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Fantasy Football Picks: 49ers vs. Cardinals DraftKings NFL DFS Showdown Strategy

Zach Thompson preps you for Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. ET NFL contest between the 49ers and Cardinals with game-script analysis and DraftKings Captain’s Picks.

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The NFL has a tripleheader on tap this day after Christmas, and the middle game of that three-game slate is an NFC West showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams should be very comfortable at State Farm Stadium, since the 49ers have also called this stadium home since COVID-19 regulations forced them to relocate from their usual home in Santa Clara, Calif.

Avoiding a slip-up here is key for the Cardinals, who can clinch the playoffs with a win in this contest and a loss by the Bears on Sunday, or by winning each of their last two games — this one and a Week 17 matchup in Los Angeles against the Rams. Even though the 49ers are banged up, Arizona can’t look past them to next week’s matchup, since this could set up as a classic trap game if they don’t come out sharp.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $250K Showdown Special [$50K to 1st] (SF vs ARI)


SHOWDOWN STRATEGY

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers come into this matchup down to their third QB and without their top RB and WR as well. Nick Mullens (elbow) and Raheem Mostert (ankle) were both placed on IR, ending their season while Deebo Samuel (hamstring) will also miss the rest of the season, per coach Kyle Shanahan. The one star the offense will have is George Kittle ($8,200), who has missed the past six games due to a fractured cuboid bone in his foot. He’s expected to be on a snap count, though, so it isn’t clear exactly how much work he’ll be ready for. If he’s 100% he’s a high-upside flier but he does come with substantial risk as well.

Kittle will be catching passes from third-string QB C.J. Beathard ($9,000), who will be making his 11th career start in the NFL. He has gone just 1-9 in those outings with a 57.8% completion rate and an average of just 6.9 yards per attempt. He did look decent last week against the Cowboys after Mullens was injured, but his 100 yards, one touchdown and 8.0 DKFP were all boosted by a last-second 49-yard Hail Mary that didn’t impact the outcome of the game at all. Even in a favorable matchup against the Cardinals’ secondary, Beathard is too pricey for me to trust given his track record.

We do need at least one 49er, though, and there are actually some plays I do think make sense. In the backfield, Jeff Wilson Jr. ($3,600) is a great value if he gets most of the work with Mostert out. He has been splitting time with Mostert the past few weeks and has at least 7.9 DKFP in three straight games, including 12.0 DKFP last week in Dallas, his highest total since Week 7 when he ran wild against the Patriots. Even though Tevin Coleman ($600), Jerick McKinnon ($2,400) and maybe even Kyle Juszczyk ($1,200) will get some work out of the backfield, Wilson should be the lead option and is so affordably priced that there isn’t much need in pivoting to Coleman unless you have to punt a roster slot. If you decide to do that, though, Coleman does have more upside than most other players that cheap.

At WR, the 49ers also have some options worth considering. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk ($10,000) will be the team’s top option and has averaged 7.8 catches for 90.6 yards per game over his past five contests. He has been getting pummeled with targets over that span as well, with double-digit targets in five of his past six games, including a monster 16-target game against Washington that resulted in 10 catches, 119 yards and 24.9 DKFP. He’s an expensive play, for sure, but has been heavily involved enough to be worth considering. Kendrick Bourne ($7,400) had a big 18.6-DKFP game last week, but that total is inflated by that meaningless Hail Mary as well. Instead, I’d rather go with Richie James ($2,600) as a value play since he should be regularly used in three-WR sets and got seven targets last week compared to just four for Bourne. James has shown he can thrive when relied on, producing 36.4 DKFP against the Packers earlier this season, and I think he has very nice upside for this salary against Arizona.

Kittle’s return at TE makes Jordan Reed ($4,600) a little tricky to figure out, but the veteran TE has found the end zone in two of the past three weeks to go with modest yardage production. He doesn’t have the upside of James and Wilson, who are cheaper, but he could be a solid value play if Beathard relies on him in the red zone.

