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Saints-Falcons II offers excellent options
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This week's Thursday night contest is a rematch of two explosive offenses from three weeks ago. In that one, the host New Orleans Saints edged the Atlanta Falcons 31-27. The teams should certainly be able to duplicate this type of offensive display and fantasy owners will want to have as many players in the game as possible.

When the visiting Saints (28.0 ppg) have the ball, they are going to air it out. Drew Brees & Co. have thrown the ball 65.8 percent of the time. He's passed for 3,195 yards and 31 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions.

While tight end Jimmy Graham gets most of the media attention, it's wideout Marques Colston who has the most targets over the first 11 games. Colston has caught 55 of a team-leading 91 targets for 757 yards and eight touchdowns. He's obviously a must start. So is Graham, who hasn't been able to produce at last year's record pace, but still has 55 receptions for 595 yards and eight scores, including a seven-catch, 146-yard, two-touchdown game in the first meeting.

Lance Moore (45-699-4) has been much better at home (80.6 ypg) than on the road (59.2 ypg), but in this expected shootout he should also be started.

The most difficult decision when the Saints have the ball is which of their many backs will produce enough to be fantasy worthy. New Orleans has used four backs this season - Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory.

Ingram owns the most rushing attempts (92), but has only produced double-digit fantasy points once this season. Thomas has produced the most yards from scrimmage (546), but like Ingram has only managed to produce one double-digit fantasy total and that was all the way back in Week 2. Sproles owns the best yards-per-game average (61.1) but he's not getting enough touches to be a useful fantasy option. Ivory is the most explosive runner of the four backs, but gets the fewest touches of any Saints running back. The bottom line is that as long as all four are healthy and being used, none will produce fantasy- worthy numbers.

When the host Falcons get the ball (26.7 ppg), they also like to move it through the air. Matt Ryan has attempted to pass 62.7 percent of the time. He's thrown for more yards (3,274) than Brees, but has significantly fewer touchdown passes (21) and more interceptions (13).

Ryan has two elite wide receivers and a future Hall of Fame tight end to target in Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. All three have had their moments, though not usually in the same game. In the first game against the Saints, however, Gonzalez (11-122-2) and White (7-114-0) produced very nicely while Jones was held to 75 yards. Any of the three could go off in this one or all of them could shine against a New Orleans defense which has yielded a league-high 5,003 yards.

The Saints' run defense is the league's worst giving up 156.5 ypg on the ground and should have difficulty slowing Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. Unfortunately, the two backs divided the workload fairly evenly last week making it difficult to determine which one to start. I give Turner a slight edge because he gets the goal line work, but both could be viable fantasy options.

The place-kicking duties will go to Garrett Hartley (Saints) and Matt Bryant (Falcons). Kicking inside at the Georgia Dome is an obvious factor that fantasy owners should take advantage of given that weather around the country can turn ugly in late November.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.