49ERS // PACKERS OVERVIEW
A struggling, 1-4 San Francisco squad will travel to Lambeau Field on Monday night for a primetime game that will be massively overshadowed by the game taking place the night before. The Packers are a disappointing 2-2-1 to start the year, but they have the pieces to get back on track. Vegas backs this sentiment, with Green Bay installed as 9.5 point favorites early in the week.
These teams rank next to each other in pace of play at 11th and 12th in the league, and each team ranks top 10 in the league in plays per game on offense. The Packers rank third in pass play rate, while the 49ers rank 18th.
The way to attack the Packers is on the ground (27th in DVOA; 20th in yards allowed per carry), as this team has been playing back and focusing on the pass — but it will be difficult for San Francisco to stick to this approach throughout the game, as they are likely to fall behind, and they are also expected to be without their lead runner in Matt Breida. This is a poor setup for the 49ers’ offense.
49ERS PASS OFFENSE
Green Bay has been great at rushing the passer this year, ranking third in adjusted sack rate, while the 49ers rank 27th in this category on offense. The Packers also rank seventh best in completion percentage allowed and top 12 in yards allowed per pass attempt. While there is a handy excuse here of “The Packers really haven’t played many elite quarterbacks,” we should keep in mind that they are taking on C.J. Beathard this week.
Last week, Beathard unloaded a massive 54 pass attempts — which led to 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but also led to four turnovers and four sacks taken. Twelve of these targets went to Pierre Garcon, though Garcon failed to top 60 yards for the fifth consecutive game to open the year. Kendrick Bourne turned seven targets into a 4-33-0 line. The 49ers are so banged up, they gave 57 snaps and 35 pass routes to Victor Bolden Jr. (1-10-0 on four looks) and 24 snaps to Richie James Jr. (1-7-0 on one target). Trent Taylor soaked up a fluky eight targets — which he turned into a 7-61-1 line. Taylor has an aDOT of only 5.8. Dante Pettis is going to miss another game this week, and Marquise Goodwin looks iffy midway through the week. If Goodwin plays, he should be in line for four to seven targets — with a floor of zero, but with decent upside if things click.
The only piece actually worth talking about on the 49ers’ aerial attack is George Kittle, who has impressed this season with target counts on the year of nine, four, seven, eight, and seven, and with yardage totals in those games of 90, 22, 79, 125, and 83. I will do everyone a favor for now and continue not playing Kittle myself (this week, simply because I don’t typically play the Showdown slates), which seems to be the key to his success, as his 2-22-0 line came the only week I rostered him. To those who have continued making money off this guy in my absence: you’re welcome. Green Bay has been middling against tight ends this year, allowing the 12th most receptions and the 10th most yards to the position.
49ERS RUN OFFENSE
San Francisco appears likely to be without Breida this week, which will leave them splitting work among Alfred Morris, Raheem Mostert, and Kyle Juszczyk. If betting on one of these guys…my first question would be, “Why are you playing this Showdown slate?” But after asking that, I would point out that Alf appears in line for a larger-than-normal workload, though his 21 touches last week stand alongside the important caveat that the 49ers ran a near-impossible 99 plays against the helpless Cardinals. If we dial them down to around 65 plays this week, Alf should be in line for 14 to 16 touches again, with Mostert mixing in for a light load on the ground and Juszczyk mixing in for a few looks through the air. Green Bay invites opponents to run the ball, but the 49ers will have to keep this game close for that to matter.
PACKERS PASS OFFENSE
Randall Cobb is expected to miss another game this week, which will leave Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the slot, though the target share for MVS will likely depend on whether or not Geronimo Allison gets cleared. MVS has filled in for Cobb twice so far — posting a 1-38-0 line on three targets with Allison on the field, and going 7-68-1 on 10 targets with Allison off the field. If Allison plays, he’ll likely jump back into eight to 10 looks, while MVS will trickle back down to five or six mostly possession-type targets.
Matchup does not matter for Davante Adams, as Aaron Rodgers has essentially decided that this guy is going to get the ball no matter what. Adams saw 12 targets against Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings, 14 targets against Tre’Davious White and the Bills, and 12 targets against Darius Slay and the Lions. While Adams has topped 100 yards only once this year, he has catch totals of five, eight, seven, eight, and nine, with four total touchdowns on the year. Richard Sherman has quietly played like a top 10 corner on his side of the field when healthy this season, but Adams will avoid him on over 70% of his pass routes. He is the safest play on the slate — alongside Rodgers himself.
Jimmy Graham will also remain involved, with around six to eight targets his likeliest range. (He spiked to 11 targets last week, but Rodgers threw the ball 52 times — an unlikely number in a game the Packers are likely to control.) He has yardage counts on the year of 8 // 95 // 45 // 21 // 76, with one touchdown added.
PACKERS RUN OFFENSE
Musical chairs continued in this backfield last week for the Packers, with Jamaal Williams playing 33 snaps, Ty Montgomery playing 29, and Aaron Jones playing 22 — as expected. This team has shown no inclination to scrap this timeshare, as each guy in this backfield supposedly offers something that the other two cannot. Until the Packers actually begin to shift usage, you are left picking up low volume and hoping for something to hit in this spot if attacking on the Showdown slate. Aaron Jones has by far the best pure upside in this group, but if he is going to hit, he’ll almost certainly have to do so on limited touches, after touching the ball seven, 12, and nine times to begin the year.
Even if I made a habit of playing the Showdown slates, I would almost certainly stay away from this game, as the 49ers’ offense is a mess outside of Kittle, and the Packers’ backfield is a mess — essentially leaving us with Kittle, the Packers’ defense, and the Packers’ passing attack as the only truly quality pieces. The Packers’ D and Kittle are each good enough plays to be considered on the full-weekend slate (the Packers are probably my favorite DST play of the weekend, actually), while Davante Adams would stand out in the Packers’ passing attack as a strong play among the high-priced guys, behind only the receivers in the games with true shootout potential.
The other pieces in the Packers’ passing attack would be worth considering in large-field tourneys on the full weekend slate, and they obviously rise to the top on the Showdown. Everyone else in this game is a “mix and match in the Showdown and hope something goes right” option.
This is an ugly way to end what was otherwise a really fun set of Week 6 games.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE // Full “Updates” List
Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison are game-time decisions for Monday Night Football. Davante Adams gets his targets no matter what. Marquez Valdes-Scantling becomes the number three option (behind Adams and Jimmy Graham) if both guys miss. If one of them plays, MVS will still be on the field, but he’ll be in line for fewer guaranteed looks. (If both Cobb and Allison play, it will be business as usual for this squad.)