Fantasy Watch: Playing time in Week 4

The absence of a Monday night game from the NFC West schedule restores order to the schedule around here, at least until the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams play the Thursday night game.

With that, we pick up where we left off two weeks ago, with our weekly look at playing-time trends, slanted toward fantasy football:

  • Arizona Cardinals: The team used its four-receiver package extensively, creating additional opportunities for rookie wideout Michael Floyd (31 snaps). Arizona had fewer options than usual in its 24-21 victory over Miami. Tight end Todd Heap was out. So were running backs Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling. Another back, Ryan Williams, wasn't part of the no-huddle package Arizona likes to use with Kevin Kolb at quarterback. I do think the Cardinals will make a stronger effort to get their ground game going at St. Louis. Wells' absence until at least Nov. 25 does make it tougher for Arizona to pursue a traditional power-run game, however. Wells had 228 yards rushing at St. Louis last season. The game at St. Louis could provide a breakout opportunity for Williams. With Heap out, second-year tight end Rob Housler played 60 percent of the snaps. He made two key receptions, slipping behind Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby for a 33-yarder on one of them.

  • St. Louis Rams: All five offensive linemen played every snap for the Rams, a welcome development after shuffling linemen regularly through three games. The decision to activate rookie receiver Brian Quick (14 snaps) and the newly eligible Austin Pettis (seven snaps) sent veteran Steve Smith to the bench. Quick made a key 19-yard reception, enough to create reasonable expectations for continued playing time. Running back Steven Jackson played 77 percent of the snaps even though a groin injury prevented him from practicing. Can he play an extensive role against the Cardinals on a short week? That seems like a difficult turnaround for him. The Rams will want an experienced back to counter Arizona's highly effective inside blitzes, but rookie Daryl Richardson could play more against the Cardinals. Tight end Lance Kendricks played 90 percent of the snaps.

  • San Francisco 49ers: Constant shuffling of offensive personnel cost snaps for tight end Vernon Davis, who entered the game with an injury. Davis played 85 percent of the offensive snaps. Quarterback Alex Smith also played 85 percent. Backup Colin Kaepernick performed well enough in relief and in a specialized role to justify additional playing time in the future. Michael Crabtree (56 percent) and Mario Manningham (44 percent) were the primary receivers. Kyle Williams and Randy Moss played 31 percent apiece. Nine players carried the ball for the 49ers, but Frank Gore still got 21 carries and 23 total touches. There were enough to go around. Kendall Hunter ran more effectively overall.

  • Seattle Seahawks: Sidney Rice (82 percent) and Golden Tate (74 percent) are clearly the top two receivers. Doug Baldwin (39 percent) has not shown as well as anticipated. That could be because injuries have limited his practice reps. Braylon Edwards got only five snaps as Seattle played without the injured Charly Martin. Running back Robert Turbin got 10 snaps and showed he was worthy of them. Resting starter Marshawn Lynch (44 snaps) periodically becomes much easier to do if Turbin is going to run the way he did Sunday. He's quick and powerful. Lynch is still going to get his carries, of course. He was dominant Sunday. Leon Washington (three snaps) will have a tough time getting on the field.

Programming note: I'm staying in Arizona for several more hours and will attend Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt's news conference before heading to the airport.