Thursday Night Football
New Orleans @ Atlanta
The division-rival Saints and Falcons have squared off three times over the past two seasons and produced an average scoring total of 56 points. This game's over-under just so happens to be 56, the highest of any Week 13 game. For a fast start to the fantasy week, you'll want to start your players in the Thursday nighter. ... Atlanta has an unimposing defense, ranking 22nd against the run and 13th versus the pass. Mike Nolan's unit relied on turnovers for early-season success, but has generated just two takeaways over the past five weeks. Drew Brees lit up the Falcons for 298 yards and three touchdowns 18 days ago, and there's every reason to believe he'll post similar if not superior stats in the rematch. ... Fantasy owners can confidently dismiss Jimmy Graham's disappointing four-catch, 33-yard Week 12 game as a bump in the road. Graham's stat lines in his last three Falcons meetings: 7-146-2, 4-42-1, 7-82-1. ... Marques Colston's reception and yardage numbers are down a bit, but he's on pace for a career-high 12 touchdown catches and has eight over his last eight games. Look for Colston to match up in coverage Thursday night with burnable RCB Dunta Robinson and first-year slot cornerback Robert McClain. ... Brees' target distribution since Graham returned healthy from an early-year high ankle sprain, five games ago: Graham 41, Colston 31, Lance Moore 26, Darren Sproles 18, Devery Henderson 13, and Pierre Thomas 12.
The Week 10 Falcons-Saints game was a tight end showcase, as Graham (7-146-2) and Tony Gonzalez (11-122-2) went berserk. Expect Nolan to prioritize slowing Graham down in Week 13, opening up the field for others. Colston and Sproles, the latter of whom was targeted nine times in last Sunday's return from a fractured hand, would be logical beneficiaries. Keep in mind Sproles did not receive a carry in Week 12 and is more of a PPR than standard-league asset. ... Lance Moore and Devery Henderson are harder to justify as attractive fantasy plays because they'll run most of their routes at Falcons LCB Asante Samuel. Brees threw into Samuel's coverage on just 3-of-32 pass attempts in Week 10. Moore does move around enough that he stands an outside chance of proving a worthwhile WR3 start, but he's a lock for inconsistency whenever Graham and Sproles are both healthy. ... Even in a favorable matchup with Atlanta's porous run defense, the Saints' backfield beyond Sproles offers little to no reliability. With Sproles back last week, Mark Ingram (10-27) led the corps in carries but was outproduced by Chris Ivory (8-34). Pierre Thomas played only 14-of-71 snaps, per Pro Football Focus, and received one offensive touch.
Due to fading feature back Michael Turner's struggles, Atlanta has become a one-dimensional team offensively. The Falcons rank No. 2 in passing offense and 28th in rushing, and will have to rely on Matt Ryan's arm to continue to sustain drives. While that's concerning for Atlanta's Super Bowl hopes, it's good news for their pass catchers in fantasy football. ... Ryan's roll has slowed since a piping-hot start with a 4:7 TD-to-INT ratio over his last four games. There's nothing like a date with the league's No. 30 pass defense to jumpstart a season. Despite the one-month lull, Ryan is sixth in quarterback points on the year. He shredded the Saints for 411 yards and three scores on 65.4 percent passing in Week 10. ... Roddy White has at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in nine of his last 11 meetings with New Orleans. His last two Saints stat lines are 11-127 and 7-114. ... Rather than assign coverage responsibilities based on game-by-game receiver matchups, the Saints have been leaving Patrick Robinson at right corner with Jabari Greer on the left side in recent weeks. Greer is New Orleans' top cover man. Robinson can really run, but is prone to coverage busts and often picked on by opposing quarterbacks. If the Saints continue to "play sides" at corner, Julio Jones will run most of his pass routes versus Robinson and have the best matchup among Atlanta pass catchers. Both Jones and White are WR1s on Thursday night.
The Saints have a difficult time defending tight ends because they play so much zone in the back end and their safety play is lackluster. FS Malcolm Jenkins has had an incredibly disappointing year, and SS Roman Harper would never be mistaken for a pass-coverage maven. New Orleans has permitted the fifth most receiving yards to tight ends through 11 games. Gonzalez may be stretched to repeat his Week 10 stat line, but there aren't five better fantasy tight ends in Sunday and Monday's games. ... To say Turner is running on fumes might be generous. He's hardly "running" at all. With 272 yards on his last 98 carries (2.78 YPC) and no real passing-game role to speak of, Turner is in danger of playing fewer snaps than Jacquizz Rodgers for a third straight week. This matchup has track meet written all over it, and Rodgers will be the superior back if the game turns pass heavy with Ryan and Brees going toe to toe. Turner is a flex option who will hurt fantasy owners if he doesn't score at the goal line. He's in an even timeshare with Rodgers now.
Score Prediction: Saints 35, Falcons 28
Start or Sit: New Orleans at Atlanta
While you're likely starting the usuals in the passing game for Thursday's Saints - Falcons matchup, Kay Adams (@heykayadams) and Matt Stroup (@mattstroup) discuss the running backs. How confident should you be in Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers?
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