Kickoff Sunday, Dec 15th 4:25pm Eastern

Falcons (
19.5) at

49ers (

Over/Under 49.0


Key Matchups
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
2nd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
29th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
1st DVOA/1st Yards per pass
49ers Run D
15th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
20th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
4th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
22nd DVOA/8th Yards per pass

Remember when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl…with Kyle Shanahan as their offensive coordinator? Those were good times.

This week, Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers will be playing a game they need to win in order to keep the inside track on the Number One seed in the NFC, while the Falcons will be playing a game they need to win in a last-ditch effort to save their coach from getting fired as soon as the season ends. The 49ers – in spite of what happened last week – boast one of the most dominant defensive units in the NFL (ranking second in DVOA, second in yards allowed, and third in points allowed even after the Saints broke through against them), while the 49ers offense – which is one of the run heaviest in the league, and had not had many opportunities before last week to open things up much beyond their standard approach – proved that they can score points with the best, putting up 48 points against a Saints team that had been mostly dominant over the previous couple of months. We mentioned about a month and a half ago that Kyle Shanahan had talked about this being the first time he really had a great defense opposite the offense he was calling plays for, and how his calls throughout a game had been taking into account the fact that they had that defense holding down the fort. That’s worth noting here, as there is a tendency in the DFS community to overreact to a one-game sample, and to assume that a team has suddenly shifted its entire philosophy and approach. More than likely, we will only see the 49ers open up in a manner similar to last week if forced to do so by the Atlanta offense. Otherwise, the 49ers are likely to stick to the approach that has largely been responsible for their 11-2 record – running the ball at one of the highest rates in the NFL, while generally looking to limit passing volume (Jimmy Garoppolo has finished under 30 pass attempts in more than half his games, including four games of 22 or fewer attempts), and spreading the ball out when they do throw (only three games of double digit targets for this team as a whole this year: Kittle in Week 1, and Deebo Samuel in the two games Kittle missed). With work split in the backfield as well (last week, Raheem Mostert played 59.4% of the snaps and saw 12 touches; Matt Breida played 18.8% of the snaps and saw seven touches; Tevin Coleman played 15.6% of the snaps and saw three touches), betting on this offense is mostly hoping to capture a big play or a multi-touchdown game. Big plays can come from anywhere on this offense, while multi-touchdown games are a bit tougher to come by. Much like the team the 49ers played last week (the Saints), San Francisco often gives scoring position volume to different guys than the ones who got them into the red zone, with Coleman (and Jeff Wilson, who was inactive last week) dominating red zone looks on the year on the ground, and with Kendrick Bourne now boasting five touchdowns on only 27 receptions. If looking to capitalize on the points that this offense can score :: Kittle is the most locked-in target in the pass game (recent target counts of 7 // 8 // 6 // 4 // 8), while Deebo Samuel (3 // 7 // 2 // 4 // 8 in his last five games played with Kittle) and Emmanuel Sanders (5 // 9 // 1 // 6 // 9 in those same games) have spiked-target and spiked-production upside that is likeliest to show up if the Falcons keep pace. Mostert is the best bet for touches in the backfield, and while his role kills his floor, his per-touch upside can keep him in the mix.

Atlanta enters a buzzsaw of a matchup, with tightened-up volume the only real case to be made for going here. With Calvin Ridley sent to IR, Julio Jones (target counts in his last five games of 12 // 9 // 8 // 10 // 8) and Austin Hooper (target counts in his last five games of 8 // 5 // 7 // 5 // 6), should be the one and two options through the air here, while Russell Gage (35 of 69 snaps last week), Christian Blake (12 // 69), Justin Hardy (12 // 69), and Olamide Zaccheaus (21 // 69) round out a workload split behind these two. The Falcons shifted to more two tight end sets last week — partly due to the matchup vs the Panthers, but also partly due to Ridley leaving early. With Ridley out and another matchup that is better to attack on the ground (with a strong pass rushing front), more 12 personnel makes sense in this spot. Any of these players are betting on broken plays or hoping to capture an unpredictable multi-touchdown game. You could also conceivably imagine a scenario in which Atlanta is able to emulate some of the things the Saints did well last week, though the speed and precision of some of the things the Saints were doing are unlikely to make an appearance with this Falcons squad.

The best matchup, of course, belongs to Devonta Freeman, though the 49ers are allowing the 10th fewest running back rushing yards and the second fewest running back touchdowns, as it is simply too difficult to sustain drives in this matchup, leaving running backs as little more than “hope for things to go right” options.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Devonta Freeman has a few paths to a solid game in this spot, though I will be entering this week assuming a monster score will be required in order to win a tournament, and it’s more difficult to see Freeman reaching the sort of score you would have to have in order to win – which will likely take him off my list. The rest of the Falcons will be off my list as well in what has been a brutal matchup for almost every team this season, and since I don’t expect the Falcons to get a whole lot going, I’ll probably leave the 49ers offense alone as well. Solid scores have emerged from this offense throughout the year, but very few “have to have it” scores have emerged, and a shootout will likely be required in order to capture such a score on this spread-the-wealth attack.

With that said: I am always interested in the idea of game stacks in a spot where both teams have explosive pieces. Given how good the 49ers defense has been this year, I don’t imagine I’ll try to access these slim paths to upside in my tighter builds, but if I were throwing a bunch of entries into the Slant or focusing on the Milly Maker, I would probably grab a few game stacks from this spot, built around the more explosive pieces that these offenses offer.