Of the four quarterbacks who were injured a week ago — three with concussions — Ben Roethlisberger was on one end of the spectrum, as although it took a day or two for official word to filter down, immediately it seemed like his chances of playing in Week 11 were minimal. But Alex Smith was on the other when positive reports percolated throughout the week, and he was able to practice on a limited basis.

Good news is good, or so we thought. But head injuries are an unpredictable game, and in a surprise development on the morning of the San Francisco 49ers’ Monday night game against the Chicago Bears, Smith was unable to get clearance from a neurologist, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. So he’ll sit and we’ll get a Colin Kaepernick sighting, and the mobile Tim Tebow-ish QB except for the part about not being able to throw will start his first regular-season NFL game under the prime-time lights against the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense. Good luck, kid.

The fantasy impact of Smith’s absence tonight extends mostly to two QB leagues, a format where any starting quarterback has value, and Smith was surely slotted in to start tonight despite his poor matchup. It’s also conceivable that those in exceedingly deep leagues may have been forced to use Smith to cover for Eli Manning’s bye.

Our deepest condolences to the members of our fantasy family who find themselves in either of those situations, but realistically you weren’t expecting much out of Smith tonight anyway. Smith is a safe option, and safe doesn’t win fantasy matchups. Yes, he completes a higher percentage of his pass attempts (70 percent this year), and he takes care of the ball while throwing few interceptions (only five INTs this year). But he’s averaging only 192.3 passing yards per game, which is woe that rests below the likes of Kevin Kolb (194.8) and Matt Cassel (199.6). Yeah, that’s the same Matt Cassel who was benched yesterday in favor of Brady Quinn.

This game becomes the Kaepernick show, and we’ll quickly get a gauge of his abilities in a highly unfavorable matchup against a Bears defense that doesn’t look kindly upon quarterbacks. Led by Charles Tillman, the Bears lead the league in interceptions with 19, and they’re averaging nearly three sacks per game. But what’s especially troubling for Kaepernick is the front seven, and their efficiency while containing runners. The Bears are allowing only 92.3 rushing yards per game, and they’ve given up just two rushing touchdowns.

But they don’t see a quarterback like Kaepernick often with his mobile, elusive abilities. Cam Newton fits that description, and back in Week 8 the Bears picked him off twice, but he was still able to finish with 314 passing yards at a pace of 8.1 per attempt. It was and still is Newton’s best passing day of the season, and it included a 62-yard bomb, while he also added 37 rushing yards. Add it all up, and we get 13 fantasy points; not a bad total against one of the league’s top defenses, even with the two interceptions.

If you’re among the small percentage of Kaepernick owners, you’re surely also among the small percentage of those who were planning to start Smith tonight, and you smartly handcuffed his backup with a waiver claim early last week. You sir, are ahead of the game. No, you are the game.

But for the rest of us, tonight becomes a game in which Kaepernick should be watched with a keen eye. Despite his inexperience and the fact that he’s still essentially a rookie, Kaepernick’s Tebow qualities could make him a viable fantasy option next week during a far more appealing matchup against the Saints if Smith’s concussion lingers. We only need to look back at his output last week over basically one half of football against the Rams to see his potential. With his 66 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground and 117 passing yards, Kaepernick had 16 points…in one half.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • Alfred Morris is now the Redskins’ third-down back, meaning he’s their running back in every situation, and Evan Royster is pretty much irrelevant. [Washington Times]
  • Aaron Hernandez is expected to be back for the Patriots’ Thanksgiving Day game. [Boston Globe]
  • Matt Cassel seems to know that he’s not getting his job back. [Kansas City Star]
  • Robert Griffin III had a perfect QB rating yesterday. Yeah, he’s still pretty good. [Andy Behrens]

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