Welcome to the second installment of 3-Fer Thursday…a quick look at the Thursday night NFL matchup from a fantasy football owner’s perspective.
Week 7 features a NFC West divisional clash between the 4-2 San Francisco 49ers and the 4-2 Seattle Seahawks. Seattle comes into Candlestick Park fresh off their upset win over New England, while the Niners spent the short week trying to forget about their visit behind the woodshed courtesy of Ahmad Bradshaw and the New York Giants.
Both teams rank in the top of the NFL’s defenses, and both offenses favor a ground-based running attack so this game looks to be a grind ‘em out, field position sort of game which is great if you play in an IDP-only league. For the rest of us, however, it is going to be hard to find a lot of fantasy value to savor in this game. You’ll start Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch, most likely, but beyond that, well…it gets a little tougher.
Here are three players you might want to consider:
1. Vernon Davis
While Davis still ranks near the top for TE production this season, his last three weeks have been disappointing. After leading all TEs after three weeks, Davis is the 12th-ranked TE over weeks four through six, lagging behind studs like Joel Dreesen and Scott Chandler. While Seattle’s defense is a good unit, they have given up an average of 60 yards to elite TEs this season.
Davis’ target numbers have dropped over the past three games – 11 over the span compared to the 19 targets he saw in games one through three. He also hasn’t found the end zone since week three. I believe that changes against the ‘Hawks and look for Davis to post 6 catches for 65 yards and a score.
2. Sidney Rice
As QB Russell Wilson continues to develop, one can see the Seahawks gradually giving him more chances to throw the ball. A primary beneficiary of this has been Sidney Rice, who comes into the San Francisco contest having posted his best game of the season against the Patriots in week six.
The Week 6 performance is the third consecutive week that Rice has improved – 41 yards against the Rams in week four, 67 yards against the Panthers in week five, and then 81 yards against the Pats including his heroic TD catch. If the Seahawks decide to test the Niners’ pass defense, Rice should be Wilson’s primary target which should allow him to be a serviceable WR3 for owners this week. I’m looking for 4 catches for 70 yards.
3. Mario Manningham
Another WR who has seen an increase in targets and involvement over the past three weeks, Manningham looks like he may be on the way to supplanting Michael Crabtree as Alex Smith’s favorite receiver. Last week against the Giants, Manningham saw 10 balls thrown his way, and while that may have been a result of the Niners’ game plan, Manningham has seen 18 targets over the past three weeks, and has averaged eight fantasy points per week over that time.
The 49ers have also involved Manningham on a handful of running plays in 2012, and may look to slow down an aggressive Seahawk defense by using an end-around or two, which might afford Manningham some rushing yards to add to your point totals. While I wouldn’t expect him to have double-digit fantasy points, I can see him catching five passes for 50 yards, with 15 rushing yards and a possible TD.
To give Rice and Manningham’s recent production a bit more perspective…
Using ProFootballFocus’ fantasy points-per-snap (PPS) metric, over weeks four through six, Rice is averaging 0.18 PPS and Manningham is averaging 0.24 PPS. A few WRs who haven’t been as productive over the same period of time include Larry Fitzgerald (0.17), Mike Wallace (0.16), Calvin Johnson (0.14), Julio Jones (0.14) and Andre Johnson (0.09), so while their names might not be top-of-mind as you set your lineups this week, if you need a WR3 or flex fill-in, give these guys some consideration.
While I don’t expect to see a whole lot of offense in this game, if there is one thing we’ve learned in this year’s version of the NFL it is that anything can happen. That being said, I wouldn’t start any players in this game with a lot of confidence.
Even your great RBs like Gore and Lynch will be challenged to produce against the opposing defense and while you probably can’t bench them, if you happen to have better options (on a crazy bye week like this one) definitely consider them – that way you can just sit back and watch the defensive battle without feeling bad about doing so!