Thursday Night Football
Arizona @ San Francisco
Vegas Projected Score: Cardinals 23, 49ers 20
Missing Carson Palmer (concussion) on a short week, the Cardinals will turn to erratic 32-year-old backup Drew Stanton, who made eight starts in place of an injured Palmer in 2014 and posted weekly fantasy finishes of QB32, QB14, QB31, QB10, QB26, QB17, QB20, and QB31. He was held under 170 passing yards in four of those starts, managing six touchdowns with five picks. Arizona scored 20 points or fewer in six of the games. In relief of Palmer in last week's loss to the Rams, Stanton was intercepted twice in 13 snaps. Wildly inaccurate, Stanton is a better target for the 49ers' fantasy D/ST than quarterback streamers. I wouldn't even want to stream Stanton if he was playing the Saints. ... In the absence of Palmer, the focal point of Arizona's offense should be David Johnson, who exceeded 110 total yards in each of the first four games. The 49ers have allowed the second most run plays in the NFL (130) and are getting gashed, yielding a combined 88-438-3 (4.98 YPC) rushing line to enemy running backs over their last three games. San Francisco also lost critical run defenders ILB Navorro Bowman (Achilles') and RE DeForest Buckner (foot) in last week's loss to Dallas. While losing Palmer is a slight concern for Johnson's touchdown probability, this is an extremely juicy matchup on paper.
Larry Fitzgerald played in six of Stanton's eight starts in 2014 and came away with receiving lines of 6-51-0, 3-34-0, 3-57-0, 2-33-0, 4-34-0, 7-30-0. A borderline WR1 with Palmer in the lineup, Fitzgerald needs to be downgraded to a low-floor WR3 with Stanton. ... Michael Floyd's stat lines in Stanton's 2014 starts were 1-9-0, 5-114-0, 1-7-0, 1-11-0, 2-54-2, 0-0, 5-53-0, 4-85-0, 2-55-0. Most concerningly, Floyd was demoted for poor performance in last Sunday's loss to the Rams, playing a season-low 44% of Arizona's offensive snaps. Floyd was out-snapped by nominal fourth receiver Jaron Brown (57%). On pace for just 48 receptions and 680 yards at the season's quarter pole, Floyd isn't a realistic fantasy option on Thursday night. ... John Brown earned a deserved promotion against Los Angeles, playing 89% of the downs and leading the team in receiving (10-144) for the second straight week. Brown's outlook is also diminished with Stanton under center, however, and he is best viewed as a boom-bust WR3 play. Still, Brown's rest-of-season fantasy trajectory is pointing upward for when Palmer returns.
The Cardinals allowed last week's QB8 finish to Case Keenum, and Blaine Gabbert posted the QB17 finish against Arizona in Week 12 last year, throwing for 318 yards. Gabbert is inarguably terrible, but he is tied with Cam Newton for first among NFL quarterbacks in rushing attempts (29) and has low-end value in two-quarterback leagues. I still think we're going to see Colin Kaepernick sooner rather than later. ... Arizona has been up and down in run defense, yielding a combined 41-208-2 (5.07 YPC) rushing line to Bucs and Bills RBs in Weeks 2-3 before stymieing Todd Gurley (19-33-0) in last week's loss to the Rams. The Cardinals rank No. 13 in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA. Ultimately, I think this should be viewed as a fairly unimposing matchup for Carlos Hyde, who should benefit from positive game script with Arizona's Stanton-quarterbacked offense unlikely to score many points. Hyde is second in the NFL in rushing TDs (5) and is averaging 20 touches per game. He is a volume-safe RB2 play.
Gabbert's Weeks 1-4 targets: Jeremy Kerley 32; Torrey Smith 22; Quinton Patton 18; Garrett Celek 15; Hyde 8; Vance McDonald 7; Shaun Draughn 6. ... Kerley has been a top-40 PPR receiver in two weeks and finished below 30 yards in the other two. His Week 5 matchup will be difficult against Cardinals S/CB Tyrann Mathieu, who opened the season at free safety but will move back into the slot following Tyvon Branch's (sports hernia) placement on I.R. Also battling an ankle injury, Kerley is a weak WR4 whose value is specific to PPR leagues. ... Smith's 2015 stat lines against Patrick Peterson were 0-0 and 2-51-0. Yet to clear 60 yards this season, Smith has zero re-draft value. ... The Cards held Patriots TEs to 3-14-0 in Week 1, Bucs TEs to 5-30-0 in Week 2, Bills TEs to 1-28-0 in Week 3, and Rams TEs to 5-52-0 in Week 4. With McDonald (hip) expected back to share time with Celek, the 49ers' tight end rotation is better off avoided.
Score Prediction: 49ers 17, Cardinals 14