NFC West Fantasy Outlook
Do Not Bench List - All Positions
Warner - Playing through his elbow injury, Warner (elbow) put up an abysmal 10-for-30 passing line in Week 9 for just 172 yards and two interceptions. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers smothered Warner even without sacking him, and he looked uncomfortable for the entire game as he averaged 5.7 yards per passing attempt. Until he proves that he can authoritatively challenge opposing defenses, Warner should be left on your bench.
Bulger - The Cleveland Browns gave Bulger some room to play in their Week 8 contest as he went 24-36 with 310 yards. Despite an interception, a pass of his even found the end zone for the first time in four games; Bulger connected with Holt on a one-yard touchdown pass. This marked improvement, the Rams return from the Bye week and a matchup with the maligned New Orleans Saints pass defense all make Bulger a strong play in Week 10. He had the extra week to rest and could come back with a similar performance to that of Week 8. He ranks as a strong play in a lower tier of No. 1 quarterbacks.
Smith - In another ugly quarterback performance from this division, Smith went 17-for-38 with 149 yards and three interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons last week. It seems that if tight end Vernon Davis isn't involved in an offensive play, Smith can't be trusted to produce. Against the Seahawks, the Qwest Field factor is just one of the many reasons to keep Smith on your bench this week.
Hasselbeck - Hasselbeck spread the ball around last week in completing 30 of 47 pass attempts, completing passes to seven different receivers. He has made ample use of wide receiver Bobby Engram for weeks now, and the return of wideout D.J. Hackett gave him an extra long body to find in the red zone. The inclusion of wide receivers Nate Burleson and Ben Obomanu, along with running back Maurice Morris, adds to his repertoire. The Niners' pass defense has acted friendly toward quarterbacks as of late, allowing an average of 40 attempts and 2.00 touchdowns to the position in the last three games. With running back Shaun Alexander deteriorating, the Seahawks are expected to also look to pass more often. Hasselbeck stands as a strong play as a second-tier No. 1 quarterback.
James - Edge only ran for 15 yards against the stiff Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, but he hit the end zone. He has averaged 2.00 red zone utilizations per game and had one play inside the 5-yard line over the last three games. James has now put up a goose egg in receptions for three straight games, and backup running back J.J. Arrington has maintained his role as a third-down and pass-receiving back. Lining up against a rolling Lions defense, James comes in as a weak play as a No. 2 back.
Jackson - After a Week 8 first-half performance that included 41 rushing yards and a touchdown run, Jackson (back) left the game with back spasms. He has told reporters that it was precautionary because of his concurrent groin injury. Jackson reportedly did some running drills Monday, and he should play in Week 10 if his practices go well this week. Even if he returns he stands as a weak play against the stalwart Saints run defense. He's likely to play this week and could be viewed as a weak play as a No. 2 running back.
Leonard - If Jackson for some reason can't go, Leonard would once again slide in as the top back. He has been far from reliable, averaging only 31.7 rushing yards in his last three games. Even when you add the average of 2.00 receptions for that, he could only be considered a No. 3 back. With Jackson likely to play, Leonard is a weak play as a low No. 3 or Bye week sub.
Gore - After being declared inactive for Sunday's game, Gore (ankle) opened up the door for backup running backs Maurice Hicks and Michael Robinson. Hicks walked through that gateway by scoring a touchdown. This development could close the portal for Gore's chance to carry a heavy majority until he proves he can stay healthy. Gore hit the Seahawks for 79 yards back in Week 4, but that might be when he was a shell of his current self. Gore is likely to play, but keep an eye on his status, and don't look to count on him as your No. 1 back this week.
Alexander - Change might be coming in the Northwest, as Alexander (knee, wrist, ankle) could very well have his carries chopped with emerging roles from running backs Maurice Morris and Leonard Weaver. Already wearing a cast on his wrist this season, Alexander left Seattle's Week 9 game in the second quarter. He only pounded out 32 yards against the slacking Browns run defense; you know he's not as reliable an option as when he was drafted. The 49ers look like an enticing matchup for him, but he might not be physically able to take advantage of it. He may not even play, although he has a strong play matchup. With Morris looming, there's a reason he tumbled from the Do Not Bench list. You should take notice. If you own Alexander, and Morris is available, you should grab Morris from the wire yesterday. If you don't own Alexander, Morris is still an option to pick up, and he could be used as a No. 3 back as a strong play.
Bruce - Bruce continues to plow along after a six-reception, 70-yard performance in Week 8. Against the Saints pass defense, he could see some more looks as he takes advantage of a weaker secondary. He has been targeted enough recently in his last two efforts, and that might be enough to produce some solid numbers as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver for the coming week in a strong play matchup.
Bennett - The last time we saw Bennett he produced a solid game for a No. 3 receiver, compiling six receptions for 63 yards on seven looks for his best game of the season. He only has 14 receptions on the season, however, and it will take more than a touchdown-less effort to warrant a pickup. Keep him on your bench, as he may not be the top option for the Rams.
