Let’s begin this glorious, magical day of food, football, family, football, and more combinations of football and food that keep you from acknowledging your family by wishing our American friends a very happy Thanksgiving. May you all enjoy the company of your loved ones and embrace old school, politically incorrect grandparents and new school, disrespectful children alike before coloring each other several shades of black and blue tomorrow in the noble search for giant televisions. Happy Festivus indeed.
As you were making dinner preparations late last night and ensuring that the chair uncle Ned likes was brought up from the basement and cleaned of its brandy stains, something monumental happened. Actually, that’s a lie. Something entirely, completely expected happened, and anyone who thought anything to the contrary would take place on the 49ers’ quarterback depth chart this week does not live in a world where common sense is a thing.
Colin Kaepernick will start for San Francisco, meaning Jim Harbaugh has made the only sensible decision that was possible.
That was the report around 11 p.m. ET last night from Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter, who received word from the raging Harbaugh horse’s mouth, with the coach saying he told Alex Smith that Kaepernick will start Sunday against New Orleans. While Smith’s health is certainly a factor, the decision was made based on performance, as Smith is widely expected to be cleared for contact this week, and he only narrowly missed playing Monday night when Kaepernick shined against the Bears.
There was some conflict as separate reports emerged, but only somewhat minor clashing. While Trotter directly quoted Harbaugh, Trent Dilfer — who’s not exactly known as a newsbreaker — spoke to Smith, who said he was told that although Kaepernick will get the first-team practice reps, the door is still open for the starter’s spot this week. Let’s disregard the debate over the veracity of that report, and just pretend it’s true. And when we do that, you quickly realize that it’s likely just coach speak, and if Harbaugh said that he’s just giving Smith a soft landing spot. Under some kind of “door still open” scenario a quarterback competition would essentially be created during the middle of a week when the focus should be on preparation, and specifically preparing the starter to face the upcoming defense. NFL teams simply don’t do that.
A sliver of doubt will linger until we get an official word in an official setting from Harbaugh, but for now — and most importantly for fantasy purposes — it feels pretty safe to assume that Kaepernick is starting. And once you do that, you’ll quickly realize that if you made a waiver claim on him or if he’s still out there in your league (he’s still only 16 percent owned in ESPN leagues), given his matchup against an improved but still incredibly weak Saints defense there are only a handful of QBs you should start over Kaepernick this weekend.
The conservative among you will still be hesitant, and I understand your butt clenching reaction despite Kaepernick’s brilliance against a strong all-around defense in his debut as a regular-season starter. Technically Kaepericnick isn’t a rookie, but realistically he is since no amount of practice experience accurately simulates game speed. And when we’re dealing with a rookie quarterback — or at least a highly-inexperienced quarterback — there will inherently be inconsistencies, regardless of the matchup. This game isn’t supposed to be easy, and not nearly as easy as Kaepernick made it look on Monday. As nearly flawless as Robert Griffin III has been this year he was mediocre against a very, very beatable Panthers defense in Week 9, one of only two games in which he didn’t score a touchdown of any kind this year, and also one of only two when he had a passer rating of under 80.0. It happens.
You should still embrace Kaepernick, though, but your willingness to do that should be dictated by your current position in the standings. When looking at our composite rankings this week, I’d slot Kaepernick in at eighth, just ahead of Cam Newton. As I write this there’s about two hours left until the first of the Thanksgiving Day games kicks off, and Mattew Stafford takes on the Texans. Even with Johnathan Joseph possibly out, I’d bench Stafford in favor of Kaepernick. You’re not making that move because Stafford will be awful today (he won’t). You’re doing it because Kaepernick will be that much better against a defense allowing 305 passing yards per game (one of only two secondaries over 300 yards weekly), and the Saints are last against the run at 157.8 yards.
The math there is easy, and it gets easier when you look at Stafford’s recent performances and see that he had just nine fantasy points last week, and only 11 in Week 9 in a highly favorable matchup against Jacksonville. Again, though, judge your friendship with risk or what little of it there is with Kaepernick by the standings. Either way, the decision isn’t difficult.
Roll with Kaepernick if you’re desperately clawing for the playoffs, while those who are blessed with security in these final weeks of the fantasy regular season can chill with Stafford.
And now the links part of the links post…
- If you need more reasons to feel good about Kaepernick, the Saints are giving up 24.9 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. [The Fake Football]
- Make alternative plans for this week, LeSean McCoy owners. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
- Greg Jennings is practicing and he’s not feeling pain, but he’s sucking back a lot of wind right now. [The Associated Press]
- Chad Henne has a six-game audition. Could he matter next year in drafts? HA. [Paul Kuharsky]