Mismatches: They aren’t just for your sock drawer anymore. We recently have had a number of double-digit spreads in primetime NFL games, and that trend continues this evening with the 49ers favored by 10.5 points against the Cardinals on the DraftKings Sportsbook. The lopsided nature of these contests has made for some interesting patterns in Showdown slates. We’ve seen a lot of defenses priced over $7K, we’ve seen a lot of five-player stacks, and we also have seen a lot of similar game scripts with mostly meaningless fourth quarters. Will these things carry over into another Thursday night affair?
Let’s break it all down.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
So, there’s been just a little bit of turnover in Arizona’s backfield since we last saw them in Week 8. Chase Edmonds, who injured his hamstring in the loss to New Orleans, has been ruled out for tonight’s contest and, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s very likely David Johnson ($8,200) will join him on the sidelines with the same nagging ankle issue that essentially has had him miss the team’s past two games. Unfortunately, the matter doesn’t get less complex from that point. Instead of being left with a condensed group of options at running back, Kliff Kingsbury instead has an underwhelming trio of backs, and we have little sense where the volume might end up going. In a vacuum, Kenyan Drake ($6,800) is the most talented piece that remains, and his pass-catching skill set aligns with a monumental underdog from a game flow perspective; however, only traded three days ago, it’s unclear how much the Cardinals’ coaching staff will put on his plate. Kingsbury did mention featuring Drake in “some packages” Thursday, yet that’s not the strongest commitment for an asset that still is carrying a relatively large price tag.
Zach Zenner ($3,000) and Alfred Morris ($2,200) are also pretty recent additions to Arizona’s roster, but it’s fair to expect both to be active alongside Drake in what truly could be the purist committee approach we’ve seen at the position in some time. The former was in uniform Sunday against the Saints and played 19 of the team’s 49 offensive snaps; however, most of those came following Edmonds’ exit, and that modest workload resulted in only two touches. Honestly, Morris is probably the guy I’d target if you anticipate any Cardinals RB bringing back value this evening. We’ve seen many coaches treat Morris in a similar fashion, only activating him in situations where a “bell cow” is needed and not to simply be another man’s backup. It’s likely this is the lone reason we saw Zenner, who can play special teams and diversify himself slightly better, and not Morris last weekend. I’d assume Morris sees about 10 attempts and garners the goal line carries — if there even are any.
That’s really the crux of this situation. Does any of this matter? San Francisco allowed its first rushing touchdown and first 100-yard running back in Week 8’s blowout victory versus Christian McCaffrey and Carolina, and none of these men are McCaffrey. The 49ers have conceded just 95.7 yards on the ground per game, and the 36 targets they’ve given up to opposing backfields are the second-fewest in all of football. I’m not particularly enthused to use any Arizona RB on this slate.
The Cardinals’ best chance at keeping this contest close is Kyler Murray ($9,800) doing Kyler Murray things. The rookie quarterback has been struggling to produce DKFP his past two starts, yet his numbers this season have been far better at home than on the road. In fact, Murray’s averaged 23.6 DKFP in four games at State Farm Stadium, the setting where he’s thrown all seven of his career touchdown passes. I’m also maybe not as frightened of the 49ers’ secondary as I should be. While San Francisco certainly has been impressive in its ability to limit opposing QBs to literally negative fantasy points going back to the beginning of Week 5, the level of competition hasn’t been the most stout.
I mean, you could kind of say that for the campaign as a whole, as the 49ers have feasted on the likes of Andy Dalton, Case Keenum, Kyle Allen and Mason Rudolph. They’re undoubtedly a phenomenal unit and, with the league’s highest adjusted sack rate (12.2%), they likely will have their way with Arizona’s severely flawed offensive line. Yet, at the end of the day, the rules say you have to play at least one Cardinal, and there’s no option with a higher ceiling than Murray. Though, I have to admit, Zane Gonzalez ($4,000) comes close with Arizona leading the NFL in field goals per drive (0.24).
Finally, if you’re courageous enough to want to stack Murray with a receiving option instead of simply playing him on an island, Christian Kirk ($7,200) would be the way to go. The sophomore has registered double-digit targets in three of his five games in 2019 and returned to produce a whopping 122 Air Yards in Week 8’s loss to New Orleans. There’s always a chance Larry Fitzgerald’s ($7,000) general efficiency wins out, but, in such a difficult matchup, give me the bigger threat to make a chunk play.