Jackson - Despite receiving a target boost on the end of eight looks, Jackson caught just two passes for the second straight week. Jackson has fallen behind wide receiver Arnaz Battle and tight end Vernon Davis in the pecking order, it seems, and with Smith struggling under center Jackson can only be recommended as a Bye week replacement.
Burleson - With the possible return of Seattle's normal No. 1 wide receiver, Deion Branch (foot), Burleson could be relegated to No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, as wideout D.J. Hackett seems to be settling back into his normal No. 2 role. Burleson still retains some value, as he has posted a return touchdown in each of his last two games. This is not necessarily a guarantee that he will do this each week, but for those leagues that count return yardage Burleson would gain fantasy points on two fronts. Expect a diminished role, but against the Niners he's a strong play as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. He would likely drop in value with the return of Branch.
Engram - When you're on the end of 21 looks, you should have a decent shot at converting on two-thirds of those. Engram did just that with a 14-catch performance in Week 9. He was already Hasselbeck's favorite target, and he now has 43 looks over their last three games. His last game doesn't skew that figure as much as one would originally perceive, because he had 11 looks in each of his previous two games. The return of Branch would slide Engram into the slot. Still, given his rapport with Hasselbeck, Engram presents a strong play as a third-tier No. 1 receiver.
Pope - Pope was targeted once Sunday but didn't register on the stat sheet. The Cardinals have been trying to find ways to use him with little success. He's too erratic to consider even as a remotely valuable tight end this week, so keep him on your bench.
McMichael - McMichael has caught just 10 passes in his last four games and hasn't scored a touchdown in his last three contests. He hasn't caught more than three passes in a game this year. With this pattern not producing a steady fantasy contributor, McMichael ranks as a low-tier No. 1 tight end or a Bye week replacement.
Heller - Heller's spot might be in jeopardy with the possible return of fellow tight end Marcus Pollard (knee). Receiving just one look last week, that plan might already be in play. That two-touchdown performance in Week 7 seems to be deep in the rearview mirror. Bench Heller, because he's a weak play. If Pollard plays, he belongs on the bench, too.
Davis - Davis continued his display as the No. 1 receiving option with seven receptions for 77 yards in Week 9. He has been taregeted almost nine times per game in his last three outings, and he could hit the jackpot once again this week. The Seahawks have allowed an average of 6.33 receptions per game to tight ends in their last three games. Davis remains the main piece of the San Francisco passing game, and he stands as a strong play this week as a second-tier No. 1 tight end.
Rackers - Rackers put up just one field goal and one extra point for the Cardinals in their 17-10 loss to the Buccaneers last week. He runs into a scorching Lions defense that has allowed a league-low 2.0 kicker points per game over their last three contests. The Lions could minimize the Cardinals' scoring opportunities, and that could minimize any argument against keeping Rackers, a weak play, on your bench.
Wilkins - The Rams have a chance to put up some points against the Saints pass defense. Wilkins hasn't registered double-digit kicking points since Week 5, but the Saints have allowed 6.2 kicker points per game in their last four games. If Bulger heats up, Wilkins could convert. Put him in as a low-tier No. 1 or as a Bye week replacement.
Brown - Brown has tallied double-digit kicker points in his last two games and three of his last five. San Francisco has surrendered an average of 8.0 kicker points per game in their last three contests, and the rolling Seattle passing game could put Brown in position for some field goals. His only missed field goal in 17 attempts came on a block in Week 6, and he has made his last eight consecutive kicks. Brown stands as a strong play this week as an upper-tier No. 1 kicker.
Nedney - Nedney carried the Niners offense last week with three field goals and 10 kicking points. He made boots from 49, 32 and 22 yards. Despite that success, he can't be guaranteed to repeat those numbers on the road against the Seahawks. He's a weak play, so leave him on your bench; there are more profitable directions to explore.
Cardinals - The Cardinals run into quarterback Jon Kitna and the Lions, who seem to be touched by the football gods recently. They have steamrolled their last three opponents by a combined score of 73-30, and running back Kevin Jones seems to have ignited the pride. Keep the Cardinals, a weak play, on your bench.
Rams - Having allowed a combined 82 points in their last three games, the Rams don't stand as a defensive factor in fantasy football. They travel to face the Saints' hot passing offense led by quarterback Drew Brees and will try to find someone that can contain running back Reggie Bush. Both Brees and Bush have been tearing up fantasy leagues lately, and the Rams defensive unit, a weak play, should be put out to pasture on your bench this week.
Seahawks - Seattle ranks as a good one-week play as they face San Francisco at home. With the Niners offense struggling to string together a reliable passing or rushing attack, the Seahawks should be able to either keep the scoring low or amass several turnovers. The defense should be stoked to face quarterback Alex D. Smith, and Seattle, a strong play, is lined up for a productive week as a starting defense.
49ers - The Niners defense has not offered any evidence to be considered a fantasy option. They're a weak play, so keep them on your bench against the Seahawks.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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