Fantasy Preview: Saints @ Falcons
Let’s start with the high flying Saints who, despite a setback last week against the 49ers, have been clicking on all cylinders. Drew Brees has been dialed in, especially away from home where he is averaging 313.8 yards and a 12:2 touchdown to interception ratio over his last four games. The Falcons defense has had no success when it comes to slowing down the record breaking signal caller, as they have given up at least 296 yards through the air to Brees in each of their last seven matchups. While it is reasonable to assume a big game from Brees, a flawless afternoon is unlikely. Atlanta has the third best interception to touchdown ratio in the NFL averaging an interception per game. Combine that with the fact that Brees is averaging more than one INT per game since 2010, and a minimum of one turnover is to be assumed. That being said, Brees is still a top five option this week, but not the top fantasy QB in this game.
One reason to like Matt Ryan over Brees this week is the lack of productivity of the Falcons run game against the Saints front line. Michael Turner‘s last five games against New Orleans have disappointed fantasy owners, as he has tallied a mere 312 rushing yards on 92 carries (3.35 yards per carry), finding the endzone only once.
The unproductive run game, however, isn’t the only aspect of this matchup to like for Matty Ice. The Falcons signal caller has been an elite QB more often than not, and thus rewarding his owners on a very consistent basis. If you subtract two blips on the radar this season, Ryan has thrown 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions since Week 11 of last season. That’s five scores per interception, and considering the fact that Ryan threw one TD and one pick last week, simple math would put him at four touchdowns this week before he is due for another interception. But where are his passes going to go?
The answer is much more simple than you might guess. Roddy White has been targeted a team high 43 times over the last four weeks, a mark that is 59.3% higher than Julio Jones. The quantity of targets is likely to favor White, making him the safest of the Falcon pass catchers. While I value consistency over upside, that doesn’t mean Jones should be valued any less than a low end WR1 this week. The Alabama product has had a reception of at least 40 yards in four of the last five weeks, a style that has given the Saints all kinds of problems this season. In fact, no team in the NFL, not one, has given up more pass plays (11) of at least 40 yards than New Orleans. The potential for a monster day outweighs the risk of Jones continuing a maddening trend of under performing at Atlanta. An amazing 79% of his touchdowns have been scored on the road and 74% of his yardage has been gained away from the Georgia Dome. Concerning? Yes. But not enough to consider him anything less than a top 10 option this week.
Speaking of WR’s you can start and not worry about one bit, Marques Colston is licking his chops for another shot at this questionable Atlanta secondary. If you subtract a 2010 season in which Colston was dinged up, he has scored or recorded 100+ yards in seven of his last eight games against the division rival. He too is a WR1 this week, and I personally slide him just ahead of Julio Jones for Week 13.
If this game develops into the shootout that it is being built up as, I prefer Darren Sproles to Chris Ivory. This may not seem like a bold statement, but with Sproles missing Weeks 9-11 and not recording a single carry last week, his owners may be a bit gun shy. He did, however, catch seven of nine passes thrown his way last week, and looked very much like the PPR monster we have come to know and love. Ivory is better between the tackles and has the ability to break a long run, but the Saints look to involve Sproles and seem to feel obligated to give Ivory the ball in an attempt to establish the run. He did rack up 72 yards on seven carries and a TD last week, and while he is the best “pure” RB in this game, I have him ranked behind Sproles and Turner, based on upside and touch number.
Finally, it should be said that you are starting both tight ends in this game. Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez combined for 18 catches on 23 targets for 268 yards and four touchdowns when the teams met in New Orleans 2.5 weeks ago, and while expecting numbers like that isn’t wise, they are both top 5 options this week. I like Graham slightly more because I think the Saints will throw the ball more and they don’t have a chain mover besides Colston.
Soppe Score: The Saints have been hot while the Falcons are simply finding ways to win. I’m not reading too much into loss against San Francisco, but I am worried that we haven’t seen the best the Falcons have to offer. In a battle of high powered offenses, I’ll take the team can better control the clock and potentially get a turnover at an opportune time. Atlanta will win a competitive game: 31-23.