This week's Fantasy Index Weekly is available now.
Posted Sep. 05 at 10:16 AM
SAN FRANCISCO (at Green Bay): Fantasy football has a lot to do with matchups -- taking advantage of good players the schedule puts in position to put up great numbers. So even though San Francisco is best known for its defense, and is short on elite offensive personnel, we will not write them off this week. The 49ers will use committees at several spots, causing numbers to be divvied up between multiple players. That, rather than the offense's overall potential in this game, is the negative that gives us pause this week. ... Vernon Davis looks like San Francisco's best fantasy prospect. He's on a sort of a hot streak, catching 2 TDs in each of the team's playoff games last season, and another touchdown on his only catch of the preseason. Including those playoff games he's gone over 100 yards in three straight games. San Francisco was one of three teams to throw more touchdowns to tight ends (9) than wide receivers (8) last season, while only Buffalo (13) allowed more to the position than Green Bay (9). Davis also has an extremely favorable history against this opponent. He's played three career games against Green Bay and scored in all of them. He put up 100-yard games at Lambeau Field in both 2009 and 2010. Hard to sit that down. ... Frank Gore is an elite talent. He's averaged at least 4.2 yards per carry in all seven seasons of his career, he's gone over 1,000 yards in five of his six seasons as a starter, and he's caught at least 43 passes five times. Stick him in Houston or anywhere else where the head coach prefers a workhorse back, and maybe we're talking about Gore as a top-5 fantasy pick. As it is, though, Gore will lose chances to two and
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sometimes three other backs. Second-year runner Kendall Hunter will get change-of-pace work, and rookie LaMichael James will see spot duty, with the team hoping to utilize his sub-4.4 speed to hit some big plays. Brandon Jacobs might eventually be a factor at the goal line, although he probably will miss at least this game after a preseason knee injury. Green Bay was only average against the run last year (14th), and in the preseason it lost linebacker Desmond Bishop to a torn hamstring, so there's potential there. We'll be watching to confirm Jacobs is ruled out at the end of the week, as that would increase the odds of Gore scoring any short rushing touchdowns. We'd like him even more if we thought he'd be a bigger part of the passing game, but San Francisco simply didn't throw much to its running backs last year -- and we expect any such chances this year will go to Hunter or James. Gore missed San Francisco's 34-16 loss at Lambeau two years ago, but totaled 68 yards and a touchdown in the matchup the previous season. ... The Packers were 31st against the pass last year, a bizarre failing for a team that made a serious run at the NFL's second 16-0 season. You wouldn't think they'd be worse this year, but then again, they just might. It's too early to say top pick Nick Perry will be a difference-making pass rusher across from Clay Matthews. The cornerback spot across from Tramon Williams is a question mark with Charles Woodson moving to safety. And of course Green Bay's high-powered offense tends to produce wild shootouts; some of the production piled up against this defense was relatively meaningless. Can Alex Smith take advantage? Smith put up above-average passing numbers in several games last season and improved in the second half of the year. He then shockingly led a playoff upset of the Saints, throwing for 299 yards and 3 TDs. If he's going to throw for 300 yards all season, this is the week: eight different Packers opponents did so last year. He might not get up into that stratosphere, but we're ranking him higher than usual. He threw 3 TDs in a 30-24 loss at Lambeau in 2009. We're very curious, incidentally, to see if San Francisco will give Colin Kaepernick a few snaps off the bench. He's a dual-threat passer who once ran for 20 TDs in a shotgun offense at Nevada. The 49ers dabbled with it in the preseason, and this is definitely the week to pull out all the stops to spring an upset. If that happens, of course, Smith becomes slightly less appealing. ... The 49ers will use a bunch of different receivers. Indications are that Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss will start, but that Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn, Jr. and Kyle Williams will also play. Crabtree will be the No. 1 (we think) and should catch the most passes, while Moss has the most big-play potential. Moss, in fact, intrigues us this week. He sat out last season, so you know he'll "want to play" and remind everyone why he was one of the league's most feared receivers for more than a decade. And some of his biggest games (as well as his most infamous, the playoff mooning incident) came at this very field against this opponent, including his breakout Monday night game in 1998. Perhaps the 49ers take a shot or two deep, making him worth a roll of the dice in some leagues. ... David Akers was the No. 1 fantasy kicker last year, but we prefer kickers from teams we think will win. ... It's a lesser matchup for the 49ers Defense, with Aaron Rodgers very careful with the football. He'll take some sacks, though, and Cedric Benson sometimes puts the ball on the ground, so we won't drop them too far in our rankings.
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