Saturday Night Football Preview: Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions

Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan

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Even though Thursday and Monday games have ended for the season, fans can still enjoy an extra night of football on Saturday. The 12-2 Falcons will try to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC, while the 4-10 Lions will try to snap a six-game losing streak. Despite the record disparity, the game should still be entertaining and full of fantasy implications.

Here’s what to expect from Saturday’s stars:

Matt Ryan

Ryan is enjoying the best season of his career and should continue to roll against a mediocre Lions’ D. He’s thrown for over 300 yards in nearly half his starts and has tossed 3 TD’s in six contests. While he’s not in the class of players like Brady and Brees, he averages nearly 18 points a week in standard leagues, putting him in seventh place amongst fantasy QB’s. This week, Ryan has a good shot at topping his average, as the game could turn into a shootout.

Matthew Stafford

Stafford is a lot riskier than Ryan this week. The Lions’ QB has underperformed this year on the field, but his fantasy numbers are still high because the Lions often play from behind. He’ll have a chance to throw a lot Saturday, as the Falcons will likely put up a lot of points. However, the Falcons stifled Drew Brees and Eli Manning recently, so this won’t be a cakewalk for Stafford. Last week, he put up a measly three points against the Cardinals, but he’s also had big performances against good defenses like the Seahawks and Texans. Even if he throws a couple picks, I think Stafford will put big numbers in an attempt to make up for last week’s debacle.

Roddy White and Julio Jones

The Falcons’ receiving duo currently ranks second in fantasy points behind Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Both White and Jones have topped 1000 yards and have combined for 14 TD’s. The problem is that they’re not often productive the same week. For example, last week Jones caught two touchdowns and scored 20 points in standard leagues, while White only caught two passes total and scored just 1 point. Still, both are too talented not to start each week in fantasy. If the Lions can keep it close, both will have an opportunity to produce.

Calvin Johnson

Megatron has had a mega-season, despite the Lions’ shortcomings. He has a legitimate chance to break the individual record for receiving yards in a season, needing 182 more these last two weeks. He could get close to that number this week alone, as he’s gone over 100 yards in his last seven games. Again, this will likely be a pass-happy game, meaning Johnson should be one of the top fantasy performers of the week.

Tony Gonzalez

In a year when Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham were often drafted in the first round, Gonzalez has been one of the biggest steals. He leads all TE’s in fantasy points, though to be fair, Gronkowski has been hurt. Gonzalez has a great opportunity this week to add to his lead, as the Lions’ give up the eighth most fantasy points to TE’s. He’s a great red zone target for Ryan and has averaged over 60 yards per game.

Michael Turner

Despite averaging just 3.7 YPC and 53 yards a game, Turner has managed to find the endzone nine times. His scoring ability still makes him fantasy relevant, but he won’t carry you to victory. At best, he’ll score about 13 points. If you need a big performance, guys like Reggie Bush and Steven Jackson have a much higher ceiling.

Mikel Leshoure

Leshoure has been a lot like Turner lately- he has a nose for the endzone, but sharing the backfield means he won’t rack up a ton of yards. Turner is the safer option because the Lions might have to abandon the run game early, but Leshoure will still get red zone opportunities.


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