The divisional matchup would appear to be one-sided, but fantasy football managers are hoping it stays close. The Arizona Cardinals’ fantasy story to follow is the strong start to the season for James Conner, while the San Francisco 49ers’ fantasy preview revolves around a passing game that is more than willing to share the love.
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Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
- Spread: 49ers -14
- Total: 44
- Cardinals implied points: 15
- 49ers implied points: 29
Brock Purdy: Another week, another rock-solid performance. I’m beginning to think Purdy very much needs a better nickname than “Mr. Irrelevant.” Even something as simple as BP13 would work. Something.
He’s more than his draft capital. He’s a legit fantasy quarterback who produces week in and week out. Put some respect on this man’s name. Tweet me ideas (@KyleSoppePFN), I’m open to anything and will use my favorite in content moving forward.
Purdy has accounted for multiple touchdowns in eight of nine regular-season starts, and if a swing pass to Deebo Samuel in Week 2 was a few inches in front of the line of scrimmage instead of behind, he’d be a perfect 9 for 9.
The upside is limited with this offense running through Christian McCaffrey, but with byes starting next week, Purdy very much needs to be atop your list of replacement options with potentially high-scoring spots coming up over the next two months:
- Week 7: at MIN
- Week 8: vs. CIN
- Week 10: at JAX
- Week 12: at PHI
James Conner: With 16 touches gaining 116 yards and a score, Conner looked great in what we thought was a brutal matchup against the Cowboys last week. As a reward, the veteran back gets the pleasure of trying to repeat that level of success against the 49ers’ stout front.
San Francisco has a +48-point differential this season, and if they continue to dominate, Conner is projecting production that mirrors his Week 1 effort in Washington (19 touches for 70 yards and zero touchdowns). He gave fantasy managers less than that when these two teams last met (19 opportunities resulting in just 54 yards, though he did score).
I have Conner ranked as a low-end RB2 who needs a touchdown to surpass my rankings, something I’m not betting on, with Arizona owning an implied total this week of 15 points.
Christian McCaffrey: That’s now 12 straight games with a touchdown for the artist known as CMC. With the way this offense is crafted, I’m not sure when that streak ends.
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Through three weeks, he’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has caught 84.6% of his targets per the Week 4 Cheat Sheet. McCaffrey’s yet to touch the ball fewer than 23 times in a game and is the clear focal point of one of the most consistent offenses in all the land.
Elijah Mitchell: After touching the ball just five times through two weeks, Mitchell handled the rock 14 times (44 yards) on Thursday night, including starting San Francisco’s second drive as the lead back.
Entering the season, there was optimism that he could hold standalone value next to McCaffrey this season. I think those hopes are a thing of the past, but he very much needs to remain rostered as insurance to McCaffrey.
We saw Matt Breida essentially flop in filling in for Saquon Barkley on Thursday night, and while I don’t think Mitchell is close to the talent of McCaffrey, this system would make him a locked-in fantasy asset if the opportunity were to arise.
Deebo Samuel: With Brandon Aiyuk sidelined last week, Samuel earned 35.3% of the targets and looked impossible to tackle on various occasions (six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown). I found it interesting that he was only handed the ball once, but that could be a result of the 49ers largely controlling this game and not wanting to tax his body more than necessary.
Having said that, Samuel did take a shot to the ribs during the game and reported being “pretty sore” the next day. While tests came back clean, this is something worth tracking with the 49ers again massive favorites and over a month away from their bye week.
Samuel is a WR2 for me that carries the widest range of outcomes for those I have ranked in his tier.
Brandon Aiyuk: A shoulder injury caused Aiyuk to see zero targets in the final 19 minutes of the Week 2 win and resulted in him sitting out last week. Assuming he’s back in the mix, I will have him ranked as an average Flex option, understanding that the limited targets in San Fran can go in bulk to any of the four options.
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Aiyuk is a talented player capable of exploiting this matchup, but no one in this passing game should ever be considered “safe” when everyone is healthy.
Marquise Brown: Brown has scored in consecutive weeks, but I’ll bet against that happening again this season. Hollywood is averaging a career-low 10.2 yards per catch and only has one 25-yard catch over his past nine games.
We used to target Brown for his single-play upside, but that’s no longer a tool in his bag. As the top target in this offense, he’s worthy of a roster spot, but there’s simply too much talent at the position to get Brown into the top 45 this week.
The Cardinals closed last season with the 49ers, and Brown managed to turn four targets into seven yards. The fact that a stat line like that is in the range of outcomes is downright terrifying.
Michael Wilson: The 6’2” rookie has yet to see even five targets in a game, but Wilson has cleared 55 yards in consecutive weeks thanks to the big-play potential. He’s not a player who needs to be rostered in average-sized redraft leagues, but for deeper leagues, he should be on your radar with bye weeks starting to kick in next week.
Zach Ertz: It was fun while it lasted. Ertz was piling up the catches through two weeks, but the magic ran out against the Cowboys in a game that saw him run just 16 routes.
Ertz isn’t a piece of the rebuild in Arizona, so with Geoff Swaim and Trey McBride combining for 16 routes last week, the writing would seem to be on the wall for the veteran. If he underwhelms again this weekend, Ertz managers will join the ranks of the TE streamers.
George Kittle: After totaling just 49 yards through two weeks, Kittle rewarded fantasy managers for their patience with seven catches and 90 yards against the Giants. I would love to tell you that this is the start of consistent weekly production and that he’s back in the tier just below Kelce, including Hockenson and Andrews at the moment — but I can’t.
The targets vacated by Aiyuk played a big role in Kittle doubling his target count for the season last week, and while I think he’s more than capable of spike performances, the hit-and-miss fantasy profile Kittle owns isn’t going anywhere.
I don’t mind the idea of exploring the trade market heading into Sunday, it’s not a bad time to hop off the rollercoaster. If you have him, you’re starting him every week and are well aware that he could be TE1 or TE21 any week.
RBs with 10%+ of their runs going 15+ yards
Most Explosive RBs in the league so far
— Alex Caruso (@AlexCaruso) September 27, 2023
Should You Start James Conner or Jerome Ford?
Is it a tough spot for Conner? Of course it is, but we know that he is the fulcrum of this Cardinals offense and that elevates his floor by way of volume. Ford is also in a tough spot, though he plays for a team that can choose to attack in a variety of ways.
Conner should hold a 4-6 touch edge over Ford and I think that’s enough for him to get the nod in this specific spot.
Should You Start Brock Purdy or Russell Wilson?
This is a classic “depends on your roster spot”. Having said that, I have Purdy ranked higher because I tend to place a high level of value on floor outcomes. San Francisco is going to put Purdy in a position to produce viable numbers week in and week out. His role in this offense doesn’t carry an elite ceiling, but once you get outside the top-8 quarterbacks, I’m just searching for the signal caller least likely to cost me the week.
Wilson has impressed in consecutive weeks and does look better than last season, but there is no denying the risk profile that he possesses and that is enough for me to pass when the alternative option seemingly comes with 15 fantasy points preloaded.
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