Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NFL WEEK 13 - THURSDAY NIGHT MATCHUP


I’ve always found it rather ironic and unfortunate that our holiday of Thanksgiving is hinged on a mass slaughter.  You’d think by now that as the last few weeks of October wind down and those final leaves glide to terra firma, turkeys as a group would have evolved so as to engage in some sort of hibernation – just all disappear at the same time into some secret cavern in the woods not to return until the whole holiday season thing had passed January 2nd.    

NFL players do evolve.  Many change and improve.  However, coaches and their philosophies often do not.  Nothing will likely change Pete Carmichael’s endless rotations of running backs this season.  You’ll be playing Russian Roulette if you rely on any of these guys, except maybe Darren Sproles in PPR leagues.  As for Atlanta, Jacquizz Rodgers has become more integral to their offense.  The 5’6” runner is now just one target behind Harry Douglas for fourth most on the Falcons team, yet has eight more receptions.  That’s somewhat predictable because he’s catching balls out of the backfield, but his 10 rushes on Sunday for 49 yards led all Falcons rushers.  While that might mean little in terms of your fantasy team this week, come fantasy playoff time, it is likely Michael Turner will be rested, and you’ll have Rodgers facing the Carolina Panthers 25th ranked rush defense, followed by the Giants 16th ranked rush defense.  Evolve or die - just ask a turkey.

 
NEW ORLEANS @ ATLANTA
Atlanta hosts the only team to beat them this season and they’re raring for some payback.  Unfortunately, this is another Thursday night match-up, one designed more in mind for NFL dollar signs than quality product, and injuries will factor.  The Saints lost RG Bryce Harris to a leg injury Sunday further softening their offensive interior. With RT Zach Strief limited in practice and backup LT Charles Johnson also ailing, it’s no wonder Drew Brees was sacked and hit so many times against San Francisco.  Atlanta is facing a possibility of starting CB Asante Samuel missing the game, along with nose tackle Peria Jerry. 

Chris Ivory makes a solid Flex play this week.
Since 2006, New Orleans is 11-2 against Atlanta and not shockingly, that run coincides with the arrival of Drew Brees.  In the last game, only one touchdown was scored on the ground.  That was by Saints RB Chris Ivory, and the Saints won again.  Expect one team to try to establish some sort of ground presence and it could be the difference in this high-scoring affair.

Without a consistent runner, the Saints lack a punch to the area Atlanta is weakest. Trends say Mark Ingram is slowly taking over the RB1 position as he’s garnered the most carries in the last three games (38 total).  Ingram’s problem is lack of size and his 5’9” frame can make people miss but rarely moves the pile.  That alone may be the reason why Chris Ivory continues to eat into his load, but Ivory appears to be a blocking liability and factors zero in the passing attack as he has just two receptions.  However, based on his past success versus Atlanta, Ivory is likely to get the bulk of the carries, and this game might be his highest tally of the season.  Last time, Ivory burst through a hole for a 56-yard score.  I’m expecting 12-15 carries for Ivory as the Saints attempt to provide Drew Brees a play-action option.  That means less input for Ingram even though he’s been running with greater aplomb of late.  Marques Colston’s neck injury appears to be minor, so play him with confidence.  He’s scored in the two of the last three meetings against Atlanta and the other game he tallied eight grabs for 113 yards.  You can also expect another solid outing from TE Jimmy Graham of ten targets for 110 yards or so.  I’m not as keen on Lance Moore this matchup. He’s a yardage maven, but has not had as much success at Atlanta.

For the Falcons, they’re facing the Saints bottom three rush and pass defense, though it appears to be improving. The Saints held Frank Gore without a rushing touchdown and kept him to just 83 yards;  Marcel Reece put up 103 yards but also was kept away from the end zone; and Michael Turner managed just 1.5 yards per carry against the Saints front seven in their first meeting.  So don’t have high expectations here for him – perhaps 45 yards.  If anything, Jacquizz Rodgers’ trend plus the fact the Saints have given up the most receiving yards to opposing RBs makes him a sneaky sleeper play this week.  Turner will have a bigger impact in the red zone, but Rodgers, who had four receptions against the Saints in Week 10, could easily end up with more yards than Turner, just as he did last week against Tampa Bay.  I’m banking on 100 total yards.  The Saints have been so bad against opposing wide outs that all of them should be a fixture in your lineup.  The Saints have yielded 22 passing touchdowns, so even though Matt Ryan has two of the last four games without a TD pass, I expect this game to offer some redemption. Tony Gonzalez was virtually unstoppable last time these two teams met, and he’s scored four touchdowns in the last five contests against New Orleans, including the two he managed in Week 10.  I’m looking for less of an impact this time, like 5 receptions for 75 yards and a score.

Ryan may get back on track, but the biggest problem for the Falcons was their inability to get to Brees.  This week might be different, as the added breaks in the Saints’ offensive line should make Brees an easier target.  With Rodgers and Turner, Atlanta has enough of a rushing attack to keep the Saints off the field if they trust it.  Yet with a 3.5 point spread, I’m willing to take New Orleans and watch this one get decided by a field goal.

 FALCONS 27, SAINTS 24