49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said on KNBR that it’s “not guaranteed” Kittle will play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC West divisional matchup.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) October 1, 2021
Kittle played 100 percent of offensive snaps in San Francisco’s Week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. He had his most productive game of the season with seven catches for 92 yards. He has caught 15 passes for 187 yards with no touchdowns in three games this season. The 2019 first-team All-Pro missed eight games last season with foot and knee injuries.
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Calf injuries are another frequent soft tissue injury in the NFL. Damage to the fascia determines the return to play. Research shows the majority of calf injuries happen in the gastrocnemius, which results in significant disability due to pain and tightness. NFL players suffering from calf injuries typically miss at least two weeks (17.4 days ± 14.6 days).
Bodies are a kinetic chain, and you don’t want to play someone with a deficiency. It can be the cause of worsening the current injury or creating a new more serious injury.
— Mario Pilato (@PFF_Mario) October 1, 2021
49ers continued injury concerns: Kittle would be a significant loss in this NFC West showdown and could cause the spread to retrace back to the opening -2.5 if he sits out. Greenline has a lean toward the Seahawks already, which could be a solid bet if Kittle's injury is as bad as currently indicated. Another approach could be to take the under 52, with the 49ers continuing to be thin at the skill positions, causing their entire offense to struggle. Click here for PFF's NFL betting dashboard.
49ers player props: Kittle missing this matchup would increase the target share directed at Deebo Samuel. PFF's player prop tool already finds value on Samuel to go over 6.5 receptions at a +115 price. If Kittle is indeed out for this matchup, expect Samuel's price to flip negative. This is a bet to lock in now, with Seattle's secondary incapable of slowing any receiver through the first three weeks of the season.
Find an alternative off the waiver wire: Kittle is no guarantee to suit up for Sunday, so fantasy managers should find contingency plans from the waiver wire. These options include Dawson Knox, Will Dissly, Tyler Conklin and Dalton Schultz.
Stock up for Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk: Samuel owns a 31% target share this season and will continue to be peppered with targets without Kittle. Aiyuk ran a route on 90% of his team’s dropbacks Sunday night versus the Green Bay Packers, a sign he has emerged from the Kyle Shanahan doghouse. He will be a fringe fantasy WR2 without Kittle. Click here to find PFF's 2021 fantasy projections.
Stream tight ends Will Dissly and Ross Dwelley: Dwelley is the direct backup to Kittle and is the desperation play for those who wait on Kittle into the late-afternoon window. Dissly should see an expanded role with Gerald Everett potentially out due to COVID-19. The Seattle TE is the superior option for those waiting on a Kittle decision near the 4:05 p.m. Eastern kickoff.
Kittle is coming off his best performance of the season. Kittle caught seven passes for 92 yards against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. His nine targets in Week 3 equaled his total targets in Weeks 1-2. Kittle's 81.8 PFF offensive grade ranks third at the tight end position through three weeks. Click here to find PFF's NFL player grades.
Brandon Aiyuk stepped up in Kittle's absence last year. Kittle missed half of the 2020 season (Weeks 2-3, 9-15) with a foot injury, and backup tight end Ross Dwelley was a non-factor, catching 16 passes on 17 targets in those eight games. Then-rookie Brandon Aiyuk was still gaining experience at the NFL level and saw his targets nearly double from 33 with Kittle in the lineup to 60 without. Click here to find PFF's NFL premium stats.