Expectations are funny things. The San Francisco 49ers are a mild disappointment this season at 7-4, while the St. Louis Rams are a bit of a pleasant surprise at 5-6. But considering the 49ers entered the season with hopes of a top overall playoffs seed, and the Rams had to turn to a journeyman backup quarterback weeks ago, the perceptions are well-founded. Sunday, the two teams face off in a 4:05 p.m. ET game in San Francisco. Neither team has much in the way of fantasy stars, but there will be some guys to keep an eye on:
Start in every league: ...
A healthy Stacy might have earned must-start consideration, but considering there aren't even any guarantees he'll play Sunday, fantasy owners should tread lightly. If he plays, he ought to be a fine fantasy play, and if he doesn't Cunningham could be decent as well, but with question marks abound, this is more of a "pay attention all the way until game time" situation than anything else. ... The Rams' defense is seventh in the NFL in fantasy points, and that despite only 10 points combined in their first four games. Their average of 13.6 fantasy points per game from Week 5 onward would be the best in the NFL over the full season. They take on a strong 49ers team that doesn't allow a lot of points to defenses, but still, they are probably the best bet for fantasy production among St. Louis' options.
Despite the team overall having improved production of late, Clemens still has a season-high of 15 fantasy points. Against a top-flight defense like San Francisco, stay far away. But you knew that. ... Austin has scored 46 fantasy points in his last two games, but that performance has been on the backs of fluky, largely non-repeatable plays and questionable defenses. He's still largely indistinguishable from his receiving corps mates Pettis and Givens and tight end Cook. None is worth much more than desperation plays. ... Zuerlein's second season hasn't lived up to the heights of his rookie year, but he's scored eight or more fantasy points in six of his last seven games. Still, he's unlikely to ever offer huge fantasy production, so playing him is basically settling. Aim higher.
Start in every league: Frank Gore, Defense/special teams
Yeah, Gore is coming off some miserable production of late, with only seven combined fantasy points in his last two. Regardless, he still ranks as the No. 9 fantasy running back on the season, and the Rams have been easy pickings for other running backs. He'll be fine. ... The 49ers' defense was pretty iffy early in the season, but have ramped their performance way up of late, and clock in as No. 6 in the NFL. And they get to face Kellen Clemens.
It's been a disappointing second season as the starter for Kaepernick, who ranks only 15th among fantasy quarterbacks. He's improved his production of late (Week 10 against Carolina excepted), but still, he's not the must-start his owners figured he'd be. ... Boldin scored 15 fantasy points in San Francisco's first game against the Rams this season, but has had far too many disaster games to be counted on. ... Only two teams allow fewer points against tight ends than St. Louis, and Davis has been shut down in some games. Just be aware, because if you have him, you're still probably using him. ... Shutting down kickers is more of a fluke than a repeatable skill, but still, no one allows fewer points to kickers than the Rams. Dawson has scored in the double figures in three straight, but this might not shape up well for him.
If Gore's struggles are really a sign of a slide, Hunter stands to be the likely beneficiary, but he only has one fantasy point in his last two games combined. ... Manningham has done basically nothing since his return from injury, and until he does, fantasy players shouldn't buy in. ... It looks like Crabtree will make his season debut Sunday, but fantasy owners who have been waiting should hold off at least a week to see how Crabtree looks and how the team uses him.