Monday Night Football
Seattle @ St. Louis
St. Louis took major steps toward building its offense around Zac Stacy before Sam Bradford's ACL tear, scrapping spread looks in favor of run-friendly formations and turning No. 2 TE Lance Kendricks into an every-down player. While overall production is sure to take a hit with Kellen Clemens now quarterbacking, fantasy owners can still hang their hats on volume and Stacy's passing-game growth. Stacy's targets, receptions, and touches have increased every week since he was installed as a starter. It may sound crazy, but is true: He's emerged as the Rams' best player on offense. And they'll need him even more now. This is one of many difficult matchups Stacy will face the rest of the way, but he's going to get the ball a lot. And that gives him RB2/flex value, even if the quarterback downgrade caves in Stacy's ceiling. ... Otherwise, it's difficult to imagine the Rams generating offense against Seattle's No. 2 defense, which also ranks No. 2 versus the pass, fourth in sacks, second in interceptions, and second in passer rating allowed (66.1). This is a nightmare matchup for fill-in Clemens, whom I'll bet the Rams bench within a few weeks even if it's with practice squadder Austin Davis or a street free agent. In August, the Rams hoped Davis would beat out Clemens for Bradford's backup job. It didn't happen despite four preseason picks and a 48.9% completion rate from Clemens. This past week, the Rams tried luring Brett Favre off his tractor. OC Brian Schottenheimer has lots of history with Clemens from their Jets days, and the Rams are not high on him. It's very telling.
This sample size is obviously too small to be predictive, but Clemens targeted Jared Cook twice among his four pass attempts after replacing Bradford last week, and spread the remaining two amongst Chris Givens and Daryl Richardson. ... Matchups don't matter for pass catchers when their quarterback is incapable of moving the offense, and that's the most likely scenario Monday night versus Seattle. The rested Seahawks defense is coming off a long week after a Thursday night win. Beyond Stacy, playing any St. Louis skill-position player in a fantasy league is a total shot in the dark. ... Tavon Austin's role has been reduced by Schottenheimer due to the revised, run-heavy approach. He is not an effective blocking receiver. Austin did play 32 snaps in Week 7 -- his most since Week 4 -- but lost a fumble and had a 64-yard touchdown negated by penalty. I think fantasy owners should hang onto Austin as a WR5 just to see what happens, but he clearly can't be trusted as a Week 8 fantasy play. ... Look for Austin Pettis to tangle with LCB Richard Sherman on the majority of Monday night's snaps, while Givens takes on RCB Brandon Browner. The Rams' perimeter receivers will have trouble getting off the line of scrimmage. ... Cook has not hit 50 yards or scored a touchdown since Week 1. He can be safely ignored in fantasy lineups.
This one'll be played at the Edward Jones Dome, but is a game I think the Seahawks will have no trouble controlling. The Vegas prognosticators agree, installing Seattle as 13-point favorites on the road. The Seahawks play run-first offense and the Rams play soft run defense, allowing the third most rushing yards in football and seven rushing TDs through seven games. St. Louis just doesn't match up well with Seattle. These are Marshawn Lynch's last four stat lines against the Rams: 18-100; 20-118-1; 23-115-1; 27-88-1. ... Similar to their approach last year, the Seahawks opened the season utilizing Russell Wilson conservatively. They eventually loosened the reins and let Wilson be who he is -- a controlled playmaker who plays fast but doesn't hurry. The same is happening in 2013, only earlier in the year. Over the last five weeks, Wilson has a 9:3 TD-to-INT ratio and is averaging 63.2 rushing yards per game. Only Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, and Drew Brees have scored more fantasy quarterback points than Wilson during that span. Wilson is a locked-in fantasy QB1 again. With Percy Harvin due back soon to upgrade the explosiveness of Seattle's receiver corps, Wilson can be trusted as an every-week starter the rest of the way. ... The Seahawks formally ruled out Harvin on Saturday. Owners should target Week 9 against Tampa Bay for Harvin's fantasy debut. I'd consider him a locked-in WR3 immediately next week.
Wilson's target distribution during his five-week hot run: Golden Tate 38, Sidney Rice 24, Doug Baldwin 20, Luke Willson 14, Lynch and Zach Miller 13, Jermaine Kearse 9, Robert Turbin 3. ... Noteworthy enemy wideout stats against St. Louis' leaky secondary: Justin Blackmon 5-136-1; Cecil Shorts 5-74-1; Anquan Boldin 5-90-1; Dez Bryant 4-38-1; Julio Jones 11-182-1; Steve Smith 5-69-1; Larry Fitzgerald 8-80-2; Andre Johnson 7-88. ... The stats suggest one Seahawks receiver will probably have a strong Monday night game. Seattle's run-dominated offensive style combined with Wilson's tendency to throw to the open man rather than pepper a "No. 1" wideout with targets typically prevents just that. If a Seattle receiver is to deliver, Tate is always the best bet because he's targeted the most and has big-play talent. I'd view Tate as a mid-range WR3. ... Otherwise, complementary pass catchers Rice, Baldwin, Willson/Miller, and Kearse are in a constant uphill battle for productive box-score numbers. With Harvin soon to return, I think there's a good argument to be made that Rice, Baldwin, Willson/Miller, and Kearse aren't even worth rostering.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Rams 10