Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
A battle between NFC West foes starts Week 7 off with a bang. No, not the sound of stadium fireworks going off in an offensive shootout, but of helmets and shoulder pads taking a pounding from two hard-hitting, defensive-oriented teams.
Although Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson outdueled New England's Tom Brady last weekend, the Seahawks prefer to feature their rough, tough defense and the running of Marshawn Lynch. He's in for a difficult time facing the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night.
Last season, San Francisco's run defense was the best in football, yielding just 77.2 yards per game and only three touchdowns. The 49ers have slipped just a little this season, giving up 92.7 ypg, including 116 yards to Ahmad Bradshaw this past Sunday, but are still formidable.
Lynch has been the Seahawks' primary offensive weapon this season, averaging over 21 rushing attempts and 91 yards per game on the ground. That won't change on Thursday and Lynch should be started in all fantasy leagues.
Wilson, on the other hand, figures to have a much tougher experience against the 49ers secondary, despite throwing for 293 yards and three touchdowns against New England. Considering he's only cracked the 200-yard passing mark in two of six games this season, unless you are forced by injury or a bye week, now is not the time to put your faith in the Seahawks' rookie quarterback.
Seattle wide receiver Sidney Rice is coming off his first fantasy-worthy performance of the season (3-81-1), but most of that total came on a late-game 46-yard touchdown pass. For the majority of the game, he was held in check by the Patriots secondary, which isn't highly regarded. Facing the second-ranked 49ers pass defense, we recommend against starting Rice, Doug Baldwin or Golden Tate.
When San Francisco has the ball, its first option is to run with it. The 49ers, headed by tailback Frank Gore, lead the league, averaging 176.8 ypg on the ground. Despite the coaching staff trying to limit his workload to keep him healthy for late in the season and an expected playoff run (14.6 carries per game), Gore has still able to produce double-digit fantasy points in four of six games. Gore should be started.
The same can't be said for the rest of the backfield, which includes Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James. Sit them.
Quarterback Alex Smith was ugly last weekend against the New York Giants, but for the most part has been a low-end starting fantasy option. Not so this week against the Seahawks' tough pass defense, which is spearheaded by cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. They have yielded just two passing touchdowns all season.
The 49ers have a plethora of talented receivers, but only two have fantasy value. Wideout Michael Crabtree leads the team in targets (44) and has 30 receptions for 337 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Vernon Davis leads the team in yardage (340) and touchdowns (four) and is the best of the 49ers' receiving options this week.
San Francisco has other well-known names at receiver (Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr.), but none is getting enough looks to produce fantasy- worthy numbers.
In what should be a low-scoring affair, both teams have quality field goal kickers who can be started. The Seahawks feature Steven Hauschka, who is 11- for-12 this season, and the 49ers' kicker is 2011 All-Pro David Akers.