The NFL regular season may be over, but with four more weeks of football, fantasy doesn’t have to stop just yet. Like myself, I’m sure many of you are in fantasy football playoff leagues. For playoff formats where you have to select your entire roster prior to Saturday’s kickoff, let’s analyze the fantasy value of Sony Michel and Cam Akers for the NFL playoffs.
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Sony Michel has been the clear lead back and best fantasy bet for several weeks
We got our first glimpse of what a Michel-led Rams backfield might look like back in Week 3. Filling in for an injured Darrell Henderson, Michel played 74% of the offensive snaps and carried the ball 20 times for 67 yards. He dominated touches.
This is consistent with how Sean McVay has traditionally handled his backfield. Whether it’s Michel, Henderson, Akers, or Todd Gurley, there’s a clear lead back who handles the majority of snaps and touches.
Since Week 13, this has been Michel’s backfield. He played over 90% of the offensive snaps in four of the team’s final six games.
In Week 18, a returning Akers barely made a dent in Michel’s snap share. Michel still played 80% of the snaps, out-carrying Akers 21-5 and tripling him in routes run.
Cam Akers should be more involved in the playoffs
Here’s the thing with Akers’ limited usage — it was always the plan. With the Rams clinching a playoff spot weeks ago, the idea was always to ramp up Akers’ work and have him ready to go in the postseason.
Akers only played 13 snaps in Week 18, but he saw an opportunity on eight of them. We last saw him in the Rams’ Divisional Round loss to the Packers last postseason. In that game, Akers played 96% of the snaps and carried the ball 18 times for 90 yards and a touchdown. He’s fully capable of being a three-down back, and he likely would have been one had he not torn his Achilles this offseason.
It’s not only possible, but likely Akers sees more work this weekend against the Cardinals. The difficulty is in predicting how much. It stands to reason McVay won’t bump Akers up from a 20% snap share all the way to 60-70%. However, McVay hasn’t really ever shown allegiance to a single running back. He could go away from Michel just as quickly as he went away from Henderson.
Last week, Michel only managed 43 yards on 21 carries. He didn’t exactly cement his status as the lead back. Akers was equally inefficient with just 3 yards on 5 carries. However, it was also his first game of the season. We know Akers is talented. If he is given the keys to this backfield, he would be a tremendous fantasy asset.
How should fantasy managers handle Michel and Akers in playoff leagues?
Matthew Stafford has been great for fantasy production, but not so much for inspiring confidence in a playoff run. He’s too reckless with the football and seems to have a penchant for throwing touchdowns to the wrong team.
The reason I bring up Stafford is that Michel and Akers’ value in fantasy playoff leagues is tied to how far the Rams are likely to advance in the postseason. As just field-goal favorites over the Cardinals, this game is a true toss-up. The Rams and Cardinals split their regular-season series, with the road team winning each matchup.
If you like the Rams to make a run to the NFC Championship Game, then perhaps an investment in Michel may be worth it. However, given the roughly 50% odds they play just one game, and even greater odds they only play two, any Ram other than Cooper Kupp is a risky choice.
Add in the fact that we just don’t know how McVay will divide up work in this backfield, and both Michel and Akers are better left out of your fantasy playoff roster.