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The New Orleans Saints (9-2) head into week 13, looking to avenge their Week 10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (3-8). Following their loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Atlanta Falcons are officially ineligible to win the NFC South. With their playoff chances virtually destroyed, the Falcons are primarily playing for pride, and to determine whether or not Dan Quinn gets fired. With the Falcons already making staff changes earlier this month, Quinn’s hot seat is increasingly heating up. If Julio Jones and Austin Hooper are unavailable this week, life will be difficult for Quinn and the Falcons.
The Saints are primed to win their division and are playing to secure a bye week in the playoffs. The Saints are currently one game behind the San Francisco 49ers for a no.1 seed in the NFC and are vying with teams like the Packers and Vikings for control of the second seed. This game will be crucial for the Saints because it will be their only game against a team below .500 until week 17.
Date: Thursday, November 28, 2019
Time: 8:20 PM ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA
Atlanta Falcons: A. Hooper (MCL)-Questionable, K. Ishmael (Concussion)-Questionable, D. Freeman (Foot)-Questionable, J. Cominsky (Ankle)-Questionable, J. Jones (Shoulder)-Questionable, I. Smith (Concussion)-IR, J. Cyprien (Foot)-IR, M. Bosher (Groin)-IR, K. Neal (Achilles)-IR, R. Hageman (Undisclosed)-IR, C. Lindstrom (IR) foot, T. Calhoun (IR) undisclosed, R. Brown (IR) undisclosed, A. Gray (IR) undisclosed, M. Simms (IR) undisclosed, K. Benkert (IR) toe, M. Bennett (IR) ankle, J. Wilcox (IR) ACL, J. Langford (Q) undisclosed, S. Means (IR) Achilles
New Orleans Saints: M. Lattimore (Hamstring)-Questionable, A. Peat (Forearm)-Out, D. Harris (Hamstring)-Questionable, T. Armstead (Ankle)-Out, Z. Line (Knee)-Questionable, A. Carr (Ankle)-IR, K. Kirkwood (Hamstring)-IR, K. Elliss (Knee)-IR, A. Anzalone (Shoulder)-IR, C. Tom (Undisclosed)-IR, C. Jumper (Undisclosed)-IR, J. Martin (Shoulder/Labrum)-IR, G. Griffin (Undisclosed)-IR, S. Vereen (Undisclosed)-Questionable
New Orleans Saints Analysis
This season, Drew Brees has been phenomenal. The Saints signal-caller has an 11:4 TD: INT, a 106.6 passer rating, and has thrown for a 70%+ completion percentage in every game he’s entirely played in. The one negative to Brees’ game is his deep ball completion percentage is ranked 27th in the NFL, according to player profiler. This indicates that Brees’ arm strength is beginning to deteriorate.
The Saints running back committee has been very efficient this season. Despite missing two games this season, Alvin Kamara’s per-game stats are on par with his production in 2018. Kamara is currently averaging 105.2 scrimmage yards per game, which ranks 8th in the NFL. His backup, Latavius Murray, has also played well, particularly in the two outings in which Kamara was inactive. Murray leads all Saints players with five rushing touchdowns this season and has picked up 100+ rushing yards in the two games that Kamara didn’t suit up. Consequently, the Saints running backs look to be productive on Thanksgiving.
The Saints defense has excelled in most of their games this season. They are currently ranking fourth in terms of weighted defensive efficiency, according to football outsiders. Furthermore, the Saints are a balanced defense that ranks in the top ten for both rushing and passing defensive efficiency. However, the Saints secondary seems to struggle when Marshon Lattimore is inactive. After Lattimore injured his hamstring against the Falcons in week 11, the Saints secondary gave up 26 points to Atlanta. When Lattimore was unable to suit up in week 12, P.J. Williams and the rest of the Saints corners struggled to D.J. Moore. As a result, Moore hauled in six catches, gained126 yards, and caught two touchdowns. This indicates that the Saints are going to need to lean on Lattimore if Julio Jones is healthy for week 13.
