Thanksgiving Fantasy MatchupsThursday, November 24, 2011
8:20PM ET Game
San Francisco @ Baltimore
In Week 10, playcaller Cam Cameron managed to get Ray Rice the football just 13 times, and the Ravens were promptly dismissed 22-17 by lowly Seattle. In Week 11, Cameron set out to correct the mistake against the Bengals. Each of the Ravens' first five offensive plays were drawn up for Rice, and over the course of the game he paid dividends with 147 total yards and two TDs versus a Cincinnati run defense that entered the contest ranked second in the league. Rice also had an explosive, ankle-breaking 26-yard run called back by penalty. Despite having faced the league's toughest run-defense schedule, Rice is the No. 3 overall back in fantasy football. In five matchups with top-eight run defenses, Rice has racked up six all-purpose touchdowns and 382 yards on 85 carries (4.49 YPC) while averaging 125 total yards per game. San Francisco's top-ranked unit is intimidating at first glance, but Rice has proven time and time again that he is matchup proof. ... After his Week 10 career game, Ed Dickson regressed to the norm with two catches for 21 yards in last Sunday's win over the Bengals. The book on Dickson coming out of Oregon was that he possessed field-stretching skills, but he hasn't shown it in the pros. He's been strictly a post-up target over the middle this season, averaging 9.0 yards per reception and 37.7 yards a game.
Recent stats may not support it because San Francisco has faced a quarterback slate consisting of Colt McCoy, John Beck, and John Skelton over the past month, but pass defense has been the 49ers' weakness throughout the season. While Carlos Rogers has played well at left and slot cornerback, RCB Tarell Brown and rookie nickel/LCB Chris Culliver are unintimidating foes. As Anquan Boldin spends most of Thanksgiving in Rogers' coverage both inside and out, Week 11 breakout star Torrey Smith will have a realistic opportunity to keep rolling against San Francisco's No. 23 pass defense. Creating cavities of separation in last week's win over Cincinnati, Smith turned in a Roddy White-esque performance en route to season highs in receptions (6) and yards (165). Smith profiles similarly to White in that both were typecast as raw, early-career deep threats with the potential for more long term. I've mentioned it in this space before, but Smith's route running appears to have improved tremendously in the past several games. He's getting open to all areas of the field. If you're looking for a high-upside WR3 to play on Turkey Day, Smith would be a better bet than someone like Nate Burleson or James Jones.
Michael Crabtree burned Patrick Peterson relentlessly in Week 11, topping 100 yards for just the third time in 36 career games. In addition to a large cushion from Peterson, Crabtree benefited from Braylon Edwards' reduced role, as the No. 2 receiver's snap rate dropped from 60% in Week 10 to 36%. Even second-year slot receiver Kyle Williams played more snaps than Edwards. Alex Smith is unlikely to have much passing success against Baltimore's top-seven pass defense, but Crabtree will offer the weekly potential for 7-9 targets as long as Edwards' snaps are down. On Thanksgiving, think of Crabtree as a viable, if low-upside WR3. ... Vernon Davis is never a poor bet for a touchdown, but this will be the toughest matchup he's faced all season. Davis threatens to spend much of the game on the line blocking RE Terrell Suggs, and the Ravens have yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end this year. Opposing tight ends have managed just 32 receptions for 351 yards against Baltimore, "good" for a per-game average of 35 yards on three catches.
Since the 49ers' Week 7 bye, Smith is averaging 221.5 yards per game with a 5:2 TD-to-INT ratio. He's locked in as a game manager and would be a poor two-quarterback league play in this tough matchup. ... With MLB Ray Lewis (toe) either out or playing at less than 100 percent, the Ravens' run defense isn't quite as fearsome. They've allowed five rushing touchdowns in their last four games, including two last week to Cedric Benson. While this remains a tough matchup for Frank Gore, he will likely be the focal point for San Francisco's Week 12 game plan. Expect Gore to approach 30 touches as a mid-level RB2. Kendall Hunter will continue in his change-of-pace role.
Score Prediction: Ravens 17, 49ers 13
Gregg Rosenthal takes a look at the key players to start or sit on Thanksgiving.