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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 12 NO at ATL (THU) DEN at NE NYJ at BAL TEN at OAK
CHI at STL IND at ARI PIT at CLE SF at WAS (MON)
CAR at MIA JAC at HOU SD at KC On Bye:
*UPDATED DAL at NYG MIN at GB TB at DET BUF, CIN, PHI, SEA

Prediction: NO 27, ATL 13 (Line: NO by 7.5)

Players of Interest: Antone Smith

Update: Darren Sproles is inactive tonight.

This Thursday game is probably one that only fantasy football and Saints fans are going to like. This is the rematch of the season opener that the Saints won 23-17 at home which is pretty remarkable considering where both teams are at now. The Saints are only 2-2 in road games and the Falcons are 2-3 in Atlanta.

1 ATL 23-17 10 DAL 49-17
2 @TB 16-14 11 SF 23-20
3 ARI 31-7 12 @ATL -
4 MIA 38-17 13 @SEA -
5 @CHI 26-18 14 CAR -
6 @NE 27-30 15 @STL -
7 BYE WEEK 16 @CAR -
8 BUF 35-17 17 TB -
9 @NYJ 20-26 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NO @ ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 320,3
RB Mark Ingram 30 1-10
RB Pierre Thomas 60 5-30
WR Marques Colston 6-100,1
WR Kenny Stills 3-60,1
TE Jimmy Graham 5-60,1

Pregame Notes: The Saints pulled out the win over the 49ers in a game that was maybe closer than it should have been. The Saints have a one game lead over the Panthers and still have both meetings left to play along with a trip to Seattle in week 13. The Saints have a brutal schedule at least in fantasy terms and it will end up almost certainly that the Panthers and Saints will be playing for the #2 seed vs. a wild card spot. A game like this one should be an easier win that cannot be overlooked.

QUARTERBACKS: Drew Brees comes off his worst game of the year but that was still 305 passing yards and one touchdown. He's a lock for a top spot in weekly rankings and the only downside so far is that on the road he has never thrown more than two touchdowns. An improved rushing game lately won't make that any more likely to change though for this week the Falcons can be remarkably generous.

Brees threw for 357 yards and two scores in the previous meeting.

RUNNING BACKS: All combined the Saints have the top fantasy backfield but that used four different players to get there. Darren Sproles is still underperforming with only 35 yards last week and he's been a marginal play in each of the last six weeks other than when the Cowboys showed up. Mark Ingram blew up in that game as well for 145 yards and a score but then settled back to only 25 yards on six runs versus the 49ers. Pierre Thomas remains the only consistently good back on the roster but even he had to watch Jed Collins steal the short rushing touchdown last Sunday.

In the opener against the Falcons, Sproles turned in 110 total yards but has fallen pretty far since then. Ingram had his standard 11 yards on nine carries and Thomas came through with 59 total yards. None of these backs score much and they've combined for six receiving touchdowns over only five rushing scores.

Sproles hurt his ankle last week but early reports are that he should be okay to play this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS: No changes here for a unit that is surprisingly unproductive in most games. Lance Moore topped three catches in a game only once and Robert Meachem either catches his one long pass or ends up with a single meaningless catch if even that. Kenny Stills tends to show up only when facing a really weak secondary that allows him to get deep. Marques Colston is better in recent games with 80+ yards but he's only scored once since the season opener when he had five catches for 68 yards against the Falcons. Stills turned in 86 yards on only two catches in that meeting.

TIGHT ENDS: Jimmy Graham is still not 100% over his foot injury by any means but he is managing the pain and playing more snaps each week. Graham only managed games of 59 yards against the Cowboys and then 41 yards versus the 49ers. Graham started the year with a catch and only 45 yards on four catches versus the Falcons.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: What's not to love about playing the Falcons in 2013? They've never allowed any quarterback fewer than two touchdowns and healthy yardage if they want. Running backs have been less successful scoring in Atlanta and the workload gets split into three anyway. While Brees and Graham are every week starts, the rest of the offense has at least potential value. Thomas is a good start as is Colston. The wideouts in particular are doing well against the Falcons which could even involve Stills since he does more when the secondary is as bad as the Falcons are.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 2 1 22 1 5 21
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 24 23 29 15 32 14

