Tonight’s Thursday night matchup features two young NFC West teams looking to pickup a big early season win. While the Rams offense is much improved from last year, this could be another low scoring Thursday night game. Both of these defenses have the ability to stop the run and get to the quarterback, and with both teams having inconsistent quarterback play, this could become a battle of the running backs.
Jared Goff looks much improved from his rookie season, but there is reason to worry about him in this matchup. The 49ers pass defense has been rather stingy and so far they’ve yet to allow an opponent to throw for over 200 yards. Through the first two weeks, no pass catcher has recorded over 65 yards against the 49ers, so it could be difficult to trust Rams wideouts from a fantasy perspective. Goff these first few weeks has found a nice connection with rookie Cooper Kupp. With the ability to play outside or in the slot, Kupp is a player the Rams figure to give at least a half dozen targets in this one. Sammy Watkins is still getting adjusted with the Ram offense, and has been targeted just seven times to this point. Watkins likely makes for a “boom or bust” fantasy option this week, but it’s only a matter of time before he has a big game. Robert Woods and Gerald Everett aren’t worth fantasy consideration, but their roles are also worth monitoring in the Rams offense tonight.
The heartbeat of the Rams offense this week and the majority of the season should be Todd Gurley. While his yards per carry average isn’t great, Sean McVay has made a distinct effort to get Gurley involved in the passing game. Gurley has responded well recording eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in that span. The 49ers defense aside from late in the second half this past Sunday has been pretty stout against the run, but Gurley figuring to get 20 to 25 touches should obviously be in all fantasy lineups.
Through two games, the 49er offense with Brian Hoyer has yet to score a touchdown, but I expect that to change this week. While this is a tough passing attack to trust from a fantasy game standpoint, one player you can count on is Pierre Garcon. While the matchup isn’t ideal, Garcon is averaging eight targets a game and should see another eight to ten targets in this one. Marquise Goodwin is a big play waiting to happen, but through two games he hasn’t connected for one with Hoyer. Having been targeted 12 times so far this season, Goodwin is definitely a player to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Considering that opponents have had some success running the ball against the Rams, the 49ers best chance will be riding the tandem of Carlos Hyde and Matt Brieda. Through two weeks, Hyde has looked great running the ball averaging a whopping seven yards per carry. On top of that, he has also been much more involved in the passing game as he has already hauled in nine passes. Like Gurley, Hyde figures to see 20 to 25 touches in this one and needs to be in all fantasy lineups. Brieda flashed in the preseason and has received four carries per game thus far, but opened eyes with his performance this past Sunday. Against the Seahawks, Brieda showed burst and the ability to create after contact so it will be interesting to see if Kyle Shanahan gets him more involved from this point on.
This game projects to be a physical one so while the running backs figure to be the starts of the night, it very well could come down to which quarterback can make a few big plays. While I’m not super confident in either of the starters in this game, I haven’t seen enough of Goff to pick him in a division game on the road against an underrated defense. My prediction is Rams 17 49ers (+2.5) 20.