TNF Fantasy Preview: New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falconsby Mike Fanelli November 18, 2021 0 comments
Tonight, Week 11 of the 2021 NFL season kicks off with a matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. While everyone loves Thursday Night Football, fantasy owners struggle with which players they should put in their starting lineups. To help them decide which players they should start and which they should sit, let’s dive into this week’s Thursday Night Fantasy Preview.
All stats are based on four-point per passing touchdown and PPR scoring.
New England Patriots
Quarterback – Mac Jones
Jones has been the best rookie quarterback this season. However, his production hasn’t turned into fantasy football stardom. Jones is only the QB20 on the season, averaging 13.7 fantasy points per game. He has scored under 15 fantasy points in four of the past six games. Furthermore, Jones has thrown for under 220 yards in each of the past three games, including under 200 yards in two straight. Tonight, he faces a Falcons defense that has been inconsistent this season. Last week they gave up 26.4 fantasy points to Dak Prescott. However, in the previous two weeks, they held quarterbacks to only 14.7 fantasy points per game. While the matchup is appealing, Jones’ limited success this season makes him a mid QB2 this week.
Running Back – Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson
After missing last week’s game with a concussion, Harris has cleared the protocol and will play tonight for the Patriots. Before suffering the injury, Harris had scored at least one rushing touchdown in five straight games, scoring at least 9.8 fantasy points in every contest. For the season, he is the RB21, averaging a solid 12.2 fantasy points per game. Over his past four games, Harris has averaged 4.5 yards per carry, 1.3 rushing touchdowns, and 16.9 fantasy points per contest. Meanwhile, Stevenson had his best game of the season last week without Harris, totaling 100 rushing yards, two touchdowns, and 27.4 fantasy points. However, with both running backs ready to play in tonight’s game, which should fantasy owners start?
Like most fantasy football questions, the answer depends on your other options. Meanwhile, the Falcons have given up an average of 28.9 fantasy points per game to running backs this season, the second-most in the NFL. Over the past three weeks, running backs have averaged 115.3 rushing yards, 1.3 rushing touchdowns, and 33.1 fantasy points per game against the Falcons. Harris should take back his starting role tonight, making Stevenson the reserve back. However, both have fantasy value this week. Harris is a low-end RB2, while Stevenson is a mid to low-end flex option. Last week the Falcons gave up 15.8 or more fantasy points to both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Fantasy owners can feel comfortable starting both Harris and Stevenson in tonight’s game.
Wide Receiver – Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne
Last week Meyers scored his first career receiving touchdown, finishing with 14.9 fantasy points. It was the first time since Week 6 that Meyers had scored double-digit fantasy points. More importantly, Meyers averaged 8.5 targets per game over the first eight weeks of the season, seeing at least five in every game. By comparison. Meyers has seen only four targets in each of the past two weeks. His teammate, Bourne, finished with a team-high 24.1 fantasy points last week against the Cleveland Browns. Since Week 3, Bourne has been a boom or bust fantasy player, scoring 14.5 or more fantasy points in half of the games. However, he scored under seven fantasy points in three of the other four games, averaging only 7.5 fantasy points per game in those contests.
Tonight they face an excellent fantasy matchup against the Falcons. Atlanta has given up over 37 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season. Wide receivers have averaged 14.5 receptions for 186 receiving yards, two touchdowns, and 45.7 fantasy points per game against the Falcons over the past two weeks. They have also given up two or more receiving touchdowns to wide receivers in 67 percent of their games this season. Bourne should see a fair amount of AJ Terrell tonight while Meyers has a good matchup in the slot. In PPR, Meyers is the better option, while Bourne is better in half or non PPR scoring. However, neither wide receiver is a top-30 option regardless of the scoring system. Consider them solid flex options given the matchup.
Tight End – Hunter Henry
Since Week 4, Henry has scored at least one touchdown in all but one game. He has averaged 12.5 fantasy points per game, good for the TE3 over the past seven weeks. Behind him on the depth chart is Jonnu Smith. Despite being a preseason sleeper candidate, Smith has averaged only 5.4 fantasy points per game this season and isn’t fantasy relevant. Meanwhile, the Falcons have done a good job slowing down tight ends this season, giving up only 9.3 fantasy points per game since Week 3. Furthermore, they have held tight ends under nine fantasy points in six of their past seven games. While the matchup isn’t ideal, all it takes for Henry to get in the end zone once again finish with double-digit fantasy points.
Over the past four weeks, the Patriots D/ST has averaged 14 fantasy points per game, scoring at least 12 fantasy points in every contest. The Patriots have held their opponents to only 12.5 points per game during that span. Tonight, they have another great matchup against the Falcons. Opposing D/STs have averaged 8.7 fantasy points per game against the Falcons this season, the third-most in the NFL. Over the past three weeks, opposing D/STs have averaged 2.3 sacks, 1.7 interceptions, and 11.7 fantasy points per game against the Falcons. Without Calvin Ridley, the Falcons offense will struggle to move the ball, leading to a top-three finish this week from the Patriots D/ST.
