Michael Thomas


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Yogi Berra is quite possibly the greatest quote in the history of sports. While many athletes have spouted off their fair share of memorable lines, Berra literally has a section of his Wikipedia page devoted to his often nonsensical and convoluted musings. Still, though there are many to choose from, “it’s déjà vu all over again” is generally the one that first springs to mind when discussing so-called “Yogi-isms.” The saying, on its surface, seems unnecessary. Déjà vu already refers to the feeling of reliving a moment, thus making “all over again” redundant. However, I’d argue that in rare cases, Yogi might have been on to something. Sometimes a situation feels familiar for multiple reasons. Sometimes it really does feel like déjà vu all over again.

Thursday’s meeting between the Saints and the Falcons is one of these times. Not only did we see New Orleans and Atlanta square-off against each other less than three weeks ago, but this is also the second-straight season that these teams will occupy the late-game slot of the Thanksgiving triple-header. So, just as we did last year, let’s break it all down from a Showdown perspective. Yogi would be proud.

Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.


FIVE BETTING TRENDS

— The Saints have won eight of their last nine games.

— Michael Thomas has scored the first touchdown in two of the last three games for the Saints in November.

— Latavius Murray has scored at least one touchdown in three of the last five games for the Saints.

— Each of the Falcons’ last seven night games have gone UNDER the total points line.

— The underdogs have covered the spread in each of the last seven Thursday night games between NFC teams.

Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook


SHOWDOWN STRATEGY

Atlanta Falcons

While the version of the Falcons that started the season 1-6 was obviously terrible, at least they were consistent. Due to a constant negative game script and an offensive line that struggled to open holes for the team’s running backs, Atlanta was simply content to throw the football. Like, a lot. In fact, following a 37-10 loss at the hands of the Rams in Week 7 – a contest which Matt Ryan ($9,600) left early due to injury – the veteran QB ranked second in the NFL with 313 dropbacks. It wasn’t like this was a case of empty volume for Ryan, either. Through seven starts, the former third-overall pick led the league in completions (202) and touchdown passes (15), while also sitting top-five in adjusted completion rate (79.2%), passing yards (2,170) and overall fantasy points scored (151.2). In all honesty, it was shaping up to be Ryan’s third phenomenal statistical campaign since 2016.

However, his return from that aforementioned ankle issue has not been as bountiful. Ryan’s ranked among the NFL’s leaders in attempts, yet he’s managed just a single touchdown and an anemic 0.34 fantasy points per drop back in this recent three-week span. Additionally, Ryan’s been sacked nine times in his past two starts alone, including six occasions last weekend by a Tampa Bay defensive front that owns the third-worst adjusted sack rate in football (5.7%). It’s one thing to be inefficient, it’s another to be inefficient and protected by a flawed offensive line. Still, Ryan’s implied volume is something that won’t be able to be ignored on this slate. Yes, the Saints have surrendered the sixth-fewest yards per opponent pass attempt through 12 weeks of action (6.3), yet they’ve given up multiple touchdown passes to the last three QBs they’ve faced, too. It paints an ugly picture, but attrition often wins out in DFS.

So, if Ryan’s going to be dropping back to pass an excessive amount, who are the receivers that stand to benefit? Julio Jones ($9,200) is optimistic that he’ll be able to play through an AC joint ailment that’s necessitated a questionable tag for Week 13, however, I have my concerns even if the All-Pro wideout ends up active. Jones was hampered enough by the injury that he logged a season-low 56.5% of Atlanta’s offensive snaps against the Buccaneers and, after practicing in a limited fashion all week, it appears that Marshon Lattimore is trending towards also being able to suit up on Thursday. Jones did little versus New Orleans in general during the teams’ Week 10 matchup, yet his few bright spots – including a massive 54-yard reception – all came with Lattimore on the sideline. I’d much rather test the waters with Calvin Ridley ($8,000) or Russell Gage ($4,600), as the latter is coming off a career-high 10 targets in last weekend’s defeat. On top of avoiding Jones, I’m equally unwilling to take a shot with Jaeden Graham ($2,400). While the rookie tight end is clearly affordable and saw the field on 65.9% of the Falcons’ snaps against Tampa Bay, Ryan’s not utilized his TEs since Austin Hooper (knee) went down. In fact, Atlanta’s seen a mere 6% of their passes the past two games directed at the position, with its WRs instead seeing an eye-popping 81% share. Just another reason to like Ridley and Gage, I guess.

