Matchups: Lions @ 49ersFriday, September 14, 2012
Sunday Night Football
Detroit @ San Francisco
While San Francisco's offensive philosophy is run-based and will continue to be regardless of forthcoming box scores, Jim Harbaugh has gotten Alex Smith to the point where he's on the QB2 radar simply because he's so efficient. Harbaugh has developed Smith into a precise, confident, reliable passer who capitalizes on advantageous situations where the defense is frequently on its heels to protect against the run game. Up front, the 49ers blow opponents off the football with a powerful, smash-mouth mentality. Smith has not been intercepted since November of 2011, in between posting an 11:0 TD-to-INT ratio across eight games with two more scores on the ground. Don't expect Smith to leap into top-12 quarterback production, but he is a better player than we thought he'd be and it was more evident than ever in San Francisco's Week 1 win over Green Bay. Despite talent limitations, Smith is panning out as an effective real-life quarterback. He's not Trent Dilfer. ... Vernon Davis found Week 1 pay dirt and now has six touchdowns over his last six games, on top of 31 grabs for 579 yards. It's a 96.5 yards-per-game average. He's a top-six TE1.
Friday Update: The Lions will be without FS Louis Delmas (doubtful, knee), in addition to top CBs Chris Houston (doubtful, ankle) and Bill Bentley (out, concussion) against the 49ers. While the matchup boost does not vault Smith into the QB1 realm, it helps his chances in two-quarterback leagues and also improves the Week 2 outlook for San Francisco's passing game as a whole.
Randy Moss' Week 1 box score looks serviceable (4/47/1), but there are warning signs. He played 21-of-62 snaps (33.9 percent) -- fewer than Mario Manningham -- and caught his 14-yard score on a blown coverage. I wonder if Harbaugh will use Moss as a package-type player, operating in the red zone and on specified playcalls between the 20s. He could be a headache WR3 going forward, scoring touchdowns but killing you in weeks you play him and he doesn't. ... Manningham isn't roster-worthy in 12-team leagues despite playing eight more Week 1 snaps than Moss. He's currently a rotational player with skills limited enough that Mario would require full complements of snaps to be fantasy viable in a run-first attack. ... Michael Crabtree is a volume possession receiver with more value in PPR leagues than non. The Lions do not present a difficult pass-defense matchup, but Crabtree is just a WR3. ... If the 49ers are going to keep manhandling defensive front sevens as they did in the opener against Green Bay, it may not matter that Frank Gore has lost a step. Keep starting Gore until he begins showing signs of slowing down.
The 49ers and Lions squared off in October last year and Calvin Johnson tagged San Francisco for 113 yards on seven catches. The Niners might accept a stat line like that again as long as they keep Megatron from punishing them with multiple touchdowns. Gore also had 141 yards and a score on just 15 carries in that game, while Kendall Hunter added 33 more on eight runs. The Lions made stopping Steven Jackson their defensive focus in Week 1 against the Rams and figure to do the same in this game. ... Scoop up Titus Young if he was dropped in your league after a quiet opener. I wouldn't start Young on Sunday night, but he will be an asset in the weeks ahead. He started in a three-wide set against St. Louis, and looked ticketed for heavy snaps before head-butting Rams CB Janoris Jenkins and getting benched early in the third quarter. ... Nate Burleson (6/69) and Brandon Pettigrew (5/77) picked up the slack with Young out. Burleson is a WR5 lacking playmaking ability. Pettigrew's value remains limited to PPR leagues. Both of their stats will regress once Young resumes playing more.
While San Francisco is not an easy matchup for opposing skill-position players, Matthew Stafford owners can take solace in the fact that he'll likely be firing off pass attempts early and often. The Niners' shutdown run defense forces offenses to resort to the air, and the Lions are already the NFL's pass-happiest team. Chalk up Stafford's three-pick first half against the Rams as a bump in the road. Stafford gathered himself to complete 15-of-24 second-half passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, avoiding picks and leading his team to a come-from-behind victory. ... Kevin Smith isn't going to have Week 2 rushing success -- no one does against the 49ers -- but he's different from Week 1 Niners opponent Cedric Benson in that Smith plays in the passing game. He can buoy his weekly workloads and statistics with catches and receiving yards. Smith is just a flex play in standard leagues, but he should stay in PPR lineups. Smith was targeted six times in the opener, catching four for 29 yards and a touchdown. He also gets goal-line carries, which can be another week-saving quality.
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Lions 20
Sunday night - Fantasy Fix preview
Would you even consider benching Matthew Stafford against the 49ers defense? How about Randy Moss. ... Is he worth playing in Week 2? Tiffany Simons and Matt Stroup give a complete Lions - 49ers fantasy breakdown.
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