Tonight’s Thursday night matchup is a rivalry game with playoff implications and major shootout potential. In short, there isn’t much more we can ask for this week. After the offense failed in last Sunday’s big test, the Falcons have another tough one against a much improved Saints defense. Given the circumstances, this game has the potential for fireworks and should come to the wire.
This isn’t the Saints offense we’ve become accustomed to over the past decade or so. Drew Brees is still playing at a very high level, but the ground game is what’s really making the difference. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are having Pro Bowl caliber years and do a great job complementing the other’s skills. Despite a toe injury, Ingram is supposed to play tonight and should see 15 to 20 touches if he isn’t limited. Kamara in a deep rookie running back class has been a revelation. His ability to elude, run past or run through defenders isn’t seen everyday and we could be looking at a historic rookie year. The Falcons of late have been able to limit the run, but both of these backs (particularly Kamara) can contribute out of the backfield. With that, let it be known in 2017 no team has allowed more receptions to opposing running backs than the Falcons.
Michael Thomas is clearly Brees’ top option when he throws the ball and should see a favorable matchup tonight. Thomas lines up all over the field and is not impacted as much by Desmond Trufant (who stays on the left side) returning. Thomas should see eight to ten targets in this one and should be locked in all fantasy lineups. Ted Ginn and Brandon Coleman figure to see a handful of targets, but both are “boom-or-bust” options in terms of fantasy. Willie Snead was a popular preseason fantasy pick (and was touted by yours truly), but due to an early season suspension and injury has been unable to get things going. Josh Hill at tight end has a matchup that seems favorable, but hasn’t seen enough volume to trust.
Matt Ryan hasn’t had the same individual or team success in 2017, but a win this week would go a long way. Despite not reaching the MVP level numbers in a game this season, Ryan makes for a solid fantasy starter in this one. Devonta Freeman returned last Sunday from a concussion, but despite being more efficient only saw two more touches than Tevin Coleman. Freeman did play more snaps, so there’s no telling if the lack of attempts was to be cautious or just due to game flow. The Saints of late have been generous against running backs allowing them to have success through the air and on the ground. Assuming Freeman sees 15 plus touches, he should be locked in all lineups, while Coleman makes for a very intriguing flex play.
Julio Jones only had two receptions this past Sunday, but even against Marshon Lattimore who has been fantastic as a rookie, look for Jones to bounce back. Lattimore is returning from an ankle injury, so at less than 100 percent it only makes sense to target someone with Jones’ talents frequently. Mohamed Sanu also has what could be a rewarding matchup as the Saints have struggled covering the slot where Sanu runs the majority of his routes. You can safely play Sanu as a third receiver or flex option in all league’s tonight. Austin Hooper has been utilized more in his second year, but for fantasy purposes this game is a bad draw. The Saints have been one of the stingiest defenses against tight ends, and Hooper can be touchdown dependent as is.
In what should be a high scoring game, I’m siding with the team that I feel has the better chance of controlling the tempo. That would be the Saints, who could grind out wins with the run or with Brees through the air if you sell out to stop Ingram and Kamara. My prediction is Saints 28 Falcons (-2.5) 24.