Thursday Night Football features another solid divisional game this week which usually makes for an entertaining game since the teams know each other well and turn up the intensity for these rivalry matchups. The Saints and Falcons are definitely no exception to that since these teams are very accustom to dueling it out for the NFC South crown.
The luster of this particular matchup is a little tarnished, though, with the Falcons suffering through a horrible season beset by injury, free-agent disappointment, and overall ineffectiveness. They should be fired up to defend their home dome tonight, but Drew Brees and the Saints offense has been firing on all cylinders while their defense has also shown some teeth doing just enough to get them past the 49ers last week.
As we get week 12 kicked off tonight, here are how I would deploy the players from each of these teams in fantasy football:
New Orleans Saints: If you own Drew Brees, you are definitely going to start him. The facts that the Falcons have allowed opposing QB’s the sixth-most fantasy points per game and multiple passing touchdowns in every single game this year except for one are only indicators that you could be in for a huge week from your elite QB. If anyone benches Drew Brees, think about collusion and possible contraction (in other words, they’re cheating–kick them out).
Atlanta Falcons: On the other hand, the Saints D has been good against opposing QB’s allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing QB’s. The lack of weapons and protection have led to a rough year for Matt Ryan. Last week, he was lifted from the Falcon’s route at the hands of the Bucs but was forced to re-enter the game after his backup was hurt. The last four weeks he’s thrown five touchdowns and a painful nine interceptions. Unless you have absolutely no other option, leave Ryan on your bench or even the waiver wire based on his lack of current form and a tough matchup.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints running back with the highest value at this point is probably Pierre Thomas who is consistently involved in the passing and rushing attacks and is a solid RB2. It looks like Darren Sproles may sit this one out or be limited, so I’d bench him if possible this week. If Sproles is indeed out, it could leave more touches for Mark Ingram who has re-emerged with a pair of nice games the last two weeks. Ingram is a fine flex play, and I expect both Ingram and Thomas to have good games against a Falcons defense that has been beaten for five rushing touchdowns by opposing running backs in their last five games while giving up over 100 yards to the backs in each of those contests.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons backfield hasn’t been a haven of fantasy goodness at all this season. Steven Jackson has been a huge disappointment, Jacquizz Rodgers has flashed potential but struggled with consistency, and Jason Snelling is dealing with off the field issues that made him miss last week’s game entirely. In Snelling’s absence, Antone Smith opened some eyes with 88 yards on just two carries and an impressive 50-yard touchdown. Coach Mike Smith (no relation) said Smith had earned carries going forward, so it will be interesting to see how he figures into the rotation. See how the carries are divided this week, but avoid this situation all together if possible.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints receiving corps has talent enough to go off in just about any game, but the target distribution goes a long way in determining who pulls in fantasy points and who is left out of the point-scoring party. Marques Colston has had a good last few weeks after missing a game with a surprise inactive. Colston has been a solid WR2 option lately and is again in this one. Lance Moore has been working his way back from injury and gets some looks but not enough on a reliable enough basis to make him a weekly start. Kenny Stills is the home run option, but there are some weeks where he comes up empty. Last week, it wasn’t any of those three options, but Robert Meachem who caught Drew Brees’ longest pass finishing with 78 yards on two catches. The wealth gets so distributed that Colston is the only locked-in starter with Moore and Stills working as bye-week fill-ins if needed.
Atlanta Falcons: The only Falcons player who I would play this week with any level of confidence is Harry Douglas who continues to get tons of targets and perform well in an increased role due to the myriad of receiver injuries around him. He’s a WR2 consideration although the Saints have been stingy to opposing WR. Roddy White is expected to play, but has been a fantasy non-factor this season as he has been chronically hampered by injury.
New Orleans Saints: There is no matchup that Jimmy Graham can’t blow up, and he’s been held out of the end zone for the last two weeks. Expect that to change against Atlanta. Him and Gronk are on an elite level that no one else can touch.
Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez has been a disappointment this year outside of a pair of monster games in weeks three and four. He does get lots of passes thrown his way which does keep him as a low-end top-ten tight end in my mind, but he isn’t someone you’re excited to start in your TE spot each week. If you have a better option, go with it, but Gonzalez is startable in most formats if necessary.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints defense came up big last week against San Francisco getting a stop to get the Saints the ball in time to get a win (yes, they were aided by Kaepernick running out of bounds). The real reason the Saints are a top ten group this week is that the Falcons have given up 59 fantasy points in the last four weeks to opposing D/ST (ESPN Standard scoring). Atlanta has been turning the ball over and not scoring which should lead to a solid day for Rob Ryan’s crew.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons D got beaten badly last week by Tampa who was on a short week and on their third starting RB of the year. This week against Drew Brees, you want no part of them on your fantasy team.
The Saints have struggled on the road, but when they’ve looked bad it has typically been in outdoor environments. I think the Saints offense will be just fine in the Georgia Dome as they continue the Falcons woes. I’ll take the Saints to win big on the road: