Matchup: Falcons @ 49ersSunday, December 22, 2013
Monday Night Football
Atlanta @ San Francisco
Monday night's game provides the quietly white-hot 49ers with an opportunity to stomp a Falcons defense that's been among the worst three in football this season. Over its last eight games, Atlanta has hemorrhaged 1,020 yards and nine touchdowns on 176 carries (5.80 YPC) to Pierre Thomas, Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Rainey, Carolina's backfield, Andre Ellington, C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson, Eddie Lacy, and Alfred Morris. The Falcons rank 29th versus the run and allow 4.65 YPC, the fourth highest clip in football. Frank Gore should not struggle to run all over this group. ... Frequent blowout wins and supporting-cast deficiencies have rendered Colin Kaepernick's first full season as an NFL starter a slight disappointment from a fantasy standpoint, but he's peaking at the right time as San Francisco rallies toward the playoffs. Amassing a 13:3 TD-to-turnover ratio over his last eight games, Kaepernick enters Week 16 having completed 80 of his last 130 throws (61.5%) for 992 yards (7.63 YPA), nine touchdowns, and two interceptions. Facing an Atlanta defense that is tied for 30th in sacks (28) and has allowed the third most passing touchdowns (28) in football, Kaepernick is worth a long look for QB1 streamers. Kap's playmaking ability, cannon arm, and full-strength receiver corps give him upside. The risk is that San Francisco will destroy the Falcons, limiting pass-game volume. It's been an issue for Kaepernick's fantasy stats all year.
Kap's target distribution with Michael Crabtree back in the starting lineup the last three weeks: Anquan Boldin 26; Crabtree 18; Vernon Davis 15; Bruce Miller 14; Mario Manningham 6; Gore 3. ... Both Boldin and Crabtree have terrific matchups on paper. Coming off a 5-45-1 line in Tampa Bay, Crabtree will be a fantasy WR2/3 taking on Falcons rookie perimeter CBs Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Boldin will run slot routes against wildly inconsistent Robert McClain inside the numbers. I like Crabtree as the superior upside play. Boldin shouldn't have trouble racking up 4-7 catches. ... The Falcons allow the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends, setting up Davis for a potential week-winning game. Despite ranking 12th among tight ends in targets on the season, Davis is second in touchdown catches (12) and third in yards (805). Fire him up with excitement.
Atlanta's offense has made incremental strides down the stretch of a lost season, but expecting substantial box-score production against a Niners defense that ranks third in yards and points allowed would be doltish. San Francisco has been particularly stingy through the air, ranking fourth in the NFL in pass defense and second in passer rating against (73.5). The 49ers' 15 passing touchdowns allowed are fourth fewest in football. Matt Ryan is a fantasy backup in finals week. ... Ryan's target distribution since Roddy's Week 10 return from a hamstring injury: Harry Douglas 57; White 46; Tony Gonzalez 39; Darius Johnson 26; Jacquizz Rodgers and Steven Jackson 21; Jason Snelling 9. ... San Francisco simply doesn't give up big pass plays, ranking 30th in 20-plus-yard completions permitted (32) and 27th in 40-plus yarders (6). So anyone hanging their hat on a Falcons pass catcher will need them to either rack up catches underneath or score touchdowns. And the Niners don't permit many of the latter, either. Still a savvy route runner but lacking explosion during the stretch run of his age-32 season, White is a low-ceiling WR3 in Week 16. I think White's most likely projection is something like five catches for 48 yards.
Douglas has the superior matchup against aging slot CB Carlos Rogers, who's been the 49ers' weak link in pass coverage. RCB Tramaine Brock, for instance, is a top-five corner in Pro Football Focus' grades. LCB Tarell Brown has been his usual steady self when healthy. I'd personally play White over Douglas in fantasy lineups, but not by much. I don't think either will help owners get trophies. ... The 49ers annually play smothering tight end coverage, keyed by second-level maven ILB Patrick Willis. This year, San Francisco is allowing the fifth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. It is perhaps worth noting that Gonzalez dropped an 8-78-1 line on the Niners the last time these clubs met in last January's playoffs. Gonzalez will be the best bet for a touchdown in Atlanta's pass-catching corps on Monday night. ... S-Jax deserves credit for salvaging his season to some extent with a strong late push. He's sprinkled five touchdowns among his last 69 carries, and given Falcons management some reason to consider bringing him back for 2014. I still wouldn't view Jackson as more than a limited-ceiling flex play against San Francisco's top-six run defense.
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Falcons 17