Quarterback – Matt Ryan
After scoring at least 15.6 fantasy points in five straight games, Ryan has fallen off a cliff recently. Over the past three weeks, Ryan has averaged only 11.8 fantasy points per game, scoring under 6.5 fantasy points in two of those games. Last week, the Dallas Cowboys held Ryan to 117 passing yards and only 0.7 fantasy points. Meanwhile, the Patriots have held quarterbacks to only 13.8 fantasy points per game this season, the second-fewest in the NFL. Over the past month, the Patriots have held quarterbacks to only 8.5 fantasy points per game, including only 13.8 fantasy points for Justin Herbert. Even in super flex leagues, Ryan isn’t an ideal starter this week against a dominant Patriots defense.
Running Back – Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis
Despite reports earlier in the week, Patterson has a real shot of playing tonight after suffering an ankle injury last week. Patterson has averaged 17.6 fantasy points per game this season, scoring at least 14 fantasy points in every game since Week 1 until last week. Assuming he is active tonight, and there aren’t any reports suggesting he will be on a snap count, Patterson belongs in your fantasy lineups. Meanwhile, the Patriots have given up 24.4 fantasy points per game to running backs this season, a little over the league average. More importantly, they have been one of the worst teams defending pass-catching running backs, giving up 13.9 fantasy points per game through the air to the position this season.
If Patterson plays, fantasy owners have no reason to consider Davis or Wayne Gallman tonight. However, if Patterson is out tonight, this backfield becomes messy. Last week Davis played 37 percent of the snaps while Gallman played 43 percent of the snaps. However, most of Gallman’s work came when the game was in garbage time. Meanwhile, Davis has averaged 8.3 fantasy points per game this season, scoring 10 or more fantasy points in 67 percent of the games. By comparison, Gallman had only one game this season with more than one carry before last week. If Patterson misses tonight’s game, Davis is a flex option while Gallman is dart throw in deeper leagues and DFS lineups.
Wide Receiver – Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus
Without Ridley, the Falcons wide receiver core has taken a massive hit. Over the past three weeks, Gage has scored a total of only 13.4 fantasy points, scoring zero fantasy points twice. Furthermore, he scored zero fantasy points in half of his games this season. With Ridley out of the lineup, Zaccheaus has taken on a meaningful role. Over the past two weeks, he has averaged five targets and 12.5 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, the Patriots have held wide receivers to 31.3 fantasy points per game, the seventh-fewest in the NFL this season. Over the past two weeks, wide receivers have totaled 10 catches for 82 receiving yards and 19.6 fantasy points against the Patriots. Fantasy owners should avoid all Falcon wide receivers tonight.
Tight End – Kyle Pitts
Entering the season, Pitts had unrealistic expectations. However, the rookie has been productive for fantasy owners this season. He is the TE6 for the year, averaging 11.8 fantasy points per game. He has scored at least nine fantasy points in five of his past six games, averaging 13.6 fantasy points per game during that span. More importantly, Pitts has seen at least six targets in every game since Week 4, averaging 7.8 targets per game. By comparison, Patterson has averaged 5.5 targets per game, while Ridley has averaged 5.8 targets per game during that span. However, Pitts will have his toughest matchup of the season this week.
The Patriots have held tight ends to only 7.7 fantasy points per game this season, giving up fewer than five fantasy points to the position in 70 percent of the games. While Pitts is the best tight end the Patriots will face this season, Bill Belichick has a history of taking out the opposing team’s best player. That said, Pitts is too talented to put on the bench. Given the matchup this week against the Patriots, Pitts is a low-end TE1 with risk.
While some might suggest starting the Falcons D/ST this week against a rookie quarterback, that is simply ridiculous. The Falcons D/ST has averaged only 1.1 fantasy points per game this season. They have scored negative fantasy points in a third of the games this season, including negative four fantasy points last week against the Cowboys. Furthermore, the Falcons D/ST has scored under four fantasy points in all but two games this season, including four straight. Meanwhile, opposing D/STs have gotten killed by the Patriots recently. Over the past four weeks, opposing D/STs have averaged negative 1.8 fantasy points per game, scoring negative six or more fantasy points in half of those contests. Fantasy owners have no reason at all to roster the Falcons D/ST, let alone start them.
Jones: Mid QB2
Harris: Low-End RB2
Stevenson: Flex Option
Meyers: Low-End Flex
Bourne: Low-End Flex
Henry: Mid TE1
Patriots D/ST: Top-Three D/ST
Patterson: High-End RB2
Davis: Flex Option if Starter
Pitts: Mid TE1
Falcons D/ST: Avoid
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