 

1 @NO 17-23 10 SEA 10-33
2 STL 31-24 11 @TB 28-41
3 @MIA 23-27 12 NO -
4 NE 23-30 13 @BUF -
5 NYJ 28-30 14 @GB -
6 BYE WEEK 15 WAS -
7 TB 31-23 16 @SF -
8 @ARI 13-27 17 CAR -
9 @CAR 10-34 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
ATL vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan 260,1
RB Steven Jackson 40 2-10
RB Jacquizz Rodgers 20 4-30
WR Harry Douglas 7-90,1
WR Roddy White 4-40
TE Tony Gonzalez 5-50
PK Matt Bryant 2 FG 1 XP

Pregame Notes: The Falcons are only getting worse. Their last four games were lost by at least 14 points each and that includes getting spanked by the Buccaneers which is a sign you really own the cellar. The season is still serving up very good opponents and the only realistic chance the Falcons have of winning again - short of a legendary trap game - will be when the Redskins visit in week 15.

QUARTERBACKS: Matt Ryan continues to score in each game this season though recently that has been almost exclusively one touchdown affairs. There is little support from the rushing offense and thanks to the defense, he's constantly facing poor field position and too few plays to manage a decent level of production. Ryan passed for 304 yards and two scores in the season opener against the Saints but hasn't produced anything close to that in a month.

RUNNING BACKS: Somehow the return of Steven Jackson ruined all value from Jacquizz Rodgers without actually making Jackson of any merit. He still has just one touchdown on the year (as a receiver no less) and he comes off one of his best games when he only gained 41 yards on 11 runs. Jackson's only decent performance was the season opener when he ran for 77 yards on 11 carries and added 45 yards on five catches. His season and career has been in free fall since that game.

The only minor development here is that Antone Smith is a fourth-year player for the Falcons who only had two carries in his career until Sunday when he ran two more times to gain 88 yards and his first touchdown. HC Mike Smith was impressed enough to say that he wants to get Smith more involved with the offense as a true sign of how bad it is in Atlanta. Look good for literally one play and a player becomes of instant interest. Smith was playing at the end of a blowout so his run was mostly meaningless.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Roddy White finally scored a touchdown though it came on his three catches for 36 yards last week in Tampa Bay. He has yet to gain more than 45 yards in any game. Harry Douglas was able to victimize the Buccaneers secondary for six receptions for 134 yards and one score. That makes three games over 100 yards in the last five weeks for Douglas though two were against the Buccaneers. Douglas turned in 93 yards on four catches in New Orleans this year while Julio Jones scored the other touchdown on his seven catches. The Falcons are getting almost nothing from any other wideouts beyond White and Douglas.

TIGHT ENDS: Tony Gonzalez plods along in his final season and scored only once in the last six games. He's declined since Jones left to the point were he's struggling to post more than 50 yards in any game. He opened the year with three receptions for 36 yards and a score in New Orleans.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: This is an interdivisional game so it carries a little more meaning than most for the Saints defense. They already are a top unit against the pass and have never allowed more than two passing scores in any game. The rushing defense has been the weaker link but the Falcons are not bringing much to the party anyway. Ryan, White, Douglas and Gonzalez are all nothing more than moderate plays at best with a risk for a bad game.

WHAT TO WATCH: Antone Smith is not a new player by any means in his fourth season with the Falcons but he looked good on his two plays and now the coaching staff want to see more since they already know nothing is happening with Jackson and Rodgers. When all else fails - and it truly has - try something new. It is unlikely they have been sitting on a gem for four years.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 13 17 18 9 26 30
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 3 15 8 5 4 4

WEEK 12 NO at ATL (THU) DEN at NE NYJ at BAL TEN at OAK
CHI at STL IND at ARI PIT at CLE SF at WAS (MON)
CAR at MIA JAC at HOU SD at KC On Bye:
*UPDATED DAL at NYG MIN at GB TB at DET BUF, CIN, PHI, SEA


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