It’s Week 14, and that means that it’s Round 1 of the fantasy playoffs in 2017. If you’re lucky, you’ve earned a first round bye and gotten an opportunity to sit this one out. If not, you’ll need to make savvy decisions this week to survive to Round 2. Luckily, this Thursday Night Football match-up should provide ample opportunities for fantasy production.
QB Matt Ryan
Ryan had a very mediocre game against the Vikings strong defense. That is likely to change this week against New Orleans—who haven’t been the dumpster fire they were in 2016, but are still exploitable. The Falcons will likely be aggressive in the passing game in an effort to get out to an early lead against the Saints, and Ryan should benefit from that. He’s not an elite QB1 option, but this match-up has the potential to be one of his better weeks.
RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman
The Saints’ defense has actually been among the worst at defending the run in 2017. They’re 29th in yards per carry allowed, and their rushing yardage allowed numbers only look average because they’ve gotten out to large leads early in games. Freeman and Coleman will be relied upon heavily to keep the Saints’ offense on the sidelines. Freeman could be a borderline RB1 this week, and Coleman should be in RB2/FLEX consideration.
WR Mohamed Sanu
I hope I don’t need to tell you to start Julio this week. Outside of Julio, though, Mohamed Sanu has proven himself a dependable option in PPR leagues. He’s Ryan’s second favorite target in in the passing game and has seen his fair share of looks in the red zone. As a high-floor WR3/FLEX play, Sanu is a good option if you need safe points in your round one playoff match-up.
RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram
The best RB duo in fantasy (and also probably in the NFL), Kamara and Ingram have both carved out consistent RB1 roles on a weekly basis. Ingram is a bit nicked up, so his status is worth monitoring heading into Thursday’s game. However, Kamara is good to go and is a surefire high-end RB1 in both standard and PPR. If Ingram is out of the game, Kamara may be the most valuable player in fantasy. Get these two in your lineups, but have a back-up plan for Ingram.
WR Michael Thomas
The Saints’ passing game hasn’t seen quite the volume we’re used to in 2017, but Thomas is still a dependable if unspectacular WR1. In a game which may lean more towards passing (assuming things go well for Atlanta), Thomas has a bit more upside as Brees’ favorite target in the passing game. He’ll likely draw the coverage of Desmond Trufant, so his ceiling is more limited than usual, but he’s still a trustworthy option on Thursday.
QB Drew Brees
Brees has been nowhere near the elite fantasy QB he was in years past, but he’s still a low-end QB1. The Falcons have, believe it or not, been a pretty poor match-up for QBs in fantasy this season due to a surprisingly good pass defense. Still, in a game that may trend towards more scoring, Brees may be asked to throw the ball more often than normal. In that case, his prospects as a fantasy option look a little better. Brees is a dependable option, but he’s not a high-ceiling play.
TE Austin Hooper
Hooper has been so maddeningly inconsistent that it’s difficult to trust him in a regular week. In a playoff match-up, his volatility makes him nothing more than a dart throw. If you’re desperate for TE help with Gronk on suspension, you could do worse than Hooper. However, I’d advise looking elsewhere if at all possible.
Other Falcons WRs
Different week, same story. None of the other Falcons WRs has established a consistent enough role to justify playing in such an important week, outside of absurdly deep leagues. If you had to choose one in a desperate emergency, I’d go Justin Hardy for PPR, Taylor Gabriel for standard. Neither are inspiring choices.
TE Coby Fleener
Fleener had some solid games against Atlanta in 2016, but he’s been a pretty poor fantasy option in 2017. In a season that has seen fantasy owners starting the likes of Ricky Seals-Jones, Fleener doesn’t even make the list of competent options most weeks. Atlanta has also been one of the more difficult TE match-ups in 2017, which means Fleener is nothing more than a TD-or-bust dart throw.
WR Willie Snead
We all remember what happened the last time Snead played the Falcons. Snead was a late round pick coming into 2017 based on the impressive season he had in 2016 as the Saints’ primary slot receiver. That role has all but evaporated behind the Saints’ run-first approach and overall shift to other targets in the passing game. Snead isn’t someone you can trust at this point.
Kevin’s Spicy Play of the Week
WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Ginn has been a competent boom/bust FLEX option in 2017, particularly in PPR leagues. He’s clearly Brees’ second-favorite WR target, and often sees plenty of work in 2-minute drills and “garbage time” situations. I wouldn’t bench a steady player for Ginn, but if you need a 15+ point game to get you a playoff W, Ginn is a decent-enough option. He’s a decent-floor FLEX play with the potential for more.
Good luck in your first round playoff match-ups! If you have any lineup questions, feel free to send them to me @FalcoholicKevin on Twitter.