Monday, October 13, 2014

Easy Money Monday in St. Louis?

When the line opened up for tonight's MNF game with the visiting 49ers laying 3.5, you'd figure everyone would be all over the Niners, swinging the line closer to a touchdown by kickoff. Well, as of this morning, the 49ers are favored by just 3 points. Does Vegas know something we don't? The Niners have allayed fears that they're on the decline with recent victories over the Eagles and Chiefs. The Rams, at 1-3, have provided stiff resistance to Dallas and Philly in their last two games, but are still running out their backup QB. Although we've fallen into the “road favorites on Monday night” trap already this season, the Niners look good at -3.

We'll likely see a raucous crowd in St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome. Unfortunately, that's where the advantages end for the Rams. If you'll recall, in a Week 8 Monday night home game against the Seahawks last season, St. Louis gave the eventual champs all they could handle in 14-9 defeat. Handicappers may look to that as evidence the Rams can hang with the 49ers in their own building. Yet, just three weeks earlier in the 2013 season, the Rams were embarrassed by this San Francisco team in a Thursday primetime game. So, that theory can be tossed out.

Digging deeper, look no further than the impeccable record Jim Harbaugh and his Niners have in their last six Monday night outings. They've won all six by a combined score of 164-49, holding five of those opponents to fewer than 8 points. Staying on that side of the ball, the 49er defense is starting to look reminiscent of the group that has been near the top of the league for the past three seasons. Without two of the league's top linebackers for the first half of the season, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, the defense was expected to struggle, which they did to start the season. But, in their recent wins over the Eagles and Chiefs, the defense has allowed just 17 points. The pass rush, which was non-existent to start the season, has started to find its teeth. If they slow Zac Stacy and the St. Louis ground game early on, it may be another field day for the defense.

Moving to the other side of the ball, Colin Kaepernick has been erratic this season as a passer, but Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have returned to the power running attack, behind the ageless wonder, Frank Gore. After receiving 35 total carries over the first three games, the Niners greased their squeaky wheel, handing the ball to Gore 42 times in their two recent wins. He went over 100 yards in each of those matchups, and he's facing the 31st run defense in the league tonight. Another 100-yard game should be in the offing for the 31-year-old back.

The only thing preventing the Niners from running away with this victory is their red zone execution. Penalties, poor clock management, and ill-advised plays from Kaepernick have hampered the 49ers after they've found their way into the red zone. This gives hope to the Rams that they may be able to hang around by forcing some stops at the right time. However, the 49er defense and running game will prove overwhelming for Jeff Fisher and the Rams.

It's the last football game for a whole three days, so download SnapCall and jump in the prediction seat for this crucial NFC West battle tonight. Kickoff is at 8:25pm.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fantasy Talk: Week 6 Starts and Sits

Another week, another enticing slate of NFL action. Whether you play in season-long fantasy leagues, or merely dabble in the daily leagues, there are some players with mouth-watering matchups that you need in your lineups. Likewise, there are top fantasy performers who may warrant sitting in light of an unfavorable matchup. Well, we're here to help. 

Must-Starts

Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions

Last week it was Reggie Bush who was the must-start running back for the Lions. He didn't take advantage of Bell's absence last week against the Bills, and it's Bush who's now sidelined with an ankle complaint this Sunday. Bell, the undrafted free agent from Wayne State, hasn't broken out yet, but with Bush sitting out, Bell's potentially large workload against the Vikings can't be ignored. Additionally, with the best receiver in the game, Calvin Johnson a likely inactive, the Lions may choose to lean on a running game that's yet to really get going this season.

Further, Minnesota is giving up 122 yards per game on the ground in 2014, but Bell isn't a one-trick pony. In each of his first two seasons in the league, Bell reeled in 50+ catches. He only has caught nine balls (six coming in one game) this season, which reflects how he's utilized not his natural abilities. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi employs well-defined personnel packages, so Bell just hasn't been as involved in the passing game. Without the dynamic Bush, in addition to Megatron in the passing game, Lombardi may be forced to utilize Bell a little more. Start Bell with confidence today; 20 touches and a touchdown is a good bet.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Sanu's opportunity this Sunday lies in the lack of targets in Cincinnati passing game. All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green: OUT. 2013 breakout talent Marvin Jones: OUT. 2013 first-round pick tight end Tyler Eifert: OUT. That leaves Andy Dalton with few options on Sunday when the Bengals host the Panthers on Sunday. Expect a run-heavy approach from the Bengals, especially with Cinci's thunder and lightning duo, Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Dalton will still have to throw the ball at least a few times, and Sanu is essentially the only option.

The third-year receiver from Rutgers had yet turn heads in Cincinnati since being drafted a few years ago, but 2014 is starting to look like his breakout season. And he's no stranger to being peppered with targets. He caught 100+ balls in each of his final two seasons in Piscataway, New Jersey. Expect Dalton to look for him early and often, on short throws and deep shots alike. Expect to see 8-10 targets and some looks in the red zone for Sanu today, which is good enough to get him in your lineup.

Must-Sits

Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots

In the fantasy quagmire that is the New England backfield, Ridley has swapped poor performances with strong ones through the first five weeks. For Ridley, it really comes down to his workload. His touches through the first five weeks: 8, 25, 19, 5, 27. That's about as irregular as it gets, and with Belichick constantly shuttling in running backs and mixing up game-plans, it's nearly impossible to tell how many carries any of his running backs will receive on a given day.

So, we'll look to the Buffalo defense for a few answers. The Bills are allowing just 72 yards on the ground per game through five weeks in 2014, so don't expect the Pats to have too much success on the ground early. Additionally, in seasons past, you could expect New England to jump out to an early lead and look to the ground game to close out the victory. Well, not this season. Despite their issues at quarterback, Buffalo is fielding their best team in a long while. With a close game, Ridley's already questionable workload is even shakier. Sit him down.

Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald, WRs, Arizona Cardinals

There's always a late game or two with a questionable player who, if he plays, will have a great fantasy impact. That player on Sunday is Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer's been out since Week 2 with a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder. As of Sunday morning, the former Heisman Trophy winner is supposed to suit up, but with an injury as unpredictiable as a frayed shoulder nerve, how can we trust these reports? If Palmer can't go, it'll be on rookie Logan Thomas to get the job done for the Cardinals. Thomas looked like deer in the headlights when he played the Broncos last week.

Moreover, if Palmer starts, what are the chances he actually finishes the game? If you have other options in the late games and can afford to wait to make your lineup decisions, that's fine. However, if your options other than Fitzgerald and Floyd are kicking off at 1pm, the smart play would be to get them into your lineup and not worry about the complicated situation in Arizona. In a predominantly passing league, there are some stronger wide receiver options available for fantasy owners.

Good luck in Week 6. Once you set your lineups, download SnapCall, join us and call the plays for some of this week's action!