49ers vs Seahawks Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Calls on Kenneth Walker, Jordan Mason, More
Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Mason.
Week 15 of the 2022 NFL season kicks off with a Thursday Night Football NFC West showdown between the Seahawks and 49ers.
The first time these two teams met was back in Week 2 in a lopsided, 27-7 affair in favor of the 49ers. Year 2 quarterback Trey Lance suffered a season-ending injury in the game and was replaced by veteran Jimmy Garoppolo (now injured). Their rushing attack was mainly led by Jeff Wilson Jr., who is now on the Dolphins and was “replaced” by ex-Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey, who was acquired at the trade deadline.
With Garoppolo out with a broken foot for the remainder of the season, the 49ers have been in a mild crisis mode over the last two weeks despite being 9-4 atop the NFC West. Backup Brock Purdy has been serviceable in Garoppolo’s absence, however, and has managed to prolong the team’s six-game win streak in spite of numerous injuries. Versatile wideout Deebo Samuel will miss this matchup with a sprained MCL and running back Elijah Mitchell is on injured reserve with knee issues of his own.
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks have far exceeded expectations this year after trading longtime signal-caller Russell Wilson to the Broncos this offseason. Their success has been due in large part to Geno Smith, who had been a career backup and is now the 6-1 favorite for the Comeback Player of the Year award. Smith has helped their offense score the sixth-most points per game and has kept them afloat in second place in the division at 7-6.
Some lineup decisions, like starting McCaffrey, George Kittle, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are easy. Below are some fringe players at each position who you may be on the fence about starting in the 49ers vs. Seahawks matchup on Thursday Night Football.
Seahawks Week 15 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em
QB Geno Smith
Smith has been a pleasant surprise this year and has shockingly finished as a top-12 quarterback in each of his last five games. He tossed a hat trick of touchdowns in Week 14 against the Panthers and finished as the QB7, completing 21-of-36 attempts for 264 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Verdict: Sit if you can.
This matchup is on the opposite end of the spectrum against San Francisco’s top-notch defense that ranks fifth in pass DVOA, ninth in sacks per game, second in interceptions and has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this year. He struggled the last time these two teams met in Week 2 and completed 24-of-30 attempts for 197 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception, finishing as the QB30 for the week.
There is always a chance he could redeem himself in his rematch — especially at home — but this matchup is almost as brutal as they come. He is a risky, low-end QB1 this week.
RB Kenneth Walker III and Travis Homer
Walker missed Week 14 due to an ankle injury which turned out to be not as serious as initially feared. He was actually a game-time decision and is carrying no injury designation into the Thursday night game.
In his absence, the Seattle backfield was assembled with spit and glue. Travis Homer, who missed Week 13, led the backfield with a tepid nine props/rushing-attempts”>carries for 26 yards. He was backed up by Tony Jones Jr., who saw a single carry for two yards.
Prior to the injury, Walker had been a superstar ever since Rashaad Penny went down for the year. He had finished as a RB2 or better with double-digit fantasy points in half-PPR scoring in seven consecutive weeks.
Verdict: Sit Homer and start Walker as a low-end RB3/flex only if you are desperate.
Walker’s return renders Homer’s already minimal fantasy value to near zero, and as a Walker manager myself, I am tempering expectations for his return. While it is a great sign that he is not listed on this week’s injury report, the matchup is far from a friendly one. The 49ers rank No. 2 in rush DVOA and have allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs this year having shut down almost everyone except for McCaffrey (when he was playing for the Panthers in Week 5). The unit yet to allow 60 or more rushing yards to a running back once all year. This matchup, combined with Walker’s injury, could give fantasy managers grief to kick off Week 15.
49ers Week 15 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em
QB Brock Purdy
Purdy is an excellent example of opportunity outweighing talent. He stepped in for an injured Garoppolo in Week 13 against the Dolphins and threw for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, finishing as the QB18 for the week.
Purdy had even more success in a fairly low-volume effort against the Buccaneers in Week 14. He completed 16-of-21 attempts for 185 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions and finished as the QB8. He is benefitting in a system with proven success from strong coaching, a fierce defense and numerous offensive weapons all around (as well as Garoppolo’s broken foot).
Verdict: Sit as a QB1 and start as a QB2/superflex option. While I am impressed by Purdy’s performances thus far from a fantasy standpoint, I am not quite ready to anoint him as a locked-in QB1 quite yet, especially in the rookie’s first road start. I will say that the 49ers have one of the softest schedules down the stretch starting on the road with the Seahawks, who are below average in pass DVOA and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks this year. He is a very viable QB2/superflex play in this favorable matchup.
WR Brandon Aiyuk
Aiyuk bounced back from a couple of disappointing games and caught 2-of-3 targets for 57 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 against the Buccaneers. He has been a bit up-and-down this year on a lower passing volume offense but has still managed to finish as a WR3 or better in seven of 13 games this season.
Verdict: Start as a low-end WR2. All of the 49ers pass catchers take a hit with Purdy under center versus Garoppolo, but as mentioned above, the Seahawks defense is below-average and Aiyuk should see an uptick in volume with Samuel out.
RB Jordan Mason
It was the CMC show last week against the Buccaneers, with McCaffrey logging 16 touches for 153 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. Mason was also involved and had 11 carries for 56 yards — good enough to finish as the RB32 in half PPR scoring.
McCaffrey is undoubtedly the alpha in this backfield by a country mile, but Mason will continue to play a role, especially with Purdy under center, Elijah Mitchell back on injured reserve and Samuel sidelined.
Verdict: Sit in leagues with 14 or fewer teams. In deeper, 16+ team leagues, Mason could vault himself into the start-worthy tier in this juicy Week 15 matchup. The Seahawks rank 26th in rush DVOA and have allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs this year. He is on the rise and needs to be rostered everywhere as much more than just McCaffrey’s understudy.
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