Last updated: November 26th at 8:30am ET
Team Totals: Saints 28, Falcons 21
The Saints visit Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz dome having scored 30-plus points in four of their last five games to face a Falcons defense Tampa Bay exposed as a pretender by pouring 35 on Dan Quinn’s club last week. Saints-Falcons boasts Thanksgiving’s highest total after Jameis Winston dumped Week 12’s overall QB4 result on Atlanta in this same spot. Seven of the last ten quarterbacks to face Quinn’s defense turned in top-12 fantasy scores, while Drew Brees has been a top-12 finisher in 4-of-5 non-injury-shortened starts. A high-floor play with lots of ceiling in this potential shootout, Brees’ biggest concern is the absence of LT Terron Armstead (ankle) with LG Andrus Peat (arm) already on the shelf. Brees was sacked just twice and took only four hits on 41 dropbacks against Carolina’s far-more-fierce pass rush last week, however, and Brees’ ability to get the ball out quickly can offset pass-protection breakdowns. … Alvin Kamara faces Atlanta with 18-plus touches in six of his last seven games and PPR-goldmine receiving lines of 7/72/0 > 8/50/0 > 10/47/0 > 9/48/0 in his last four. The Falcons have given up a running back receiving touchdown in three straight games, while Kamara’s positive-TD regression is inevitable with zero end-zone trips since Week 3. Entering 2019, Kamara scored 31 touchdowns in his first 31 career games. An eruption is forthcoming. … Latavius Murray is a touchdown-or-bust flex option against Atlanta. Murray’s snap rates are 40% or lower in three straight games with corresponding touch counts of 7 > 12 > 7. Murray is averaging 38.3 total yards per game since Kamara returned from injury.
Brees’ 2019 target distribution: Michael Thomas 60; Kamara 37; Jared Cook 25; Ted Ginn 22; Murray 20; Tre’Quan Smith and Josh Hill 9; Taysom Hill 8. … The NFL’s most-valuable non-quarterback – yes, he’s more real-life valuable than Christian McCaffrey – Thomas has drawn double-digit targets in 9-of-11 games and cleared 100 yards in five straight. Beginning with most recent, Thomas’ seven career stat lines against Atlanta are 13/152/0 > 4/38/0 > 10/129/0 > 4/66/0 > 10/117/1 > 10/156/1 > 7/71/1. He’s Week 13’s No. 1 receiver play across slates. … Cook has 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five straight games, re-earning every-week TE1 trust. He leads all NFL tight ends in Air Yards (207) over the last three weeks. … Ginn and Smith’s Week 12 participation was nearly identical – each ran exactly 30 routes – but Ginn out-targeted Smith 5 to 3, even as Smith scored a 13-yard touchdown on his first end-zone trip since Week 1. Wideouts continue to feast on Atlanta’s secondary, most notably Chris Godwin (7/184/2), Thomas (13/152/0), Tyler Lockett (6/100/0), and D.J. Moore (8/95/0) over the last month. Only the Giants and Bucs have given up more fantasy points per game to wide receivers. Even in a plus draw, Ginn and Smith are both low-volume, dart-throw WR4s best approached as Thanksgiving-only DFS-tournament plays. As Smith runs the most slot routes on the Saints, it’s perhaps noteworthy that Atlanta has allowed eight touchdowns on slot targets this year. … Saints Week 12 routes run: Thomas 41; Cook, Ginn, and Smith 30; Kamara 27; Murray 12; Hill 7. There aren’t any standout sleepers here.
Playing through an ankle injury in a badly-struggling Falcons offense that’s lost Mohamed Sanu (trade), Austin Hooper (knee), Devonta Freeman (foot), RG Chris Lindstrom (foot), and Ito Smith (neck), Matt Ryan has completed just 57.6% of his passes at 6.6 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and five turnovers over his last four games, while Ryan has faced pressure at the NFL’s fourth-highest rate (43%) since Atlanta’s Week 9 bye. This is problematic against the Saints, who rank top ten in both sacks (31) and QB hits (72) and have allowed just one top-ten QB1 finish since Week 3. Especially with Julio Jones now gutting out a sprained shoulder, New Orleans’ D/ST is squarely in play. … Freeman is practicing on a limited basis in hopes of giving it a go, but it may not matter much. The Falcons’ running game has been broken all year and now draws a Saints defensive front that’s stymied enemy backs for 191/681/4 (3.57 YPC) rushing and the NFL’s sixth-fewest receiving yards per game (33.5). Although rookie Qadree Ollison got more involved with nine touches and repeated goal-line carries in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay, Brian Hill remained the Falcons’ lead back with 12 touches on a 59% playing-time clip and would likely lead Atlanta’s committee were Freeman to sit again. Ollison would be a touchdown-or-bust flex option and Hill a low-floor flex with an anemic 65 scoreless yards to show for his 28 touches through two starts.
Ryan’s post-bye target distribution: Jones and Calvin Ridley 26; Russell Gage 19; Christian Blake 12; Hill 9; Jaeden Graham and Justin Hardy 4; Kenjon Barner 2; Ollison and Luke Stocker 1. … Julio’s shoulder injury combined with Marshon Lattimore’s (hamstring) similarly shaky health render Jones’ Week 13 matchup difficult to gauge. Julio’s stat lines against the Saints since Lattimore entered the league are a robust 11/147/0 > 5/96/0 > 7/149/0 > 5/98/0 > 3/79/0, while Lattimore seems at likelier risk of in-game aggravation considering the nature of his injury and position he plays. Still less than 100% and part of a struggling offense, I’m deeming Julio a boom-bust WR1. … Ridley’s three career receiving lines versus New Orleans are 3/28/0 > 8/93/1 > 7/146/3. With Julio hurting and Hooper and Sanu out of the picture, I like Ridley’s chances of finishing at the high end of that historical spectrum as a potential Thanksgiving DFS-slate breaker. Ridley is averaging 8.5 targets over his last four games. … Gage is a serious PPR-specific WR3 option coming off career highs in snaps (73%), routes run (56), targets (10), and receiving (8/76/0) versus Tampa Bay. The Saints have yielded at- or above-expectation stat lines to fellow slot WRs Tyler Lockett (11/154/1), Chris Godwin (7/125/2, 3/47/1), Cooper Kupp (5/120/0), Christian Kirk (8/79/0), Anthony Miller (5/64/0), and Kenny Stills (3/37/1). … Blake’s nine Week 12 targets were a mirage; six came in deep garbage time via Matt Schaub, and Blake turned the nine into only 16 yards. He was playing for injured Julio. … Stocker’s (back) absence would make Graham a more interesting punt by potentially elevating Graham into an every-down role. Stocker has played between 40% and 60% of Atlanta’s offensive snaps for the last month, while Graham set season highs in snaps (66%) and routes run (46) as Stocker left last week’s game early. Graham was targeted only twice but flashed big-play ability on a 53-yard seam ball against the Bucs, and his target competition is waning every week.
Score Prediction: Saints 35, Falcons 23