Monday Night Football Preview: Age Is Just a Number
Scene: Kindred Golden Gate, a nursing home in San Francisco. The year is 2054. A man in his early 40's wearing khaki pants and an unpleasant expression walks into the facility. He strides toward one of the residents who is sitting on a plush arm chair, staring blankly at the television.
"Frank," says Jack Harbaugh, the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. "It's Sunday. Time for your exercises."
Frank slowly rises from his seat, sighs, and removes his robes. Beneath, he is wearing a red and white jersey with a 21 and "Gore" across the back.
Frank Gore is in his age-71 season. He no longer, in the words of numberFire's JJ Zachariason, "runs like a dad;" he runs like a grand-dad. Because he is one. But he still goes out, gets his 75 yards and a touchdown, and returns back to Kindred Golden Gate to eat his applesauce and watch Family Feud reruns. That's just what Frank Gore does.
Tonight, the 31-year-young version of Gore faces a St. Louis Rams defense that ranks 20th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, numberFire's statistic that tracks a team's efficiency after adjusting for their opponents. You can read more about it in our glossary. Can Gore keep up his string of solid games? Let's take a look at that and more using numberFire's Game Profile for premium subscribers.
Does Gore Keep Rolling?
Over his last two games, Gore has 282 yards from scrimmage on 44 touches. This comes after he finished Week 3 with 10 yards on 6 carries. What's to be expected?
The good news for Gore fantasy owners is that the worst is over for a while. The last three weeks, he has faced the fifth-, fourth-, and 11th-ranked rush defenses respectively according to Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. Over the next six games, none of the opponents rank better than 10th. That should let Gore continue to rack up the stats.
As for tonight, our Week 6 projections viewed Gore favorably, placing him as the eighth-ranked running back entering the weekend. He's forecasted to plod along for 67.11 yards on the ground and 26.62 through the air with 0.66 projected total touchdowns. Considering where you probably got Gore (who had a late-fourth-round average draft position in early September for re-draft leagues), that'll certainly get the job done.
That also made him a nice value play in daily leagues for this week. On DraftKings, Gore only cost $4,800, which was less than Ahmad Bradshaw and in the same neighborhood as Matt Asiata and Bobby Rainey. Given his projections, Gore should be able to surpass his salary pretty easily tonight. And for that, he can receive an extra pudding pop from Kindred Golden Gate.
Will Austin Davis Continue to Impress?
How many of y'all thought we'd be asking this question about Austin Davis on August 23rd? He was third on the depth chart behind Sam Bradford and Shaun Hill. Even if he had been higher on the depth chart, he would be on a team that made a former first-overall pick look like a scrub. Not many people would have given Davis a chance.
Now, he's the full-time starter, and as numberFire's Joe Redemann wrote two weeks ago, that's the right way to go even when Hill is healthy again. The reason behind that is that Davis has actually been more than serviceable in his opportunity.
Through the first five weeks, Davis ranked 17th in Passing NEP among quarterbacks that had dropped back at least 100 times at 19.28. That's already higher than Bradford's career high in 2012 of 10.10 on 586 drop backs. He's, at the very least, worthy of intrigue and an expanded sample size.
Possibly the most impressive thing about Davis is that there is often no question about whether or not he'll be throwing the ball. The team is 1-3, meaning Davis has had to try to throw his team back in plenty of times. Of his 143 attempts, 105 have come with the Rams trailing, and only 23 have come with a lead. Even when trailing, Davis is completing 66.7 percent of his passes. When leading, that spikes to 78.3. How fun would it be to give this guy a shot on a team with weapons around him?
As for this week, it looks like Davis may take a small step back. The 49ers rank 10th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per Play, so that shouldn't be a huge shock. He is projected to finish with 253.13 yards on 37.25 attempts (6.80 yards per attempt) to go with 1.64 touchdowns and 1.10 interceptions. That's not terrible, but it's not great. Davis has been exceeding expectations all year; we'll see if he can keep that going tonight.
Can the Rams Hang with the 49ers?
The Rams are getting three points at home. The 49ers have rebounded from a 1-2 start with back-to-back five-point wins and are back to third in numberFire's Power Rankings. The Rams rank 29th. The odds would seem to favor a lopsided affair.
Part of that game profile for premium subscribers shows similar games that have occurred since 2000. None of the top four similar games had the teams representing the Rams scoring more than eight points. This includes two match-ups where the team representing the 49ers put up 41. That doesn't look good for St. Louis.
However, just for funsies, let's look at the fifth most similar match-up. This one comes from Week 17 of 2002 when the Cleveland Browns (the proxy Rams) beat the Atlanta Falcons, 24-16. This was even with Kelly Holcomb and Tim Couch acting as the quarterbacks for the Browns. That usually ends well!
There were two reasons the Browns won this game: they pounded the rock, and they contained Michael Vick. Vick (the surrogate for Colin Kaepernick) finished 17-40 for 240 yards (six yards per attempt) with a touchdown, an interception, and 38 yards on the ground.
numberFire's projections are more generous, putting Kaepernick at 17.01-27.95 for 216.89 yards (7.76 yards per attempt) to go with 1.57 touchdowns and 0.50 interceptions. That's certainly enough to win a game. Kaepernick ranks 13th in Passing NEP and 14th in Total NEP (which includes rushing attempts). This isn't the progression many predicted coming into the year, but it's not a huge step backward (Kaep ranked eighth in Total NEP at the end of last year). He's good enough to get the job done.
As for the ground game, William Green banged out 178 yards and two touchdowns in that Browns-Falcons game in 2002. That's Zac Stacy's job. Stacy has only recorded more than 12 carries once this year, and that was in the team's lone win against Tampa Bay.
numberFire's projections have Stacy down to tote the rock 16.49 times tonight for 61.83 yards and 0.26 touchdowns to go with 28.35 receiving yards. Benny Cunningham is only down for 27.91 yards from scrimmage. If the Rams want to win, both of those numbers will need to be higher. Even though the Rams aren't favored, there is at least a blueprint for them to have success.
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