Lattimore isn’t the lone notable player returning on Thanksgiving. On the Falcons side, the team has announced that Devonta Freeman ($6,200) will be healthy enough to give it a go for the first time in two weeks. The veteran will likely re-ingratiate himself into the offense in a similar fashion to how he left it, seeing roughly 60% of Atlanta’s offensive snaps and being an involved aspect of the squad’s passing attack. Really, that’s probably the lone chance Freeman has at hitting value on this slate, despite a fair price tag. The Saints are allowing a league-low 61.8 rushing yards per game from opposing backfields, yet they’ve also surrendered the eighth-most targets to RBs entering Week 13 (82). I wouldn’t go so far as to say Freeman’s a must-play, but, with Brian Hill ($5,600) and Qadree Ollison’s ($5,000) salaries still adjusted to their larger workloads with Freeman sidelined, the 27-year-old is the Falcons only viable option.


New Orleans Saints

As always, when it comes to Showdown slates and New Orleans, we essentially have to eliminate one of Michael Thomas ($11,600), Drew Brees ($10,800) and Alvin Kamara ($10,200) right off the hop. I’m not saying its impossible to get all of them into a single lineup – you could get a little creative with Saints D/ST ($4,200) in the Captain’s slot – but the top-heavy nature of this offense is once again reflected in these three generational talents having the highest salaries on the slate. So, which amazing DFS asset is drawing the short straw? I’ll start by saying this: there’s no way I’m not rostering Thomas at this point. His numbers dating back to Week 5 are the definition of insanity. Thomas has hauled in 87.5% of his league-leading 80 targets. Because of that incredible level of efficiency, the wideout is also averaging a robust 11.0 yards per target within this span – the second-highest output in the NFL among WRs with 50-plus opportunities in the passing game. Let that sink in for another second. Thomas, who has a pedestrian 7.5-yard aDOT, is generating an obscene amount of yardage. Then, to top it all off, no qualified receiver is targeted on a per route basis more often than the 26-year-old. You truly can’t guard Mike, not that Atlanta really rosters anyone who had a chance to do so in the first place.

Honestly, of the trio, Kamara seems like the most obvious fade. While the Falcons do come into Week 13 ranked 29th in pass defense by DVOA, that same metric validates the team as a far more respectable run-stopping unit. Atlanta sits 11th in terms of rushing defense and, at just 3.9 yards per carry, it’s one of only seven squads limiting opponents to fewer than four yards per attempt. Conversely, Brees has thrown for 300 or more yards in three of his five starts in 2019, while registering at exactly three touchdown passes in three of his four contests since returning from a thumb injury. Brees has also peppered Kamara with 29 targets dating back to the beginning of Week 10, but, again, these are the types of tough decisions the Showdown format creates. The Falcons have conceded at least 23.0 DKFP to a QB six different times in 11 games. Considering the ceiling they allow Brees access to, I’d rather spend up for the veteran pivot than his highly-skilled teammate. Plus, Latavius Murray’s ($7,000) presence can’t be brushed under the rug. The Central Florida product has played roughly 40% of New Orleans’ offensive snaps the last two weeks with Kamara at full strength and he’s pilfered away 17 carries of his own. Granted, Taysom Hill ($1,400) does steal the occasional opportunity from Brees, yet the two situations aren’t really comparable.

Still, if you thought excluding top-flight Saints’ pieces was difficult, try finding value on a team with such an established and focused hierarchy. Really, aside from Will Lutz ($4,000) there’s only two places you can look: Jared Cook ($6,600) and Tre’Quan Smith ($3,000). The latter isn’t even all that appealing an option, but Smith has played the second-most snaps to Thomas among all New Orleans wideouts the last two weeks. However, for the season as a whole, he’s been targeted on a paltry 7% of his total routes – the lowest rate of any WR with at least 150 routes run. No, the real prize is Cook, who has finally started to come into fruition under Sean Payton with Brees back in the mix. Across his past three games, Cook has seen 20 passes headed in his direction, including three red-zone targets last weekend against the Panthers. The Falcons have seemed to struggle the most with opponent wide receivers – allowing an NFC-worst 10.1 yards per target to the position – yet Cook remains viable on this slate.


THE OUTCOME

Despite what happened in Week 10, despite this game being in Atlanta, despite how frisky the Falcons’ defense has looked in recent contests, I strongly believe New Orleans wins this thing in a blowout. In such a script, Matt Ryan ($14,400 CP) or Calvin Ridley ($12,000 CP) might see enough volume to be viable as Captain’s Picks; however, for my money, the proper path is either high-end with Michael Thomas ($17,400 CP) or by attempting to exploit Atlanta’s protection woes with Saints D/ST ($6,300 CP). Again, with the latter, you can conceivably afford all three of Thomas, Brees and Kamara.

Final Score: New Orleans 31, Atlanta 14


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.