Thursday Night Football Matchup Analysis (Week 14)

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The fantasy playoffs have arrived...

Congratulations to those owners who, through diligence and a dash of luck, find themselves in the hunt for a coveted championship trophy! Hopefully you have prepared your rosters for the final push, because regular season win records and stat lines are all obsolete when it comes to sudden death playoff action. The pressure is on and Rotoballer has you covered with a Thursday night primer to help you come away with a victory in Week 14.

It seems only fitting that we are gifted with an NFC South matchup between two high-powered offenses for the fantasy playoff opener. The New Orleans Saints feature a dynamic running back group to compliment an all-time great quarterback in Drew Brees, while the Atlanta Falcons boast an exceptional core of skill position players of their own. Though it is unlikely we will witness a shootout in a fashion like we are used to for NFC South duels, there are plenty of fantasy players who can be home run hitters to start your week off right. Let's dive into Week 14's Thursday Night Football Matchup Analysis!

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New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons

Date and Start Time: Thursday, December 7 at 8:25 PM ET

Notable Injuries and Status:

  • Mark Ingram (RB, NO) - Toe - Questionable
  • Terron Armstead (OL, NO) - Thigh - Questionable
  • Marshon Lattimore (CB, NO) - Ankle - Questionable
  • Desmond Trufant (CB, ATL) - Concussion - Probable

 

Offensive and Defensive Rankings (2017):

Saints Falcons
Passing Yards 3rd 11th
Rushing Yards 3rd 11th
Pass Defense 11th 6th
Run  Defense 17th 18th

 
 

Must Starts

Top Performers That Have To Be In Your Lineup

Mark Ingram / Alvin Kamara (RBs, NO)

Ingram and Kamara have been on fire since the Adrian Peterson trade to Arizona, with each having accumulated over 100 all-purpose yards in three of their past four games while sitting within the top-10 in both standard and PPR scoring formats. Fantasy owners are starting to witness a shift in offensive philosophy for the Saints from their high-volume passing days to a much more rush-heavy attack, making the best way to capitalize on this group to start either of the aforementioned studs. That especially goes for Kamara though, who has scored a touchdown in six straight games and has had over 51-percent of his carries go for five or more yards. However, you can't go wrong with him or Ingram given how opposing running backs have scored 45-percent of the touchdowns against Atlanta, the fifth highest rate in the league.

Michael Thomas (WR, NO)

As the only wide receiver to own in New Orleans, Thomas has been an exceptional high floor option as the Saints' leader in targets. While Atlanta has only allowed four WR1 scoring weeks to No. 1 wideouts in 2017, Thomas has had no fewer than seven targets in his last seven games and borders the must start/solid start category. Saints pass-catchers haven't been the reliable fantasy assets that owners expected heading into the season, but its smart to not get too cute in a playoff matchup and ride Thomas' recent hot streak.

Julio Jones (WR, ATL)

Jones is another borderline must start/solid start player that will largely depend on whether Saints lock-down corner Marshon Lattimore is active or not. He just had his lowest scoring week in a full game this season immediately following his highest, making the inconsistency that has characterized Jones all season another question mark here. He also draws a tough defensive matchup that has allowed just two lead receivers to have WR1 weeks when Lattimore has been active. However, those who drafted or traded for Jones need to ride or die with him in the playoffs because of his week-winning upside and exceptional hands. If he blows up on your bench, the regret will be crippling.

 

Must Sits

Players To Avoid Putting In Your Lineup

Josh Hill (TE, NO)

Josh who? With Saints lead tight end Coby Fleener headed to injured reserve, Hill might have some fantasy owners thinking there is potential for volume-based upside for the next man up. However, this is a situation where there is quite literally no reason to believe he will have any form of value given that he has never had more than three receptions in a game or gone for over 30 receiving yards in a contest. His role is undoubtedly as a blocker for the Saints prolific running back duo, making him a must sit for Week 14.

Matt Ryan (QB, ATL)

I was a non-believer of Ryan since before the regular season and while he has shown some highlight reel moments, the Falcons offense has come to a screeching halt in recent weeks. Ryan has thrown for 215 yards or fewer in three of his past four games and clearly has a worryingly low ceiling with his highest finish in a week being QB-10. He's failed to produce even one game with 20 points in 2017, meaning there are likely plenty of better options for those in need of quarterback help in a week where Ryan faces off against a particularly stingy Saints passing defense.

Austin Hooper (TE, ATL)

Hooper is the textbook example of a touchdown-dependent fantasy tight end with low reception totals and yardage, with him only posting two TE1 stat lines in his last seven games. The best way to handle this situation is to play your matchups if you have no other option, and the New Orleans defense has been especially unforgiving to passing attacks when its core group of players as been in tact. If you are in need of a tight end, it's best to just avoid Hooper and weigh a more favorable matchup as the determining factor.

Other Notable Must Sits: Brandon Coleman (WR, NO), Taylor Gabriel (WR, ATL)

 

Solid Options/Sleepers

Which Players Will Have Solid Games and Which Could Surprise?

Solid Option: Drew Brees (QB, NO)

Like I mentioned previously, the high-volume passing attack we are used to seeing in New Orleans is long gone. However, Brees clearly has a stable floor with an average of 274 passing yards per game and offers some touchdown upside with at least one per game in his last three contests. Atlanta has also allowed a QB1 in five of their past seven games, making Brees a reliable option for Week 14.

Solid Options: Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman (RBs, ATL)

Much like the running back group in New Orleans, the Falcons backfield duo is especially potent for fantasy purposes. Freeman ran well in his return a week ago and should hold on to first and second down duties against a defense that has allowed 15 or more points to an opposing back in three straight games. At the same time, touches are going to be a concern considering how he has had 15 or fewer touches in each of his past five games. Coleman deserves high-upside flex consideration in PPR formats, where the Saints have ranked in the bottom-10 in receiving points allowed to backfields per game.

Sleeper: Mohammed Sanu (WR, ATL)

Sanu has been a consistent WR3 in eight of his full 10 games with a minimum floor of three receptions per game. The low yardage totals are troubling, but he is clearly quarterback Matt Ryan's favorite target when the opposing defense zeroes in on lead wideout Julio Jones. He is a decent volume play for owners in need of a reliable option.

Other Notable Sleepers: Ted Ginn Jr. (WR, NO)

 

More Week 14 Lineup Prep