Atlanta Falcons (6-7, 6-7 ATS) at San Francisco 49ers (7-6, 6-7), 4:05 p.m.
Brolley’s Falcons Stats and Trends
Atlanta is 5-1 ATS in its last six road games
The Falcons are 4-1 toward unders in their last five games.
Cordarrelle Patterson is still Atlanta’s most effective offensive player, but his usage in the last three weeks since missing Week 11 with an ankle injury leaves a lot to be desired. He’s finished with fewer than 50% of the snaps in each of those contests, and he’s posted his two worst full-game fantasy performances in the last two weeks since becoming a big part of Atlanta’s offense in Week 2. He still posted 16/58/1 rushing and 2/1 receiving on five targets for 13.9 FP against the Panthers in Week 14, but Mike Davis actually out-produced him in snap share (57%) and scrimmage yards (16/86). Patterson also didn’t see a single fourth-quarter snap, which HC Arthur Smith said was by design to give Patterson a breather with the Falcons nursing a two-score lead for much of the fourth quarter. Davis has a faint fantasy pulse with 13+ FP in two consecutive games after falling below eight FP in five of his last six games. The 49ers are giving up just 3.9 YPC but they’re allowing the 14th-most FPG (24.1) to RBs this season.
Smith actually rotated his skill players more across the board with no player registering more than 75% of the snaps last week. Kyle Pitts most notably played fewer snaps than Hayden Hurst (62% to 54%) even with Hurst returning from an extended absence off of an injury. Pitts still had his best fantasy performance since Week 7 with 5/61 receiving on six targets. Last week, C.J. Uzomah (4/56 receiving) became the first TE to post more than 38 receiving yards against them since T.J. Hockenson did it in the season opener.
Russell Gage has 4+ catches in four straight games and he’s topped 60+ yards in three consecutive contests after posting 4/64 receiving on six targets against the Panthers last week. Tyler Boyd posted 4/55 receiving on five targets in this matchup last week, and Tyler Lockett managed 7/68/1 in Week 13.
Matt Ryan has scored 13+ FP and he’s reached 2+ TD passes just once in his last seven games since Calvin Ridley left the team. Ryan completed 19/28 passes for 190 yards (6.8 YPA) and one TD in their victory over the Panthers in Week 14. He’ll go against the coach who led him to his NFL MVP award in 2016, and Kyle Shanahan’s defense is giving up the sixth-fewest passing yards per game (228.4) to QBs.
Brolley’s 49ers Stats and Trends
San Francisco is 4-1 ATS in its last five games.
The 49ers are 5-2 toward overs in their last seven home games.
Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown for two TDs in five of his last six games since this passing game has returned to full strength after doing it just once in his first six games. He attempted a season-high 41 passes in an overtime victory against the Bengals last week, completing 27/41 passes for 296 yards (7.2 YPA) and two TDs for 20.1 FP. The Falcons are giving up the second-most FPG (21.4) to QBs this season.
George Kittle became the first tight end in NFL history to post 150+ yards and 1+ TDs in consecutive games. He’s one of a handful of tight ends who can take an entire offense on his shoulders and lead a group to a victory. He came up with one big play after another late in San Francisco’s 26-23 overtime victory over the Bengals, and he’s posted a ridiculous 22/332/3 receiving on 27 targets over his last two games. Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate combined for three TD receptions against the Falcons in Week 13.
Deebo Samuel has tallied just one catch in each of his last three games with just a 9% target share since Week 11 after opening the season with 54 catches and a ridiculous 35% target share through his first nine games of the season. He’s bailed himself out with at least one rushing touchdown in four straight games, and he’s totaled 27/218/5 rushing in that span. The Falcons are giving up the fourth-most FPG (38.7) to WRs if they decide to get involved as a receiver again.
Brandon Aiyuk has reached double-digit FP in five of his last seven games after seeing a season-high 11 targets last week, which he turned into 6/62/1 receiving. He’s sporting a 29% target share over the last four weeks with Deebo becoming a non-factor in the passing game, at least for the time being. D.J. Moore posted 6/84 receiving in this matchup last week, and the Falcons are giving up the fourth-most receiving TDs per game (1.2) to WRs this season.
