One of the new wrinkles set up for 2012 is that every week of the season, two teams are called upon to cram a week's worth of planning into three short days so they can suit up and play on Thursday night.
My guess is that most of the players/coaches don't like it, but it certainly spices up the week for the majority of fans—especially those who play fantasy football.
Not every owner will have a player from the game on their team, but there are usually a few fantasy-relevant players that might be going against you, so every game is worth reading up on.
With that in mind, here is the analysis of each of those players and what they might do for (or against) your fantasy team this Thursday night.
Seahawks: Russell Wilson
One of Bill Belichick’s well-known defensive strategies is to gear his entire game-plan towards stopping the one player he thinks can beat his team. Last week against the ‘Hawks, he figured that man to be Marshawn Lynch.
Obviously, he guessed wrong.
Being a rookie who was far from highly-touted, Russell Wilson will be underestimated more often than not, but I don’t expect a defensive-minded team like the 49ers to do the same this Thursday.
Fact: The ‘Niners pass D has given up just one passing TD and an average of 141 yards passing over the last three weeks.
Opinion: I have no doubt Russell Wilson has a little something special going on and could end up being quite a QB, but this won’t be one of his more memorable games.
49ers: Alex Smith
Not that Alex Smith is a fantasy stud of any sort, but I can remember multiple times when he’s been used as a fill-in starter the last couple of years and surprised more often than you would think.
However, last week was NOT one of those times in a loss against the New York Giants, as Smith had one of the more atrocious games of his career.
This Thursday, the ‘Niners match up against the inter-division rival Seattle Seahawks in a game that should be one of the bloodier battles of the season.
This will NOT be a game where Alex Smith provides your fantasy team with an unexpected surprise.
In fact, in two games against the Seahawks last season, Smith threw for a TOTAL of 303 yards and zero touchdowns.
Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch
Lynch has come to be known as a man among boys out on the field—but man is certainly not infallible.
Coming into Week 5, Marshawn had a stranglehold on a top-five slot in the running back fantasy game, yet left the week falling out of the top 10 while putting up his worst fantasy performance of the season.
Downfalls like this don’t happen very often, but Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots made sure that Lynch wouldn’t be the man to beat them, so Lynch came away with a less-than-stellar effort for his fantasy owners.
This week doesn’t look to be any better, but the ‘Niners just got taken for 151 yards combined by the New York Giants Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson last week, so you never know.
Lynch gouged the 49ers for their first 100-yard game and first rushing touchdown last season in Week 16, though he did it in Seattle, which is not where they’ll be this Thursday night.
My guess is that San Fran will be looking for a little revenge, not just on Lynch for messing up its basically perfect season against the rush, but on RBs as a whole for what the Giants did to them last week.
I’m not advocating Lynch as a bench candidate, but you might want to drop your expectations down to about the flex range if you plan on starting him.
Seahawks: Robert Turbin
Turbin is doing very well with his six to eight touches a game, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, but with Lynch as the workhorse in front of him, there’s just no real potential for a significant impact from week-to week unless Marshawn gets hurt.
In a 16-man league, maybe as a flex, but probably not against this vaunted 49ers defense.
Seahawks: Leon Washington
Washington is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball…
…Too bad he only has eight carries on the season and zero in the month of October.
49ers: Frank Gore
Just like in 2011, Frank the Tank was on fire coming out of the gates, as he quickly established his position among the top 10 fantasy running backs.
However, after watching him slowly burn out from over usage, the coaching staff vowed not to let that happen this year and may have already started in on their plan to taper back his touches.
Either way, Seattle is a bruising defense that allows less than three yards per carry and the least fantasy points to RBs in the league.
The 49ers rode Gore to two important wins over the Seahawks last season, giving him a combined 45 carries (49 touches) during the two games.
He didn’t do a ton with them rushing for just 142 yards (3.16 YPC) and one touchdown, but at least they were getting him the ball.
I expect them to do more of the same this Thursday, but with the way the ‘Hawks defense is playing, I wouldn’t expect any better than mid-range RB2-type numbers, if that.
49ers: Kendall Hunter
Hunter has been running the ball real well with the opportunities he’s been given so far this year, and in their Week 16 matchup last season, he torched Seattle for 73 yards on just 12 carries (6.1 YPC).
Kendall is the type of back who can put up some decent yardage with limited playing time, but his carries are still a little too far and few between this early in the season to make much of an impact for fantasy teams.
With six teams on bye, however, he might surprise and be a decent flex play this week.
49ers: Brandon Jacobs / LaMichael James / Anthony Dixon
All three of these guys are good situational backs who could be plugged in (and probably will be soon) and do a fine job for the ‘Niners, but they’ll have to be activated first before they can do anything in fantasy.
Keep Jacobs and James stashed on your bench if you have the room in a deep league. Dixon shouldn’t be on your team in the first place.
Seahawks: Sidney Rice
Rice seems to be finding his stride again after dealing with his many injuries the past couple of seasons.
His targets are up, his catches are up, his yardage is up and after his touchdown catch against the Patriots last weekend, his confidence should be climbing as well.
He was injured for both games against the 49ers last season and hasn’t faced them since 2009, when he was with the Vikings.
