“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” That old saying is getting a real workout this season.
Mike Wallace whined after Week 1. He got targeted 11 times and posted a 9/115/1 line in Week 2. Antonio Brown whined during and after Week 2. In Week 3, he popped off for 9/196/2 against the Bears.
That brings us to Frank Gore. After the Week 3 loss to the Colts, Gore was spotted reportedly giving coach Jim Harbaugh some “choice words.” Presumably, it had to do with the meager 11 carries he got in the loss. Well, the Niners responded by riding Gore hard in Monday night’s 35-11 win at St. Louis. He sat out most of the fourth quarter and still rushed 23 times for 153 yards with a touchdown.
Everyone wants to know who’s the next squeaker to get greased. How about Hakeem Nicks, who had no catches on one target in Week 3. He’s scheduled to match up with a hobbled Brandon Flowers (knee) Sunday.
Anyway, back to Gore. Let’s not overreact to a shredding of an atrocious Rams defense that also got eaten up by DeMarco Murray (26/175/1) in Week 3. But unlike most 30-year-old backs, Gore still has plenty of juice. He also plays behind arguably the league’s best run-blocking line and a favorable schedule the rest of the way. The Niners still get to play the Jaguars, Redskins, Rams again and Falcons in fantasy’s Super Bowl week. I would not consider this a sell-high moment on Gore.
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Isaiah Pead was a surprise inactive 90 minutes before kickoff, sending owners scrambling to get Daryl Richardson back into lineups. That turned out to be a big mistake. Richardson started and played virtually every snap in the first half, but had literally no running room. He also didn’t break any tackles and had an awful drop. Richardson finished the first half with 12 carries for 16 yards and no catches.
When the second half opened, the Rams used Benny Cunningham as their every-down back. That lasted until the end of the third quarter, when Richardson got back in. He promptly got demolished by Navorro Bowman in pass protection.
On the season, Richardson has now rushed 42 times for 114 yards (2.71 YPC). We’ll have to wait and see what’s up with Pead, but it’s time for a change. At worst, Richardson needs to be part of a committee.
49ERS at RAMS QUICK SLANTS
Vernon Davis (hamstring) told NFL Network before the game that he was at 85 percent. He seemed to be running fine and played a ton of snaps, finishing with 2/18/1. … Sam Bradford was atrocious. He missed open receivers with his arm and missed them with his eyes. The Rams’ first 13 possessions: PUNT, FG, PUNT, PUNT, INT, PUNT, PUNT, PUNT, PUNT, PUNT, PUNT, FUMBLE, PUNT. … I had Tavon Austin No. 1 on my most overvalued list before the season. He’s not good in traffic and there’s not a lot of space against the defenses like the Niner’s. … Kendall Hunter looks fully recovered from his Achilles’ tear. It’s obvious that Hunter – not LaMichael James – is Frank Gore’s backup. … People that wrote off Colin Kaepernick following poor Week 2 and 3 performances deserve to get punished. He only had 167 yards and two TDs Monday night, but could have had a ton more if the Niners needed it. The guy is going to finish as a top-7 fantasy quarterback.
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NEWS OF THE DAY #1
When the Patriots decided not to put Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) on the reserve/PUP list, it was a sign that they expected him to play sometime before Week 6. Otherwise, they’d just be wasting a roster spot for no reason. Well, it now sounds like they’re doing just that for another week.
Although Gronk continues to practice daily with his teammates, a source tells ProFootballTalk the tight end’s outlook for Sunday night’s game at Atlanta is not optimistic.
Look for another questionable tag and tight lips from the Patriots, but owners need to find other options. It doesn’t look like Gronk has had a setback, but the Pats are 3-0 and his forearm can always use another week or two to heal. Perhaps Week 5 will be the return of the Gronk.
Meanwhile, Danny Amendola (groin) continues to practice on a limited basis, but is not expected to play Week 4. Perhaps he’ll be back Week 5 as well. So what we have is more of the same for Tom Brady – Julian Edelman will lead the team in targets, Brandon Bolden will be the passing-down back, Kenbrell Thompkins will get plenty of chances at X and Aaron Dobson will be the third wideout.
NEWS OF THE DAY #2
When Terrelle Pryor was first named the Raiders starting quarterback, a lot of people compared his throwing ability to that of Tim Tebow. Myself included. As it turned out, we were wrong at first and are getting more wrong by the game.
On Monday night, Pryor looked like a reasonably polished NFL quarterback that’s capable of making big throws out of the pocket. Former NFL scout John Middlekauff tweeted that Pryor is further along as a pocket passer right now than Cam Newton was four games into his NFL career. Middlekauff also said that if forced to choose a QB for the next 10 years, he’d go with Pryor over Cam.
All of this is what makes Thursday’s news even more disappointing. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Pryor is unlikely to play against the Redskins Sunday due to a concussion sustained late in Monday’s loss. Matt Flynn is going to start and will drag the entire Raiders offense – including Darren McFadden – down with him. I wouldn’t drop Pryor though, there are big fantasy things ahead for him.
NEWS OF THE DAY #3
Le’Veon Bell says his foot is 100 percent and he’s practicing in full. His offensive linemen are mentioning him in the same breath as Adrian Peterson. But Ben Roethlisberger is saying he doesn’t feel like he can count on the rookie. So what gives?
Well, Bell is going to have to earn it. I suspect his Week 4 workload will come down to how well he plays early on. If he’s at least getting what’s blocked and picking up all his assignments, he’ll see 12-15 touches against a really bad defense. If he scuffles at first, he’ll lose a lot of work to Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones. That makes Bell a risky flex play.
The real payoff will come when the Steelers come out of their Week 5 bye. By the time Week 6 rolls around, Bell will have proven to Big Ben and everyone else in Pittsburgh that he’s the one who should be dominating this backfield.
INJURY QUICK SLANTS: QUARTERBACK AND RUNNING BACK
Reggie Bush (knee) is practicing in full. He’s going to start and monopolize snaps ahead of Joique Bell. … Mark Ingram (toe) isn’t practicing. Pierre Thomas is a sneaky flex play again. … Chris Ivory (hamstring) isn’t going to play this week. Bilal Powell is a fine flex. … Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) should be fine for Sunday, but perhaps his absence from practice should lead to more work for Trent Richardson. … Ray Rice is practicing and seemingly headed for a game-time call. It’s reportedly a matter of pain tolerance. … C.J. Spiller (quad) is practicing in full. He has a tough matchup vs. the Ravens, but needs to be in lineups.
INJURY QUICK SLANTS: WIDE RECEIVER AND TIGHT END
Mike Williams (hamstring) and Vincent Jackson (ribs) both missed practice and are very questionable for Sunday. … Officially, Andre Johnson (shin) is a game-time call. But he said he expects to play. … Looks like Patrick Edwards (ankle) will play. I’d still rather roll with Ryan Broyles. … Kenny Britt (ribs) is questionable. It could be a Justin Hunter coming out party. … Lance Moore (wrist) left Week 3 early and isn’t practicing. Kenny Stills would play a ton of snaps if Moore sits. … Both Fred Davis (ankle) and Jordan Reed (quad) are questionable for this week. Avoid. … Miles Austin (hamstring) remains sidelined. He’s impossible to trust this week given history and the late start. His direct backup is rookie Terrance Williams.