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Thursday Night Football DFS Preview: What to Expect Fantasy-Wise from Patriots at Falcons

Previewing the fantasy football and DFS matchups in the Thursday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.

Week 11 of the 2021 NFL season starts with Thursday Night Football as the Atlanta Falcons play host to the New England Patriots. Here’s a break down the fantasy football starts and sits and DFS plays for Thursday night’s action.

Over/Under Points Scored: 47

New England Patriots 

QB Mac Jones — As evidenced by his 7th ranked 2.6% Completion Percentage Above Expectation (CPAE), the rookie QB is elevating the players around him. His low passing volume keeps him out of the position’s top-12 ranks but Atlanta’s league-worst QB pressure rate (16.7%) offers pristine pocket potential. He’s a high-floor QB2 with top-15 upside. The Falcons’ paltry pass defense unit is T-24th per NEFF rating.

WR Jakobi Meyers — Meyers finally scored last week (yay) but his target volume has taken a turn for the worse with Jones becoming more comfortable as a distributor. Meyers may only see five or so targets come his way this week but that could be enough to return high-end WR4 value. With Isaiah Oliver on IR, ATL has chosen a platoon approach for slot coverage responsibilities. Over the last three weeks, those wiz-kid slot DBs have allowed 18 completions on 23 targets for 197 yards, 2 touchdowns, while registering 0 interceptions.

WR Kendrick Bourne — Bourne had a fun Week 10 as he found the end zone through the air and racked up 43 yards via 3 carries on the ground. That was a game plan/matchup based result. Bourne should return to fantasy WR6 status this week.

WR Nelson Agholor — Zero-catch floor, four-catch ceiling. He’s a downfield receiver so the gains will be decent but there’s like to just be one or two of them. Fantasy WR8.

TE Hunter Henry — Went 4-of-4 for 37-yards and 2 touchdowns last week with Jonnu Smith (shoulder) out. On the whole, Henry’s 8 end zone targets rank 1st at the position while his 13 red zone targets rank 3rd (PFF.com). Even if you remove Week 10, the lone game missed by Smith, Henry’s 6 end zone targets are still 1st and his 12 red zone targets are T-6th. He’s a locked-in fantasy TE1 and perhaps the week’s best bet for a touchdown.

RB Damien Harris — Harris has cleared the concussion protocol and should be expected to resume lead back rushing duties and most importantly, goal-line duties. Per PFF.com, Harris’ 6 touchdowns scored on carries inside the 5-yard line ranks 2nd in the NFL, as do his 12 carries inside the 5. He’s a machine in scoring position–an area the Patriots’ should frequent against a Falcons’ front currently allowing both the 4th most .5PPR RB PPG, 25.4, and RB rushing touchdowns per game, 1. He’s a mid-tier RB2.

RBs Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden — Moment of truth. As highlighted by NBC Sports Edge’ Pat Kerrane, Stevenson is a capable dual threat back; his collegiate career Yards per Route Run mark ranks second to only Kenneth Gainwell as does his collegiate career elusiveness rating, behind Javonte Williams. Check out Monday’s Nerdball Fantasy Football Show for more on Stevenson’s capabilities:

In short though, the rookie has played extremely well as of late but it’s tough to trust him as Bolden has held his spot in the lineup even after a number of flashy performances by Stevenson this year. If Bill Belichick doesn’t reward Stevenson with James White’s pass catching role after the Week 10 showing, fantasy managers shouldn’t bank on that happening at all for the rest of the 2021 season. Both Stevenson and Bolden (hip) are low-floor/high-ceiling RB4s this evening but Stevenson does deserve to be ranked ahead of Bolden. New England opened as -6.5-point road favorites, which should create ample opportunities for any Pat back who can efficiently tote the rock. Stevenson does fit that bill.

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan — Ryan’s arm is shot. His 7.1 average air yards per pass (IAY) are 5th lowest in the NFL and a far cry from the mid-8 to 9 IAY he’s boasted since 2016.

WR Olamide Zaccheus — Fantasy WR7.

WR Russell Gage — Gage runs a slight majority of his routes lined up in the slot. The Patriots’ patchwork slot coverage since Jonathan Jones was placed on IR has been dreadful but Gage also has struggled to consistently produce at a high level. Fantasy WR6 with single-game DFS appeal.

WR Tajae Sharpe — Atlanta’s 34% two-tight end set rate is 2nd in the NFL (SharpFootballStats.com) but No. 2 TE Hayden Hurst sprained an ankle last Sunday as is unlikely to play. No. 3 TE Lee Smith is also dealing with a back injury which makes it likely that Arthur Smith will opt to utilize 3-WR sets as the base formation. Sharpe will pick up the snap-slack but is unlikely to perform much better than Zaccheos or Gage. He is more talented than both though. Fantasy WR6.

TE Kyle Pitts — Pitts’ Week 11 outlook likely hinges upon RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson’s availability. New England is limiting opposing TEs to just 6.5 .5PPR PPG, 2nd fewest in the league and Bill Belichick always focuses attention on a team’s best offensive weapon when playing a lacking QB. If Patterson is active, Belichick will not be able to simply blanket Pitts all day. On the subject of TE defense though, Pitts is a bit of a unicorn. His 47.9% slot rate is 10th among NFL tight ends (min. 30 targets) and his out-wide rate of 32.3% is No. 1. Pitts will be able to take advantage of the aforementioned lack of talent in NE’s slot coverage but on the perimeter he’ll have to face stud CB J.C. Jackson. Consider Pitts a highly volatile TE1 for Week 11.

RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson, RBs Mike Davis and Wayne Gallman — Head coach Arthur Smith told reporters this week that Gallman handled lead back duties after Patterson (ankle) exited the contest due to game script–they were getting blown out. It’s still unclear if Smith was implying that they were trying to rest the banged up Patterson or if he meant he was also trying to preserve Davis as well. Despite rumblings of a potential high-ankle sprain, Patterson was listed as a limited participant on Monday. That’s a great sign for his Thursday Night Football availability and he’s now been listed as a game-time decision. Patterson was a New England Patriot back in 2018 so Belichick would likely have a few tricks up his sleeve to slow the dual threat back down, if active. A high-volume of air/ground touches makes him impossible to lower past a RB top-15 though. If Patterson is inactive, Gallman and Davis would be just a shaky RB4s.

Update 11/18/21: Cordarrelle Patterson is out. Mike Davis and Wayne Gallman will split the workload in an unknown manner. They are barely inside the position’s top-48.