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Thursday Night Football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Patriots vs Falcons

Kyle Pitts - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

I think it’s time we accept that this is no ordinary NFL season. With multiple upsets over the last few weeks, it seems that no one is safe in the NFL. Regardless of a team being double-digit point favorites, the world has a way of turning upside-down on Sundays. 

Last week started with an upset that quickly questioned my Thursday Night Preview predictions. In a game where the target leader for the Dolphins and my “must start” tight end on the week, Mike Gesicki, failed to catch a pass. Miami’s win was not only improbable but also uncharacteristic. This Thursday we get to see another rollercoaster team in the Atlanta Falcons, who followed up their win against the Saints in Week Nine with a three-point performance against the Dallas Cowboys last week.

However, not everything has been inconsistent in the NFL. The team on the other side of the ball this Thursday, the New England Patriots, have been rolling. With the wind at their sails, they head into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on a mission to replicate a less dramatic rendition of 2017’s Super Bowl victory. Welcome to RotoBaller’s Thursday Night Preview. My name is Ellis Johnson, and I thank you for starting your week with my analysis.

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New England Patriots @ Atlanta Falcons

8:20 pm EST 

Notable Injuries


Must-Starts for Fantasy Football Lineups

Kyle Pitts (TE, ATL): Rookie sensation Kyle Pitts has performed admirably this season. While he is not lighting the world on fire in the same fashion as rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase, Pitts is still on pace to have the best rookie tight end season of all time. His 86.6 fantasy points through the first 10 weeks are well on his way to topping Rob Gronkowski’s rookie record for fantasy points at the position (133.6). Probably the best part of Pitts’ performance is that he has only scored one touchdown. In a game where Atlanta is projected to be playing from behind and have limited receiving options, this is a prime opportunity for Pitts. Unfortunately, the Patriots are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to the position, and everyone knows Bill Belicheck will look to remove Pitts from this game. However, when you are the fantasy TE-six on the season, you are automatically a must-start. Continue to play Pitts this week, and I have a feeling the Pie Shop* is open for the second time in his career. 

*Pie Shop: An Australian term (often used in Rugby League) to describe who will score a try (or in this case touchdown) this week.

Damien Harris (RB, NE): Despite missing last week due to injury, Harris is the RB20 on the season. Harris is a perfect back for the methodical, controlled, game-plan of the Patriots. Averaging 4.1 yards per carry-on the season and 0.78 touchdowns per game, Harris is a rock-solid RB2. Over his last five games, he has scored 9.8 fantasy points in every game. He now faces an Atlanta team that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to the position. This game script is projected to favor New England’s run game, and Harris should be a lock for 15+ carries with a good chance of falling into the end zone.


Solid Options for Fantasy Football Lineups

Jakobi Meyers (WR, NE): On Meyers 135th career reception, the young receiver finally scored his first touchdown in Week 10. Myers has steadily been the WR34 on the season and has impressively done it on the back of yards and receptions. Averaging nearly five receptions a game, just below fifty yards, and almost eight targets a game, Meyers enters Week 11 as a great WR3. The Falcons are allowing 30.6 fantasy points a game to the receiver position, and with Meyers leading the charge, he is in line for a solid fantasy outing. Although improbable, in my experience when touchdown droughts finally rain, they pour. That’s right, I’m calling for Meyers to double his career touchdown total this week and keep the Pie Shop* open.

*Pie Shop: An Australian term (often used in Rugby League) to describe who will score a try (or in this case touchdown) this week.

Cordarrelle Patterson (WR/RB, ATL): Patterson is currently a game-time decision for Thursday’s matchup. As the RB10 on the season, he can be considered a “must start.” However, high-ankle sprains have been known to limit players for weeks, and this quick turnaround may mean he is limited if active. I have put him in the “solid options” portion to address the risk that he holds on this short week. He has been a star for fantasy, carrying the entire Falcons offense all season. Although he holds WR/RB-one upside, I would play him at your own discretion if active.

UPDATE: Cordarrelle Patterson has officially been ruled out.


