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By Matt Savoca, 4for4
Special to Yahoo Sports
Yahoo is expanding its daily fantasy football options in 2021 with a single-game offering. Yahoo has a roster construction of one "Superstar" that scores at a 1.5 multiplier, while the remaining four FLEX roster spots accumulate points at the normal rate. This is half-point PPR scoring and the "Superstar" salary does not change from the Utility. All scoring and rules can be found here.
In Week 3, two of the most storied franchises in NFL history face off on Sunday Night Football, as the Green Bay Packers, fresh off their first win of the season vs. the hapless Detroit Lions, head to San Francisco to take on the team that handed those same Lions a loss in Week 1, the 49ers. San Francisco is 2-0 and has the seventh-best point differential in the NFL, while the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense looked much more like themselves in their Week 2 victory. This should be an excellent Sunday Night Football matchup between two teams with aspirations for deep playoff runs.
Vegas Total and Spread
This is a bit of a surprise: the 49ers are 3-point home favorites against the Packers, with an implied total of 26.5 points. The Packers, surprisingly, have just 23.5 implied points, suggesting a roughly 60% chance of the 49ers winning this contest based on these odds. The game total steadily climbed throughout the week after beginning at 48, and now sits at 50.
Temperatures in San Francisco are expected to be in the high-sixties and low-seventies, with winds between five and 10 MPH. It should be a perfect night for football.
Potential Game Flow Scenarios
Expect the Packers' offense to come out firing, passing early and often to try and test the 49ers secondary, which looks like the weak link of their defensive unit this season. San Francisco ranks right around league average in PFF’s team coverage grade but eighth-worst in yards per drive allowed, which could spell disaster against a player like Aaron Rodgers ($35), who will look to exploit advantageous individual matchups for most of the game. The 49ers have no cornerbacks currently ranked inside PFF’s top-40. San Francisco cornerbacks Josh Norman and K’Waun Williams have been graded among the worst at their position so far this season.
If Rodgers has his way with the San Francisco secondary, it should mean a huge day for Davante Adams ($34), who has yet to score this season. Adams still leads the team in target share and ranks second in air yards share. His usage near the goal line was absurdly high last season, as he earned a league-high 27 red zone targets. While it was certainly an “Aaron Jones ($32) day” last Monday, Adams will see the end zone quite soon. Expect Rodgers to pepper Adams early and often.
Speaking of Jones, after a four-touchdown performance in Week 2, he should see plenty of work against a San Francisco defense that has so been easy to run on, ranking bottom-five in the NFL in yards per carry allowed. Jones only has a 61% opportunity share this season, but that shouldn’t deter fantasy gamers, as that number is almost certainly deflated due to the fact that the second-team offense has seen more reps for Green Bay than expected — in Week 1 the starters sat once the game became a route, in Week 2 it was because of a blowout win. Jones has a floor of 12 opportunities, and could easily see another 20-plus looks like he did last Monday if the 49ers sell out to stop the Green Bay passing attack. Rodgers will have no problem continually checking down to Jones if that’s the best way to win.
Outside of Adams and Jones, the Packers will rotate a quartet of lightly-utilized skill position players, who all see their production vary somewhat from week to week. The most rock-solid bet is tight end Robert Tonyan ($16), who has just one target less than Jones, and has a knack for finding the end zone, having already scored once this season after leading the tight end position in touchdowns per reception a season ago.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling ($14) ranks second in target share and first in air yards share, and nearly connected with Rodgers for a 50-plus yard score a week ago. Valdez-Scantling’s ceiling game is coming, and could easily get free against San Francisco’s second and third-best cornerbacks. Randall Cobb ($11) and Allen Lazard ($10) are the two auxiliary weapons worth focusing on, with Lazard surprisingly having a lower average depth of target of the two. Both have earned exactly four looks, but Lazard plays on about three times as many snaps as Cobb, making him the slightly better bet if looking for a dart-throw play.
On the San Francisco side, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($23) will look to play mistake-free football, and rely on the methodical nature of Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system rather than take myriad deep shots in the passing game.
Garoppolo’s statistics have been decent this season, but advanced metrics tell a story of a middling quarterback who may be holding back on an otherwise potent offensive attack. Garoppolo ranks outside the top-25 quarterbacks in pass attempts, deep ball attempts, air yards, and air yards per attempt. His total QBR is right at league average but that might have to do with the fact his receivers currently rank first in the NFL in average separation from defenders when targeted and in yards after catch when targeted, which points to scheme and skill-player talent as significant contributors to Garoppolo’s relative success. He’s yet to score 20 fantasy points this season, and risks getting taken out at the goal line in favor of backup Trey Lance ($28), who presents more of a threat as a rusher.
