Thursday Night Football
Seattle @ San Francisco
The 49ers on Thursday night will look to rebound from a humbling, 26-3 home loss to the Giants in a difficult test with a physical, upstart Seahawks team. Both clubs sport top-four defenses, so it's not surprising that the over-under is a measly 37.5 -- lowest of Week 7 by a 2.5-point margin. Of major concern to Jim Harbaugh's offense is the questionable availability of LT Joe Staley on a short week after last Sunday's concussion. Staley is playing the best ball of his life. The Niners would replace him with RG Alex Boone and insert 35-year-old Leonard Davis at right guard. The line shuffling worked out poorly against the G-Men, and it's fair to argue that Seattle's defensive front is just as imposing as New York's. After an efficient start to the year, Alex Smith imploded in Week 6 with three picks and a fumble, absorbing four sacks. Smith is beginning to lose significant field time to Colin Kaepernick, who's siphoned 47 snaps over the past three games. In two 2011 meetings with the Seahawks, Smith completed a combined 29-of-46 passes (63.0 percent) for 303 yards (6.59 YPA), and no TDs. And Seattle's defense is even better this season. Smith would be a poor two-quarterback league bet. ... As mapped out in Week 6 Matchups, the best way to attack Seattle is down the middle, avoiding the Seahawks' impenetrable front seven and relentless press corners. The Patriots recognized that last week, and 33 of Tom Brady's pass attempts were intended for slot receivers and tight ends. Smith may struggle Thursday, but this matchup suits Vernon Davis.
Thursday Night Update: Staley is active against the Seahawks, improving the outlook of San Francisco's offense and chances of generating ball movement.
Michael Crabtree is the lone 49ers wideout worth a look for Week 7 fantasy lineups. Although inconsistent to this point, Crabtree has a favorable matchup with Seattle slot CB Marcus Trufant. Whereas outside corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman shut down wideouts like Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, Crabtree should get open over the middle. ... Facing Seattle these days for a running back is like a receiver going on Revis Island. Your odds aren't good. In Frank Gore's last four Seahawks meetings, he's managed 205 yards and one touchdown on 71 carries (2.89 YPC). Gore is always tough to bench, but chances are he'll be held in check Thursday night. Ask Stevan Ridley; Nobody runs on the Seahawks. ... Kendall Hunter has received no fewer than five touches, but no more than nine when the 49ers have played in competitive ball games this season. (Hunter gets a bit more work in blowouts.) I'd anticipate this game being pretty competitive. Hunter is an appealing RB4 with every-down back tools and a 5.54 yards-per-carry average on the season, but he's little more than a desperation flex option on Thursday night.
Thursday Night Update II: Manningham was a surprise scratch against the Seahawks, being listed among San Francisco's inactives despite no previous indications he'd miss the game. Moss and Kyle Williams figure to share second receiver duties behind Crabtree on Thursday night.
Thursday Night Update III: Signed in the offseason to be San Francisco's new short-yardage specialist, Brandon Jacobs is active for this game and will make his 49ers debut. Jacobs is a threat to Gore's goal-line carries.
Marshawn Lynch's rest-of-season rushing schedule is brutal, and the polar opposite of Darren McFadden's. (I'll discuss DMC's in Friday's Matchups column.) Seattle plays six of its next nine games against top-12 run defenses. There are two promising stats for Lynch's Thursday night outlook: 1) The 21-107-1, 2-24 stat line he dropped on San Francisco the last time they met, and 2) Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson's combined 34-151-1 line against the Niners last week. Ultimately, it's difficult to entertain the thought of sitting Lynch whenever he's a virtual lock for 18-plus carries. I like his chances of producing better than Gore's in Week 7. ... While he isn't a realistic fantasy option, a healthy Doug Baldwin gives Seattle a dynamic slot option. Baldwin whipped Patriots slot CB Kyle Arrington for a 50-yard bomb and a 24-yard touchdown in last week's win. Baldwin still hasn't topped four targets in any game since the opener. ... TE Zach Miller is more blocker than pass catcher in Seattle's run-based offense. He ranks 34th in fantasy scoring among tight ends. Here's hoping you find a better bye-week option in Sunday's games.
I re-watched Patriots-Seahawks on Tuesday night and came away really impressed by Russell Wilson's downfield passing ability. Wilson put a tight spiral on shot-play throws and executed them with precision. The rookie's 46-yard scoring bomb to Sidney Rice was the game winner, made over the top of two defenders. His Baldwin hookups were of a similar vertical nature, and Wilson placed his third touchdown -- a ten-yarder -- in an area where only Braylon Edwards could get it. Wilson is a dicey two-quarterback league play against the 49ers' No. 2 pass defense, but I wonder if Seattle might remove his training wheels a bit should Lynch continue to struggle for running room against that forthcoming schedule. Wilson does not lack starting-caliber arm talent. ... Wilson's target distribution over the past three games: Rice 19, Golden Tate 13, Baldwin 10, Miller 8, Edwards 4. ... Rice has emerged as the best weekly bet in Seattle's receiver corps for catches, yards, and touchdowns. He'll deal with 49ers LCB Carlos Rogers on the majority of base-offense downs in this game, and draw Chris Culliver in nickel sets. Tate will take on RCB Tarell Brown. Rice offers some upside as a WR3 against San Francisco. Tate is more along the lines of a WR5.
Score Prediction: 49ers 17, Seahawks 16
Start or Sit: Seahawks - 49ers
Fantasy Fix: Kay Adams (@heykayadams) and Matt Stroup (@mattstroup) discuss whether to start Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch against brutal run defenses, plus if Sidney Rice is worth a spot start during Thursday night's matchup.
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