Flex Considerations for Fantasy Football Lineups

Mac Jones (QB, NE): Who would have thought that through 10 weeks we would be saying that Mac Jones is the best rookie QB this season? Jones has been very impressive and has demonstrated everything Belichick needs to win games in the NFL. It’s clear that what the Patriots need is a smart, methodical, conservative QB that will do enough to win and run the clock, ultimately relying on the defense to keep the game under control. Mac Jones has done this to a tee. Unfortunately, this has not correlated to fantasy success and puts him in the “flex considerations” this week. He is an efficient QB that deserves a look in two-quarterback leagues, however, he does not bring week-winning upside. 

Matt Ryan (QB, ATL): On the other side of the ball, we have a veteran quarterback coming off one of the worst performances in his career. Right when his career seemed to be revitalized after Week Four this season, Ryan had a brutal performance in Week 10. Ryan led the charge to a 40 point defeat by the Cowboys last week, completing 43% of his passes, throwing two interceptions and a fumble. Thankfully, a veteran like Ryan will want to rebound at home in a matchup that still brings nightmares to Falcons’ fans. Ryan is a risky play in this tough matchup, however, he should have enough yards to be a QB-two this week. Plus, unlike Mac Jones, we know Ryan has a week-winning ceiling, making him my prefered play between the two.

Hunter Henry (TE, NE): Recommending a player who has only had more than three catches four times this year is terrifying. However, in the current TE landscape, regardless of how you get your production, if you’re the TE3 this season, you’re in play. This is exactly what Hunter Henry is. Scoring seven touchdowns over his last seven games, Henry needs to be played at the TE position. The Falcons are allowing a touchdown to the TE position in 40% of their games this season and nearly five receptions a game. Without Jonnu Smith, we have seen that Henry is the go-to goal-line option in the passing game. I would play Henry this week, and mentally prepare myself for the possibility of watching him score all his fantasy points on a single play this Thursday. 

Rhamondre Stevenson & Brandon Bolden (RB, NE): Even with Harris returning to the lineup, I believe both of these options can be looked at in your flex spot. Of the two, Bolden is the riskiest. Although correlated to Harris’ absence, Bolden has topped eight fantasy points in each of his last two games. Stevenson, on the other hand, is coming off a monster performance and will look to take all the rushing scraps that Harris will leave behind. Stevenson is clearly the better option of the two, but in this matchup both could be worth a look for desperate fantasy managers.


Consider Sitting for Fantasy Football Lineups

All Depth Receivers: It only seemed right to group Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Russell Gage, Tajae Sharpe, and Olamide Zaccheaus together. All of these receivers have been frustratingly inconsistent for fantasy purposes. Of the list, Bourne has to be my favorite option, as he had a touchdown last week and has four straight weeks with four targets. Outside of Bourne, you are taking a lottery pick on the rest. Zacchaeus had a 33% target share last week, while Gage followed his solid Week Nine performance with another zero fantasy point outing, and Sharpe and Agholor have both been consistently less than mediocre for fantasy. If you’re taking a shot on anyone, it has to be Bourne. I urge you before starting any of the others to remind yourself that you can’t win your week on Thursday, but you can certainly lose it.

Mike Davis & Wayne Gallman (RB, ATL): Despite having fantasy relevance in the past, neither of these backs have the ability to fill Cordarrelle Patterson’s RB10 shoes. With Patterson likely missing due to an ankle injury, it will be tempting to start one of these two. The Patriots run defense has been middle of the league this season, and Davis’ 3.3 yards per carry does not inspire confidence. Of the two, Davis has the most fantasy appeal since he has been somewhat involved in the passing game and is the only other RB to score a TD for this team outside of Patterson. However, it will most likely be a touchdown or bust for either of these players in fantasy. I would try and stay away from both if I could. 


Despite trying to call a game that turned into one of the biggest upsets this season, we managed to go 1-1 in our picks last week. This week, I am very excited about this matchup as the odds haven’t seemed to catch up with how well the Patriots have played over the last few weeks. The Patriots are finally playing the Patriots’ football that led them to multiple Super Bowls. I am not saying that the Patriots are going to the promised land this year, but they are playing all-around good football. I think it will take more offensive and defensive power than Matt Ryan and A.J. Terrell to take down this Patriots team.  

Ellis’ Picks: Patriots -7.0 (6-4), Under 47.5 (8-2)

Career record: Spread (15-13), Over/Under (17-11)

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