Thursday Night Football
Atlanta @ New Orleans
Falcons-Saints has the second highest Vegas total of Week 6 at 51.5 points, with Atlanta favored by 3.5. Pitting against each other teams that both rank top four in offensive plays, this game has fast-paced shootout potential at the Superdome. New Orleans' team total is 24 points. ... Drew Brees has 38-plus pass attempts in each of his four 2015 games, and has gone 59-of-84 (70.2%) for 694 yards (8.26 YPA) with a 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio since returning from an early-season shoulder scare two weeks ago. Although Atlanta's defense deserves credit for turning takeaways into turnovers and being opportunistic, it remains short on talent with the second fewest sacks in football (6) and a middling No. 15 rank in Football Outsiders' pass-defense DVOA. Particularly in a possible high-scoring game, this is a good enough matchup for fantasy owners to view Brees as an upside QB1. ... The Falcons have done well to limit opposing running backs to a combined 3.79 yards per carry, but they are allowing the third most fantasy points in the league to the position, including a league-high 49 receptions. Mark Ingram's touch totals through five games are 17, 19, 19, 23, and 14. If the Saints can keep this game close and/or grab a lead, Ingram should see RB1-caliber volume. ... Whereas Ingram's snap rates the last two weeks are 56% and 51%, C.J. Spiller's are 29% and 28% with touch totals of 7 and 6. Spiller continues to offer theoretical upside as a flex option, but he is essentially sharing backup duties with Khiry Robinson and has a frightening weekly floor.
Brees' target distribution over his last two starts: Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks 17; Ingram and Marques Colston 10; Spiller 9; Ben Watson 8; Robinson 6; Josh Hill 3; Brandon Coleman 2. ... The Falcons have shown vulnerability to quicker-than-fast slot receivers Jamison Crowder (8-87), Cecil Shorts (6-87-1), and Cole Beasley (4-49) over the last three weeks, and coughed up a 10-102 line to Eagles slot man Jordan Matthews in Week 1. Quick-footed Snead's playing time grew from 61% in Week 3 to 66% in Week 4 to 71% in Week 5, and should grow further with Colston (shoulder) out Thursday night. Clearly earning Brees' trust, Snead is an every-week WR3 with WR2 upside in PPR leagues. Snead is the favorite to lead the Saints in Week 6 receiving. ... New Orleans' theoretical big-play receiver, Cooks is worth firing up as a WR3 against Atlanta. Cooks moves around the formation enough that he'll avoid stationary Falcons LCB Desmond Trufant's coverage on the majority of Thursday night's snaps, and Cooks' passing-game role has been consistent with at least seven targets each of the first five weeks. ... Coleman has seen two targets over the Saints' last two games, playing 32% of the downs. Those numbers are likely to rise with Colston on the shelf, but not to the extent that Coleman is trustworthy as more than a WR5. ... 34-year-old Watson caught a red-zone touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Eagles, but he has not seen more than five targets in any game to date. Facing a Falcons defense that ranks 13th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, Watson is a low-end streamer option.
The Falcons' Week 6 implied team total is a robust 27.5 points against a Saints defense that ranks 30th in points allowed. ... New Orleans has played especially leaky pass defense, allowing Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, and Sam Bradford to combine to complete 101-of-155 throws (65.2%) for 1,408 yards (9.08 YPA), nine touchdowns, and two interceptions in Weeks 1-5. With Julio Jones (hamstring) set to play, Matt Ryan will offer a high fantasy ceiling indoors against one of the NFL's worst defenses. ... Pre-game reports last Sunday suggested Tevin Coleman would play 20-25 snaps against the Redskins, in his return from a two-week rib injury. Coleman wound up playing only nine downs as Devonta Freeman dominated the workload, logging an 85% snap rate and a whopping 34 touches. Not only is Atlanta's patchwork offensive line clearing monster interior running lanes, Freeman is consistently adding yardage to runs with leg-churning tackle breaking and lateral quickness. After a disappointing rookie year, Freeman has developed into a perfect fit for OC Kyle Shanahan's zone-run game with plus vision and one-cut ability. Fantasy's top-scoring back, Freeman will do battle Thursday with a Saints defense that is allowing 4.50 yards per carry to opposing RBs and was steamrolled by Eagles backs in Week 5 for a combined 33-183-2 rushing line. Averaging 29.3 touches over his last three games, Freeman is very arguably the No. 1 overall running back play for Week 6.
Ryan's target distribution in Weeks 1-5: Julio 62; Leonard Hankerson 33; Freeman 31; Jacob Tamme 20; Roddy White 17. ... Julio's three career stat lines against Saints DC Rob Ryan's defense are 7-107, 7-116, and 7-76-1. This year's No. 2 overall fantasy wideout behind only Larry Fitzgerald, Jones will be a top-shelf WR1 play despite continued concern with Julio's hamstring. He was officially listed as probable on Wednesday and is fully expected to start. ... If Julio is limited or utilized as a decoy, Hankerson would figure to inherit the Falcons' top wideout role. Hankerson missed much of the first half of last week's win over Washington with a rib injury, but was targeted frequently by Ryan in the red zone. Hankerson is an every-week WR3. ... Even with Julio a bit hobbled and Hankerson playing a season-low 48% of Atlanta's offensive snaps, White saw less usage than both Tamme and "Nick Williams" against the Redskins. ... Tamme is worth a look as a TE1 streamer at the Superdome. Tamme has topped 70 yards in two of his last three games and New Orleans is allowing the third most fantasy points to tight ends. Coming off an 8-94 number on ten targets, Tamme appears to be earlier in Ryan's progression reads than Roddy.
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Saints 21