SEAHAWKS // 49ERS OVERVIEW
This is not the Seahawks // 49ers matchups of a few years ago, but as we saw last week against the formerly playoff-situated Broncos: this 49ers team continues to play hard right now, while the 8-5 Seahawks (winners of four straight) have been one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Both teams prefer to lean on the ground, which will shorten this game to an extent — but each offense is also capable of moving the field and putting up points, creating some interesting opportunities for DFS production on the only late game on the Main Slate besides the Patriots at the Steelers. After the Seahawks’ 43-16 win in Seattle a couple weeks ago, this game in Santa Clara has been awarded an Over/Under of 44.0, with the visiting Seahawks installed as slim 3.5 point favorites.
In spite of ranking ninth in the NFL in points per game and ninth in offensive DVOA, the Seahawks have been one of the least-useful DFS offenses in the NFL, with a passing attack that has not topped even 20 pass attempts in back-to-back weeks (while topping 26 pass attempts only three times in their last 11 games), and with a rushing attack that spreads around the work with limited pass game involvement. This yardage-and-touchdown backfield has contributed only four individual efforts all season of 100 yards and a touchdown — with Chris Carson notching two such games, Rashaad Penny notching one such game, and Mike Davis notching one such game.
If you are wanting to visit this rushing attack, the best bet lately has been Carson, who has recent touch counts of 17 // 18 // 17 // 22, with recent yards-from-scrimmage totals of 83 // 63 // 108 // 90. Carson has piled up six catches and three touchdowns across this four-game stretch — and while it will take a multi-score game and/or a couple of busted plays for him to provide more than serviceable value, this team’s commitment to the ground game has kept his floor relatively high most weeks.
Davis has seen his role shrink lately, with exactly four touches in three consecutive games, while Penny has stepped up for recent touch counts of 8 // 4 // 7 // 8. Penny caught four passes in Week 1 and has hauled in only two total receptions since then. If he misses this game with his knee issue, Davis projects to step into around eight to 12 touches of his own. The 49ers have ranked top 10 in yards allowed per carry, but they are ultimately a middling matchup on the ground.
While the Seahawks have limited passing volume more than any team in the league, they do at least have a narrow distribution of work, with recent target counts among Seattle wide receivers looking like this:
The Seahawks easily handled the 49ers at home in Week 13, which led to only 17 pass attempts from Russ — but if the 49ers are able to keep this game closer at home, somewhere in the range of 22 to 29 pass attempts would not be a crazy expectation. If you want to make this bet, there will be room for all three of these pass catchers to see around five targets, with room for one or two of them to move up to seven or eight looks. The 49ers present a slightly below-average matchup for wide receivers, with a 61.3% catch rate allowed to the position this year, and with a middling number of yards and receptions given up — though no team in the NFL has allowed more wide receiver touchdowns, which increases the upside a bit on this offense that prefers to throw when they get close to the end zone (17th in the NFL in rushing touchdowns; fifth in passing touchdowns). Consider all three of Lockett, Baldwin, and Moore to be low-floor plays with touchdown-driven ceilings in this highly efficient attack. Red zone targets on this team go Baldwin :: 9 // Moore :: 8 // Lockett :: 6 — though Lockett has six touchdowns from outside the red zone, keeping his ceiling intact. Moore sees plenty of “upside” looks, but as he has shown the last two weeks, his floor is absolutely zero. Baldwin sees the least downfield work on this team, but he’ll have an outside shot at seven to nine targets if healthy this week. If Baldwin misses, Lockett and Moore will each see a little more work.
49ERS RUN OFFENSE
In spite of a last-in-the-NFL 3-10 record that has had the 49ers constantly playing from behind, this team ranks 10th in the NFL in rush play rate, as they have been playing with backup quarterbacks and a decimated wide receiver corps all season, and they boast one of the more well-designed rushing attacks in the league. This creates a good setup in this spot against a Seattle team that ranks 29th in yards allowed per carry and 19th in DVOA against the run.
Of course, the flip side of this matchup is that the Seahawks control the clock as well as any team in the NFL — which has led to them facing the second fewest opponent plays per game, and has led to them allowing the eighth fewest running back rushing yards this season. On the year, the Seahawks have faced a stunningly low 18.4 running back rush attempts per game.
