Dear 49ers fans, you’re welcome. I spent the last two weeks touting your team as the absolute worst in the NFL right now, and they responded by beating the Ravens last week, and nearly beating the Giants the week before. Colin Kaepernick, who I said could be just losing it as a qb, has completed 63% of his passes in the last two games for 602 yards and 4 passing touchdowns. He has had an average 85 QBR in the last two games as well. He has played decently over the last two games. Of course I am not going to take back what I said, the Giants and Ravens rank 17th and 22nd overall in passing defense DVOA. So it isn’t like he is performing this well against the legion of boom at its peak. The 49ers are no longer the team that I consider the worst in the league, although the 49ers are still in that convo, the Jaguars and Lions have joined them in that discussion.
That leads us into this Thursday night game, pitting the 49ers against the Seahawks:
This is how I am viewing this game. The Seahawks are a team that should honestly be panicking a little bit. They should at least be playing with some urgency, as each game they lose from here on out hurts their playoff chances more and more. They are already 2-4, and to get a wildcard this year they will probably need to go 10-6 to do that. To get there, they will need to finish 8-2 down the stretch. Losing to this 49ers team that could be one of the worst in the league would be one of the worst thing that could happen to this Seahawks team right now.
This honestly feels like a game where the Seahawks could come out and just win by 35, and maybe even shut the 49ers out. That is the type of game that they need to have in order to get their swagger back. The good news for the Seahawks is that it is completely possible for them to do just that.
The Seahawks have one of the best rushing attacks in the league again, ranking 6th in offensive DVOA. The 49ers meanwhile have one of the bottom five rush defenses. This could be a game where Marshawn Lynch AND Russell Wilson each have 100 yards on the ground. The 49ers also have one of the worst five passing defenses in the league according to DVOA. This could also open up some things for Jimmy Graham to have a monster game.
Despite what I said above, I still believe that the 49ers are one of the worst five teams in the league(oh and by the way, DVOA says the 49ers might be the worst still. I’m not sure). This game needs to be a statement game for the Seahawks, and I believe that they can come out tonight and make a statement. Give me the Seahawks. They are one of my five best eliminator bets, and for those who do this, I like the Seahawks -5.5(this figure according to espn pigskin pickem, I also really hope I phrased that right. I am new to this whole spread thing).
So an interesting fact came out this week. Seven out of the ten most popular stories on ESPN in the month of September came from fantasy football articles, headlined by Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate and Field Yates’ free agent columns. The only three stories that managed to rival fantasy football in September? It was not the baseball stretch run, and it was not anything about LeBron. It was a story about spygate and deflategate, the Bryce/Papelbon fight, and something on JPP’s hand. Basically what we learned is that fantasy football is insanely popular. Chances are, you know one(more likely several) people who play in at least one fantasy league.
Fantasy has become very mainstream, hell I play in six leagues myself, partially because it is so dang fun. But we aren’t here to talk about just how big fantasy football has become, we are here to talk about the highest ranked preseason players who have been a disappointment so far this year. Every year, there are a couple of highly rated players who are busts, and you can only hope that you were not the one who drafted them. So lets look at a few players who were highly rated in the preseason, but who have failed to perform so far. If a player suffers a long-term injury, like Jamaal Charles or Jordy Nelson, they don’t count because you can not account for things like that very well. This list is comprised of players who have played all, or nearly all, of their teams games and have just simply been underwhelming compared to where they were taken in fantasy drafts, focusing on two running backs.
First up is Eddie Lacy. Coming into the year, there was a clear top five running backs in fantasy rankings, and Lacy was one of them. There were leagues where I am sure that Lacy went first overall just because of the loss of Nelson and the thought that Green Bay can lean more on the run. This is something that I feel like fantasy fans and football fans think every year, and it feels like the Packers never run the ball like we expect them too. Remind yourself next year that if you think the Packers will all the sudden run the ball more, that it probably won’t happen.
Anyway, Lacy has started off his season with 67 carries for 260 yards and a touchdown. This is 38th among RBs in ESPN standard scoring. That is terrible for a guy who was most likely a top 5 pick, and it is crucial to nail your first round pick in fantasy(fun unrelated fact: Devonta Freeman, the highest scoring RB in ESPN standard, is outscoring the 2nd highest scoring RB, Matt Forte, by 8.5 points per game. Oh by the way his first two games were scores of a 3 and an 11. Shows how great he has been over the last four games). Anyway, Lacy has had two games so far this year, under five carries, and in those games James Starks has 20 carries in one, and 10 in the other.
The Packers have faced a mixed bag of rushing defenses. The Bears, 49ers, and Chargers each have pretty bad rushing defenses so far this year according to DVOA. Lacy’s best two games this year came against the Bears and 49ers, and Starks had over 100 yards against the Chargers(I will be coming back to this). The other three teams they faced, Seattle, KC, and St. Louis, each have rushing defenses in the top half of the league according to DVOA. The Rams and Chiefs are in the top ten in rushing defense DVOA. Both Lacy and Starks struggled against the Rams and the Chiefs, and while Starks excelled against the Seahawks, Lacy left in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
The schedule gets a little easier for Lacy as the season progresses, as they play Minnesota and Detroit twice, and Chicago once. Playing the Broncos and Panthers after the bye doesn’t help but hopefully a more healthy Lacy should be more productive. He has always started slow. I would not sell low on Eddie Lacy because I believe that there is a decent chance that he could be one of the best fantasy backs in the game by the end of the season.
CJ Anderson was a top 10 back headed into the season for many people. He also had 67 carries on the season, but has only totaled 180 yards on the ground and has yet to reach the end zone through six games. It appears that he may have lost his job to Ronnie Hillman(I am not ready to say that Lacy has lost his job yet because Lacy, unlike Anderson, has actually looked decent in games this year). While Denver’s O-line has struggled, Anderson is still not performing at a level that he did for owners over the second half of last year. If you still own Anderson, I would drop him, it is clear that he is probably not going to produce that much this year.
There have of course been other players drafted high who have not been very helpful this year, looking at you Mike Evans, but none were as high priced as these two. Fantasy Football is an unpredictable game each year for a reason, and yet it does not appear to be losing any popularity.
Ted Van Green(@TVG_5)
Spark Sports NFL Analyst