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Fantasy Football: Thursday Night Takeaways

Dave Major lists some fantasy lessons he learned during the Rams vs. 49ers Thursday Night Football game.

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Austin Pettis


St. Louis Rams wide receiver Austin Pettis

Sep 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Austin Pettis (18) catches a 9 yard pass for a first down as San Francisco 49ers defensive back Tramaine Brock (26) defends during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford loves Austin

Austin Pettis, that is. It seems apparent Bradford only trusts a couple of his receivers. Pettis is one of them, as is Jared Cook. Through four games, Pettis has caught 18 passes from 31 targets, for 173 yards and two scores. Cook has seen 31 targets for 17 catches, 240 yards and two touchdowns. Only one player has more targets and receptions for the Rams, and that’s the rookie Tavon Austin. Don’t get your Austins confused, though.

Tavon Austin averages 6.2 yards per reception, while Pettis averages 9.6 and Cook 14.1 for the season. San Francisco managed to take Austin entirely out of the game. He only managed two catches on eight targets, one for four yards, and one for two. On the season, he has 20 catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

Pettis and Cook each led the team with nind targets on Thursday night, with Pettis catching five for 59 yards, and Cook handling four for 45 yards. The Rams offense couldn’t get much going against the 49ers. But on the rare moments it could, there again were Pettis and Cook to bail out their struggling quarterback.

It appears that Austin racks up many receptions on screens and immediate, direct passes in the flat. But like John Madden once said, “I’m pretty sure that on third down, you’ve gotta throw it past the first down marker.” This is a paraphrase, but he definitely said it at least a million times. The old adage is true, and when the quarterback needs help on third downs, he’s going to find his chain-moving security blankets. And their names are Pettis and Cook.

Not all NFC West defenses are elite

It seemed like the trend was to believe in all NFC West defenses. Seattle and San Francisco are probably already the consensus top two defenses, in both reality and fantasy. They were the two highest drafted defenses in 2013 redraft leagues and they both finished the 2012 season among the top four defenses in the NFL.

There seemed some validity to this faith in the NFC West defenses, though. Arizona finished 12th in defense in 2012, with St. Louis right behind them at 14th. St. Louis also had the best in-division record last year, at 4-1-1, having also gone 1-0-1 against the NFC Champion 49ers.

But this year, St. Louis now sits last in the division at 1-3, And going into Thursday night’s game, their defense was ranked 26th in the NFL in both yardage and scoring. DeMarco Murray rushed 26 times for 175 yards and a score when he faced the Rams last week. And on Thursday night, the Rams allowed Frank Gore to tally 153 yards and a touchdown on just 20 carries. That’s 7.7 YPC for Gore, and 6.7 for Murray. Murray was able to break a 41-yard run against this defense. And Gore scored from 34 yards out on Thursday.

If you have the Rams defense in your league, it may be time to question your decision-making. This is an atrocious defense that is going to face a gauntlet of Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster and Ben Tate, DeAngelo Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson, and Trent Richardson, all before their Week 11 bye. After the bye, they’ll still have games against Matt Forte, Doug Martin, and rematches with Gore and Lynch. Be sure to start any running backs suiting up against St. Louis.

Young Rams need to prove it

Richardson was named the starter in the offseason. He was given opportunities to start last season, as the team was preparing to move on from Steven Jackson. That may have been a big mistake. True, Jackson isn’t helping anyone right now from the sideline. But he’s not doing much worse than the Rams’ backfield.

Daryl Richardson left week three’s game after one play. He never even touched the ball. Jackson left his week two game after four touches, and won’t return anytime soon. For the season, Jackson has 130 all-purpose yards, having rushed for 77 yards (5.5 YPC) and added 53 yards receiving. Richardson had 12 carries for 16 yards on Thursday night, to bring his season total to 114 yards rushing. He also has 86 yards receiving. With only 2.7 yards per carry, he is certainly not living up to head coach Jeff Fisher’s expectations.

Many writers believe Isaiah Pead is a more talented back, though he has only 7 carries with 3.0 YPC from his two appearances in 2013. The lack of performance from Richardson may soon force Fisher’s hand, with a team that has lost three straight. At least their divisional record is only 1-1. It could be worse. If the defense remains on course as one of the league’s worst, it would be hard to imagine either of Richardson and Pead receiving many carries.

The Rams should get used to three things. They will be playing from behind quite a lot. As a result, their running game will remain virtually nonexistent. And success will continue to evade Sam Bradford with this lack of offensive balance.

This team actually looks a lot like the 2013 New York Giants, though most people would gladly take Eli Manning over Bradford. The young Rams quarterback has completed only 59.2 percent of his passes during the 0-3 streak, and 62.4 for the season. His passers’ rating is a paltry 88.7, which actually brings his career rating up to 78.3. Those aren’t the kinds of numbers you want to build a future around.

Bradford may finish the year as a starter, but he may be sitting on the most overlooked hot seat in football. He’s in the fourth year – and final guaranteed year – of his rookie six-year $78 million contract. Two unguaranteed years remain, when the Rams would owe Bradford $27 million over 2014-15. It would be odd not to question Bradford’s role with the team should production continue at the same quality. The good news for Bradford’s fantasy owners is that it looks like he’ll be throwing a lot more often than not, with a team playing from behind for most of the season.

Stats and contract data courtesy of and

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