If you were to envision Monday's game before the 2013 season, you would think it would be an exciting match up between the up-and-coming Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers, who were just coming off a Super Bowl appearance. Instead, Monday's contest feels slightly deflated. The 49ers are searching for an offensive identity with struggling quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Redskins have been a disappointment this season. Currently with a 3-7 record, the team hardly resembles the offensive force we witnessed in 2012.
It will likely be a game defined by the success of the running game. However, the question remains whether or not Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III will be able to find production out of the pocket with their own running abilities. There will still be some opportunity in the passing game as well. The question remains: How will Monday's game benefit fantasy owners? As usual, we're here to break down the fantasy implications of Monday Night Football.
Colin Kaepernick: Fantasy owners are understandably skeptical of Kaepernick heading into Week 12. Kaepernick has only surpassed 200 passing yards twice this season. His rushing yards have kept him afloat from time to time. He's averaging 40 rushing yards over the last four weeks. Kaepernick's Week 12 match is arguably the easiest he'll have the rest of the season. Washington is currently giving up the 6th most points to fantasy quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman believes the 49ers offense will "pop" sooner rather than later, and Kaepernick owners are hoping this is the week.
Running backs: The Redskins are far from being a threat to fantasy running backs, and Frank Gore will likely see plenty of work especially if the 49ers take a healthy lead. Gore owners have an RB1 on their hands this week. He saw just 16 carries against the Carolina Panthers and 13 carries against the New Orleans Saints. Those numbers shouldn't concern fantasy owners. Against soft defenses, Gore sees more work. Start him with the usual confidence.
Wide receivers: Anquan Boldin has been a shaky start throughout most of the season. He hasn't surpassed 100 receiving yards since Week 1 and has become touchdown dependent for fantasy owners. He's a high-end WR3 in Week 12 against a Washington defense that has given up the 6th most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Mario Manningham hasn't produced since his return, totaling just four receptions and 38 yards through two games. He could be considered a low-end WR4 simply because of the match up.
Tight ends: San Francisco's true No. 1 receiver, Vernon Davis, will likely be the beneficiary of the soft competition Washington's defense creates. Expect Kaepernick to target Davis often. Washington just as generous to fantasy tight ends as they are with every other offensive position that faces them. As a result, Davis is a top-five tight end in Week 12.
Defense/ special teams: It's gotten to the point where you can throw virtually any 49ers option at the Redskins, and their defense is no exception. Robert Griffin III is without both Jordan Reed and Leonard Hankerson. Aside from Pierre Garcon and Alfred Morris, there isn't much of a threat facing the 49ers even on the road. Start San Francisco's defense with confidence in Week 12 as borderline top-five option.
Robert Griffin III: His struggles on the field have still resulted in great fantasy production for most of the season. However, Griffin has a brutal match up against the 49ers without tight end Jordan Reed. There's a chance that he'll reward fantasy owners in garbage time, but he shouldn't be considered much more than a top QB2 start against a very stingy 49ers defense. If there are better match ups to exploit on your roster, consider them over RG3.
Running backs: Alfred Morris will likely see plenty of carries on Monday. He has seen over 20 carries over his past three games, but none of those games involved a defense as stout as San Francisco.That said, expect Morris to grind out yardage on the ground as he's done all season. He hasn't been involved in the passing game at all. His last reception was in Week 2. Expect honest yards and hope for a touchdown, and plug Morris in as a strong RB2 option. Roy Helu may see some work, particularly in the receiving game, making him a deep option in PPR leagues but nothing more.
Wide receivers: Pierre Garcon may be the only legitimate option in the receiving game for the Redskins. As difficult as his match up will be on Monday, he'll likely see the majority of Griffin's targets. The weekly WR1 is more of a WR2 as the 49ers will likely highlight Garcon all night. With Leonard Hankerson out for the season,Aldrick Robinson makes for a sneaky start, but he shouldn't be considered outside of deeper leagues as a feast-or-famine option. Josh Morgan will likely see his fair share of snaps after being buried for most of 2013. Even if another receiver emerges on Monday, the eventual return of tight end Jordan Reed will likely extinguish their value moving forward.
Tight ends: Jordan Reed has been ruled out of Monday's game with a concussion. With Reed out, Fred Davis will likely bump to the top of the depth chart. Davis has been underwhelming in the few starts he's had this season. He has an opportunity to prove himself on Monday, but fantasy owners shouldn't consider Davis an option. He's simply too risky, and the match up isn't even remotely favorable.
Defense/ special teams: Colin Kaepernick may be struggling, but the 49ers aren't to be tested with any opposing defense, especially the Redskins. Washington isn't even averaging top-20 fantasy numbers this season. There is simply no reason to own or start them on any given week.