Game Predictions & Player Projections - NO vs ATL

Game Predictions & Player Projections - NO vs ATL

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Game Predictions & Player Projections - NO vs ATL

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Prediction: NO 30, ATL 24 (Line: NO by 2.5)

UPDATE: Kenny Stills is questionable to play and was only able to take limited practice on Friday. He has been removed from the projections.

Long time rivalry and both teams are healthy again. The Saints won 17-13 in Atlanta last year and have taken six of the last seven meetings. The Falcons have just one home win over the Saints in the last five years.

New Orleans Saints

1 @ATL —– 10 SF —–
2 @CLE —– 11 CIN —–
3 MIN —– 12 BAL —–
4 @DAL —– 13 @PIT —–
5 TB —– 14 CAR —–
6 BYE —– 15 @CHI —–
7 @DET —– 16 ATL —–
8 GB —– 17 @TB —–
9 @CAR —–  
News | Statistics | Roster
NO @ ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 330,2
RB Mark Ingram 40,1
RB C.J. Spiller 40 3-20
WR Brandin Cooks 4-60
TE Coby Fleener 2-30,1
PK Kai Forbath 1 FG 2 XP
PK Josh Scobee 2 FG 1 XP

One of the most powerful offenses returns intact with all coaches and players and the only difference is a defense that should be even better. Brees comes off his third straight 5000 yard season and owns four of the eight in NFL history – no one else has more than one. He is averaging 43 touchdowns for the last three years and remains one of the elite. At the age of 35 he may still have a few more big seasons left in him. Brees passed for 278 yards and two scores in Atlanta last year. He threw for 357 yards and two scores in the home meeting as well. He’s a lock for multiple touchdowns and high yardage.

The Saints cobble together a very good rushing offense though no one player has a big role. Pierre Thomas was shopped to other teams with no takers so he remains but is expected to handle a decreased role for 2013. Mark Ingram is in his final season with no contract pending yet so he has incentive to show up this year. Ingram finally was productive last year when he averaged 4.9 yards per carry but he also carried a career low 78 times. Darren Sproles is gone and with him goes around 75 receptions per year. Khiry Robinson is expected to take up some of the slack but he only had 54 carries as a rookie and no receptions. This will always be a committee backfield with marginal fantasy value thanks to the division of labor. The Saints never rushed well on the Falcons last year and never scored on the ground. Thomas was the top runner with only 43 yards on nine carries.

Jimmy Graham signed a four-year, $40 million deal in the offseason which should ensure yet another 1000 yard season with ten or more touchdowns. Graham rang up 100 yards and a score in Atlanta last year.

Marques Colston goes into his ninth season and remains a solid part of the offense with around 80 catches for 1000+ yards almost every year. The Saints used their first round pick on Brandin Cooks and the early returns are spectacular. While he is just a rookie, he’s already picked up the playbook and best of all works with one of the premier quarterbacks in NFL history. The 5-10, 189 lb. Cooks is hoped to help out with those 75 catches that Sproles leaves behind. Lance Moore is gone Kenny Stills gets promoted and while he doesn’t catch a lot of passes, he averages a ridiculous 20 yards per catch as the speedy deep threat.

The Saints defense may help to depress some game scores but this offense doesn’t rein itself in even with a nice lead. Cooks is the one to watch this week but as long as Brees remains under center, the Saints offense is going to score points no matter which players are on the field.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Falcons defense at home has always been pretty good against the run and there is no telling which of the three main backs are going to do much in any given week anyway. But Brees is better than a schedule or an opponent and the Falcons allowed at least two passing scores to every visitor last year. No reason to ever not start Brees and Graham. Colston is always a moderate play for some points while Cooks may end up a big weapon but it is too early to place any bets on a rookie wideout.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 2 8 22 1 16 29
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 27 24 24 25 32 19

Atlanta Falcons

1 NO —– 10 @TB —–
2 @CIN —– 11 @CAR —–
3 TB —– 12 CLE —–
4 @MIN —– 13 ARI —–
5 @NYG —– 14 @GB —–
6 CHI —– 15 PIT —–
7 @BAL —– 16 @NO —–
8 DET —– 17 CAR —–
9 BYE —–  
News | Statistics | Roster
ATL vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan 270,2
WR Julio Jones 4-60,1
WR Mohamed Sanu 4-60
TE Levine Toilolo 3-20
PK Matt Bryant 1 FG 3 XP

The Falcons crumbled last year and ended with a 4-12 record but injuries ravaged the team including to both star wide receivers. The Falcons did little to retool or replace and instead just tried to get all the pieces healthy again. The only notable addition was drafting Donte Freeman in the fourth round.

Considering the injuries of 2013, Matt Ryan quietly had a tremendous season considering his challenges. He passed for 4515 yards and 26 touchdowns while rarely getting to use Roddy White or Julio Jones. Even Tony Gonzalez was on his last legs, Ryan passed for 292 yards but no scores when the Saints visited last year. He managed 304 yards and two touchdowns in the meeting in New Orleans.

The Falcons brought in Steven Jackson but he was yet another problem. He battled hamstring issues much of the year and missed four games completely. His record eight consecutive seasons with 1000+ yards was broken when he could only gain 542 yards and six scores. Now 31 years old, he is the oldest starting running back in the league for another year.

Steven Jackson ran for 63 yards and a score when the Saints visited last year.

Donte Freeman is expected to take a role despite being buried on the official depth chart. Antone Smith and Jacquizz Rodgers have already proven to be less than adequate hence the draft pick. The 5-8, 206 lb back from Florida State drew praise in the summer from coaches and should figure into the backfield rotation from the start. His role will grow as he becomes more comfortable in the offense and should Jackson become injured again, Freeman could end up a nice mid-season surprise.

Julio Jones was lost for the final 11 games last year when his foot acted up again and required surgery, The team let him rest for almost all of the preseason and offseason and by all accounts he is healthy again. Roddy White battled a high ankle sprain and hamstring issues last year but only missed two games. He closed out a six year stretch of 1000 yard games and only ended with 63-711-3 for his worst season since 2006 before he came a starter. White is 33 years old and will slow down. The question is if it has already started? He is a consummate possession receiver and speed has never been his game.

Harry Douglas also remains and he tendered several nice fantasy games last year while subbing for Jones. But his role as a #3 wideout typically remains well below the fantasy radar.

The loss of Tony Gonzalez was filled only be promoting second year tight end Levine Toilolo who was a fourth round pick in 2012 and who had just 11 catches for 55 yards and two scores playing in the shadow of the great Gonzo. Toilolo is due to see an increase this year but there is no pretense that he’s going to completely replace the most productive tight end of all time.

Gonzalez accounted for 70 to 80 catches per season and even his final year went 83-859-8. Some of that spreads back out over the wideouts. There is a chance more passes end up with running backs as well.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: Ryan, White and Jones are always worth a starting consideration and being healthy again will pay obvious dividends. The Saints secondary was vastly improved last year but this game is always a good one between familiar rivals. There’s been minimal changes on either side and everyone is healthy again. Start the top three and consider Jackson for a nod as well since he scored once and gained 63 yards last year when the Saints called.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 14 12 18 10 22 27
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 4 10 7 11 5 5

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