Welcome to week 14 in the NFL, which for many fantasy leagues is week-one of the playoffs. Some teams scorched their way to a week one bye, while others squeaked in with a sub-par record and just enough of a stud to be dangerous. Either way, if your team has made it this far, congratulations. For those teams that didn’t make the cut, this doesn’t mean that fantasy football is over. For many it simply means a change of format with many players moving to more focus on DFS games.
A danger for any fantasy team that has made it this far is over-thinking every roster decision. Roster management remains a critical part of the fantasy playoffs whether that be deciding who starts or deciding who to spend the rest of your FAAB on.
Let’s get into this week’s matchup and break down the Saints versus the Falcons and determine who starts and who sits.
Fantasy Focus Week 14 Thursday Night Football: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints (9-3)
Drew Brees – Quarterback
Drew Brees has not had the high profile numbers that fantasy owners have grown accustomed to. That being said, he’s certainly not having a bad season. His accuracy is up, with only three games all season below 70 percent completion percentage. He’s got 17 touchdowns to only five interceptions and is on pace for over 4,400 yards.
The Atlanta Falcons give up the 17th most points to the quarterback position. Brees, who’s thrown for multiple touchdowns in six games this season, is a trustworthy start this week in all formats.
Mark Ingram – Running Back
Mark Ingram has been a solid running back for fantasy owners this season. Through 12 games he’s logged 922 yards and nine touchdowns.
Ingram’s health should be monitored as he was listed a limited participant in Monday’s practice then held out for Tuesday’s. While it’s possible that the Saints are just managing his reps for a short week, check injury reports prior to Thursday night’s game. Atlanta allows the 16th most fantasy points to the running back position. If Ingram is healthy he’s an RB1 and should be started in all formats.
Alvin Kamara – Running Back
Alvin Kamara is making sure that people are talking about him. His name and offensive-rookie-of-the-year candidate keep ending up in the same sentence. The electric rookie has been effective both as a rusher and as a pass catcher. He’s logged 606 yards rushing and 614 through the air with a total of 11 touchdowns. He’s dangerous to score every time he touches the ball.
If Ingram can’t suit up, or is limited for Thursday night, Kamara steps into an RB1 role. Either way, Kamara should be started in any format.
Michael Thomas – Wide Receiver
Michael Thomas is having a good year as far as receptions. He’s currently sixth in the NFL with 75 catches and 10th in yards with 875. Where he’s struggled this season is touchdowns with only three on the year. In the 2016 season Thomas finished with nine scores, so there’s some disappointment with the lack of red zone targets this season. The difference seems to be the rejuvenation and the productivity of the running backs, who have a combined total of 20 touchdowns on the season.
Atlanta has been pretty stingy against receivers, allowing the fifth fewest fantasy points to the position. Thomas maintains his WR1 status, especially in PPR leagues. He is a start in all formats.
Ted Ginn Jr. – Wide Receiver
Ted Ginn Jr., in his first year with the Saints, provided a fairly safe fantasy floor for owners. Receivers typically take a full season to acclimate to a new offense and quarterback. Ginn has settled in quickly and is averaging 55.6 yards per contest with three scores.
Ginn may not have a high ceiling, but provides a safe floor for the fantasy playoffs as he’s averaging 4.75 targets-per-game. He’s in the WR4 conversation, with WR3 appeal in PPR formats.
Saints to sit:
Willie Snead has been a non-factor in the passing game, and should remain on the bench, or preferably the waiver wire. Brandon Coleman has been more involved than Snead, but with four catches total in the last four games, he’s not fantasy relevant to start the playoffs. Coby Fleener suffered his fifth career concussion and has been placed on injured reserve.
Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
Matt Ryan – Quarterback
Matt Ryan had the best fantasy season of his career in 2016. A year later and he’s pretty clear he’s regressed to the mean a bit. He’s over 3,000 yards with 16 touchdowns to eight interceptions. That stat-line is closer to what Matty Ice has been through most of his career.
New Orleans defense has improved but is still giving up the 13th most fantasy points to the quarterback position. Ryan is a solid start but offers a limited ceiling. He hasn’t thrown for more than two touchdowns in any contest this season and has only been over 300 yards passing three times. He’s a better start in two quarterback or leagues that offer a super-flex position.
Devonta Freeman – Running Back
Devonta Freeman missed two games recently to concussion. Upon his return he rumbled for 74 yards on 12 carries. He was still ceding carries to Tevin Coleman, but the share in the workload should tip more in Freeman’s favor moving forward.
In a plus matchup, Freeman is a back-end RB1 for Thursday night.
Tevin Coleman – Running Back
Tevin Coleman had his most productive game while Freeman was out with a concussion. Otherwise Coleman has served as a top end change-of-pace back, and pass catching option.
Coleman probably won’t see as many carries with Freeman appearing to be back to form, but maintains a fantasy viable role as the pass catching back. Consider him a flex-play for standard scoring formats and an RB3 for PPR leagues.
Julio Jones – Wide Receiver
Julio Jones is currently third in the league in yards with 1,063 while being ninth in total receptions. What’s baffling is how Ryan seems to forget about Julio when they get to the red zone. Julio has only three touchdowns on the season. Two of those touchdowns came in the same game where he went nuclear for 253 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s worth noting that one of those touchdowns was thrown by Mohamed Sanu.
Jones is a WR1 for this matchup. While his upside is capped by his Harry Potter style invisibility cloak that prevents Ryan from seeing him in the red zone, he’s still a must start.
Mohamed Sanu – Wide Receiver
Mohamed Sanu led the Falcons in yards last week where Matt Ryan struggled to get the offense moving. He’s been a safe-floor fantasy option this season. He’s caught four touchdowns on the season, and has 495 yards.
Sanu is a safe start in the WR3 conversation with WR2 upside for this week’s matchup.
Austin Hooper – Tight End
Austin Hooper should be more a play-maker in a volume offense. He’s a talented pass-catcher who just isn’t part of the game-plan. Hooper hasn’t topped 50 yards since a busted coverage for a big play in week one.