Game Predictions & Player Projections - ATL vs. NO

David Dorey, @DMDorey

Prediction: ATL 27, NO 31 (Line: NO by 3)

UPDATE: Julio Jones did not practice on Thursday or Friday because of his calf but was able to practice on a limited basis on Saturday and claimed he would play in no uncertain terms. He is safe to start and should have a very nice game here.

Willie Snead was also limited this week because of a toe injury but was able to do limited work on Saturday. He is considered a game time decision and I am lowering his projections because of the risk. His toe is still an issue and would very likely impact his performance if he does play.

The Falcons come off a surprise win in Oakland and yet still have no semblance of a defense. The Saints fell to 0-2 on the road at the Giants and for the want of four points could be 2-0. The Saints swept the Falcons last year. They won 31-21 at home and later 20-17 in Atlanta. This should be one of the better scoring matchups of the week and it is on Monday night as well.

Atlanta Falcons

1 TB 24-31 10 @PHI ---
2 @OAK 35-28 11 BYE ---
3 @NO --- 12 ARI ---
4 CAR --- 13 KC ---
5 @DEN --- 14 @LA ---
6 @SEA --- 15 SF ---
7 SD --- 16 @CAR ---
8 GB --- 17 NO ---
9 @TB ---      
News | Statistics | Roster
ATL @ NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan 330,1
RB Tevin Coleman 40,1 3-30
RB Devonta Freeman 80,1 2-20
WR Justin Hardy 2-20
WR Julio Jones 6-100,1
WR Mohamed Sanu 6-90
PK Matt Bryant 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: Winning in Oakland helps a lot considering that after this week the Falcons face the Panthers, Broncos and Seahawks. The passing offense has been very good so far and facing the Saints is not likely to change that. The tougher part from a fantasy perspective is that only Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have turned in a big game in both weeks and others have mixed results and that inconsistency makes their value unreliable. This week should be a chance for more than Jones to look good for a second time but then that all likely takes a step backwards in the face of a very tough stretch of three games.

QUARTERBACK : Matt Ryan is having a great start to the season with 334 yards and two scores in the opener followed by 396 yards and three touchdowns in Oakland during Week 2. He should end up with the hat trick considering that he passed for 295 yards and two scores in New Orleans last year.

RUNNING BACK : After a very disappointing opener, Devonta Freeman was better with 93 yards on 17 carries in Oakland but he had no catches and still has yet to score. Tevin Coleman took the short touchdown on his 12 runs for 46 yards and had two receptions for 25 yards as well. This is a true timeshare but Freeman is losing out because Coleman ran in a 13-yard score last week and is getting more passes. Freeman's role may change when the opponents become much tougher but for this week he's facing yet another softer defense.

Freeman ran for 100 yards and one score plus caught eight passes for 56 yards and a second score as a receiver in New Orleans last year. Even Coleman ran for 40 yards on four runs. This was at the start of Freeman's early hot streak last year that cooled significantly after midseason.

WIDE RECEIVER : Julio Jones already has back-to-back games with a touchdown and comes off 106 yards on five catches in Oakland. He has a calf strain that slowed him down last week but the early expectations are that he'll be fine for the Monday night game. I'll update as needed but will assume he'll be good to go in this very tasty matchup. Mohamed Sanu opened the year with a big game against the Buccaneers but then only managed three catches for 19 yards versus the Raiders. No other wideouts matter here and only Jones remains consistent. Sanu should see much more success if only for this week.

Jones caught six passes for 93 yards in New Orleans last season.

TIGHT END : The tight ends have mattered much more than anticipated. The rookie Austin Hooper turned in catches of 9, 34 and 44 yards versus the Raiders while Jacob Tamme caught five for 75 yards and one of the scores. That's much more work for the position than last year though facing the Raiders had a lot to do with it. Tamme has nine catches for 135 yards over his two games so far.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Saints allowed over 310 passing yards to each opponent this year though only one passing score was given up and Odell Beckham was held to 8-86 in a home game with no score. The lone passing score went to #3 Seth Roberts for the Raiders in the opener. But four different wideouts gained around 90 yards or more against them so both Sanu and Jones should be in store for at least good yardage if not scores. Tight ends have not fared well either so this is less likely to be a spot where Jacob Tamme can string together three straight good games.

