Thursday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Falcons vs. Patriots

Thursday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Falcons vs. Patriots

This article is part of our Showdown/Single Game DFS Breakdown series.

Thursday's matchup features teams going in opposite directions. Led by stand out rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the Patriots have won four consecutive and are just half a game behind the Bills for first place in the AFC East. Meanwhile, the Falcons have beat a few bad teams this season but other than that have been largely disappointing. They're coming off a 40-point loss to the Cowboys on Sunday and are still without star receiver Calvin Ridley. Few would've expected to see the Patriots as seven-point road favorites, but that's the line for Thursday's game, which has a 47.5-point total. The large spread is understandable when you consider the recent trajectory and future prospects of each team. However you think the game goes, plan for a specific scenario and build lineups to fit the likely game script. I'm planning for a competitive game, with the Patriots favoring a run-heavy attack and the Falcons relying on the passing game to keep it close. 

QUARTERBACKS

Matt Ryan ($10,800 DK, $15,500 FD) is the most expensive player on both sites. He's been inconsistent this season but still puts up decent fantasy numbers more often than not. He's topped 22 DK points in five of nine games while passing for 300-plus yards in four. On the flip side, he's failed to reach double-digit fantasy points in three games. Ryan's range of outcomes is wide and Thursday's matchup is tough. The Patriots rank second in the league in team defense and have held opponents to less than 10 points in back-to-back games. From a DFS perspective, he's still one the top options. Neither team is very fantasy friendly and both lack for star players. That makes it more likely that Ryan ends up in the optimal lineup.

Mac Jones ($10,600 DK, $15,000 FD) wasn't given much of chance coming into the season, but he's easily been the most impressive of the first-round rookie quarterbacks. He's finished with a passer rating higher than 100 four times in 10 games and has thrown six TDs with just one INT in the Patriots four-game winning streak. From a DFS perspective, Jones has topped 20 DK points just once this season. The Patriots are a running team and Jones isn't likely to be airing out if they're ahead. His lone 300-yard passing game came against the Jets. I prefer Matt Ryan for essentially the same salary. Rostering both QBs is viable as well. I'll avoid Jones in the captain/MVP spot, however, as QBs are overly popular there and he doesn't put up ceiling games often. 

WIDE RECEIVERS + TIGHT ENDS

Russell Gage ($6,600 DK, $10,000 FD) continues to lead Falcons WRs in snaps and routes run but he still has no catches in two of the last three games. Two weeks ago against the Saints he caught seven of eight targets for 64 yards. Atlanta is without a No.1 option in the absence of Calvin Ridley and none of the WRs can be counted on for consistent production. Olamide Zaccheaus ($5,400 DK, $7,000 FD) is coming off a season-high seven targets in last week's loss to the Cowboys. The week prior, he scored two TDs against the Saints. He's scored more than five fantasy points just twice in nine games this season. Tajae Sharpe ($3,600 DK, $6,500 FD) has been operating as the de facto No. 1 WR but has drawn only one target in consecutive games. Nevertheless his cheap salary makes him a relatively appealing value on a slate that lacks anything to get excited about. Frank Darby ($400 DK, $5,500 FD) drew three targets and made his first NFL catch last week. The rookie sixth-round pick likely will operate as the No. 4 WR again Thursday. You can make an argument to just fade all of these receivers, but it does make sense to roster one in lineups that contain Matt Ryan. Gage and Sharpe are my preferred options. 

Jakobi Meyers ($8,000 DK, $10,500 FD) caught his first NFL touchdown on his 135th career reception last week and nearly the whole team ran on the field to celebrate with him. He's drawn only four targets in each of the last two games and has put up double-digit fantasy points just twice in his last six. Those aren't great numbers for the most expensive receiver on the slate. Kendrick Bourne ($7,600 DK, $9,500 FD) has shown more big-play upside. He's drawn at least four targets in four consecutive games and has a reception of at least 45 yards in three of his last five. It's a bit concerning that he only played 43 percent of the snaps last week, but the blowout win played a part in that. Nelson Agholor ($5,000 DK, $7,500 FD) continues to play a high percentage of the snaps but hasn't recorded more than three catches in a game since Week 1. The only times he's scored double-digit fantasy points were the two games he caught a TD. N'Keal Harry ($600 DK, $6,000 FD) played a season-high 35 snaps last week but drew only one target as he was often used as a blocker with the Patriots running the ball a majority of the second half. He hasn't had more than two targets in a game this season, but for only $600, he's a viable option if you're entering multiple lineups. Similar to the Falcons side, you can make a case to fade all of these receivers. Meyers, Bourne and Agholor likely need to catch a TD to be optimal, but it isn't mandatory to pair them Mac Jones

