Kickoff Sunday, Dec 8th 1:00pm Eastern

Panthers (
22.25) at

Falcons (
25.75)

Over/Under 48.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
17th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
31st DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
15th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
25th DVOA/16th Yards per pass
Falcons Run D
30th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass

Every once in a while, we see an NFL player post a single big game that DFS players keep chasing for weeks afterward, hoping to catch a repeat performance. Dan Quinn is the coaching equivalent of this phenomenon, with the Falcons continuing to keep him around in the hopes that his magical 2016 season will repeat without the help of Kyle Shanahan (not happening), even as this team continues to take steps backward. Meanwhile, the Panthers have fired Ron Rivera after nine mostly-strong seasons, as new owner David Tepper is finally ready to move in his own direction with this team.

We shouldn’t notice many changes on Carolina, especially on offense, where Norv Turner will move to an assistant head coach role, but where his son Scott Turner will take on a four-week audition running the show (with plenty of help likely coming his way from Norv). With nothing to lose, and with this attack already perfectly willing to be aggressive, we shouldn’t see much over the last four weeks that looks different from what this team has given us so far. The Panthers should still lean on Christian McCaffrey as the engine of this offense, and they should still focus on DJ Moore as the central piece of the passing attack (recent target counts of 10 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 15 // 9 // 12 — with his new downfield role in this offense well documented in this space). Curtis Samuel will still be mixed in (6 // 11 // 6 // 8 // 6 // 4 // 7), while this team will still get the ball to “tight end” (likely Ian Thomas this week, with Greg Olsen dealing with a concussion) when open. With all of this, the Panthers offense will continue to be held back by Kyle Allen.

The matchup for the Panthers — as explored multiple times over the last few weeks — is tougher at the moment than what the Falcons offered earlier in the year, with this team improving their communication and their assignment-based play over the last month. As explored all season: Atlanta is going to shorten up an opponent’s aDOT (they are shaving almost 9% off the league-average mark — the seventh best showing in the league), while allowing a catch rate boost and attempting to tackle well after the catch. While the Falcons have been hit for a handful of deep completions, most of their issues this year have come in that final category (YAC), where they are boosting the league-average rate by 7.6%. Production against the Falcons tends to come from A) volume, and B) busted YAC plays — making Moore the player with the clearest path to production in this pass catching group. Here are the notable stat lines allowed to pass catchers by the Falcons this year:

8-107-1 Agholor
14-217-3 Fuller
6-100-0 Lockett
13-152-0 Mike Thomas
11-121-0 CMC
7-184-2 Godwin

8-72-0 Ertz
8-65-1 T.Y.
3-94-2 A.J. Brown
5-91-1 Corey Davis
7-88-0 Nuk
3-72-0 Keke
8-95-0 DJ (15 targets)
3-85-0 Jared Cook

Last week, CMC finished with under 25 touches for only the third time this season, and he can be penciled in for his typical range of work this week. The Falcons are allowing under 4.0 yards per carry to running backs and have actually been a top 10 team at preventing receiving yards to the position — slotting this in as an average matchup for McCaffrey, and making him a “bet on talent and volume” play. Moore will be in good shape for double-digit looks, while Samuel’s likeliest range is six or seven targets. Assuming Olsen misses, Thomas should step right into the five to seven looks that typically flow Olsen’s way.

On the Atlanta side, Julio Jones is set to return, while Austin Hooper has a shot to return as well — both of whom would join Devonta Freeman, who returned last week.

It’s been a strange season for Devonta, as he has only three games this season with more than 13 carries — and with Atlanta throwing the ball at the highest rate in football and ranking bottom five in adjusted line yards on offense, there is no reason to expect this to suddenly change down the stretch. Freeman continued to play around 65% of the Falcons snaps last week (with Brian Hill soaking up most of the remaining work), and he enters a great matchup this week against a Carolina team that ranks dead last in DVOA against the run and has allowed five separate running backs to top 90 yards and score a touchdown on the ground. It is worth noting that in his 10 healthy games, Freeman has had six matchups against teams that rank top nine in run defense DVOA. The floor isn’t particularly high, but there are paths to upside in his softest matchup of the year.

Julio has had a quietly disappointing campaign, with only two games of 100+ yards in his last eight outings (and with zero touchdowns in this stretch), and with only two games of double-digit targets in his last eight games as well. Julio draws a winnable, but tough matchup against James Bradberry this week. In his last five games in this matchup, he has posted stat lines of 4-28-1 // 5-64-0 // 5-80-0 // 6-118-0 // 8-91-0. Imagine having Julio Jones at your disposal and using him the way the Falcons use him…

As we have taken a look at over the last few weeks, Calvin Ridley is likely to see his usage affected more by the absence or return of Hooper than by any other element, as he has seen three of his five highest target totals on the year (including his two highest) since Hooper went down. If Hooper returns, Ridley still has a shot at pushing for eight or more targets, but he would be more of a “bet on big play” option than a “bank on volume” piece. If Hooper misses again, there is a much better chance for Ridley to enter the eight to ten target range once again.

Elsewhere on the Falcons, Russell Gage has seen his price/profile climb off games without Hooper and (last week) Julio, making him fundamentally overpriced for his actual role if those two are on the field. With that said: this doesn’t mean Gage can’t hit, and his nine target game in Week 8 with everyone healthy provides some hope for upside in this spot. Gage doesn’t have much yardage juice outside of busted plays, but he provides a useful route tree near the end zone and has potential to add a touchdown to mid-range yardage production — with his chances of this production enhanced if injuries break in his favor, but with paths available to useful production regardless.

Hooper has the toughest matchup against a Panthers team that has faced the fewest tight end targets in the league, though his connection with Matt Ryan still leaves open some paths to him hitting.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Given the strange state of this week — with very few truly great spots — both of these teams are in the mix in what is, disappointingly, one of the highest-total games on the weekend; though most of the players in this game are a bit overpriced for their expected range of production.

I’m likely to make this game more of a “game stack” spot than an “isolate individual players” spot; but if looking toward individual plays, CMC sits at the top of the pile, while Julio and Moore slot in behind him for the upside they offer (albeit with an iffy price-considered floor on each). I also like Samuel a bit with his price/profile dropping, and Devonta is genuinely interesting in what is a far better matchup than most he has faced this year. We’ll run into plenty of this in Week 14: spots that are “interesting,” without anything really standing out; which means that some of these merely “interesting” spots will wind up providing slate-winners — keeping spots such as this one very much in the mix at the front end of the week.