Elijah Mitchell will be in a race to play last week after missing Week 13 with a concussion and a knee injury. Mitchell had 22+ carries in each of his last three games and he reached 17+ FP and 3+ catches in his last two contests. Jeff Wilson would be the team’s lead runner again if Mitchell is unable to play, and he’s been a non-factor for fantasy in two spot starts in Week 11 (20/58 scrimmage) and in Week 14 (13/56 rushing). The Falcons are giving up a solid 4.0 YPC to RBs, and backup RB Chuba Hubbard managed just 10/33/1 rushing against them last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.8 (21st)
Plays per game: 58.4 (31st)
Pass: 60.7% (17th) | Run: 39.3% (16th)
Pace: 30.2 (28th)
Plays per game: 60.6 (23rd)
Pass: 53.9% (29th) | Run: 46.1% (4th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Falcons-49ers is the worst game of Week 15 from a combined pace / plays perspective between these two slow-paced attacks. Atlanta is really struggling to sustain offense – only Seattle is averaging fewer plays per game over the last eight weeks – and they’ve started to just run the ball way more to try and take some of the pressure off of Matt Ryan. The Falcons really miss Calvin Ridley and have just scrapped trying to throw the ball downfield without him. Over the last eight weeks, Ryan is averaging just 29.1 attempts and 205.1 yards per game. That’s a massive difference from just a year ago when Ryan was third in attempts (39.1 per game).
Meanwhile, the 49ers have found their groove here as of late and are averaging 27.7 points per game over the last eight weeks. That’s good enough for seventh-most in the NFL. While Jimmy Garoppolo has played well enough to keep his starting job as the 49ers push towards the NFC Wild Card, they aren’t winning games because of JimmyG. They’re doing it on the ground with a lethal run game that has been brought to further life by Deebo Samuel. Garoppolo has attempted 30 or fewer passes six times over the 49ers last 8 games with the two lone games above 30 passes being a blowout loss to the Cardinals in Week 9 and last week’s OT game vs. the Bengals.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The 49ers are featuring a pair of rookie CBs opposite struggling free agent Josh Norman. Nobody is going to confuse Russell Gage with a No. 1 wideout, but that doesn't alter the fact that it’s the role he’s filling for the Falcons. As sad as it may seem, with the status of Elijah Mitchell in doubt, sans pointing an obvious finger toward George Kittle or Deebo Samuel, Gage represents the top target of this game for fantasy.
If Mitchell doesn’t play, Deebo Samuel is going to sacrifice much of his receiving volume to take on around 40% of the backfield carries. It’s a scenario that will eliminate a superstud matchup across from A.J. Terrell. And taking on an RB role has prevented Samuel from reaching value the last three games.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
So how hard is this Atlanta offense to get a hold of for fantasy? Not only has QB Matt Ryan gone under 200 yards passing in five of his last seven games, he’s now operating in an offense that has gone into a full-on rotation.
His two best options in the passing game for much of the year have been TE Kyle Pitts — as underwhelming as Pitts has been for fantasy — and RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson. In Week 14, Pitts played a season-low 54% of the snaps… fewer snaps than TE Hayden Hurst, who was returning from IR. Meanwhile, Patterson has run fewer routes than Mike Davis over his last four games, and significantly so — 54 to Davis’ 71.
Pitts remains a mid-range TE1 because, well, there aren’t 12 TEs worth a damn for fantasy. Patterson is now an early-down grinder who is hard to sit because he scores a lot of TDs, while Davis is now back in FLEX consideration all of a sudden.
WR Russell Gage might be the most trustworthy player here in terms of role… but even he hasn’t cracked an 80% snap share since Week 9. Scott Barrett does like this draw for him, though. From Start/Sit:
“Gage was a popular add off the waiver wire a week ago, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Following an impressive performance in Week 12 (7 targets, 18.2 fantasy points), Gage exploded in Week 13 (12 targets, 24.0 fantasy points). But he wasn’t quite as productive last week, catching 4 of 6 targets for 64 yards. Though, in his defense, Carolina is a brutal matchup for slot WRs (where he runs 51% of his routes). And actually, the majority of the opponents he’s faced have been exceedingly stout against the slot. In fact, Gage might have had the toughest strength of schedule of any player in fantasy.
