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Thursday Lineup Calls: Week 7
I’ll be honest.
When I looked ahead to this week’s schedule, I couldn’t wait to write this week’s “Thursday Lineup Calls” piece. I had visions of scrawling out a short piece, extolling the virtues of the kickers and defenses, and moving on to dissect the remaining 12 games on the schedule. In truth, I would have hit “Send” and then maybe taken a nap.
I shan’t take the easy way out. I do still recommend both the Seattle and San Francisco defenses, ranked second and third in scoring defense at 15.5 and 15.7 points allowed, respectively.
David Akers and the 49ers posted a rare off day in Week 6 against the Giants. Akers converted just 1-of-3 field goal opportunities in the home beatdown. Though the 49ers were unable to mount much of an offense (zero PATs), it was the fifth time that Akers attempted multiple field goals in a game this season. Opposing kickers have converted 12 field goals (two from 50+) this season and seven PATs. Akers remains a top-5 fantasy option.
Steven Hauschka has converted 11 of his 12 field goal attempts this season, including four multi-field goal efforts (three multi-PAT efforts). Most of his attempts have come from distances less than 40 yards, so his leg will be tested this week. Only two of Hauschka’s 11 field goal conversions came from distances farther than 40 yards. He’s a viable plug-in option this Thursday night. I have him ranked as a back-end K1.
Let’s get the tight end position out of the way before digging into the heart of this matchup. Vernon Davis is the one rock-solid offensive player for San Francisco this week. Davis has averaged 5.7 targets (3.8 receptions) and 56.7 receiving yards per game with four touchdowns. Seattle ranks 17th against tight ends to date at 5.5 receptions and 61.7 receiving yards allowed per game with one touchdown.
Alex Smith was riding high off of his Week 5 brilliance against the Bills and earned a lofty ranking slot against the Giants. Smith turned in a terrible effort with three interceptions, a performance that immediately turned pundits and some fans against him once again. I’m not dismissing his fantasy worthiness altogether, but this is a terrible spot for Smith. First, you’re likely to see more of Colin Kaepernick in an effort to put the Seattle defense on its heels. Second, the Seahawks have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and tormented Tom Brady this past week. He’s sitting at No. 23 in my Week 7 rankings.
On the other hand, Russell Wilson is flying high following his three-touchdown comeback win against the Patriots. I like Wilson’s potential down the line with Sidney Rice and Golden Tate (and a little Doug Baldwin), but this is a terrible spot. Wilson may get a little play-action working downfield if Marshawn Lynch can find running room early, but he’s no better than a low-end QB2 in this matchup. Remember, the calls had started to come for Matt Flynn prior to last week’s comeback victory.
Since we delved into the passing game, let’s pause and discuss the receiving corps of these squads. Michael Crabtree has averaged 7.3 targets (five receptions) and 56.2 receiving yards per game to date. However, he’s finished with 40 receiving yards or fewer in three of the past four weeks. The Seahawks have allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season (142.7 receiving yards per game with 0.7 touchdowns per game). He’s sitting as a WR4 for me this week against the Seattle cornerbacks.
The Seattle receivers have my interest piqued, but only to a degree. I still don’t trust the downfield passing game with Russell Wilson. Sidney Rice caught his second touchdown of the season in Week 6 against New England and logged a season-high 81 receiving yards. He’d finished his first four games with 41 or fewer receiving yards. Rice rates as a WR4 alongside Crabtree. The 49ers have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers (two touchdowns).
Both rank just ahead of media darling and big-play threat Golden Tate. Tate has caught three or fewer passes in each game this season despite frequent appearances on highlight reels. He’s just too unreliable to get into the mix. Tate ranks as a low-end WR4 this week against the 49ers.
Finally, let’s get to the heart of the matter. I apologize to Don Henley. Let’s talk running backs.
Marshawn Lynch was limited to 41 rushing yards by Vince Wilfork and the New England run defense last week. Lynch had rushed for at least 85 yards in each of his first five games this season (two 100-yard efforts) prior to the shutdown effort by New England. I’m not optimistic that we see a complete rebound this week against San Francisco. The Giants were able to run over the 49ers last week (Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 200 yards), but New York brought a robust, consistent passing attack to the table. The Seahawks can hardly boast the same with Russell Wilson. And, despite the Giants’ track meet, the 49ers have still allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs. Lynch ranks 18th in my Week 7 rankings.
Frank Gore logged just eight carries against the Giants in the Week 6 home loss. The 49ers were forced to the passing game early, thereby leaving Gore as a bystander. He finished the game with 36 rushing yards and 20 receiving yards on four receptions. Gore scored in four of his first six games, producing three games of at least 105 total yards. This will not be his fourth such effort. The Seahawks have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs. As much as the 49ers may want to reestablish the run and restore offensive balance, I’m reticent to believe that Jim Harbaugh’s will be able to do so in this contest. If I could grab the “Team RB” option with Kaepernick and Kendall Hunter in the mix, I might be more excited about the prospects for that roster slot. Gore sits as a low-end RB2 this week and may get a shot or two at close range off of the effort of the San Francisco defense. Still, I can’t push him higher than a mid-RB2 slot in my rankings.
In summary, I should have just written the bit about kickers and defenses. You’ll still start Davis with confidence, and Lynch and Gore find the RB2 slot in standard leagues. This “Fantasy Armageddon Week” makes for some strange bedfellows and you may need to reach at wide receiver. I’d scour the remainder of the slate for better options.
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