He had a decent game back then putting up 56 yards and a TD on four catches, though that doesn’t really say very much three years later.
Despite being known for their ass-whooping rush D, their pass defense is actually very good as well this season, as it's held opposing wide receivers to the LEAST amount of fantasy points per game in the league.
Rice will be targeted a bunch and should come away with decent numbers, but in six games, San Fran has only allowed two touchdowns to WRs, so don’t expect more than flex-like numbers out of Sidney this week.
Seahawks: Golden Tate
After missing the first week of the season with an injured knee, Tate was given back his starting job and proceeded to make a huge impact in both the real and fantasy world one week later.
Catching that last-second controversial touchdown to beat the Packers on Monday Night Football might go down as one of the most memorable plays in NFL history, but likely impacted only a handful of Week 3 fantasy games.
What I’m saying is that Golden certainly has the ability to be a game-changer, but should really only be started as a flex player in deep leagues and will likely make a difference in very few.
He did, however, have a touchdown in their game at San Fran a year ago, so you never really know with him.
Seahawks: Doug Baldwin
Baldwin is actually one of the better third/slot receivers in the game and would probably make his presence felt more if he wasn’t on such a run-oriented team.
On the other hand, the coaching staff did recently state that they wanted to get the ball in Doug’s hands more, which paid off for them last weekend when he came down with a 24-yard first quarter TD to put the ‘Hawks up on the Patriots.
This week, I believe he’ll get a little extra playing time out there as well, with the 49ers' one weak spot in the passing game being in the slot.
Last year, Baldwin had a touchdown in each of the two games these two teams played, so it wouldn’t shock me to see him having a decent fantasy impact for fantasy owners with the stones enough to start him.
Seahawks: Braylon Edwards
Edwards caught his first touchdown pass since 2010 last weekend, and it turned out to be a very important one.
He’s also finally gotten a little playing time the last couple of games after getting nothing in Weeks 2 through 4, so maybe the coaching staff is starting to see his worth.
This isn’t the time to start guessing on him, but you might want to keep a sly eye on him for a week or two, as he’s likely on your league’s waiver wire and could be worth grabbing in a couple of weeks.
49ers: Michael Crabtree
"So frustrating, Mr. Crabtree is," says the Yoda of fantasy wisdom.
One week, both the coaches and Crabtree himself will look like they finally understand his talent, so owners follow suit and put him in their lineups. Of course, the following week, Crabby is shunned from the game-plan and comes up with a three-catch, 26-yard stinker.
Last year at home against Seattle, Michael caught one of his two targets for a measly four yards. However, in Seattle, he turned around to catch five of his six targets for a better-than-average 85 yards.
How this game will go fantasy-wise for Crabtree is a bit up in the air, but if the Seahawks' suffocating defense can be penetrated at all, it’s by the slot receivers making plays across the middle.
Will the 49ers realize it and get Crabby the ball there where he can make some plays?
I’m guessing that they will, but not often enough to make more of a difference on fantasy teams than as a low-end WR2.
49ers: Mario Manningham
Manningham is being utilized more and more in the 49ers offense, as it seems they’re finally figuring out his field-stretching, game-breaking abilities.
Seattle, however, doesn’t give up many long-yardage plays and allows even fewer touchdowns to wide receivers (four), with only one going to a non-slot guy (Miles Austin).
The ‘Niners will probably take a couple of shots to him downfield, but they’ll really only be doing it to stretch the defense for their running game.
Mario seems like a bit of a long shot this week as a flex play.
49ers: Randy Moss
Moss had his first game with over 50 yards receiving for the ‘Niners last week, though he did it on just two receptions.
Basically, it’s a crapshoot as to whether or not he actually catches one or two of his few targets a game, and even then, will he actually produce with them?
Keep him stashed on your bench.
49ers: Kyle Williams
The 49ers' 2010 sixth-round pick out of Arizona State is finally getting a little playing time and has done pretty well with his opportunity.
He’s caught all six of his targets the last two games, putting up a combined 90 yards and a TD with the attention.
Kyle is someone to keep an eye on in case of injury, but not really worth thinking about just yet.
Seahawks: Zach Miller
Miller catches almost everything thrown his way; it’s just that Seattle doesn’t really throw his way very much.
He had a combined three catches for 28 yards in two games against the ‘Niners last season.
He’s had a couple of decent games the last few weeks, but he averages a mere three fantasy points a game and is completely unplayable in most any format.
49ers: Vernon Davis
Vernon has been a top-five fantasy tight end again this season, as he started off with touchdowns in each of the 49ers first three games. However, he’s been held out of the end zone the last three weeks and put up less than four fantasy points in two of them.
Seattle has been relatively stingy against the tight end yet again this season after holding the position without a touchdown for the entirety of 2011.
In his two games against them last year, Davis had a combined nine catches on 14 targets for 101 yards and no touchdowns.
It’s tough to sit a guy like Vernon Davis, and I would normally never advise doing so, but if you happen to have another TE on your team that is worth playing as a starter from time to time, this might be one of those weeks you think about it.
If not, Vernon IS the type of player who can surprise his owners and go off when you least expect it, so don’t feel bad about leaving him in your starting lineup.
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