Cleat Geeks

Thursday Preview: Atlanta Falcons vs New Orleans Saints

 

The power in the NFC South has shifted pretty dramatically over the past two seasons, and this game is a perfect representation of that. The 5-0 Atlanta Falcons will be traveling to New Orleans to take on the struggling, once dominant Saints. This has been a pretty even rivalry over the years with Atlanta leading the all-time series 49-43.

SAINTS-FALCONS-FEAT-IMAGE-no-text-475w

The Falcons enter this game as one of the last six remaining undefeated teams, and they are tied with the Panthers for the top spot in the division. They struggled last week against the Redskins, but pulled out the win in overtime with a pick-six from Robert Alford. This team has been playing pretty darn good so far this season, and they appear to have taken on the personality and energy of their rookie Head Coach, Dan Quinn. He previously served as the Defensive Coordinator of the Seahawks, and he has coached this defense to look like a mini-version of his old team. The Falcons also found a new Offensive Coordinator in Kyle Shanahan. He has this offense firing on all cylinders so far, and they are dangerous since they always are in touchdown-range with a wide receiver as talented as Julio Jones. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Julio is a bit banged up (hamstring) and it showed last Sunday. Even though he rarely is operating at 100%, this injury is a bit more serious, and it is one that could linger throughout the rest of the season. He said that they would have to cut his leg off for him to not play in this game, but even if he does play, he will be on a pitch count. Usually the Falcons wouldn’t really scare you if Julio was hurt, but this season is a bit different. After rookie running back Tevin Coleman went down with a rib injury, Devonta Freeman came in and, well…took the ball and ran with it! Over the past three games, Freeman has 539 total yards and seven touchdowns on 88 touches. He has been extremely effective, but they will have to distribute the touches a little more if they want Freeman to be healthy at the end of the season.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

The Saints have struggled, bad, but they look to get back on track as they defend their home turf in a prime-time game. Part of their struggles so far has been the health of Drew Brees. He hurt his shoulder back in week two against Tampa Bay, and it caused him to miss a week. Since his return, he has passed for 694 yards with four touchdowns and an interception, so he has gotten back on track. The shoulder doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore which is good news as they look to turn their season around starting on Thursday. Mark Ingram has been the lead running back for the Saints so far this season and has been moderately effective gaining almost 500 total yards so far. His yards have been split pretty much even between rushing and receiving. The other two running backs are C.J. Spiller and Khiry Robinson . Spiller’s role has been growing slowly as a pass-catcher as he gets healthier and more familiar with the offense. With the departure of Jimmy Graham this offseason, there were a ton of targets up for grabs, and somebody needed to step up and gain Brees’ trust. The player everyone thought would get the majority of the targets would be Brandon Cooks. Although Cooks lead the team in catches (25) he does not lead the team in yards. It is also not the veteran Marques Colston who will most likely be inactive with a shoulder injury. The person who leads the team in yards is the rookie from Ball State, Willie Snead. His activity has increased every single week, and he has gained 230 yards on 12 catches the past two weeks. He will need to have another good week if the Saints want to hand the Falcons their first loss of the season.

 

Fantasy:

Devonta Freeman

The biggest question mark right now for fantasy regarding the Falcons is Julio Jones. The reports don’t exactly sound good, and I am not too high on him. His hamstring will not only keep him on the sideline more, but it will take away much of the explosiveness that we are accustomed to with Julio. If you take him away from any quarterback, it obviously will hurt them. I am a little bit lower on Matt Ryan for this reason, but he is still playing the Saints. The Saints’ secondary is pretty terrible, so Ryan should still be able to put up respectable numbers. Picking up for Julio’s slack will be Leonard Hankerson, Jacob Tamme, and even Roddy White. I would expect 4-7 catches from each of them. Obviously Devonta Freeman will continue to get a ton of work for them. It’s hard to bet against this guy right now, so I think he’s good for 100-120 total yards and a touchdown.

The Saints will look to be aggressive and get up early on their division rival. In Brees’ last ten home games, he has passed for 290+ yards seven times, and I think he will do it again. The Falcons give up the most fantasy points to running backs in the league, so I think Ingram is in for a big day. I also think Spiller will do a lot of damage catching the ball out of the backfield. He will be ranked as a PPR flex for me this week, or a low-end RB2 with upside (You of course can check my rankings out every Thursday afternoon @FantasyFlurry on Twitter). The two receivers that are relevant for the Saints are Snead and Cooks. I think they both will play well, and I think Snead will find the end zone for the first time since week two.

 

Prediction:

ingram1000

This has been the most difficult Thursday night game for me to pick so far. I keep going back-and-forth with who will play well, who will disappear, and who will choke when the big moments arise. There is one thing that gives one of these teams the edge: the Saints are at home. The Superdome is a tough place to play and come away with a win. This is also a prime-time game. Drew Brees is 16-2 in his last 18 prime-time home games. For this reason, I give the Saints the advantage. I know for a fact that I am in the minority when I say that I think the Saints will hand the Falcons their first loss of the season, 30-22.

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  1. Pingback: Cover 3: Week 6 – Cleat Geeks

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