Week 4 in the NFL gets underway tonight in St. Louis with an NFC West divisional clash. The big storyline of the night is whether the 49ers can get their offense can get back in gear after a couple of brutal weeks. On the other sideline, the Rams will look to bounce back from a beatdown in Texas as they host the ‘Niners.
Thursday Night Football has given us some fantasy stinkers in the past, but I think tonight we could see some solid fantasy performances. The Rams defense has been solidly beaten the last couple of weeks by the Falcons through the air and the Cowboys on the ground although they do tend to play much better at home in the Edward Jones Dome.
I thought Jim Harbaugh would get his offense fixed for last week’s game at home against the Colts, but Colin Kaepernick missed Vernon Davis and wasn’t able to get it going against a stacked Indy front.
The Rams have allowed the 12th most fantasy points to opposing QBs, the 7th most to opposing RBs, and the 6th most to WR. That being the case, the 49ers are on a short week coming off back-to-back tough losses. I don’t think you have to sit your ‘Niners, but I souldn’t count on them for a huge night.
Colin Kaepernick is a low-end QB1 with a little bit of upside if Vernon Davis is able to play. He could pile up some solid rushing yards against a struggling Rams run defense that allowed 175 yards to DeMarco Murray last week. The Rams run defense also makes Frank Gore a solid RB2 despite his mediocre start to the season.
There are two big injury questions for fantasy owners coming into tonight’s matchup-one on each side. For San Francisco, Vernon Davis is questionable after missing last Sunday’s game. For St. Louis, Daryl Richardson is probable after almost missing last weeks game leaving after just one carry since he aggravated his foot injury.
If Davis is a go, he is a starting TE in ten-team leagues probably ranking around 7-9. His presence will also help Anquan Boldin who is a low-end WR2 coming into play after failing to follow up his huge week 1 performance.
The Rams backfield is a big unknown if Richardson plays since he’ll most likely share time with Isaiah Pead who had a solid week last week after Richardson left. If Richardson doesn’t play, Pead is a deep-league flex option, but I’d avoid the situation unless you’re desparate. I’d also avoid Sam Bradford except in dual-QB leagues where I have him as a low-end QB2 against the tough ‘Niners D.
Speaking of the 49ers D/ST, they’ll be without Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis most likely making them slightly less attractive than they usually are after giving up 27 points to Andrew Luck and the Colts last week. If there are decent options on the waiver wire (Colts, Chiefs, or Vikings), it may be a week to skip starting the Niners D.
In the San Francisco backfield, I think Kendall Hunter has more upside than Gore, but probably won’t get the carries to be fantasy worthy tonight although he did get the touchdown run last week for the 49ers only score of the game.
The Rams receiver situation is also such a division of labor that it’s tough to rely on them outside of the deepest of leagues. The best one-who is still little more than a longshot flex play-is Chris Givens who led the team in targets last week but only managed two catches for 54 yards.
For those of you keeping track, that’s a lot more sit ‘em than start ‘em in this week’s matchup, but the recent Thursday Night Football games have driven me to think that lowering expectations in these games might be the best strategy.
In what should be a low-scoring, defensive game, I think Kaepernick makes just enough plays on the fast track at the Jones Dome to get the Niners the win. They’re giving about a field goal which seems about right for the spread in this one. Ultimately, the Rams defense just hasn’t shown me enough to think they’ll be able to continue San Francisco’s struggles so I’ll go with my pick: