Week 9 Game Hub: ATL-NO

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Week 9 Game Hub: ATL-NO

Atlanta Falcons (3-4, 3-4 ATS) at New Orleans Saints (5-2, 4-3), 1 p.m.

Brolley’s Falcons Stats and Trends

  • The Falcons and Saints have played under the total in five straight games in this series.

  • Atlanta mustered a pathetic 10 points and 213 total yards on just 50 plays.

  • Matt Ryan busted in his first game without Calvin Ridley in the lineup, completing 20/27 passes for 146 yards (5.4 YPA), one TD, and one INT in a tough matchup against the Panthers. He gets another tough matchup against the Saints this week, who are giving up the fifth-fewest FPG (17.1) to QBs. They’ve given up 27+ FP to Tom Brady and Daniel Jones and fewer than 20 FP in their other five games.

  • Kyle Pitts struggled with Ridley out of the lineup in Week 8, finishing with just 2/13 receiving on six targets after posting a combined 16/282/1 receiving for 50.2 FP in his previous two games. He saw extra attention from the Panthers last week, including some snaps against Stephon Gilmore, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Marshon Lattimore lined up against him on the perimeter — Pitts ran 49% of his routes out wide last week. This is a tough matchup when he lines up inside, as well, as the Saints haven’t allowed an individual TE to reach double-digit FP.

  • It’s tough to trust any of these receivers behind Pitts in a tougher matchup against the Saints. Russell Gage and Tajae Sharpe saw a position-best 36 snaps (68% share) in Week 8 without Ridley in the lineup, but Gage didn’t see a single target while Sharpe led this anemic passing attack with 5/58 receiving on six targets. Hayden Hurst also ran 20 routes but he managed just 2/4 receiving on three targets.

  • Cordarrelle Patterson came through with 18.2 FP last week even with the Falcons’ offense imploding. He saw 14+ touches for the third straight game since Ridley initially sat out in Week 5, and his snap share has been at 59% or better in each of those contests. The Saints limited Leonard Fournette to 3/17 receiving last week but Giovani Bernard did score a seven-yard touchdown on his only target.

  • Mike Davis got back to double-digit touches last week with 9/44 rushing and 5/22 receiving on six targets against the Panthers. He’s floated between 60-67% of the snaps in each of the last six weeks and he’s scored between 10.6-13.3 FP five times in that span. Davis is averaging just 3.4 YPC and the Saints are giving up just 3.0 YPC so Davis needs to stay active as a receiver this week.

Brolley’s Saints Stats and Trends

  • The Saints have won and covered in three straight games in this series and in six of the last seven games in this series.

  • New Orleans is 1-4 ATS in its last five games as a favorite.

  • Jameis Winston suffered a torn ACL in Week 8 against the Buccaneers. Trevor Siemian guided the Saints home with 159/1 passing in their victory over the Buccaneers last week, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they stick with some sort of two-QB platoon with Siemian and Taysom Hill either. Taysom showed last season that he has top-12 potential when he served as the team’s starter for four games. The Saints posted a 3-1 record in Hill’s starts and he averaged 7.3 YPA and he completed 72% of his passes. He also added 209/4 rushing and his production on the ground propelled him to a QB7 finish in Weeks 11-14 with 22.3 FPG.

  • We learned this week that Michael Thomas will not be returning to the Saints this season after another setback with his injured ankle. This receiving corps continues to be a complete mess with no receiver reaching 40+ yards last week. Marquez Callaway (31) and Adam Trautman (30) ran the most routes, Deonte Harris saw the most targets (7), Tre’Quan Smith scored the lone touchdown, and Kevin White led Saints in receiving yards (38). YIKES!

  • Alvin Kamara saw a season-low 67% of the snaps in his first game with Mark Ingram back in the mix, but he still posted 22/76/1 scrimmage against a tough Buccaneers’ front seven. Ingram managed 6/27 rushing and 2/25 receiving on 29% of the snaps in his first game back. Kamara managed just 10/51 receiving on 15 targets in four games with Hill last season, but Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were in the mix at that point. They also had some funky gamescripts in that four-game span, including a game where the Broncos started a WR (Kendall Hinton) at quarterback. The bigger concern for Kamara moving forward could be his role at the goal line with Hill and Ingram back in the mix. Hill actually started both games against the Falcons last season, and Kamara produced a combined 28/133/2 rushing and 2/9 receiving on 4 targets in those matchups.

Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies

Falcons

Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.2 (10th)

Plays per game: 67.6 (14th)

Pass: 64.8% (9th) | Run: 35.2% (24th)

Saints

Pace: 28.4 (21st)

Plays per game: 63.3 (28th)

Pass: 49.9% (32nd) | Run: 50.1% (1st)

Pace Points

With Jameis Winston out for the year, the Saints are going to turn to either Taysom Hill or Trevor Siemian, though Siemian will get the nod this week. This Saints team will remain extremely run-heavy whether it’s Hill or Siemian under center. Through eight weeks, New Orleans is the sixth-most run-heavy squad in neutral situations (game within a score in 1st-3rd quarters), they are the most run-heavy offense when trailing, and second-most when leading.

After averaging 40.7 pass attempts across his six previous games, Matt Ryan plummeted to just 27 passes in Week 8 as the Falcons went way more balanced with their play-calling. It didn’t work! The Falcons went 51% pass | 49% run on early-downs last week and their balance cost them a winnable game. Atlanta running the ball more often than usual left Ryan in a bunch of third-down situations, of which they converted just 3-of-10. Not great. The Falcons should definitely get back to their pass-heavy ways this week, though. New Orleans has been impossible to run against as opposing RBs are averaging league-lows in YPC (3.14) and first downs per carry (16.4%) against them. Saints’ opponents have thrown over 38 pass attempts against them in five of their last 6 games with the only QB failing to do so being Geno Smith in Week 7.