Only 3 of his 10 games have come against opponents who did not rank top-12 in FPG against slot WRs. In those games, he averages 7.0 targets and 16.1 FPG. Or, 8.3 targets and 18.1 FPG if you want to count Week 13 as a top-20 matchup. (Wes Huber would. Tampa Bay’s slot CB Sean Murphy-Bunting sat out of their Week 2 matchup, but was eviscerated by Gage in Week 13.)
And this week, Gage gets arguably his most favorable matchup yet. The 49ers rank 5th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (14.9), but they’re tough just about everywhere else. They rank 11th-best in FPG allowed to outside WRs (19.5) and 3rd-best in FPG allowed to opposing TEs (8.3). So, I’d expect another underwhelming performance from Kyle Pitts, and for more volume to be funneled in Gage’s direction. Or at least enough to support his low-end WR2 ranking.”
Speaking of WRs who have seemingly converted to RB, the 49ers have one in Deebo Samuel. But for as good as Deebo has been at scoring rushing TDs — he has 5 over his last four games — it seems like an unsustainable fantasy pace given his lack of receiving work. He hasn’t caught more than 1 pass in game since Week 10. But his role actually hasn’t changed that much, as he’s running a large percentage of routes!
Graham thinks it has something to do with Elijah Mitchell (knee, concussion) being out. If you want to fire up Deebo with confidence, you want Mitchell back. Here’s Graham from Stat-Pack:
What is up with Deebo Samuel’s lack of targets?
Deebo’s uptick in usage as a running back has directly coincided with his downturn in receiving production. Deebo started the season with 8 or more targets in eight-straight games, but has since seen just 12 targets total across his last four contests.
Of course, Brandon Aiyuk getting out of the doghouse and George Kittle looking like a monster has something to do with Deebo’s lack of targets recently but it has nothing to do with usage. Deebo wasn’t limited at all in his return against the Bengals as he ran a route on 40 of the team’s 48 pass plays.
My theory is that HC Kyle Shanahan is going to continue to use Deebo as a running back first for as long as Eli Mitchell is out. Deebo got a season-high 8 carries in both of the games that Mitchell has missed recently (Week 11 vs. Jaguars / Week 14 vs. Bengals) but saw 4 targets in the first three quarters against the Vikings in Week 12 when Mitchell was playing before Deebo left in the fourth quarter with that groin injury.
Here’s Jake Tribbey from DFS Early Look with some more on Mitchell:
Elijah Mitchell seems to have maintained his receiving role, despite the return of JaMycal Hasty:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) December 6, 2021
*49/53 backfield snaps (92%)
*16/18 backfield routes ((89%)
*3/3 backfield targets
“In Week 13, Mitchell maintained bell cow status even with pass catching RB JaMycal Hasty back in the fold. Should Mitchell continue to earn 90% of backfield opportunities going forward, then we are looking at approximately 19.1 FPG, given this backfield has averaged 21.2 FPG this season.
The 49ers are 8.5-point favorites, suggesting quite favorable gamescript for their rushers, and Atlanta has been extremely vulnerable to opposing RBs this season. The Falcons rank 5th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+3.5) and 5th-worst in receiving FPG allowed (12.9) — an important note given Mitchell has commanded 90% of backfield targets and 89% of backfield routes over his last 2 games.”
At QB, 49er fans have been calling for Trey Lance, but Jimmy Garoppolo seems likely to hold onto the job for as long as the Niners are in playoff contention. Here’s Jake again, from Streamers on on Jimmy G:
“Since Week 8, Garoppolo has averaged 17.9 FPG, which would be good for QB12 over the full season. But what makes Garoppolo stand out this week is his matchup with Atlanta. The Falcons have given up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing QBs this season (+3.3). And they are giving up the 2nd-most passing FPG (18.2), 5th-most passing fantasy points per pass attempt (0.51), and the 3rd-highest passer rating to opposing QBs (103.2). Atlanta’s coverage unit has certainly struggled this season, as they rank 4th-worst in Football Outsiders pass defense DVOA (22.7%). Plus, San Francisco has an impressive implied team total of 27.25, the 5th-highest mark of the week.
So, really anyway we choose to look at this matchup, it’s an outstanding one for Garoppolo and the 49ers passing attack. He’s a high-end QB2 with solid upside in this stellar matchup.”