The Los Angeles Rams are heading to the Midwest for a cross-conference battle with the surprisingly 2-1 Indianapolis Colts. With veterans and rising stars alike in action, including Matthew Stafford and Tutu Atwell, let’s see who could have a big game and dig into some Rams vs. Colts player props
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With two of the worst secondaries in the NFL set to square off, the air game should be on the menu in this one. Let’s take a look at some props that we can use to take advantage of the porous defensive backfields and grab some value.
Matthew Stafford o1.5 Passing Touchdowns (-105)
Put simply, there’s no chance the Rams can keep scoring such a high proportion of their touchdowns via the run, given the trends across their offense. They’ve accumulated over 77% of their yardage through the air thus far, yet four of the team’s six touchdowns have come on the ground. There’s been some bad luck in terms of officiating and drops, of which Stafford has suffered the second-most of any quarterback with eight thus far. These trends have negated some opportunities through the air, and neither of which is something we should expect to continue to play out the same way as the season progresses.
If there’s any time for LA to start scoring through the air, it’s definitely against this Colts team. PFF considers them to have the 26th-best secondary in the league, compared to an Indy run defense that they evaluate to be in the top 10. Their EPA on dropbacks is solid, but that’s having played a handful of teams that don’t necessarily have the most developed passing attacks in the NFL.
Despite leading the NFL in both total big time throws and big time throw rate, with figures of 10 and 7.7%, just 1.6% of his passes have resulted in touchdowns, down from 3.3% in a down year last season, 6.8% his first season in LA, and a career mark of 4.6%, even having played mostly in Detroit. He’s been playing well, even if the traditional numbers don’t show it, and ultimately, this offense flows through him. The Rams should have no problem going downfield against debatably the least-talented secondary in the NFL, and Stafford’s good work should finally show up on the stat sheet with two passing scores.
Tutu Atwell Longest Catch o19.5 Yards (-110)
Atwell has been used just about exclusively as a good old fashioned “burner” who runs deep, downfield routes and stretches the field. Sometimes, that serves the purpose of opening up opportunities underneath for receivers running intermediate routes- see the strong start from Puka Nacua, and expect Cooper Kupp to play a similar role when he returns- but it can also mean big plays for the burner himself.
Atwell has ripped through this number in two of the team’s three games thus far, with a 37-yard grab against the Bengals and a 44-yarder against the Seahawks. In the remaining contest, against an elite 49ers defense that should not even be compared to this Colts unit, his longest catch went for 18 yards, so even in that outing he nearly cleared the number set by Vegas. His average reception has gone for 14.5 yards this season, after averaging 16.6 in a smaller role a season ago. With an average depth of target of 13 yards, most of his routes have been ones that would provide him with the chance to record a 20-yard grab.
With a sub-4.4 second 40 yard dash from his pro day at Louisville, it’s no secret that Atwell can fly, and with a notorious gunslinger like Stafford as his quarterback, he’s in a perfect position to succeed. The veteran quarterback was nowhere near his best self a season ago, Atwell’s first season being primarily used as a wideout rather than a special teamer, so this is the first chance the pair has had to really link up, and it’s worked out beautifully. With 246 yards, he’s almost up to his total of 298 from last year, a signal of his dramatically-increased usage rate, meaning he’ll have plenty of opportunities to break off the big play and shatter this number.
Shaquille Leonard o5.5 Tackles+Assists (-120)
After a couple of injuries, Leonard may not be the elite defensive force he was earlier in his career, but according to both PFF and the general eye test, he’s still the best tackler on the Colts. He’s averaging six combined tackles and assists per game this season, a bit down from his figure of 7.6 in his last full season, in which he earned a first-team All Pro nod for the third time in four years.
He cracked this number in contests against the Ravens and Jaguars, with the lone miss coming in a matchup with the Texans. With the Rams’ focus on re-establishing a run game, and the likelihood of Matthew Stafford continuing to throw intermediate routes to Puka Nacua in Cooper Kupp’s absence, it’s not hard to imagine Leonard being heavily involved in this game.
He hasn’t been used in the pass rush nearly as much as he was earlier in his career, so it seems that he’ll have plenty of opportunities to sit back and make plays after the catch on completed passes, and as he lines up almost exclusively in the box, should be central on any run snaps for the Rams offense.