Garoppolo’s main targets will be Deebo Samuel ($22) and George Kittle ($24), and while Kittle may have the higher salary and more national notoriety, Samuel has been the more impressive player to begin the season. Samuel has soaked up a massive percentage of the 49ers’ opportunities, ranking third in the NFL in air yards share and second in the NFL in target share. If Green Bay ends up scoring 25-plus points, and San Francisco is forced to throw more than they typically like to, Samuel could end up with another 12-target game, just as he did in Week 1. Samuel’s low average depth of target of 8.3 indicates he should have a high catch rate on those targets as well, as shorter targets tend to be caught more often than deep passes.
Kittle has been a bit disappointing from a production standpoint to begin the year, but that’s mostly due to a lack of opportunity. Kittle saw just five targets in Week 1, then followed that up with a four-target outing in Week 2. He’s yet to see a single look inside the red zone. His ceiling is still high, but his floor is quite low in this matchup, even though he’s facing a Green Bay defense that ranks just average in yards per pass attempt allowed and ninth-worst in points allowed per play.
With Elijah Mitchell ($18) looking doubtful for Week 3 and Ja’Mychal Hasty ($14) already ruled out, the bulk of the workload should fall to Trey Sermon ($11), who was a surprising healthy scratch just two weeks ago. San Francisco is extremely short-handed at the position, and will likely trot out some combination of Trenton Cannon ($10), who’s been on the team less than two weeks after being cut by Baltimore after their Week 1 loss, and Jacquez Patrick ($10), who signed off the Bengals’ practice squad at the beginning of this week.
Sermon, the 49ers’ third-round pick this April, clearly fell out of favor with the coaches during the preseason but should get an opportunity to play his way into their good graces, with a likely 65%-plus opportunity share headed his way this Sunday. In cash lineups, Sermon is the no-brainer play of the week, as he looks like the best opportunity-based value play on the entire slate.
2020 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk ($14) has been utilized a disappointingly low amount thus far, having played only 54% of the team’s offensive snaps, and earning less overall opportunity than Trent Sherfield ($10). Aiyuk was one of the more hyped talents at his position coming into the 2021 season but hasn’t flashed the big-play potential we saw in limited action a season ago. He’s currently scored less than two fantasy points this entire season and has earned a total of two targets. Sherfield on the other hand has seen six total targets and ranks second on the team in air yards share. With Green Bay ranking 28th in FootballOutsiders’ defensive DVOA, the auxiliary weapons should have a chance to step up for San Francisco, but determining which one will produce each week is an extremely tough task.
Close, low-scoring game
Close, high-scoring game
Blowout for home team
Blowout for away team
Cheap/Unique Stack Options
Trey Sermon ($11)/49ers Defense ($22)
It doesn’t feel all that great when they’re going against the Packers’ offense, which was one of the most efficient in the league a season ago, but playing a defense as a home favorite is a generally advantageous move in fantasy football, and no position is more correlated with Defense/Special Teams success than running back.
Sermon offers uniquely inexpensive access to a starting running back at $11, but the traditional RB/DST correlation may go overlooked, even with the Vegas odds on San Francisco’s side, due to the public’s respect of Green Bay’s offensive potential.
If the game plays out how Vegas suggests it will, this combination of a winning defense and low-salary starting running back could very easily wind up being in the optimal lineup. Because home-favorite tight ends also tend to score more fantasy points, Kittle could be added onto this stack. Green Bay’s offense has already had a zero-touchdown performance and isn’t scaring anyone defensively, as they’re currently ranked 28th in FootballOutsiders’ defensive DVOA.
Low Salary Volatile Plays
Randall Cobb ($11)
The 32-year-old Cobb has been highly unimpressive thus far in his return to Green Bay, earning less than 7% of the team’s targets and less than 10% of the team’s air yards. Still, he has a surprisingly high average depth of target of 13.5, higher than both Lazard and Adams, indicating Cobb has a bit more upside on a per-reception basis than what was expected to begin the season. Though he’s only playing roughly a quarter of Green Bay’s offensive snaps, he’s not being deployed as exclusively a slot player. Just a few extra downfield looks from Rodgers in this game could lead to a surprise breakout for Cobb.