If the Matt Breida (perpetual ankle issues) misses this week, the backfield will belong to Jeff Wilson, who played 62 of a possible 72 snaps last week — far ahead of phased-out Alfred Morris (four snaps). When these teams last met, Wilson saw an uncharacteristic-for-this-offense nine targets with the 49ers climbing out of a deep hole — hauling in eight catches for 73 yards. A more comfortable range for him this week would be three to five looks through the air, though 15+ carries and three to five targets would have definite potential to provide value in this matchup. He is the clear alpha in this attack if Breida misses.
If Breida plays, all bets are off, as we should see a split workload between these two backs. The best bet would be to hope Breida plays limited snaps and Wilson continues to hog the bulk of the work.
49ERS PASS OFFENSE
There are only two teams in the NFL that are allowing a lower average depth of target than the Seahawks’ aggressive, zone-heavy defense — though this does not conflict too much with a 49ers attack that has been more focused on the short areas of the field than any team in the league. The Seahawks are nonthreatening outside of the low aDOT, as they have allowed a 2.5% boost to the league-average catch rate and have allowed a higher YAC/R rate than all but three other teams in football. This last element is where the 49ers will attempt to thrive, as George Kittle ranks second in the entire NFL in YAC per reception, while Dante Pettis ranks fourth in the NFL in YAC/R. It is worth noting that Pettis — on his limited touches this year — has outperformed his xYAC/R by 2.8 yards, with his huge YAC game against the Seahawks two weeks ago artificially inflating his numbers on the year. Kittle, of course, has also outperformed his xYAC/R, but he ranks fourth in the NFL in this category, with Kyle Shanahan looking for ways to get Kittle in open space every week.
Recent target counts on the 49ers have looked like this:
Goodwin (24 snaps last week) and Bourne (43 snaps) played clearly behind Pettis (63 snaps) last week, leaving these two as dart throws in this spot.
Pettis has an aDOT of 12.6 and an xYAC/R of 5.7, which should allow him to push for 70+ yards again this week as long as he and Mullens continue to connect on four or five of their typical seven targets. With no games north of seven targets or five catches, a broken play or a touchdown would be nice — but Pettis is involved enough in this offense and is cheap enough across all three sites that he’ll have a strong shot at providing solid price-considered production even without a spiked week.
The toughest matchup in this spot goes to Kittle, who will be taking on a tight end defense that has allowed the second fewest yards to the position. Working in Kittle’s favor is an absolutely locked-in target share, with eight or more targets in six of his last seven games. He’ll likely need to break off a couple more big YAC gains in order to pop in this spot, but the matchup certainly creates some opportunities for him to do so.
From a floor and ceiling perspective, multi-use backs are too valuable for me to want to chase after one-dimensional players like Carson, Penny, and Davis, which has left me off of these guys most weeks this year. There is enough to like at the running back position this week that I don’t plan to take a shot on these guys myself — though there is a non-zero chance that these guys become useful this week, if you want to chase yourself. I also don’t expect to take shots on the low-volume passing attack of the Seahawks, but it is worth noting that this unit as a whole carries enough upside that it can be targeted in tourneys — running out Naked Russ, or pairing Russ with one or two of his pass catchers. The low guaranteed volume on this attack creates a lower-than-lovely floor, but this unit has hit often enough that it won’t be a surprise if they hit again.
On the 49ers’ side, Wilson is surprisingly attractive after playing 86% of the snaps last week and handling 88.9% of the running back touches. While Seattle has limited running back touches, the average game against them has still yielded 18.4 carries and 6.1 catches; if Wilson can see 20 to 22 touches on this run-heavy team — with three or four catches sprinkled in — he could prove useful. Obviously, this play is contingent on Breida’s health this week.
From a price-considered standpoint, I actually like the 49ers passing attack a decent amount as well, as Nick Mullens has provided strong value in three of his five starts so far this year — and those three games just so happen to have been the three that came against bottom-tier YAC-prevention teams (Oakland ranks dead last in YAC/R allowed // Denver ranks 30th in YAC/R allowed // Seattle ranks 29th). This short-area attack can produce yards against teams that allow YAC, making Mullens (along with Pettis and Kittle) modest-floor, solid-upside pieces this week.