Great teams need the stars to play great in order to win but in tough games between good opponents it’s often the unexpected contributors that swing the momentum. As the titanic clash between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks approaches, who could enter the spotlight?
1. Vance McDonald – TE
Rest assured that after watching the game film from week one Seattle will blanket their coverage around two primary 49ers in Anquan Boldin (13 catches 208 yards 1 TD) and Vernon Davis (6 catches 98 yards 2 TDs). Lost in the shuffle was the debut of rookie tight end Vance McDonald who made a big catch for 25 yards during that game could see lots of one-on-one matchups from the Seahawks. Provided Colin Kaepernick gets protected he may find the second round pick open frequently.
2. Kendall Hunter – RB
San Francisco did not run the ball well against Green Bay as Pro Bowler Frank Gore struggled to find any room. That could continue against a stout Seahawks defense but that is unless the 49ers consider giving backup Kendall Hunter some more carries. He proved to have more explosion in his runs against the Packers and is considerably younger than Gore. Using him could prove beneficial considering teams may still be underestimating how ready he is after a knee injury last season.
3. 49ers defense
Though they did give up 28 points and probably would’ve surrendered more if not for some Packer miscues, the 49ers defense seems back to its old self. Aldon Smith and Justin Smith provided constant pressure up front while NaVorro Bowman continued to quietly prove he’s their best linebacker. The biggest surprise though was rookie safety Eric Reid. In addition to an interception he made several tackles and delivered some excellent hits in the process. He seems like everything San Francisco wanted and should have a huge impact in Seattle.
1. Jermaine Kearse – WR
Any time the Seattle Seahawks suddenly favor a surprise youngster over an established veteran is usually a good sign. Just ask Russell Wilson. So when Jermaine Kearse appeared out of nowhere in the preseason making plays, the coaches were convinced he would become a key part of their receiving corps. Then he caught the game-winning pass against Carolina in the opener. That kind of play builds trust with a quarterback, and with his additional special teams value, Kearse figures to become a fantasy gold mine.
2. Zach Miller – TE
Wilson relied heavily on the running game last year in order to get acclimated to the pro game but as the season went on he developed into a solid passer. One thing he must do more is spread the ball around, especially to his tight ends. Zach Miller only had 396 yards last year while he averaged 678 with the Oakland Raiders. He has proved in the past he can be a weapon for his quarterback and it started to show against the Panthers when he caught three passes for 42 yards. That could continue against an aggressive 49ers secondary.
3. Robert Turbin – RB
Starting a running back against the San Francisco 49ers sounds like a losing proposition given the strength of their front seven. However they seem much better against physical backs. A good example is how they bottled up Eddie Lacy last week. As yet they haven’t been tested by a more speed-oriented back. Seattle should take note of that and give some more touches to Robert Turbin. While Marshawn Lynch struggled in Carolina, he quietly put together a nice afternoon with three carries for 17 yards and two catches for 13. What could happen if the Seahawks use him more? Perhaps fantasy owners will find out Sunday night.