Trenton Cannon ($10)
Signed just over a week ago after he played for the Ravens in Week 1, Cannon will likely serve as the number-two back to Sermon in the event Mitchell, currently listed as doubtful, cannot suit up for the 49ers. In that event, he’ll likely have a small guaranteed workload on one of the most efficient rushing offenses in the league. At $10, he’s just a single dollar less in salary than presumed-starter Sermon, making him a much flimsier play comparatively, Cannon serves as a contrarian pivot to Sermon, who will likely be one of the most heavily utilized players on the slate. Cannon vulturing a few scores at low roster percentage could help you take down a tournament this weekend.
Kyle Juszczyk ($10)
With the San Francisco backfield in shambles, it’s possible the 49ers simply try to use passing as an extension of the run. That scenario could boost the floor and ceiling projection for Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk, more of a fullback than a traditional halfback, but a prioritized offensive weapon nonetheless. Juszczyk plays on roughly 49% of the 49ers snaps, something that can only be said of four San Francisco skill players, and has seen the fourth-most targets of any active 49ers players. Juszczyk will almost certainly need to score to be a value-play this Sunday but could be the preferred minimum-salary player in large-field tournaments where fading Sermon makes the most sense.
Allen Lazard ($10)
Lazard has played on 66% of the Packers’ offensive snaps this season, which makes him the second-most utilized Green Bay skill position player behind Adams, and ahead of Jones. Lazard hasn’t seen much in the way of opportunities thus far, earning just four looks on 47 total air yards, but he should have more opportunities going forward, and the fact that he’s playing more often than Marquez Valdez-Scantling bodes well for his future production. Rodgers always concentrates a large percentage of his looks for his top playmakers, and that’s not expected to change here, but Lazard likely just needs one or two catches to become a value-play this weekend.
Aaron Rodgers ($35)
After an absolute dud performance to begin the season against the Saints, Rodgers was masterful in Week 2 at home against Detroit, completing nearly 82% of his passes for 255 passing yards (on just 262 air yards), and four passing touchdowns, all without turning the ball over. Rodgers nearly doubled his completion percentage and yards per attempt from the opener, and his 26 fantasy points are much more like we’re used to seeing compared to 3.3 in Week 1.
The 49ers' defense has been middle of the road so far this season, ranking 13th in FootballOutsiders’ defensive DVOA and 18th in PFF’s team defensive grade. Rodgers typically picks-apart middling defenses, making him the best bet to have the highest overall score on the slate. Rodgers has the best floor and best ceiling projection of any player in this game.
Aaron Jones ($32)
Fresh off a four-touchdown performance, it might feel like points-chasing to go back to Jones in Week 3, but it makes sense considering the 49ers have begun the year as a bit of a run-funnel defense, meaning they tend to focus primarily on taking away the opposing team’s passing attack, leaving themselves vulnerable to large gains on the ground. San Francisco currently ranks eighth-best in the NFL in yards allowed per pass attempt, but fourth-worst in yards per rush attempt allowed. The 49ers’ “bend but don’t break” defensive style has worked so far this year, but Jones could change all that this Sunday. Jones’ four red zone targets are the most by any running back so far this season, increasing his floor projection and giving him an increased probability to score in this contest.
Davante Adams ($34)
Adams was the most heavily utilized receiver in the NFL, but so far this season, his opportunity numbers haven’t been quite as massive. Still, he leads the team in target share by a healthy margin and ranks second on the team in air yards share behind deep-ball specialist Valdez-Scantling. Adams already has two red zone targets, second-most on the team behind Jones, and led all wide receivers in goalline targets a season ago. Adams and Rodgers have a unique mind-meld at the goal line, meaning Adams’s first touchdown of 2021 has an extremely high chance of occurring here in Week 3. Adams has over 100 more receiving yards than any other Packers’ player, and is far and away the safest option at wideout in this game, ahead of all the 49ers’ skill position players.
Deebo Samuel ($22)
Samuel has had one of the most impressive starts to 2021 of any player in the NFL, having earned eight-plus targets in back-to-back games, and converting that extra usage into 90-plus receiving yards in both contests. Samuel will likely see plenty of Packers’ all-pro cornerback Jaire Alexander this Sunday however, meaning his expected opportunity should take a bit of dip. Still, it shouldn’t fall to a place where he would be unusable in lineups, especially considering Samuel currently leads the entire NFL in weighted opportunity rating (WOPR) due to 37% target share and 52% air yards, share. Even with only one red zone look, that type of usage is rare in fantasy football, making Samuel a thin but absolutely viable play in his toughest matchup of the young season.
A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position in middle school, Matt has been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, he loves to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone.
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