Kyle Pitts ($9,600 DK, $12,000 FD) projects as the top pass-catching option for either team Thursday. He's drawn at least six targets in all but one game this season and has topped 25 DK points in two of his last five. It's evident why the Falcons spent the fourth overall pick on him and his ceiling potential makes him a good option for the captain/MVP spot. Hayden Hurst ($1,800 DK, $6,500 FD) has yet to practice this week after being knocked out of Sunday's game with an ankle injury. Prior to that, he'd seen at least three targets in five straight games. If he does not play, Lee Smith $200 DK, $5,500 FD) would step in to the backup TE role and be a viable option for the minimum salary. 

Hunter Henry ($7,000 DK, $11,000 FD) now has seven touchdowns in his last seven games after catching two last week against the Browns. He's clearly the favorite red-zone target of Mac Jones and likely needs to catch one to be optimal considering his salary and the fact that he hasn't drawn more than four targets in five consecutive games. Jonnu Smith ($2,400 DK, $7,000 FD) missed Sunday's game with a shoulder injury and is questionable for Thursday. He's been somewhat of a disappointment since signing a big contract this offseason, but the cheap salary makes him a viable option. Henry played 94 percent of the snaps in his absence last week. 

RUNNING BACKS

Cordarrelle Patterson ($10,200 DK, $14,000 FD) sprained his ankle in the first half of Sunday's loss to the Cowboys and is a game-time decision. He's had a fantastic season, scoring at least 14 fantasy points in seven consecutive games. He's arguably the top rushing and receiving threat for the Falcons and continues to show big-play ability whenever he touches the ball. His potential absence would open up major opportunities for the remaining skill players. Wayne Gallman ($8,400 DK, $6,500 FD) out-snapped Mike Davis ($5,800 DK, $7,500 FD) 23 to 20 on Sunday and had 15 carries and two targets. He'd only be viable if Patterson is out, especially on DraftKings, where he's priced as if he's the starter. Davis has underwhelmed all season and has scored less than three fantasy points in three of his last four games. Considering his middling salary and pass-catching ability, he'd be a decent value option if Patterson sits. If Patterson is active, I'd have little to no interest in Gallman or Davis. 

Damien Harris ($8,800 DK, $13,500 FD) returned to practice on Tuesday after sitting out Sunday due to a concussion. Prior to that, he'd rushed for six TDs in his last five games operating as the feature back. Rhamondre Stevenson ($8,600 DK, $13,000 FD) started last week and made the most of his opportunity, rushing 20 times for 100 yards and two TDs while catching four passes. The Patriots ground game is in a good spot against a Falcons defense that's struggled stopping the run all season. Whoever gets the start will be a decent option in the captain/MVP spot considering the high touchdown equity. Expect Harris to be back in the lead role, and he projects as one of the top overall options on the slate. Brandon Bolden ($4,800 DK, $8,000 FD) played 18 snaps and had six touches, including three catches Sunday. He's been seeing work in the passing game as the third-down back, putting up double-digit fantasy points in four of his last seven. 

KICKERS

The kickers are almost always good options in these single-game contests and that's especially true for Thursday. Both of these teams lack for appealing fantasy options and it wouldn't be surprising if none of the mid-range options score 10 fantasy points. Both Nick Folk ($4,400 DK, $9,000 FD) and Younghoe Koo ($4,000 DK, $8,500 FD) can put up double-digits rather easily and they've showed it multiple times this season. I have slightly more interest in Folk based on the Patriots higher implied team total. 

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

I rarely roster defenses, but you can make a case for each. The Patriots ($5,600) are one of the better units in the league and Matt Ryan is always liable to throw a pick six. The Falcons ($3,400) have been pretty bad this season, but playing at home against a rookie quarterback offers some optimism. I'd rather avoid the Patriots, who are expensive and likely to be the more popular of the two. Cheap underdog defenses have ended up on the optimal lineup in recent weeks, so I'd prefer taking a chance on the Falcons, who won't be overly popular. 

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Belongia
Ryan has a background in accounting, finance and poker. He's been playing DFS full-time since 2018. A multiple-time King of the Pitch finalist, Ryan's been ranked inside the Top 5 on the RG Soccer Leaderboard for three years running. Originally from Wisconsin, he moved to London in 2019 for the futbol.
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