The Saints have allowed three rushing touchdowns and decent yardage so there should be at least moderate gains for both Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman. This should be the spot where Freeman turns in another big game though his lack of receptions are troubling and makes him a bit more risky to rely on.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 2 12 9 1 9 31
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 12 28 28 8 19 4

New Orleans Saints

1 OAK 34-35 10 DEN ---
2 @NYG 13-16 11 @CAR ---
3 ATL --- 12 LA ---
4 @SD --- 13 DET ---
5 BYE --- 14 @TB ---
6 CAR --- 15 @ARI ---
7 @KC --- 16 TB ---
8 SEA --- 17 @ATL ---
9 @SF ---      
News | Statistics | Roster
NO vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 320,4
RB Mark Ingram 60 3-20
RB Shane Vereen 40 3-30
RB Terrance West 30 2-10
WR Ted Ginn Jr. 2-30
WR Michael Thomas 5-60,1
PK Wil Lutz 1 FG 4 XP

Pregame Notes: The Saints drop to 0-2 by the slimmest of margins - only one point in the opener and then a field goal last week. Like the Falcons, the Saints rolled up big yardage and scores on the Raiders but last week in New York versus the Giants were suddenly punchless. The rushing effort has never done anything so far and mostly from a lack of effort. Good or bad, so far only the wide receivers matter and carry any significant fantasy value.

QUARTERBACK : Drew Brees opened with 423 yards and four scores versus the visiting Raiders but then unbelievably was held to only 263 yards and one score in New York unlike last year when he blew up for 505 yards and seven touchdowns when they played. He now has two very different game results and a chance to nudge his stats back on the high side with the Falcons visiting.

Brees passed for 312 yards and one score on the visiting Falcons last year.

RUNNING BACK : The Saints have not faced top defenses so far but the rushing effort has been anemic and alarming for any Mark Ingram owners. He's totaled just 21 carries for 88 yards over the two games played and only adds 20 or 30 more yards as a receiver each week. He has not scored nor has any rusher for the Saints. Ingram gets almost all the backfield work so far but that hasn't been much. That is an even bigger concern with a a tough slate of games coming up after the Week 5 bye.

Ingram ran for only 46 yards on 20 carries when the Falcons showed up last year but he scored twice.

WIDE RECEIVER : Brandin Cooks opened with two scores and 143 yards versus the Raiders but then was limited to only 68 yards on seven catches by the Giants. Willie Snead has been the best player so far with 172 yards in Week 1 and then 54 yards on five receptions in New York with a score in both games. Michael Thomas is respectable enough with around five catches for 60 yards in both of his first games. Snead and Cooks have been getting equal targets and together own all but one of the touchdowns and huge chunk of the offensive yardage.

Cooks never had more than 41 yards in either meeting with the Falcons last year.

TIGHT END : Coby Fleener has been a flop thus far. After two weeks, he's only totaled three catches for 35 yards. He's close to just throwing back onto the waiver wire.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Falcons have been far less stout against the pass and already allowed both opponents to throw for over 280 yards and a total of seven touchdowns. And that was just to Jameis Winston and Derek Carr. The Falcons have been decent against the run so far but opponents have not rushed much against them. Ingram at home should be a good start but the same was true in the opener against the Raiders when he only had 58 rushing yards.

Brees is an obvious start and should have a bounce back game. But he will need look outside of just his wide receivers. The Falcons have allowed seven passing touchdowns but three of those went to tight ends. If Fleener cannot show up this week then it would be very hard to ever start him so why hold him? He had eight targets last week but only caught two.

The Falcons have been good against wide receivers so far and only Mike Evans had a good game against them. That should bode well for Brandin Cooks. Snead is a must start as well with two big games to start the year.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 3 19 1 31 15 19
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 30 30 20 31 7 7

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