San Francisco 49ers
In almost the complete opposite scenario of their opponent this evening, the 49ers are expected to have all their banged up running backs active when tonight’s tilt kicks off. Though it initially seemed doubtful Matt Breida ($6,600) would be able to play on a short week after sustaining an ankle injury against Carolina, Kyle Shanahan appeared confident following Wednesday’s practice that both he and Raheem Mostert ($4,800) would be available to go versus Arizona. Still, even with a full backfield, it truly feels like Tevin Coleman’s ($9,000) grasp on the starting role grows tighter and tighter with each passing week. Even putting aside the four-touchdown performance Sunday, just look at how his snap share had developed since coming back from his own injury in Week 5. Coleman went from 33.3% of the team’s offensive snaps to 55.8% in Week 6 and then to 65.6% in Week 7. He’s clearly the guy, and being in that role in San Francisco has benefits that you won’t find in many other places. The 49ers’ offensive line is generating an elite 4.88 adjusted line yards per carry, the squad leads the NFC in red zone drive per game (4.4), and, of course, San Francisco runs the ball at a higher clip than any other team in the league (57.5%). Even with some touch competition from a hobbled Breida, Coleman has Captain’s Pick consideration for this slate.
I can’t say I feel the same way about Jimmy Garoppolo ($10,400). While the Cardinals have allowed an NFL-worst 20 passing touchdowns so far this season, Garoppolo has yet to be put in a position where the offense has had to rely on him through the 49ers’ first seven contests. The result? A quarterback who only once has eclipsed 15.0 DKFP in 2019 and only twice has thrown more than 30 passes in a game. In fact, if we’re fantasizing about ceiling, Garoppolo sits dead-last among all QBs that have started every single one of their team’s matchups in drop backs (205), aDOT (6.5 yards) and overall passing yards (1,489). We’re discussing a man that last weekend somehow collected a paltry 14.0 DKFP in an afternoon where San Francisco scored 51 points. He knows what his role in this system is, and he hasn’t had to deviate from that archetype so far in 2019. I wouldn’t expect Arizona to necessitate anything different this evening.
Still, you could talk me into a few shares of George Kittle ($9,200). Though the Pro Bowler is well short of the statistical pace he set for himself last year, Kittle’s remained highly efficient in the opportunities he’s been given. Coming into Thursday, among tight ends active in Week 9, Kittle trails only Mark Andrews in yards gained per route run (2.36), while the duo of Andrews and Darren Waller are the lone men at the position averaging more PPR fantasy points per route (0.47). The presence of Emmanuel Sanders ($8,600) complicates his target monopoly and Deebo Samuel ($5,200) does continue to lead the 49ers in red zone targets (7), but Kittle endures as the team’s obvious No. 1 weapon in the passing attack. That that truth coincides with the Cardinals surrendering the most DKFP per game and the most yards per target (9.9) to the position is simply icing on the cake. I’d be hesitant to make Kittle a Captain, as he’s reliant on Garoppolo, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be a valuable in a FLEX slot.
Then, there’s 49ers D/ST ($7,400). Really, all you need to know is San Francisco gets the quarterback about as well as any club in football. It’s averaging 3.9 sacks per game for the season and 4.7 sacks specifically across its past three contests. On top of that, Arizona’s offensive line is conceding a 9.6% adjusted sack rate — the worst mark of any unit in the NFC. Surprisingly, that level of pressure on Murray hasn’t led to many turnovers — with the Cardinals actually giving the ball away on a league-low 4.6% of drives — but, as always, the opportunity for mistakes will be present. 49ers D/ST is incredibly viable.
It’s a short week, Arizona’s a home underdog, and this game has “TRAP” written all over it. However, at a certain point, you just have to give teams their due. San Francisco is really, really good. Its defense is really, really good. Its offensive schemes are really, really good. It’s going to win this game handily. In such a script, the two obvious choices for a Captain’s Pick are Tevin Coleman ($13,500 CP) and 49ers D/ST ($11,100 CP), but you’ll want as much exposure to the San Francisco side of this contest as possible. Then run things back with Kyler Murray, Zane Gonzalez or, if you’re desperate, Alfred Morris.
Final Score: San Francisco 27, Arizona 13
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.