Michael Thomas has been the Saints’ more reliable and productive player this season. The emerging wideout has asserted himself as a top-five WR, who currently leads the league in terms of receiving yardage. Moreover, Thomas has recorded 100+ receiving yards in every game since week 8 and ranks first in terms of contest catch rate (player profiler). Resultantly, Thomas has been a great safety blanket for both Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater and one of the best possession receivers in the league.
New Orleans Saints Depth Chart
Atlanta Falcons Analysis
Last Sunday, the Falcons defense was shredded by Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiving corps. Despite picking off two of Winston’s passes, the Falcons secondary struggled to contain Chris Godwin. As a result, Godwin erupted for seven catches, 184 yards, and two TDs. The Falcons secondary has been a bottom ten unit for the majority of the season, giving up 266.4 passing yards/game this season. They’re also surrendering the eighth highest explosive pass-play rate and seventh-most passing TDs in the NFL (sharp football stats).
Over the past three weeks, the Falcons front seven has improved drastically, with over 50% of their sacks coming since the start of November. Their sacks have mostly come from the trio of Grady Jarret, Adrian Clayborn, and Vic Beasley, who have a combined 13.5 sacks this season. Unfortunately, the Falcons pass rushers have had trouble being consistent this season, and have had multiple games without recording a sack. Therefore, it’s hard to predict whether the Falcons will have success pressuring Drew Brees.
This season, Matt Ryan has struggled immensely to be an effective game manager. The veteran signal-caller has already thrown more interceptions this season than he had in 2018 and has seen a significant decline in his annual passer rating. Despite the regression, Ryan has still played decently as a tier two QB who ranks above the middle of the pack in terms of QBR and Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. Nevertheless, Ryan’s noticeable inconsistency has been a significant reason why the Falcons failed to win the NFC South.
This week, the Falcons’ best two pass catchers are dealing with injuries. Both Julio Jones and Austin Hooper are suffering injuries that designate them as questionable for the Thanksgiving game. Julio Jones has been an integral member of the Falcons receiving corps for years and currently leads all Falcons players in terms of target share. Likewise, Hooper has had a tremendous season this year, and has the second-most targets, despite being out for two games. Hooper and Jones account for approximately 49% of the Falcons total target share and 44% of the Falcons total receiving yards. Therefore, the Falcons are going to need to depend on Calvin Ridley if they look to win this game.
Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart
Matt Ryan is a QB to avoid in week 13. With both of his leading receivers questionable and a poor rushing game, Ryan is going to have very little help against a daunting Saints defense. Moreover, Ryan hasn’t had a fantasy outing with 20+ points since week six, indicating that his ceiling isn’t that high for Thursday. The Saints defense is pretty tough against opposing quarterbacks, and they’ll look to be especially tough on Thanksgiving Day.
Calvin Ridley is an excellent WR2 option. In the two games that Austin Hooper has been injured, Ridley has put up 22+ fantasy points. When Hooper is unable to play, Ridley quickly sees his target share increase, which gives Ridley a higher likelihood to go off. Ridley’s inconsistency makes him a highly volatile player with a low floor, yet his high usage and target share give him a high ceiling as well.
Michael Thomas is a must-start every week, regardless of matchup. Thomas has been one of the most reliable, consistent, and productive fantasy players in the NFL and has scored 10+ fantasy points in every game this season. Moreover, Thomas has scored a TD and 10+ catches in three of his last four games. Michael Thomas is currently the league’s leading receiver, and presently has the league’s highest contested rating so look for him to be a WR1 for the rest of the season.
Alvin Kamara is a quality RB1 option this Thursday. Kamara is an extraordinarily productive and consistent fantasy option that has scored 10+ fantasy points in seven straight games. Even when the Saints have trouble rushing the ball, Kamara is a terrific receiving threat who receives a high number of receptions. The fact that he splits touches with Latavius Murray lowers his ceiling compared to other elite backs, but regardless, Kamara is a decent RB1/high RB2 option for the rest of the season.