Huber’s Key Matchup Notes

NOTE: Each week, Huber’s Key Matchup Notes in the Fantasy Points Game Hubs are little snippets from Wes Huber’s industry-best, comprehensive Advanced Matchups bible. A DFS-slanted article typically available to only our Premium Subscribers, we are making this week’s edition FREE to coincide with our midseason price drop, with rates reduced by 50%. There is still plenty of time to get on board!

As expected, the Saints unleashed Bradley Roby in Week 8 against Tampa Bay. He limited Chris Godwin to a 1/20/0 line. Good thing Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was around for Godwin to plaster with 5/106/1 of his production. With Marshon Lattimore limiting Mike Evans to 2/48/1, the Saints proved their truly elite defense is more than capable of impacting the playoffs without a dominant offense. On the one hand, Matt Ryan could take advantage of that emotional victory to put something on the board under their noses. On the other hand, the Saints completely ghost the Falcons like they did to the Packers in Week 1.

A return to limited practices is promising for Taysom Hill, but does not indicate he’s managed to clear the concussion protocol. If Trevor Siemian is tasked with leading the team, it may actually be a boon to the already soaring value of Alvin Kamara. Siemian’s last significant action came back in 2017 with Denver, so I have nothing on him related to his history of coverage success. With the announcement that Michael Thomas will miss the rest of the season, it’s officially determined that New Orleans will fail to strike fear from their opponents upon setting their sights on their wideouts.

The best of the bunch, Deonte Harris, appears to have evaded consideration as such from his own coaching staff. Atlanta is fielding the highest rate of Cover 2, a full 43% higher than the next highest rate (Houston). If his numbers qualified, Harris would lead all WRs with his 0.64 FP/Rt against two-high. On 14% of career routes vs. Cover 2, Harris has tracked down 25% of his yardage. On 39 career routes across from a Cover 2, Marquez Callaway has one reception.

Dolan’s Vantage Points

With Calvin Ridley out indefinitely as he focuses on his mental health, the Falcons are an extremely limited team in terms of personnel, and the added attention for TE Kyle Pitts could mean his expected target increase is offset by the defense’s focus on him.

The increased target share surely didn’t translate last Sunday against the Panthers, as Pitts posted just 2/13 receiving on 6 targets, but rest assured the production will come. Just keep in mind that Pitts himself said he was a focus of added attention from the Panthers’ defense, which clearly makes sense — Carolina debuted new CB Stephon Gilmore, and while he played limited snaps, Gilmore’s major focus was on Pitts in Week 8. Pitts’ matchups will get easier, and he’ll learn from his experiences. Pitts is going to be peppered with targets moving forward.

In the two games that Ridley has missed, Pitts has almost strictly been used as a wide receiver. He's not running traditional TE routes, as 86% of his snaps have come split out wide or in the slot in Weeks 5 and 8. Given that, don’t be stunned if Pitts is a big-time focus for CB Marshon Lattimore this week.

It’s likely hard to trust Russell Gage this week after he went untargeted in Ridley’s absence in Week 8, and he’s now dealing with a groin injury. Perhaps the added focus on Pitts will make Gage more viable this week, and the Saints have at least given up the 4th-most FPG to WRs. Gage doesn’t have a gameday designation.

While Mike Davis was back in the realm of the moderately fantasy relevant in Week 8, Cordarrelle Patterson continues to be the guy to start in this backfield.

Here’s Graham from the Week 9 Stat-Pack:

  • Falcons’ routes run in Week 8 with Calvin Ridley (mental rest) out: Pitts (33), Gage (23), Sharpe (23), Hurst (20), Patterson (18), Davis (15), and Zaccheaus (13).

  • Patterson ran 10 of his routes split out as a wide receiver and lined up in the backfield on the other eight.

  • D’Andre Swift is averaging 88 scrimmage yards per game, which is 14th-most among RBs… C-Patt is averaging 86.

The big question for the Saints this week is if Taysom Hill or Trevor Siemian will start at QB for the rest of the season — it will be Siemian this week, at least, as Hill works his way back from his concussion. Some Saints beat writers believe that with WR Michael Thomas out for the season officially, the best course of action is to play both guys.

That does, of course, make Hill a little less appealing for fantasy… unless he gets dual eligibility. Here’s Scott Barrett from Week 9 Start/Sit on Taysom if he gets the start at QB at some point:

“Hill returned to practice on Wednesday, and is expected to clear the concussion protocol. Assuming he’s named the starting QB for Week 9 (which, admittedly, is not a guarantee), I’d feel comfortable starting him this week as a mid- to low-end QB1.

Hill averaged 21.6 fantasy points per start last season (11.2 rushing FPG), and 0.65 fantasy points per dropback over that span. For perspective, in 2019, only one QB averaged more than 21.6 fantasy points per start and only two QBs averaged more than 0.65 fantasy points per dropback. In four starts, he finished as the QB3, QB13, QB8, and QB11.

Of course, he won’t have Michael Thomas this year (who accounted for 37% of his total passing yards), but this week’s matchup is very favorable. Atlanta ranks 5th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+3.2), 4th-worst in opposing passer rating (105.3), and worst in pressure rate (24%). And minus QB kneels, the Falcons have allowed four different QBs (Sam Darnold, Jalen Hurts, Taylor Heinicke, and Daniel Jones) to reach 40 rushing yards against them.”

Taysom starting at QB at some point would raise the Saints’ useful fantasy players from one — Alvin Kamara — to two. By the way, Kamara doesn’t care if Mark Ingram’s return scares you and your fantasy team.

My take? Even with Siemian starting this week, I wouldn’t drop Taysom if I’m QB-needy. He could very well take the job if Siemian struggles.

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