If you don’t love the 49ers’ offensive options at all with Beathard, you could always pivot to the 49ers’ DST ($3,000) as your one play from San Francisco. The unit has multiple sacks in four of their past five games and has forced eight turnovers during that span. They had a huge game against the Rams a few weeks ago but are definitely depleted by injury. Robbie Gould ($3,200) is also a cheap play from the 49ers worth a look since he has at least 7 DFKP in four of his past five games and continues to be a very reliable option in the kicking game. The only concern with Gould is that Beathard’s version of this offense may not get him many scoring opportunities.


Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have been one of the most exciting offenses to watch this season with Kyler Murray ($12,800) progressing in his development and flourishing with his new WR DeAndre Hopkins ($11,600) as his go-to option. Murray has averaged 27.6 DKFP per contest and is coming off a season-high 406 passing yards with three touchdowns and 38.14 DKFP last week against the Eagles. Murray has averaged 259.8 passing yards and 52.9 rushing yards per game and has run for 11 touchdowns in addition to his 26 passing touchdowns. He and the Cardinals edged a very different, much healthier 49ers team back in Week 1, and in that game, Murray had 27.3 DKFP. He has definitely emerged as one of the best fantasy QBs in all of the NFL and can be the focal point of your lineup if you can make his hefty salary work.

Hopkins is also a great producer and fantasy star this season, settling in quickly to his new home with his new QB. Hopkins is averaging a whopping 9.9 targets per game and has at least eight catches in each of his past three games. He had nine catches for 169 yards and the game-winning touchdown last week, to finish with 34.0 DKFP. He didn’t get into the end zone in his previous matchup with the 49ers but had a massive day anyway with 14 catches, 151 yards and 32.1 DKFP.

While Hopkins is clearly the top pass-catching option, Christian Kirk ($6,600), Larry Fitzgerald ($5,000) and Dan Arnold ($4,400) have all had strong games at different times this season. Fitz is listed as questionable with a hamstring issue but was able to practice Thursday. If he does play, he is probably the safest play of that bunch, although Kirk has flashed some intriguing deep-threat potential. Andy Isabella ($1,600) is a flier to watch if Fitz is inactive, but he has been a healthy inactive the past two weeks. At TE, Arnold is also questionable due to a back issue which could make things interesting since backup TEs Darrell Daniels ($400) and Maxx Williams ($2,000) are also questionable with hamstring and ankle injuries. Check the inactives leading up to kickoff to see if there will be value available there, although Arnold has been productive enough to consider with touchdown upside if all three are able to suit up.

Another Cardinals’ injury to watch is Chase Edmonds ($5,600), who is questionable with ankle and knee issues. Edmonds has been working in more as a receiving option lately with multiple catches in eight straight games and 11 carries last week as well on his way to 15.6 DKFP. If Edmonds is out, Kenyan Drake ($9,200) would become a much better play since he’ll get all the workload, but if Edmonds is healthy, he’s actually the better play due to his consistent PPR production and much more affordable salary. Drake is touchdown-dependent since he doesn’t catch as many passes but has found the end zone five times over his past five games.

The Cardinals’ DST ($4,800) doesn’t have its biggest star in Chandler Jones and just lost Dennis Gardeck (knee), who had helped fill in after Jones’ injury. Still, going against a third-string QB, they’re a very solid value option. Last week, they had six sacks, a safety and 10 DKFP against the Eagles after forcing three turnovers with eight sacks and 18 DKFP against the Giants. I love their upside here and think you could even build a lineup with them as your Captain’s Pick if you’re fading the 49ers’ offense having any success.


THE OUTCOME

The Cardinals can’t overlook the 49ers since it’s critical to their playoff hopes that they don’t get caught looking ahead. With such an injury-depleted squad, though, it’s hard to see San Francisco having what it takes to pull off this upset in their home-away-from-home. The Cardinals have the two obvious Captain’s Pick plays as well, and of the two megastars I actually think DeAndre Hopkins ($17,400 CP) is the better play. If you want to go with a more balanced look, though, Jeff Wilson Jr. ($5,400 CP) has a ton of upside as an affordable Captain’s Pick play. The Cardinals’ DST ($7,200 CP) could also hit with a big play or two and should be in a good spot to dominate Beathard and San Francisco’s injury-depleted offense.

Final Score: Arizona 28, San Francisco 10

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $250K Showdown Special [$50K to 1st] (SF vs ARI)


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