Kickoff: Sunday, January 1st, 1:00 PM ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Betting Odds: ATL -3.5, 41 total via PFF.com
Writer: Adam Sloate (@MrAdster99 on Twitter)
Colt McCoy (Sit)
This one’s a no-brainer. Sit Colt McCoy if he plays; sit Trace McSorley if McCoy is still out with a concussion.
James Conner (RB1)
James Conner is finally balling out, just in time for your championship run. He hasn’t dipped below double-digit points since Week 5 against Philadelphia and hasn’t dipped below 13 points since Week 9 against Seattle. Conner’s been getting a little more receiving work lately, now that most of his backfield competition has since departed for browner pastures, which is good news for fantasy investors because it increases Conner’s “floor” for fantasy production.
Conner doesn’t get much of a boost for the matchup against the Falcons, since Atlanta is middle-of-the-pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. The Falcons’ weak roster should mean that the Cardinals will be able to keep it close throughout the game, so Arizona won’t need to lean on the passing game to keep up with the Falcons and should be able to hand off the ball to the RBs for all four quarters. Accordingly, Conner’s workload won’t suffer too much, even with McCoy under center. Fire him up with confidence.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR2), Marquise Brown (Fringe WR3/FLEX)
DeAndre Hopkins is fresh off a dud against Tampa on Sunday evening, corralling just one pass despite 10 targets from Trace McSorley. It might be tempting to bench Hopkins, given his recent failure, but if you’ve made it this far, then you should be trusting Hopkins (a stud) to produce after just one bad week. Always start your studs.
Hopkins’ target load is encouraging since it’s hardly a departure from his previous workload. It doesn’t appear the Cardinals have suddenly lost faith in Hopkins’ receiving ability, since they continued to throw the ball his way even into overtime. Furthermore, the change from McSorley to McCoy should help Hopkins a tad: In games McCoy has played, Hopkins has averaged roughly 15 points (13, 12.9, 18.1, 19.8) in PPR leagues.
Further enhancing Hopkins’ fantasy potential this week is Atlanta’s friendliness to opposing receivers. The Falcons allow the 9th highest fantasy points allowed to opposing WRs this year, which gives Hopkins a bit of a bump. PFF rates Hopkins’ matchup against Atlanta’s CBs as well above-average, and the Falcons’ top corners are starting to see their workloads decrease as the Falcons try to preserve their top young players for next season, so Hopkins should be facing even weaker coverage as the game progresses.
The aforementioned paragraph also gives Marquise Brown a bit of a bump. Brown’s fantasy workload has faded down the stretch thanks to Hopkins’ return and inferior quarterback play, but with Atlanta’s secondary presenting a much friendlier fantasy and real-life matchup than New England’s (16th in fantasy points allowed to WRs, Cardinals lost by 2 TDs), Denver’s (32nd, Cardinals lost by 9 pts), and Tampa’s (13th, Cardinals lost in OT), there are worse options for a fantasy WR3 or FLEX. Brown should see an appropriate bump in fantasy point production, thanks to the easier matchup, plus the improved QB play from McCoy over McSorley. Furthermore, Brown is still seeing 6-8 targets a game, which makes for a pretty decent fantasy workload. Note that many of those targets are in short yardage, so he presents a bit of a risk, but the pedigree and target share mean that Brown is worth a flier in deeper leagues.
Keep in mind that both Hopkins and Brown are not particularly young players and will likely feature in next year’s Cardinals team, which ideally is chasing a playoff or division title next season. Accordingly, the Cardinals may choose to lighten their workload to protect the two from long-term injuries, especially with Arizona well out of the playoff picture at this point. It’s not enough of a concern that they should be benched, but it is something to be aware of as the game progresses.
Desmond Ridder (Sit)
Desmond Ridder has yet to score a TD in his 1.5 starts this season, so he’s bound for some positive regression to the mean soon. With a rushing TD or a pair of passing TDs, Ridder could be in fringe QB2 territory. However, Ridder still hasn’t proven to be much of a fantasy threat, TDs or not, and I don’t buy that he’s going to blow up against a good-but-not-elite fantasy matchup here, so he can sit comfortably on deep league benches or on the waiver wire in shallower leagues.
Tyler Allgeier (RB2), Cordarrelle Patterson (FLEX)
With Atlanta trying to evaluate which players will be part of the next great Falcons squad, Tyler Allgeier is finally getting closer to the RB1 workload fantasy investors dreamed of. In each of the past two games, Allgeier has had 17+ carries and averaged over 4 yards per carry, which is typically what you’re looking for in a higher-end fantasy RB. Furthermore, Allgeier started to see a little more receiving work last week, accumulating a season-high 4 receptions and 43 receiving yards against Baltimore. Things are looking up for Allgeier in the fantasy world, and as the Falcons continue to slip further away from playoff contention (2 games behind Tampa for the division lead), Allgeier should continue to get a greater share of the Atlanta RB workload.
Furthermore, as with James Conner, since this game is projected to be fairly close, there shouldn’t be much reason for concern with Allgeier’s workload. The Falcons won’t need to lean heavily on the passing game to keep up with Arizona’s sporadic offense. Fire up Allgeier with confidence.
Cordarrelle Patterson is difficult to evaluate because Atlanta is starting to turn the keys over to Allgeier in the running game, but he is still maintaining some semblance of fantasy value for the investors that have no choice but to start him. Just two weeks ago, against New Orleans, C-Patt had 14 carries and a rushing TD, totaling 12.2 PPR points. But, when looking at Patterson’s overall workload since returning from injury in Week 8, he has been a risky, touchdown-dependent player. He hasn’t touched the century mark in all-purpose yardage since Week 3 and isn’t getting the targets necessary to make such a weak rushing workload fantasy-relevant, totaling just 5 receptions and 33 receiving yards over his last 4 games.
Last week, Patterson had just 4.1 PPR points, thanks to a minuscule 8 carries and 17 rushing yards, plus 1 reception and 14 receiving yards. It is difficult to tell whether that is a sign that Allgeier is getting the “keys to the castle,” or just that Patterson had a bad week. My gut says that Patterson can no longer be trusted, especially now that the Falcons are pretty much out of it and aren’t likely to significantly invest in Patterson for the future.
Drake London (WR3)
It appears Drake London has returned from the fantasy graveyard. Over the past 3 weeks, London has averaged over 10 targets and just a tad under 7 receptions per game. Despite failing to make any of those receptions in the end zone, London has accumulated 12+ fantasy points (PPR) in each of those 3 weeks. It seems fair to say that London is back in the Falcons’ good graces as they try to see what they have in their young players. Those targets have come with both Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder under center, but in the last two weeks, with Ridder playing all eight quarters, London has maintained a solid workload. Even in Week 15, when Ridder completed 13 of 26 passes for 97 yards, London accounted for over half of those completed passes and 70% of Ridder’s yardage. It seems safe to say that London has a solid rapport with Ridder.
London’s matchup with Arizona’s secondary isn’t the most friendly, as the Cardinals have allowed the 19th-most fantasy points to WRs, but with this kind of workload, London appears to be a fairly safe, if unspectacular play. He is the only Falcons wideout you can trust this week.