The fantasy football playoffs got off to a wild start on Thursday, as the Falcons and Saints met in a NFC South battle. There were fireworks galore in this matchup of divisional rivals, with Alvin Kamara owners left wondering what could have been in a 20-17 Atlanta victory.

The Saints drafted Alvin Kamara with the 67th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and watched in awe as their rookie running back quickly rose to the top of the running back heap. Kamara had racked up over 100 total yards in every game since Week 8 and had shown incredible skills as both a runner and receiver. Kamara owners were undoubtedly daydreaming of future fantasy titles, but were delivered a swift gut punch when Kamara was knocked out of Thursday night’s game with a concussion. Kamara finished with 27 total yards on four touches, with Mark Ingram left to pick up the slack. Ingram managed 92 total yards on 16 touches with Kamara sidelined, which doesn’t provide much consolation for Kamara owners staring at an uphill battle to reach Week 15. Michael Thomas was the lone star for New Orleans, snagging 10 of 14 targets for 117 yards and a score. Thomas has received at least eight targets in 12 of 13 games this season and is an all-purpose stud.

Saints at Falcons Quick Slants

Devonta Freeman turned in his best game in months, running for 91 yards and a score. … Julio Jones had to battle star rookie CB Marshon Lattimore but ended Thursday night with five catches for 98 yards. … Neither quarterback made noise in this matchup, with Drew Brees throwing for 271 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and Matt Ryan chucking a trio of interceptions to go with 221 yards and one touchdown.

In Other News…

Emergency Playoff Options

There are no trophies awarded to the prettiest fantasy playoff lineup, only the squad with the most points in Week 16. Sometimes drastic measures must be taken to grab crucial playoff wins, and that often means swiping players from the waiver wire late in the season. Multiple NFL backfields are in flux at the moment, pushing under-owned running backs into the Week 14 spotlight. Let’s check-in on Thursday news from a few notable situations.

Doug Martin (concussion) has been cleared in the NFL concussion protocol. Martin will likely return to the field in Week 14 but how the struggling Bucs will use their running backs for the remainder of the season is unclear at the moment. Peyton Barber led the Bucs’ backfield in Week 13, playing 52 of 76 snaps while racking up 143 total yards. My money is on Barber to retain the lead role in Week 14, but this situation becomes murkier with Martin’s inclusion.

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Joe Mixon (concussion) did not practice on Thursday, which means his Week 14 status is in serious doubt. Gio Bernard rolled up 96 total yards on 15 touches last Monday night after Mixon’s departure, and is line for heavy usage again this week with Cincinnati light on running back depth. Bernard can safely be considered a RB2 candidate ahead of a matchup with Chicago.

Kenyan Drake likely isn’t hanging out on many waiver wires, but he appears to be headed for another sizeable workload in Week 14 after Damien Williams (shoulder) missed another practice on Thursday. Williams’ status should be monitored as the Dolphins prepare for a Monday night game, but Drake will be a solid start once again with Williams out.

Adrian Peterson (neck) has yet to practice this week, leaving Kerwynn Williams in charge of the Arizona backfield once again. Williams cranked out 6.1 yards per carry on 16 tries in Week 13 for a total of 97 yards, and will deserve flex consideration in Week 14 with a stiff matchup against Tennessee on the schedule.

Quarterback Questions

The quarterback position has had no shortage of excitement this season for fantasy owners and that trend continues as the fantasy playoffs get started. Matthew Stafford (hand) was at practice again on Thursday as he attempts to play in Week 14 after injuring his hand against Baltimore last weekend. Stafford reportedly “spun the ball pretty well” and appears to be on track to play on Sunday in a cushy matchup against Tampa Bay. The Bucs own the second-worst pass defense in the NFL and would make Stafford a must-start as long as he is active. Another quarterback with injury issues and a potentially soft matchup is Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor. Tyrod worked through knee concerns to make a limited appearance at practice on Thursday, but his Week 14 status is still in the air ahead of a nice matchup against Indianapolis, who coughs up a league-worst 272 passing yards per game.

Enough with the bad news. Let’s spread some fantasy quarterback cheer during the holiday season and talk about our main man Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers (collarbone) has been on the shelf since Week 6 but is eligible to return to the field and fantasy lineups in Week 15. According to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, Rodgers “looks like himself,” which is fantastic news for fantasy owners hoping for a playoff boost when the Green Bay quarterback returns. If there is any possibility that Aaron Rodgers is still floating around on your local waiver wire, please pick him up immediately. If you’ve had him stashed on your bench for weeks, go ahead and pour yourself a celebratory glass of eggnog and don’t skimp on the bourbon.

Injury News and Notes

In a sudden turn of events, Zach Ertz (concussion) officially cleared the NFL concussion protocol and will be active on Sunday. Trey Burton can be safely returned to the waiver wire. … Antonio Brown (toe) missed practice on Thursday but should be good to go in Week 14 after playing on Monday night. … Amari Cooper’s concussion issues seem to be in the rear view mirror but an ankle issue is troubling the Oakland receiver. Cooper missed practice on Thursday and is a dicey bet for Week 14. … Robby Anderson (hamstring) was limited on Thursday after aggravating a hamstring injury and should be monitored closely in the coming days. … Delanie Walker (ankle) missed another practice on Thursday and will likely leave fantasy owners with a game-time decision. … Matt Forte (knee) was back at practice in limited fashion on Thursday and should be ready for action this weekend. … Chris Hogan (shoulder) practiced again on Thursday and is inching closer to a return. … Sterling Shepard (hamstring) was limited on Thursday and should be monitored as Sunday approaches. … Ameer Abdullah (neck) was limited on Thursday. Another absence would mean a mix of Theo Riddick and Tion Green in the Detroit backfield. … Kelvin Benjamin (knee) practiced fully on Thursday and should return this week, although he will be tough to trust in the fantasy playoffs. … Will Fuller (ribs) will return in Week 14 but is a risky play with Tom Savage at quarterback in Houston.

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