Thursday Night Football: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback – Matt Ryan has been a top three quarterback in the league this season and it’s not even debatable. He is posting up monster numbers from week to week and on Thursday night he has a chance to do it again. The Buccaneers are ranked 19th in pass defense according to DVOA and will have a tough task covering Julio Jones. Ryan should be able to throw at will against this team and makes for a great play in any game type.

Running Back – With Tevin Coleman already ruled out for Week 9, Devonta Freeman will again be the lead back for the Falcons. He out-snapped T.J. Ward pretty easily and will have little competition being a three down back in this matchup. Look for Freeman to make a solid play again in all formats and be lower owned than the past few weeks. With a 27.75 team total, the Falcons should reach the end zone a few times and Freeman definitely could be the main beneficiary.

Wide Receiver – Julio Jones played through a knee bruise last week and was pretty ineffective because of it. This shouldn’t scare anyone off Jones as he will be a top option this week and shouldn’t have any problem working against this Tampa secondary. Mohamed Sanu has also been a bright spot in the offense emerging as the second receiver on the team and posting great results (9 receptions for 84 yards and a TD – last week). Look for both of these receivers to be staples of this offense and provide upside in tournaments.

Tight-End – Jacob Tamme got just two targets last week and he has already been ruled out for Thursday night with a shoulder injury.   This brings former Stanford TE Austin Hooper into the mix as a minimum price option across the board if you are in need of a deeply discounted contrarian option.  On the season, the Falcons tight ends are averaging 6.5 targets, 4.9 receptions, 62.5 yards and 0.63 touchdowns and the rookie Hooper has caught all eleven of his targets for 195 yards and a touchdown.  Also in the mix is fourth year Stanford man Levine Toilol who has had ten targets for six receptions, 95 yards and a touchdown.  Clearly QB Matt Ryan is not afraid to utilize his tight ends.

Defense/Special Teams – Similar to other defenses in this division, steer clear!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterback – Jameis Winston let his backers down bigtime last week as he did not surpass 200 yards and failed to reach 20 fantasy points. The beauty of DFS is that we get to do it all over again this week. Vegas has the Bucs team total at 23.25 and that could be enough for Jameis to be viable in DFS. He’s relatively cheap across the industry and could explode for three or four touchdown games. If they are trailing, which we assume they will be, Winston could be forced to throw close to 40 times and that could be mean fantasy production. Feel free to roster Winston in tournaments, while playing him in cash is a step too far since he is very reliant on touchdowns to get his fantasy production with just one game above 285 passing yards (405 yards against the LA Rams in Week 3).

Running Back – Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers are already ruled out, so we’re down to Antone Smith and Peyton Barber as the backs for Thursday Night Football. They are projected to split the workload and for fantasy purposes that is not great news because it is going to be tricky to project how much work either will see. You can roster one of these running backs for salary relief just know that you’re playing with fire and could expose your lineups to a low floor.  One interesting note is that Smith played for Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter who was the Atlanta offensive coordinator from 2012-2014.  Four weeks ago on Monday Night Football we saw another former Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers get 30 carries when he was pressed into duty as a starter.  If you think lightening can strike twice, then a share or two of Antone Smith is not the worst play out there.

Wide Receiver – Mike Evans is still the go-to receiver in this offense regardless of the performance last week. He was one of the highest owned receivers and rightfully so. Even in a losing effort, Mike Evans still saw double-digit targets and had the ability to score as well. Even if he sees CB Desmond Trufant this weekend, Evans should see 10+ targets and provide upside at a fraction of the ownership. Unfortunately, it tough to pinpoint another receiver in this offense as they spread the ball around so well. Don’t fall for the Russell Shepard love as the TD was one of his two catches on the day.

Tight-End – Cameron Brate was able to find the end zone once again on very limited production. Brate is just used as salary relief but offers very little upside when it comes to tournaments. Feel free to look elsewhere for a tight-end.

Defense/Special Teams – The Falcons are amongst the highest projected scoring teams this week according to Las Vegas and it would be tough to recommend the Bucs defense with confidence. Fade the Tampa Bay defense this week.