Kickoff: Sunday, October 31st at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Betting Odds: -2.5 ATL, 46 total via Oddsshark
Sam Darnold (Sit)
Sam Darnold had his worst game of the season in Week 7 and has reverted back to the Darnold we saw at the end in New York. Darnold started off strong, with four games of 20+ fantasy points, but since he has an 8 point and 4 point outing. Part of his struggle has been self-inflicted but his receivers have also not done him any favors with dropped passes. Of course, he’s missing his All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, who will miss another game. Part of his struggle is his lack of rushing upside the last few weeks. Darnold may eventually find his way and get back on track, but it is best that fantasy managers avoid him this week in all formats. Look for a better option.
Chuba Hubbard (Start, RB2/Flex)
Chuba Hubbard has filled in just fine for McCaffrey while he has been on IR, but he is a good example of a volume running back that is struggling to be productive. Hubbard is currently RB12 in fantasy opportunities but is RB118 in expected points over expectation. While he is receiving enough work as a primary rusher, and the occasional receiver, to be a low-end RB2, he’s currently just RB32 because of the inefficiency. All that said, Hubbard is still a back who is a near-lock for 10+ fantasy points this week because of his heavy volume. Managers desperate for an RB can use him without reservation, and hope for a touchdown, and managers that need a Flex starter can start him with confidence.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
D.J. Moore (Start, WR1), Robby Anderson (Start, Flex), Terrace Marshall Jr. (Sit), Tommy Tremble (Sit)
After a few weeks of disappointing production from D.J. Moore is a player that fantasy managers must stay the course with. Despite scoring just eight fantasy points per contest, Moore still is earning 10+ targets per game. He also hasn’t seen the end zone since Week 4. However, Moore has the second-easiest remaining fantasy schedule for WRs. Atlanta is allowing 25 points to the position and has already allowed four teams to score multiple touchdowns.
Robby Anderson, however, is just out there running wind sprints at this point. Running more than 90% of the team’s routes, and just 55% of his targets are catchable. Perhaps Anderson is a buy-low target but it is just so hard to trust him while Darnold is struggling so badly. He’s a Flex option but pay attention for a breakout and a buy-low opportunity.
Terrace Marshall and Tommy Tremble have shown promise as rookies but the passing offense as a whole just isn’t productive enough to support anyone outside of Moore at this point.
Matt Ryan (Start, Low-end QB1)
The improvements Matt Ryan has shown in this Arthur Smith offense these last few weeks have been highly encouraging, changing the narrative that he is washed. Ryan has been in several offensive systems over the years, and each time he eventually makes the most of the system, including an MVP season in 2016 under Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Smith looks to have found his groove with Ryan, and Matty Ice has increased his YPA averages each week since the start of the season. Ryan has finished as a weekly QB1 in each of his last three starts and is a fine option for QB streamers or 2QB leagues.
Cordarrelle Patterson (Start, RB2), Mike Davis (Sit)
One of the more fascinating storylines of the fantasy season has been Cordarrelle Paterson. Patterson, the current overall RB8, has been a weapon for Arthur Smith this season and there is no sign of him slowing down. Smith has always had an innate ability to put players in roles where they succeed. Patterson’s snap share as a running back has increased each week of the season, finishing with a season-high 73% last week. Patterson also lined up as a receiver over 50% of his snaps in Week 7. Atlanta will continue to ride Patterson until the wheels fall off and he has shown no signs of slowing down.
Mike Davis has suffered the most due to the emergence of Patterson. Davis is seeing plenty of snaps but less than 50% off the team’s rushing attempts and saw just 20% last week. Davis is also losing targets in the passing game, and this combo is difficult to overcome for fantasy production. Last week could have been an anomaly but there are plenty of better options this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Calvin Ridley (Start, WR2), Russell Gage (Sit), Kyle Pitts (Start, TE1)
Calvin Ridley has finished as a weekly fantasy WR2 just once on the season, middling around the WR3 range and struggling to find the end-zone. However, Ridley is still seeing elite usage and opportunity, seeing 26% of the targets since Ryan has started to turn it on. Ridley is not a player that you want to give up on, his time will come.
My personal pre-season nickname for Kyle Pitts was The Unicorn. Just watching a few games of his tape, it was hard to think otherwise. Pitts’s talents as a receiver jumped off his college tape, and his elite athletic metrics did nothing but reinforce his long-term outlook. In the last few weeks, Pitts has exploded, challenging the best tight-end rookie season of all time. Pitts earned 148 air yards last week and is being used in a variety of ways in the offense. He could easily finish as the TE3, and yet the sky is the limit.
Russell Gage returned from injury last week and was eased back into the lineup. This Atlanta offense is trending in the right direction and Gage could present some value as we go through the bye weeks, but this week managers will want to sit him to see if he is fully back to form.
-Marc Salazar (@oldsnake77)