Saints vs. Falcons: Fantasy Stars Who Will Shine on Thursday Night Football

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2012

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 25:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

There were 58 points scored and nearly 900 yards gained when the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons played earlier in the month. Those types of numbers are a fantasy football owner's dream, and more of the same can be expected tonight.

The division rivals will play a crucial game on Thursday Night Football, and it would be a surprise if there weren't more offensive fireworks.

Let's break down one fantasy star from each team who will use that opportunity to steal the spotlight.


New Orleans Saints: Jimmy Graham

After a dominant stretch that's seen Graham rack up 51 points over a three-game span, he's cooled off over the past two weeks. Last week's game against the San Francisco 49ers was one of his worst outings of the season, scoring just three points.

He should have little trouble getting back on track tonight. He goes up against a Falcons defense that he torched to the tune of seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting. He caught a TD in both games against Atlanta last season, as well.

It all comes down to the fact the Falcons don't have any linebackers or safeties capable of handling the athletic tight end without help—few teams do. And, since the Saints have so many other weapons at Drew Brees' disposal, it's tough to assign extra defenders to him.

The result is a reliable fantasy performer. With the Saints facing a crucial game on their road to the playoffs, you can expect Brees to be airing it out early and often on Thursday night. Graham will be on the receiving end of a lot of those passes.


Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan

The main reason Ryan gets the nod over his myriad weapons is the choice to spread the ball around. One week it's Roddy White, then it's Julio Jones and then it's Tony Gonzalez. That makes it tough to pinpoint which player will be No. 1 in the pecking order.

That said, Ryan usually ends up with solid fantasy numbers regardless of which receiver goes wild. He's averaging just shy of 18 points per week and posted 26—his second highest total of the season—against the Saints a few weeks ago.

It's no surprise given New Orleans' struggles against the pass. The Saints rank 30th against the pass at just a touch under 300 yards per game. They have also given up the third-most touchdown passes in the league with 22.

Since the Saints figure to be scoring at a pretty good clip, Ryan and Co. will be forced to keep up. That's just the way games have gone between these two teams in recent years. It's good news for Ryan's fantasy owners.