We should be in for another defensive battle on Monday Night Football in the desert as the Cardinals host the 49ers. Those teams rank fourth and second, respectively, in scoring defense. Both teams are also in the top four in passing defense. Monday’s game won’t be very fantasy friendly, but there are still a few players you can rely on to help you win your Week 8 matchup.
Besides a 28-point Week 5 performance against a horrendous Buffalo defense, Alex Smith has averaged just over five standard fantasy points a game in Weeks four, six and seven. He’s thrown four interceptions the last two weeks, and with Arizona’s passing defense combined with the Niners’ run offense, Smith is not startable this week.
John Skelton took over for the injured Kevin Kolb last week and put up 10 points against a Vikings team that allows 17 fantasy points to QBs on average. With San Fran’s No. 1 pass defense, Skelton should be nowhere near your starting lineup this week.
Frank Gore was a full participant in practice Friday and will have had 11 days of rest to treat his ribs injury he suffered in Week 7’s Thursday night game. He’s been the sixth best fantasy running back this season, and is coming off a great game against a strong Seattle run defense. Arizona is giving up 120 rushing yards a game, so Gore should be in line for a large amount of carries and makes for a great start Monday night. Kendall Hunter has been a low-volume, high-efficiency back early this season. Even with his high yards per carry (5.2) he’s probably not going to get double-digit touches Monday night. With Gore healthy Hunter should only be a bye-week fill in this week.
LaRod Stephens-Howling had a very good Week 7 (149 total yards and a touchdown) against a stingy Vikings run defense. But San Fran’s run D is even better and Stephens-Howling is a limited back in a role he’s not really suited for. Unless he breaks off a big run the rushing numbers he accumulated last week probably won’t be there this week because the Cardinals will probably be trailing and need to be passing to try to catch up. If you have no other options LSH is an OK flex play this week because he’s an option in the passing game (four catches for 45 yards last week) but don’t expect him to carry your team this week.
San Francisco’s only given up two touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this year, but Larry Fitzgerald is a guy you can’t bench. Fitz had a touchdown in both games against SF last year, as well as 149 yards in one contest. Andre Roberts has out-produced Fitzgerald so far this season, but 51 of his 66 fantasy points have come in three games. He’s a boom-or-bust player and shouldn’t be any more than a flex play this week for you.
The Niners will be relying heavily on their run game Monday so I believe Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree are only PPR-plays this week. A hundred yards shouldn’t be in the cards for either player, but five catches for 50 or 60 yards is doable for each. Vernon Davis leads the Niners in touchdowns with four, and after being shut out last week he should be back with a vengeance and is a start in all leagues.
Both teams’ D/ST rank in the top five in fantasy points and both make good plays this week in what should be a low-scoring contest. You’re going to start any defense that’s playing against John Skelton, and Alex Smith has been a turnover machine lately.
Written by Andrew Miller exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com.
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Unless otherwise noted, the following lineup and roster advice assumes a standard 10- or 12-team league with roster spots as 1 QB/2 RB/2 WR/1 RB/WR/1 TE. If I don’t mention a player it means I feel he isn’t worthy of starting in any league except very deep leagues. For advice regarding deeper leagues feel free to ask me on Twitter @44AMiller.