Thursday’s Week 4 game features the 49ers squaring off against the Rams in St. Louis. On the surface, one would figure the Rams offense would have trouble moving the ball against an always-great 49ers defense, while Colin Kaepernick and Co. would feast on the subpar Rams defense. However, one would be wrong to assume that.
The 49ers are reeling after back-to-back embarrassing losses to the Seahawks and Colts. The defense, which hasn’t played well in general, will be without at least two key pieces in this game. Aldon Smith is away from the team for personal reasons, while Patrick Willis is dealing with a groin injury, making him unlikely to play with a short week to prepare. The secondary also has two players who may not play, with Eric Reid and Nnamdi Asomugha dealing with injuries (though the loss of Reid would be a much bigger blow).
It’s enough for me to still consider Sam Bradford a borderline QB1 in this game and Tavon Austin and Chris Givens both usable as WR3/flex players, and if Daryl Richardson was healthy and not being pushed by Isaiah Pead, he’d be a nice RB2 play as well.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco offense hasn’t looked all that good over the last two weeks. If Vernon Davis is healthy enough to play, it should go a long way toward taking the pressure off Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin to be nearly perfect on every play. But the big key to a turnaround would be a re-commitment to Frank Gore and the running game. The 49ers seemed to get away from running the ball in Week 3 despite being in the midst of a competitive game and having a running back who looked to be in top form against the Colts. Gore and Hunter could run wild on the Rams, and I’m ranking Gore as a RB1 this week expecting a big day.
As always, I’ve highlighted a few key players after the rankings. Don’t TL;DR this analysis and assume that you should necessarily play the “starts” over the “sits”; instead, the “start” recommendations are for guys that generally aren’t worth considering week-to-week, while the “sit” options are saved for guys I would normally start most weeks. Let the rankings be your guide to specific start/sit decisions.
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Start/Sit Week 4
Start: Sam Bradford vs. SF
I touched on this above, but Bradford’s facing a San Francisco defense that will be at far less than 100 percent on Thursday, and he could continue to do damage with his bevy of weapons as he has over the season’s first three weeks. He’s averaging 47 pass attempts per week, and the sheer volume of his workload makes him worth consideration most weeks. A 6:2 TD:INT ratio isn’t bad either.
Sit: Eli Manning at KC
I’ve been alternating between horrible and great sit recommendations at the QB position, and it’s time for the pendulum to swing back to great. I’m making it easy by taking Manning, the leader of one of the worst-looking offenses in football through three weeks. Even if you can put the multitude of turnovers out of your mind, Manning is a guy who put up awful stats in a great matchup against a banged-up Carolina secondary, getting shut out by a team that’s looked pretty bad itself before playing the Giants. Manning’s still a solid buy-low candidate with his passing-game weapons and history of success, but keep him out of lineups for the time being.
Start: Bilal Powell at TEN
Powell ran roughshod on the Bills in Week 3, getting nearly all the playing time at running back thanks to an injury to Chris Ivory. It appears likely Ivory will miss Week 4, making Powell an excellent starting option regardless of the opponent. Here he gets the Titans, a team who’s solid run-defense numbers are buoyed by the fact they got to face the Steelers in Week 1. As a guy expected to shoulder the load, something that’s becoming a rare commodity week in and week out, Powell is a no-brainer starter in all leagues.
Sit: Ahmad Bradshaw at JAC
Bradshaw broke out for a big performance in Week 3, racking up 95 rushing yards and a TD on 19 carries while catching a few passes. He also has a great matchup this week. However, the looming downshift in playing time could come in any game, as the Colts are going to ride Trent Richardson as a feature back at some point after spending a first-round pick to get him. That makes Bradshaw a dangerous play week in and week out. He’s still usable in Week 4, but make sure you’re not benching guys with clearer paths to playing time.
Start: Kendall Wright vs. NYJ
Last week I marked Josh Gordon down as a “start,” saying that he’d get enough targets to be productive regardless of the quarterback under center. Considering he was targeted nearly 20 times en route to a big day, I’ll say I’ve made up for telling you to sit Russell Wilson. Wright is emerging as a big factor in Tennessee’s passing offense, catching 13 of 17 targets for 125 yards and a TD in his last two games. This coincides with the downfall of Kenny Britt, who has likely played his way out of a relevant number of snaps. The Jets may have Antonio Cromartie, but they’ve also given up solid performances to WR1s this season, including 154 yards to Vincent Jackson in Week 1 and 86 yards to Stevie Johnson in Week 3. Since the Jets have a great run defense, we could see the Titans passing more than usual in goal-to-go scenarios, another plus for Wright. He’s worth a look as a WR3.
Sit: DeAndre Hopkins vs. SEA
Hopkins has emerged as an owned-universally player over the first three weeks of the season, thanks to averaging six catches and 81 yards while scoring once. However, he’s hands off this week against a great Seattle secondary that knows how to hold receivers in check, unless they happen to rack up stats in garbage time. Vegas doesn’t expect this game to feature garbage time, with the Seahawks favored by just three points. If they’re right (and they usually are), the Seahawks will be looking to keep the Texans offense locked down for 60 minutes. That’s going to make production hard to come by for the rookie.
Bye Week Plug-and-Plays
TE: Charles Clay at NO; Coby Fleener at JAC; Dallas Clark at BUF
PK: Nick Novak vs. DAL; Robbie Gould at DET; Alex Henery at DEN
DF: Indianapolis Colts at JAC; Tennessee Titans vs. NYJ; New Orleans Saints vs. MIA
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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