatively even split during the season, the Saints have emphasized Kamara in their three postseason games.
- Kamara: 12.3 carries, 4.7 targets
- Ingram: 9.3, 1.3 targets
In a must-win game, the Saints seem likely to give a larger share of the backfield work to their top back.
By our numbers, the Saints are actually undervalued in this game, which has one of the highest postseason over/unders of all time. Second on the team with 105 targets, 81 receptions and 709 yards receiving, Kamara is an integral part of the passing game, and the Saints could air it out this week in a shootout. This is a rematch of the epic Week 9 contest that saw 80 total points, and rematches between non-divisional opponents have trended to the over.
Lots of points could be scored in New Orleans. It’s not for nothing that the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is called the Coors Field of fantasy football: It’s the NFL’s most fantasy-friendly venue: The Superdome has an A-graded 59-42-2 over/under record with Drew Brees at quarterback, good for a 14.2% return on investment for over bettors since 2006, when Brees joined the Saints (per Bet Labs).
But amazingly Kamara has had reverse home/road splits with the Saints.
- On road: 22.8 DraftKings points, +5.27 Plus/Minus, 75.0% Consistency Rating
- At home: 20.3 DraftKings points, +2.76 Plus/Minus, 58.8% Consistency Rating
It’s not encouraging that referee Bill Vinovich has a 37-47-1 over/under record.
Kamara’s matchup against the Rams is intriguing. Left tackle Terron Armstead and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk have two of the four highest Pro Football Focus run-blocking grades with their marks of 78.0 and 77.1. Because of them, the Saints dominated on outside runs this year.
But just last week the Rams held Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to 66 yards on 20 carries and five targets, thanks primarily to strong performances from defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. As good as the Saints offensive line has been this year, left guard Andrus Peat, center Max Unger and right guard Larry Warford have been subpar run blockers with their PFF grades of 39.8, 53.1 and 55.3. They could struggle against Donald and Suh.
But even if Donald and Suh play well, it’s hard to be bearish on Kamara. The Rams defense ranks 28th in Football Outsiders’ rush DVOA, and Kamara destroyed the Rams in Week 9, turning his 19 carries and five targets into 116 yards and three touchdowns. No back scored more points against them this year than Kamara did with his 33.6 DraftKings points.
On Sunday I might look to bet on Kamara’s props. To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 235-119-12, good for a 64% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Kamara has position-high marks with nine Pro Trends and a +5.1 Plus/Minus on DraftKings, where Kamara is the No. 1 back in the Bales, CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner, Raybon and Freedman Models.
Conference Championship Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other divisional round positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
Pictured above: New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41)
Photo credit: Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports.