Passing along: two Insider pieces heavy on NFC West angles.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. says the San Francisco 49ers' running game must remain strong for Alex Smith to succeed. My take: Some argued for Smith's inclusion on the MVP Watch list last week, pointing to strong NFL passer ratings in most games and turnover avoidance. I went with Frank Gore instead because I also think Smith needs strong support. In general, the 49ers have carried Smith more than Smith has carried the 49ers. Smith has rewarded the approach by generally avoiding mistakes. The confidence Smith is gaining should help him in critical situations, such as when he threw the winning touchdown pass Sunday.
K.C. Joyner explains why the St. Louis Rams' defense should dictate fantasy football decisions, and why Brandon Lloyd should immediately become a fantasy play. My take: Sam Bradford's health will be a key variable regarding Lloyd. Bradford did prove last season he could help get the most from a savvy veteran player. He connected with Mark Clayton immediately after the team acquired Clayton from Baltimore via trade. Lloyd should be in even better position to succeed because he knows the Rams' offense. But he'll need a healthy Bradford, most likely. I have harder time envisioning backup A.J. Feeley connecting on the downfield throws Lloyd has maximized in Denver.
As for the Rams' defense, I'll be back in a bit with the weekly rankings report for NFC West teams. I've been putting together the weekly NFL Power Rankings post featuring a certain NFC West team ranked higher than at any point in roughly the last decade.